I Am Adult: The Panda Plot

Oh boy, she was cute.

They traded looks as children played, happy people chased frisbees, and kites flew suspended underneath a clear sky. It was a beautiful day, and he was nervous. The butterflies flared in his stomach with each catch of her gaze. Things were getting serious, and he was beginning to get the distinct feeling that she wanted him to make a move. His insecurities clutched at his conscience, creating doubt like a mental blood clot. What if he was reading the situation incorrectly? Perhaps she wasn’t looking because she was interested, but rather because she was terrified that he might just chop her into little pieces and gobble her up for dinner. 

Yet she kept looking.

It had to be real. It was now or never, it was time to separate man from boys, time to nut up or shut up. He took a deep breath, closed the book that he was pretending to read, and made the long and vulnerable walk over to the picnic table where she was sitting. She looked up at him as he made his approach and smirked.

It was a great sign.

“Hi there,” he said with a sheepish smile.

She reciprocated, “Hi.”

“So, I couldn’t help but notice you sitting alone, you mind if I join you?”

She blushed with that captivating smile, “Sure, I’d like that.”

It was a defining moment in his life. Existence provided a limited amount of those – available only while supplies last. He broke through the snares of insecurity, found confidence, made the move, and it paid off! 

But there was only one problem: He wasn’t Bob.

Nope, Bob was sitting at an adjacent table watching it all take place. In fact, he’d thought about doing the same thing but ended up exhausted by his own neurotic nonsense. 

He had a hot dog though, so it was fine. 

He chomped on the weiner and watched with transparent contempt as a love story bloomed amid his feeding. So befuddled by the scene, he was left unaware and defenseless as a lump of ketchup slipped from the end of the bun and dropped right onto his white shirt. He looked down at the mess, defeated.

Shit.”

He fumbled for a napkin and with his best effort tried to wipe away the evidence. It didn’t help. It only spread and became even more obvious. He dropped the napkin back on the table and sighed. As he went for another bite, careful to not repeat his mistake, a familiar voice forced him to hesitate.

“Bob? Is that you?”

He looked over to see a woman that he hadn’t laid eyes on in years. It was her, Jenna DeAngelo. Jenna was an old flame – well, perhaps not – it was complicated. The two met in their teens and had a summer of puppy love and sweet nothings. As time went on, their lives would weave in and out of contact, with Bob often more invested in romantic possibilities than his exceedingly mature counterpart. Eventually, he came to realize the fruitless nature of his desires and abandoned ship. It was a worthy effort, albeit time-consuming and ultimately dumb. There were no hard feelings, however, it was all water under the bridge. She had always conducted herself with kindness and grace, which was more than you could say for most people.

But goddamn, she was still knockout beautiful.

“Oh, hey!” he said with a mouth half-full of hot dog.

She let out a delighted laugh and took a seat at the table, “I thought that was you! What are you doing here?!”

Bob swallowed the bite. It was a big one. 

“My apartment is just down the street, figured I’d grab a bite,” he said, pointing to the hot dog stand, “Jose does it up proper. How’ve you been?”

“I’m good! My business is going really well, family is great – Logan and I just bought a house off Val Vista! First time home owners!” 

She seemed really excited about the house off Val Vista. 

Bob didn’t know who Logan was, but deduced by the ring on her finger that he was a winner. He wanted to be encouraging.

“That’s great!”

She pointed to a group of kids on the playground. One of them was dumping sand on another child’s head who was clearly an unwilling and frightened participant.

“And that little nightmare is the light of my life.”

The little boy proceeded to laugh maniacally and kick the sand into the neglected child’s face, adding insult to injury.

“Cute kid.”

She chuckled.

“CALEB! KNOCK IT OFF!”

Caleb did a little dance and ran off to the slides.

“So!” her transition was flawless, “What about you, mister? What’s going on in your life?”

Bob hesitated, indecisive as to whether he should disclose his relentless sense of inadequacy or just get through the conversation.

“I’ve been good.”

Sometimes you just have to get through the conversation. 

Caleb shot down the slide and ran at full speed up to his mother.

“Oh, and here he comes,” she said with a laugh.

“Hey, mom! Can I have some yogurt?!”

The kid couldn’t sit still. He probably had one of those attention problems.

“Sure,” she said as she fetched a yogurt tube from her mystery bag of parental essentials. “Honey, I want you to meet someone,” she gestured to Bob, “This is an old friend of mine, Bob. Say hello.”

The child walked right up to Bob and shook his hand, a firm shake too. Kid was a go-getter, must have been those good genes.

“Hey buddy,” Bob said, trying to sound friendly. He looked at his shirt, which featured a panda doing some form of martial arts, “I like your shirt.”

This was a lie. Bob hated pandas.

Hated them.

The boy tugged at the bottom to stretch it out so he could get a good look at his own clothing, “Thanks. It’s a panda that does kung-fu. I like pandas and I like kung-fu, so it’s really my favorite shirt.”

