AN: Just a quick note on this. It’s not finished, nor have I perfectly edited it. Just a rough draft of an idea I had to chronicle Howard and Vince’s friendship through the Boosh series, as well as after the show ended. Enjoy!
The First Day Of School
Today’s the first day of eleventh year. As usual, I’m not looking forward to it. The other students don’t understand me, and frankly, I don’t understand them. You’d think that after sixteen years, I’d have at least one friend. I’m an outsider, a loner. I suppose I don’t need friends when I have books, jazz and documentaries. Maybe this year will be different.
-Howard TJ Moon
Posters of famous authors and grammatical rules adorned the walls of the classroom. The faint smell of chalk and cleaning products lingered in the stuffy air. Howard was the first to get to class, as always, and he took a seat in the back after offering a shy smile to the teacher. He noticed that if he sat in the back, he was less likely to be volunteered to answer questions and that’s how he liked it.
After the first bell rang, students began to filter into the room, taking their preferred seats. The preferred seats were as far away from Howard as possible. It had always been this way. They didn’t like Howard, and Howard wasn’t particularly fond of any of them. There was always a circle of desks around him that never had occupants.
The late bell rang, and the last of his classmates ran in and took their seats. Just as Howard predicted, no one sat next to him. Sighing with relief, he opened his notebook and began tuning out the teacher’s start-of-the-year lecture, keeping an ear open for attendance.
“Howard Moon,” the teacher said after a few minutes, looking around the room for an answer.
Howard glanced up, “present,” he mumbled, turning his attention back to his doodling.
Just as Howard began a sketch of a trumpet, the door to the classroom opened. Normally he wouldn’t give a visitor to class any of his interest, but with all the whispering and scattered snickers, he couldn’t resist having a look at the intruder.
In the door, a thin, pale boy with a weird nose and disheveled blonde and black hair stood, his eyes darting around the room; he was wearing tight trousers, a hot pink fitted t-shirt and heeled boots. Howard could have sworn he heard one of the popular boys, a jock rugby player, whisper “poofter.” The derogatory slang made Howard unintentionally shoot a glare at the jock.
“Is this room twenty-eight?” the boy asked, smiling.
“It is, can I help you?” the teacher raised an eyebrow, putting her glasses down on the desk.
“I’m new, I just registered and they told me to come here,” the boy walked over to her desk and handed her a paper, “I’m Vince.”
“Have a seat where ever you want,” she shooed him, continuing her role call as if she’d never been disturbed.
Howard watched the Vince boy look for an empty seat. The only ones left were the ones next to him. Still smiling, Vince sat down to Howard’s right. He smelled like women’s perfume and Howard couldn’t stop himself from staring. He wasn’t like most of the boys in school, not only in appearance but also how he carried himself. It wasn’t that the boy was feminine, there just seemed to be a nice energy surrounding him. It was intriguing.
“Hey,” Vince whispered, looking at Howard.
“Hello,” he said, unintentionally curt.
“I’m Vince,” he continued, smiling.
“I heard,” Howard said, avoiding Vince’s gaze by concentrating on his drawing.
“What’s your name?” Vince watched Howard doodle, “Are you drawing a trumpet?”
“Mr. Noir, Mr. Moon is there something you’d like to say to the class?” the teacher stood up, glaring at them.
“No, Mrs. Graham,” Howard mumbled, feeling his cheeks flush from the sudden spotlight on him.
“I do,” Vince chimed in, “going over the syllabus is well boring. Why can’t we have a free period? We’re all English, what’s the bloody point of teaching it?”
“Why don’t you take up your dissatisfaction with the dean?” she narrowed her eyes.
“I think I will,” Vince got up, shooting a glance to Howard before walking toward the door.
“I,” Howard cleared his throat, “I agree with Vince.”
It felt like everyone was staring at him. Everyone was definitely staring at him. Howard never spoke in class. His cheeks were burning. Vince had stopped and was grinning broadly at Howard.
Mrs. Graham folded her arms, “is that so?” Her voice was dangerous.
Howard nodded, “yes.”
“Well, you can join your mate in the dean’s office then,” she pointed to the door.
As they left, one of the popular girls whispered, “buggers,” which made her circle of friends laugh.
* * *
“I take it you’re not the chatty type,” Vince mused, following Howard to the dean’s office, “everyone looked shocked when you spoke up.”
“I don’t have a reason to talk here. Everyone’s a bastard,” Howard rolled his eyes.
“I’m not a bastard,” Vince looked hurt.
“You might be the only one,” Howard chuckled, “I’ll be honest, you’re the only person I’ve talked to in school, other than a teacher. Most people don’t bother with me.”
“I’ve gotten the mysterious Mr. Moon to speak. Genius!” Vince laughed, “Want to cut class for the day?”
“What?” Howard stopped, staring at Vince, “Cut class?”
“Yeah, it’ll be brilliant. We can go see a film and eat sweets or go to the zoo,” Vince was beaming, “can we go to the zoo, Moon?”
“What?” Vince tipped his head to the side, his large blue eyes confused.
“My name. It’s Howard.”
“Howard Moon,” Vince’s smile returned, “that sounds like a proper porn star name.”
Howard snorted, “and your name makes you sound like a fruity wizard.”
“Who says I’m not one?” Vince winked, punching Howard playfully in the arm.
“You’re a strange little man,” Howard shook his head, finally smiling.
“I like you, Howard,” Vince said, shy for the first time since Howard met him, “you’re different from everyone else.”
“What? No, I’m not gay,” Howard said quickly, putting his hands up defensively.
“Gay? I’m not gay,” Vince laughed loudly, opening the door to go outside, “you coming?”
After a moment of debate, whether to join Vince or not, Howard followed the strange little man out of the school. His conscience was telling him not to go, but for the first time in his life, Howard trusted someone. For the first time he had a friend.
* * *
One Month Later
I ain’t written in a while. Living in England is brilliant- way better than the jungle’s of India with Bryan Ferry. School is well boring, but Howard’s in all my classes so I guess it could be worse. Today Howard said we could go to the zoo. I like being near the animals, but I don’t know if I should tell Howard that I can talk to them. Howard loves them too. He told me he wants to work at the zoo. That would be genius! Howard and me working at the Zooniverse- maybe one day!
It was sunny and unseasonably mild. The zoo was bustling with families; Howard and Vince sat at the bench across from the gorilla enclosure, watching Bollo, the oldest ape in captivity, take a nap.
“Hey, Howard?” Vince turned, “Can I tell you something?”
“Sure, Vince. What’s up?” Howard looked at Vince.
“I can talk to animals.”
Howard laughed, “what?”
“I can talk to animals,” Vince said again, “I learned how to when I lived in the jungles of India.”
“I guess you should get a job at the zoo then,” Howard smiled, “you’d be good at it.”
“You think so?” Vince’s face lit up. He’d never met anyone who thought his ability wasn’t weird. At the moment he realized Howard was special, “I want to quit school and work at the zoo.”
“Me too,” Howard sighed.
“Let’s do it,” Vince suggested, trying to contain his excitement.
Howard raised an eyebrow, “really?”
Vince got up, “yeah! I wonder if they’d hire us.”
“You’re really serious, aren’t you?” Howard stood up.
“Course I am. School is well boring. The zoo would be a right laugh,” Vince beamed, “and we could work together so-“
Vince was cut off by yelling from the office behind them, “you can’t quit! Tommy’s gonna be friggin pissed at me!” came a voice with an American accent, “The hut isn’t that bad for two people! Come on, please don’t go! Shit!”
“Piss off, Fossil. We’re sick of this place,” said one of the men, with a heavy Scottish accent. As he walked out of the office, he threw his uniform jacket on the ground before storming off, closely followed by another man.
“Jerry! Please!” the American ran out of the office, “Tony! Come back!” he cried, “Shit!”
Vince didn’t skip a beat before walking over to the distraught man, “I hope you don’t mind, but I overheard that those wankers quit the zoo.”
“I’m in shit city,” the somewhat overweight man frowned.
“My mate Howard and I were just talking about how brilliant it’d be to work at a zoo,” Vince waved Howard over.
“You wanna work here?” his eyes widened.
“If there are positions open, we’d love to,” Howard said, walking over, “provided there’s on site housing.”
“You’re hired,” the man said, “I’m Bob Fossil.”
“I’m Vince,” he grinned.
“Howard Moon,” he offered his hand, but Fossil ignored him.
“Vince, that’s a nice name. I have a good feeling about you,” Fossil waggled his eyebrows.