“Oh, sure. So you like pandas, huh?” Bob asked with a hint of sarcasm.

Jenna threw him a look. He ignored it.

The child didn’t pick up on any of it, because kids are dumb.

“They’re only, like, the best animal ever!”

Bob squinted, “Are they?”

Jenna stepped in, “Okay, honey, why don’t you go play with your friends while I chat with Bob for a bit, alright?”

Caleb smiled, just like his mother, “Okay! Bye Bob!”

“See you later buddy.”

He ran off back to the playground as Jenna shook her head, “Seriously? Were you just about to traumatize my son with your weird hatred for pandas?”

“They are a terrible creature that shouldn’t be allowed to exist, Jenna. I will not sway from this.”

She laughed, “You’re unbelievable.”

“The fact that we try to prevent their extinction is unbelievable. If I were a hunter, I’d hunt panda.”

“Would you stop?!” she said with a polite slap on his hand.

“Panda stew – mmm, sounds delicious.”

“Like you could kill a panda.”

Bob was taken back, “What’s that supposed to mean? Given the opportunity, I would use my bare hands.”

“Yeah, right, when’s the last time you even worked out?”

“I ride my bike every day!”

She scoffed, antagonizing him “I don’t know…”

He sat back, “Wait, are you trying to say that I don’t have the strength to take out a panda? The laziest and most useless creature in the animal kingdom?”

She looked directly into his eyes, “No, I’m not ‘trying’ to say it, I am saying it. In fact, I guarantee it!”

Bob waved her off, “You must be sniffing glue, I would demolish a panda.”

“Oh yeah? Tell me, mister panda hunter, how would you do it?”

He took a sip from his Coke, “You really want to know? Believe me, I have a plot.”

She snickered, “Yeah, let’s hear it.”

Bob thought about trying to change the subject to something more acceptable. 

Then again, she asked for it…

The night was crisp, with the lights of downtown Phoenix reflecting off low hanging clouds creating an eerie glow. Bob watched from a distance – dressed as Indiana Jones – and observed the Zoo security patrol in the parking lot. He waited until they were out of sight and made his move. He only had sixty seconds to scale the front entrance before they would come around for another pass. Using his trustworthy whip, he wrapped it over the top of the fence with a snap and pulled himself up and over. 

As he made his way in, he heard distant voices approaching and did a sweet somersault behind a nearby wall for cover.

I’m telling you, we gotta get rid of Tocchet. He’s running the team into the ground with all these line changes.”

Seriously. How are these guys going to build chemistry if he keeps jumbling the lines every game?

Bob peeked out from the wall and watched two guards climb into a golf cart. Not wasting time, he stayed low and dashed to the cart, climbing onto the back undetected as they departed. The guards continued their sad conversation about their struggling hockey team during the ride. 

At least we got Kessel.

Sure, hot dog eating champion of 2014. I haven’t been impressed.

Watch, he’s gonna put up a hatter tonight, I can feel it. He’s poised for a big game.

The two were quiet for a moment.

Really?

They shared a big laugh together.

It felt ridiculous as I said it.”

Bob felt the cart slow to a stop and waited as the two stepped out and walked into the security office. He slipped off the back and hustled to the door, making sure his surroundings were clear before knocking and retreating behind the corner. The door opened and one of the guards stepped out.

Who is it?” one asked.

I dunno, maybe it was the wind or something,” said the other.

Bob whispered, “Hey, over here.

He waited as the guard made his way over. As he turned the corner, Bob grabbed the man by the collar and shoved him against the wall before knocking him out with one punch. 

The other guard heard the commotion and followed suit, stepping out with concern, “What’s going on out here?!

Bob whispered again, “Hey, over here.

Just as it was before, the guard came around the corner. Bob gave him a swift kick to the ball bag, dropping him to his knees, then punched him straight in the face. He was out like a light. It was his second one-punch knockout in less than thirty seconds. 

This was his fantasy – fuck you.

He rushed into the security office. The security cameras would need to be disabled. The only problem was that the cameras were operated by computers, and Bob was terrible with computers. He had no time for technological mumbo-jumbo. He pulled out his revolver and began firing, causing them to spit sparks and short out. While he accomplished his task, the action triggered an alarm that he hadn’t anticipated. He ran for the exit but was stopped short when a large steel door dropped down, trapping him inside.

“That’s not good,” he said to himself.

His problems were only just beginning. At that moment, the neighboring walls began to close in on him, and to make matters worse, they had protruding spikes ready to kill.

He looked back and forth, “Who the fuck makes a room like this? Jigsaw?”

Bob had no time for games. He needed to find a way out of this mess and fast, otherwise he would be turned into a skewer – Skewer Bob. There was a cool draft he felt from above that caused him to look up, and there it was: an air vent. It could be tricky, but it was his only shot. Channeling his inner Indy, he used the spikes on one of the walls to climb to ceiling level. As the walls were about to meet, Bob opened the grate to the vent and climbed inside, narrowly avoiding catastrophe.

He took a moment to catch his breath. It’s not often you have to escape from a death-room designed to kill anyone inside with spiked walls. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he proceeded to writhe his way through the narrow vents to freedom. Once he reached the first available room, he pushed the grate out and dropped in, finding himself surrounded by coiled snakes.

Bob may have hated pandas, but he really hated snakes.

Frozen in place, he let out a suppressed and muffled scream. Fortunately, his landing hadn’t awakened the slithering monsters – undoubtedly due to his flawless grace – but one wrong move could certainly spell disaster. In a stroke of genius, and with delicate precision, Bob reached for his revolver and began violently unloading on every snake in his path, letting out a terrified howl as he sprinted for the exit. He burst through the door and slammed it shut behind him, shuddering and rubbing himself wildly to rid himself of the irrational wriggling sensation. Now that he had dealt with that nightmare, he was prepared to continue.

Next stop: Pandas.

He produced a map of the zoo from his satchel and studied the layout, identifying the route to his objective. When he lowered the map, he spotted another golf cart ahead of him. It was almost as if God wanted him to complete his homicidal vision. With divine permission on his side, Bob commandeered the cart and proceeded to the exhibit. 

As he drove past a gift shop decorated with animal-themed novelties, another security cart launched around the corner and set after him in hot pursuit. Bob put the pedal to the floor as the guard began to close the gap, creating a modest distance. This wouldn’t last, as golf carts don’t really go that fast, and the guard behind him was clearly a professional. The bastard drafted behind, and with no wind resistance, quickly began to overtake him. Soon they were side by side, swapping glances as they avoided obstacles in their path.

“The jig’s up, Jones!” the guard shouted. “You best give up now!”

“I don’t dance the jig!” he replied, navigating the promenade. “And by the way – my name is Bob!” In a short window of opportunity, Bob swerved and slammed into the guard’s cart, sending him flying into the FUCKING CROCODILE EXHIBIT! 

Horrified screams pierced through the Zoo as he made his escape. The guard was definitely being pulled and torn by pissed off dinosaurs. Bob cared not – the guy was probably an asshole anyway. It was a security guard after all, and if Batman didn’t care about them, neither would Bob.

After a short ride, Bob had finally arrived. He stepped out of the cart and walked to the edge of the exhibit, looking down into the darkness. It was difficult to make out anything tangible, but it didn’t matter, he knew the purposeless beast was in there somewhere. He attached his whip to the railing and lowered himself into the enclosure. Touching ground, he softly tread the perimeter before stumbling upon a peacefully sleeping panda. He stared intensely at the adorable animal as it let out little snores, its paws twitching as it dreamed. What doubts he may have had were no match for the aggressive grasp that he took around its neck. He squeezed tighter and tighter until the animal went limp in his hands. He was finally satisfied.

Rising from his work, breathing heavy and covered in sweat, he turned to discover another panda. Only, this one was awake, and much larger. It could safely be assumed that this was the baby panda’s mother, rightfully aggravated.

“Heyyy there,” Bob said before looking down at the lifeless panda cub behind him, “listen – about all this – it’s just a fantasy, it’s not re-”

The grieving panda mom fucked off on the details. She straight-up unleashed a righteous fury on Bob. Viciously tearing away at his flesh with tooth and claw, giving him a ruthless and bloodied retribution .

Bob sat at the picnic table mimicking being mauled by a fully grown panda before noticing the horrified look on Jenna’s face. 

He settled down and cleared his throat, “Ahem – well, that – that’s basically how it would go down.”

Jenna didn’t blink, staring strangely as she nodded her head, “Descriptive,” she said before glancing at the playground, “Well, it’s getting late. I have to get back and make some dinner. Good catching up, Bob.”

It was all very sudden.

Bob watched as she got up from the table and collected her belongings, “Oh, okay. Yeah, good seeing you. We should get lunch or something soon.”

She avoided eye-contact, “Yeah…yeah. Take care of yourself, okay?” She pointed down at his stained shirt, “By the way, you’ve – uh – you’ve got some schmutz.”

Bob looked down at the stain, but by the time he looked up again, she was already halfway to the playground. She had a real hustle to her pace.

Hm,” he grunted softly, accepting the situation.

He took the last bite of his hot dog, and as he did, another dab of ketchup landed on his shirt.

“DAMMIT!!” he yelled.

The couple across from him leered as he attempted to wipe it away. He caught their eyes and threw up his arms.

“The fuck are you lovebirds looking at?! Mind your own business!”

The two scoffed and walked away together, leaving Bob alone in his mess.

The hot dog was pretty good though.

So it was fine.

THE END.

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