“Oi, you have an erection, mate,” Vince took a step toward Howard.
Fossil looked down, “Uh, I get off on firing people?”
“They said they quit,” Howard argued.
“Shut up, Moon,” Fossil turned and headed back to the office, “be here at ten tomorrow. Move your shit into the hut tonight,” he added before slamming the door.
“What an idiot,” Howard muttered, looking at Vince, “I guess this is our calling, huh?”
“Guess so,” Vince chuckled.
* * *
Six Months Later
Dropping out of school to work at the zoo was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I just turned seventeen and now I’m head zookeeper. Bob Fossil is an absolute idiot, but working with Vince makes it all worth it. He’s my best mate, and since working here we’ve become inseparable. We have our own hut. It’s small, but I don’t mind sharing it with Vince. Never a dull moment. Just last night we got pissed on cheap beer and had a water fight. Hilarious. I think I’m finally happy. I belong somewhere and I owe it all to Vince.
- Howard TJ Moon
“You’re up early,” Vince groaned, rubbing his eyes. He sat up in his sleeping bag, “what you doing?”
“I was writing,” Howard shut his journal and tucked it away in the desk drawer.
“Since when do you write?” Vince unzipped the sleeping bag and stood up, walking over to the stove to put the kettle on.
“I always write,” Howard sat back on the couch, crossing his legs, “could you make me a cuppa?”
“Sure,” Vince peeked around the corner, “how do you like it?”
“Straight, no sugar or milk,” Howard couldn’t help smiling at how hungover Vince looked, “how are you feeling this morning?”
“Let’s not drink Pabst anymore,” he chuckled, “my head hurts.”
“No one made you drink ten of them.”
“I drank ten? No wonder I’m in such a right state today,” Vince mused, walking back into the kitchen nook, “Did you hear that they hired a shaman to run a kiosk?” he called.
“A shaman? Interesting,” Howard stretched before getting up to join Vince in the kitchen, “have you met him yet?”
“I saw him. He looked like he was about twelve,” Vince laughed as he pulled their mugs out of the cabinet, “Gideon said his name was Naboo.”
“Gideon?” Howard felt his cheeks flush, “Did she say anything about me?”
“I don’t think she even knows your name, Howard,” Vince smirked to himself, pouring the kettle.
Howard frowned, “I talk to her almost every day. How can she not know my name?”
“Maybe you’re not memorable,” Vince shrugged, handing a cup to Howard.
“I guess not,” Howard sighed, leaning against the wall, “plain, old, boring Howard, doomed to be alone forever.”
“You have me,” Vince blew on his tea before taking a small sip.
“But you’ll get a girlfriend one day and then I’ll be alone,” Howard put his cup down on the counter, “I’m going for a walk,” he mumbled, leaving the hut.
* * *
It was raining outside, and Howard immediately regretted his decision to have a walk. The only people in the zoo were employees. A voice caught Howard’s attention.
“Moon! Where the hell have you been?” Bob Fossil yelled.
“There’s no one in the zoo, Mr. Fossil. I was having a cuppa,” he replied, turning to face his boss.
“I’m Howard Moon, I don’t have to work if there’s no kiddies in the zoo. I drink tea because I’m English,” Fossil mocked him in the worst English accent Howard had ever heard.
Howard was used to Fossil’s outbursts, “sorry, Mr. Fossil, it won’t happen again.”
“You’re damn right it won’t! Now go feed the black and white Chinese people,” Fossil folded his arms.
“The what?” Howard frowned.
“The black and white guys who eat the sticks!” Fossil pointed toward the panda enclosure.
“The pandas,” Howard corrected him, trying not to laugh.
Fossil pulled out his voice recorder, “say that again,” he pressed record.
“Pandas,” Howard repeated.
“That’s the one,” Fossil put the recorder in his pocket, “what are you still standing here for? Are you constipated?”
“No, Mr. Fossil, I’m going,” Howard rolled his eyes, walking toward the panda exhibit. He looked at the ground as he walked, as to avoid contact with any of his coworkers. It wasn’t like any of them actually talked to him, but nevertheless, he wanted to avoid them.
When he got to the panda enclosure, Howard noticed they’d already been fed, so he took a seat on one of the indoor benches to gather his thoughts. It wasn’t entirely unlike him to get into his “everyone leaves, I’ll end up alone” moods, but for some reason, the thought of Vince being with someone made him jealous. Vince was his best mate, and he wasn’t very hospitable to the idea of sharing him.
Jealousy wasn’t a totally foreign feeling for Howard. He always envied those who were handsome, socially accepted and talented; he didn’t openly admit it because he tried to force himself to believe that he was a desirable young man, but deep down he knew that he was eventually going to end up alone. Vince would leave him for a beautiful woman, he would never have Gideon and his only friend would be jazz. Jazz and a number of cats.
“Are you alright?” the heavenly voice of Gideon tore him from his internal angst.
“Ms. Gideon, hi, I, um,” Howard stumbled over his words, feeling his cheeks start to burn, “I was just thinking. Nothing to concern yourself with.”
“Oh, okay,” she turned and started to walk away.
“I was thinking about you,” Howard blurted out, immediately hating himself for it.
Gideon stopped and slowly looked, giving Howard a quizzical expression, “do I know you?”
“I’m Howard. Howard Moon, head zookeeper?” Howard smiled hopefully, “We work together.”
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she cocked her head to the side.
“I talk to you almost every day,” Howard said incredulously.
“I don’t remember ever talking to you, I’m sorry,” she looked apologetic, but also extremely uncomfortable.
Howard sighed, “don’t apologize, it’s fine.”
“Alright,” she turned and walked back out into the rain, leaving Howard alone again.
Vince was right, Howard thought, I’m not memorable. Even coworkers can’t remember my name. I’m hopeless.
The rain was getting heavier, and Howard’s desire to go back out in it to walk back to the hut was disappearing. He wondered how long he would be able to sit here until someone came to find him. Would Vince come looking? Maybe no one would even notice that he was gone. Surely, Vince wouldn’t miss him, or would he? Vince had plenty of friends and never had trouble being popular because of his magnetic personality, so he would most likely be fine without Howard. Howard wouldn’t be missed.
Howard was lost in his thoughts and the sound of rain falling. He didn’t hear his name being called and didn’t even notice Vince walk into the exhibit. It wasn’t until Vince sat down next to him that he snapped back to the present.
“Howard?” Vince was soaking wet and shivering, “Are you alright? I was looking everywhere for you.”
Howard looked at Vince, “Why?”
“You’re upset,” Vince shrugged, “I hate being alone when I’m upset, so I thought I’d keep you company cos you’re my best mate.”
“I am?” Howard felt a lump rising in his throat. He considered Vince his closest friend, but this was the first time Vince referred to him as his best mate. It made him want to cry.
“Course you are, you berk,” Vince hit him playfully, “I wouldn’t drop out of school to come work at a zoo with just anyone. You’re brilliant, I’m glad we cut class that day.”
Howard felt tears in his eyes, and hoped Vince would just think he was still wet from being out in the rain, “me too,” he said quietly, straining himself to sound nonchalant even though he knew he probably sounded like he was going to cry.
Vince sat next to Howard for a long time. Neither said anything, but the companionable silence spoke more than any words could. They understood each other. After a while, Howard noticed Vince’s teeth were chattering.
“It’s pouring outside, why didn’t you wear a jacket?” Howard shrugged out of his jumper and draped it over Vince’s shoulders, “Let’s go back to the hut. You’re going to get sick.”
Vince hugged the jumper around him, a smile crossing his lips, “thanks Howard.”
“Come on, let’s get you some warm clothes and a cup of cocoa,” Howard got up and ushered Vince back to the hut. He knew he sounded like a mother, but he’d always been mature for his age. Ever since he met Vince, he’d had someone to take care of because Vince was so childlike; Vince had a tendency to eat sweets for meals and not wear jackets because they didn’t match his outfit, but Howard was always there to make sure Vince was okay. He liked it. He liked Vince.
* * *
Several Years Later
I’m not okay. Today was a bad day. I thought writing my feelings was a good idea. I’m rubbish at writing but I needed to say this somewhere. Today Howard died. They found him in Bollo’s cage. No one knows what happened. I don’t know what to do. Without Howard I feel so alone and I can’t stop thinking about him. I can’t believe he’s gone. What’s worse is that I think I loved Howard as more than a mate and now he’ll never know. This is the shittiest day of my life.
Sun beamed through the broken blinds, casting a cheerful glow into the hut. Birds were singing, and the sound of zoo visitors’ laughter echoed outside. It was truly a rotten day.
Just hours ago Vince had received the worst news of his life. Howard’s dead. He was found in the ape enclosure without a pulse and there wasn’t anything anyone could do. There were no words to describe how Vince felt the moment Bob Fossil told him.
Vince laid on the floor of the hut, staring blankly at the ceiling. The plethora of emotions he was feeling ranged from depressed to angry, and everything in between. The only thing he didn’t feel was happiness and he was almost certain that he’d never be happy again. How could he be happy without Howard?
Just thinking of Howard’s name brought tears to Vince’s eyes. A lump was rising in his throat, and he was unable to control himself any longer; he rolled on his side, reaching for Howard’s pillow, burying his face in it, letting the sobs come. He was well aware of how loud he was crying, but nothing mattered anymore. He just didn’t care.
The pillow smelled like Howard. Musky soap, tobacco and something faintly minty. Vince inhaled deeply, feeling guilty that he was getting his tears and snot all over Howard’s favorite pillow. It wasn’t like Howard would care anymore, but something in the back of Vince’s mind refused to believe that Howard was truly dead. Even though he was nothing but a corpse now. Very much dead. Dead, dead, dead. Howard was dead.
Vince didn’t know how much longer he could go on. Who would take care of him? Who would be his best mate? Who would be his Howard?
Two Days Later
Howard isn’t dead!! He was in monkey hell. I had to go and save him after his ghost came and told me what happened. Naboo helped too. He got me to the mirror world where I had to deal with the wanker made of rags. Naboo’s a diamond for helping. I’m so happy that Howard is back for good but now I don’t know if I can tell him how I feel about him. He must know. I did go to hell and back for him after all.
“Vince?” Howard’s voice broke the silence of the dark hut.
“I never properly thanked you for saving me,” Howard shifted in his sleeping bag, “I owe you my life.”
“You would have done the same for me,” Vince said, smiling to himself, “besides, it was well boring here without you.”
“You and Bollo seemed to be having fun smashing my jazz records.”
“Bollo was having fun. I was mourning your death and accidentally took my anger out on your jazz. Sorry, Howard,” Vince rolled on his side, reaching over to touch Howard’s arm, “I’ll make it up to you.”
“This isn’t like you, Vince. What’s up? You’re never this affectionate,” Howard swatted Vince’s hand away, “don’t touch me.”
“Do you know what I did when they told me you were dead?” Vince asked, ignoring Howard’s usual ‘don’t touch me’ get up.
“Went through my belongings?” Howard asked; his sleeping bag rustled so Vince assumed he shrugged, “Maybe tossed that jumper you hate in the bin?”
“I completely broke down,” Vince admitted, “I’ve never cried so much,” Just thinking about the news of Howard’s death made Vince feel physically sick. He never wanted to go through that again, “Howard, please don’t die again,” he added in a whisper, trying to swallow the lump in his throat.
Howard sat up, “you cried?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Vince hugged his pillow, trying to blink away fresh tears. How could Howard think no one would cry?
“I never thought anyone would miss me,” Howard scooted closer to Vince and touched his shoulder, “you’re shaking little man, are you alright?”
“You think no one would miss you? What about me, Howard?” Vince sniffled, trying to contain the sobs threatening to escape.
“I’m not memorable. You said it yourself when we first started working at the zoo,” Howard said, sighing, “Gideon can’t even remember my name.”
“It’s always about Gideon, isn’t it?” Vince slapped Howard’s hand away and sat up, “Gideon’s a proper git! If she can’t remember your name or anything about you, why are you so hung up on her?” It wasn’t that Vince hated Gideon, in fact, he thought she was great. But, when it came to her forgetting Howard, it irritated him. No one appreciated Howard like Vince did and no one ever would.
“Don’t talk about Gideon like that, Vince. She’s beautiful and intelligent,” Howard said stubbornly, “she may forget my name and face, but that doesn’t make me like her any less.”
“I don’t forget your name. I’ll never forget your face or anything about you,” Vince folded his arms, “you can do better than Gideon.”
“Gideon is perfect for me. She’s exactly my type. One day she’ll realize it.”
“You’ve gone mad,” Vince mumbled. Howard’s stubbornness was one of his biggest pet peeves. Sometimes Howard was so disillusioned by a pretty girl that he couldn’t see what was right in front of him. It took every ounce of self control for Vince to keep his feelings for Howard a secret. If they came out now, it would be a disaster.
“Why are you so haughty?” Howard asked, “You’re acting like a child.”
That was it. Vince got up and started laughing; his laugh was cold and humorless,
“I’m acting like a child?” he snorted, “You’re lusting after a woman who has worked with you for like three years and she can’t even remember your bloody name!” he made a disgusted sound and stomped off to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. If Howard was going to be stubborn, Vince was going to give him a run for his money.
* * *
A Couple Weeks Later
Vince has been acting up since he saved me from monkey hell. Usually he’s so cheerful and bubbly, but lately he seems to be upset with me. I don’t know what I did. We’ve been having arguments, especially when I mention Gideon. It’s almost as if he’s jealous of her. I don’t know why he’d be jealous, I prefer him to her. I guess what I’m saying is that I have these feelings for Vince that I can’t express. It would ruin our friendship. If Vince knew I was falling in love with him, he’d laugh at me. I wish I knew what to do to make Vince happy again. It would kill me if he left because of a petty feud. I don’t want to be alone again.
-Howard TJ Moon
* * *
Since the last time I wrote Howard’s been acting like a berk. It’s always something about bloody Gideon and I’m sick of it. She’ll never love him like I do. I don’t know what to do. We keep fighting and it’s getting worse. I can’t tell Howard how I feel because he’d think I was lying. Why doesn’t he think he’s brilliant? He actually thought I wouldn’t miss him if he died. What’s he on about? I told him how rotten it was without him. I even bloody told him I cried when I found out he died. Maybe Naboo can give me some advice. He’s turning into one of my good mates. He said he wanted to leave the zoo to get a flat in Camden. How genius would that be? Camden is proper trendy. Maybe Howard would be happier if we left the zoo. Camden would be good for him. I bet I could give him a makeover so he wouldn’t look like Tom Selleck in tweed. Although, I’m rather fond of his moustache- don’t tell him!
“Have you told Howard how you feel?” Naboo asked, poking at the hot coal on top of his hookah before taking a long puff from the hose.
“I can’t,” Vince frowned to himself, feeling a little light headed from the hardly legal haze that filled the back room of the kiosk.
“Why not?” Naboo blew a few smoke rings, watching them float up toward the ceiling.
“I told him I loved him before, when we were in the tundra, and he told me I only said it because he said it,” Vince closed his eyes, remembering the arctic adventure. When they were held prisoner for the Black Frost to deal with, Howard said he loved him. It caught him off guard and made him so happy that he accidentally laughed. It was all downhill from there. Howard refused to believe Vince when he said he loved Howard too. Vince wished he could redo everything.
“Sometimes talking isn’t enough,” Naboo took another hit from the hookah, coughing a few times before continuing, “show Howard how you feel.”
“How?” Vince looked at Naboo, watching him swat at one of the fresh smoke rings billowing over his head.
“I don’t know,” Naboo shrugged, putting the hose on the table in order to pull a joint out of his turban, “make him a jazz porno or learn the bassoon.”
“How high are you, Naboo?” Vince chuckled. Naboo’s answer was a cheeky smile and giggling, “Never mind,” Vince rolled his eyes, as Naboo lit up his newly acquired joint, “so I should make him a jazz porno or learn the bassoon, yeah?”
“And make him a salami and jam sandwich, on cinnamon raisin bread,” Naboo sat back, relaxing, “or you could make me one.”
“How did you get on about me making you a sandwich?” Vince asked, starting to get frustrated, “You’re supposed to be helping me figure out how to tell Howard how I feel about him.”
“I really want a sandwich,” Naboo smiled to himself, taking a small hit off the joint, “a sandwich would be brilliant.”
“Earth to Naboo,” Vince snapped his fingers a few times in Naboo’s face, “we’re not talking about sandwiches.”
“You keep mentioning them,” Naboo laughed, handing the joint to Vince, “try this, it’ll help you think.”
“Howard told me that drugs’ll rot your mind,” Vince smirked at Naboo, but took the joint.
“It’s not like it’s crack or ketamine,” Naboo rolled his eyes, “one hit won’t kill you. It’s not even a drug. It’s a plant. A mighty good one at that.”
“Don’t tell Howard,” Vince said, taking a long drag. It burned all the way down and he couldn’t stop himself from coughing. The light-headed feeling he initially had from the secondhand smoke was beginning to intensify. Everything around him felt fluffy, mellow and wonderful. He risked another hit, but still coughed until he could barely hold onto the joint. Luckily Naboo grabbed it back before it fell on the ground.
“I told you it was good,” Naboo mused, tapping the ash on the floor, “give it a few minutes and you’ll want a sandwich…and some curry…and apple juice,” Naboo puffed on the spliff a few times, “and pizza with grapes on it.”
“What the hell?” Vince sputtered, still coughing, but laughing at the same time, “Pizza with grapes?”
“It’s a Xooberon thing,” Naboo handed what was left of the joint back to Vince, “finish it. You’ll understand in a few minutes.”
Vince’s throat was burning, but he smoked the last of it before extinguishing it in the ashtray, “promise you won’t tell Howard about this, Naboo.”
“I probably won’t even remember this happened,” Naboo admitted sheepishly.
“Just promise,” Vince said again.
“Yeah, yeah, I won’t tell him,” Naboo closed his eyes, propping his short legs up on the coffee table, “I’ll let you try to pretend being sober when I kick you out in five minutes.”
“You’re kicking me out?” Vince stared at the tiny shaman, “Why?”
“Shaman business,” Naboo said cryptically, “now stop talking so I can listen to this song.”
“What song?” Vince asked, confused.
“The one playing in my head,” Naboo said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
Vince shook his head, smiling as he relaxed into the sofa. He’d been in Naboo’s kiosk when it was filled with smoke plenty of times, but this time was different. Everything seemed to be in slow motion and he felt like he was floating. It was a strange feeling, but not entirely unwelcome. He’d never been high before, but Naboo was right- his thoughts were clear and an idea was forming in his head, “hey, Naboo?”
Naboo sighed, clearly getting irritated by the constant questions, “what?”
“Are you really going to leave the zoo to live in Camden?”
“Yeah, why?” he turned and looked at Vince. His eye were half-shut and he looked like the personification of the stereotype for a pot head. Bloodshot eyes and all.
“If you’re looking for flatmates, Howard and I could come,” Vince suggested, “we don’t have much money, but if we start our band, we’ll have paying gigs to give you rent money.”
“Howard’s a buzz kill, but I wouldn’t mind having a flat share with you. Bollo’s coming too. He wants to be my familiar,” Naboo stood up to stretch.
“I won’t go without Howard,” Vince said firmly, “he’s brilliant once you get to know him.”
“I’ll take your word for that,” Naboo slipped on his trainers, “he can come as long as he doesn’t piss and moan about my habits.”
“He won’t,” Vince got up, beaming.
“Keep this hushed, but the zoo won’t be open much longer. It’s bankrupt, I’m giving it two weeks,” Naboo pushed aside his beaded curtain and pulled out his magic carpet, “I overheard Fossil talking to Bainbridge.”
“Can I tell Howard?” Vince shrugged into his Zooniverse jacket.
“As long as he keeps his mouth shut about it.”
“Genius! I can’t wait to move to Camden. You won’t regret having us as flatmates, I promise,” Vince hugged Naboo, “you’re a diamond, Naboo!”
“Get off me, you wanker,” Naboo pushed him, but had a smile on his face, “I have business to attend to, so good luck acting sober. You don’t look it at all.”
“Really?” Vince peeked in the wall mirror and snorted, “Howard’s naive, he probably won’t notice.”
“He will if he smells it,” Naboo chuckled to himself, opening the drawer to his side table, pulling out a sandwich bag of perfectly rolled joints. He took five out of the bag and hid them under his turban, “just douse yourself in cologne and you’ll be fine.”
“Cheers, Naboo,” Vince grinned at him, “keep me posted about the flat, yeah?”
Naboo nodded, waving Vince off as he turned his attention back to sorting himself out.
Vince was glad to get out of the smokey kiosk. The fresh air felt like heaven in his lungs. He couldn’t help but chuckle to himself thinking about the cloud of smoke that must have escaped when he opened to the door to leave.
As he walked back to the hut, Vince hummed to himself. It was warm and sunny, which was perfect considering his mood at the moment. He was so annoyed with Howard earlier, but talking it out with Naboo had helped immensely. It may have been the smoke, but Vince was in a wonderfully cheerful mood now. The only thought on his mind now was how badly he wanted a salami and jam sandwich on cinnamon raisin bread. He laughed out loud, Naboo was totally right.
* * *
The Last Day At The Zooniverse
This is the last time I’ll be writing an entry from my tiny hut at the Zooniverse. The zoo’s gone bankrupt and is closing. Vince and I are all packed and it’s kind of bitter sweet to leave the place we’ve called home for the past few years. We both have so many memories here, good and bad. I know I’ll miss it. But, thanks to Naboo, Vince and I will have a place to live. He agreed to take us on in a flatshare with Bollo in Camden. I’ve never been fond of Camden because of all the trendies, but Vince is so excited to move to the city that I can’t help but be happy. I know there will be plenty more adventures to be had in Camden. Hopefully they won’t include the arctic tundra, a killer kangeroo or a cockney nutjob. Goodbye, Zooniverse. Hello, Camden.
-Howard TJ Moon
* * *
Howard locked himself in the loo, so I’m going to write this now. Today I move to Camden with Howard, Naboo and Bollo. It’s going to be genius in the city, but I’m going to miss the animals. The flat Naboo got is perfect. Howard doesn’t know he and I will have to share a room yet, but it’s all part of my master plan to show Howard that I love him. I have to finish packing my boots, but in a few hours I’ll be away from the zoo and in CAMDEN!
The hut was finally empty after three days of packing everything. A strange energy lingered; a sad one. Every inch of their home had memories associated with it, down to the tack holes in the plywood walls. Howard stood in the middle of the former parlor and bedroom, reminiscing of the times he’d had with Vince. His stomach twisted uncomfortably and suddenly he felt like crying. This was his home, and he was leaving to start a new chapter in his life.
A hand on his shoulder snapped him back to the present, “I just moved the last of my things in the van, Howard,” Vince said softly.
“Oh, okay, Vince,” Howard turned and looked at Vince, “are you alright?” he asked, noticing his friend’s flushed cheeks and smudged eye liner.
“Yeah,” Vince offered a smile, “I’m fine now. It’s just a big change to leave this place, you know?”
Howard knew perfectly well, “I’m going to miss it,” he said, returning the smile, “we had a lot of fun times here.”
Vince looked down at the dusty floor, “a lot of bad ones too,” he whispered.
“Don’t think of those,” Howard put his hand on Vince’s back, his mind flashing to the monkey hell incident, “I promise there will be nothing but happy memories to come in Camden.”
Vince looked up, fresh tears staining his cheeks, “Howard?” his voice cracked.
“What is it, Vince?”
Without warning, Vince lunged at Howard, wrapping his arms around him. Howard froze for a moment, his typical ‘don’t touch me’ reaction crossing his mind before he overcame it and hugged his best mate. The moment Howard hugged him, Vince immediately started to cry, burying his face into Howard’s jumper, “shh, it’s okay, little man,” Howard cooed, squeezing Vince, “everything will be fine. You’re going to love Camden. Lots of shops and people. You’ll be in your element.”
“I love you, Howard,” Vince murmured into Howard’s chest.
“Are you ballbags coming?” Naboo’s voice made both of them jump and separate,
“Traffic is going to be awful if you don’t hurry up.”
“Traffic’s always bad, Naboo,” Howard noted.
“It wouldn’t be bad if you’d agree to take the rug,” Naboo folded his arms, smirking.
“Friends don’t let friends drive stoned,” Howard quipped.
“You’re hilarious, Howard,” Naboo rolled his eyes then looked at Vince, “alright, Vince?”
Vince wiped his face on his sleeve, “yeah, I’m fine,” he said quietly.
“Good,” Naboo turned to leave the hut, “ten minutes, yeah?” he said before walking away.
Howard turned to Vince, “I guess this is it.”
“Guess so,” Vince looked around the hut one last time, before heading to the door, “ready, Howard?”
Howard nodded, “let’s go, little man,” he said, following Vince out of the hut. Before shutting the door he took a deep breath and exhaled, finally getting up the courage to close it and start the new chapter of his life.