At the Wombat World Zoo, Paige stood in front of the hyena enclosure and live streamed away on her tablet.
Soon, A.J. slowly rose up into the frame and sang, “Heather Haskill sucks….”
B.J. poked his head into the shot. “…Heather Haskill sucks…
Next came C.J. “…Heather Haskill sucks…”
Davey put his arm around Paige. “…Heather Haskill sucks!”
Then the boys wrapped up their tune with, “And Tommy doesn’t know what the hell-uh-ell he’s missing!”
Paige stopped the live stream. “OMG guys. Hashtag best song ever. Thank you.”
“No problem,” A.J. said.
“So Paige,” B.J. added. “Now that we’ve checked out the zoo and humiliated your ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend, what do you want to do next?”
“OMG,” Paige said. “So many options.”
“We could take you to lunch if you want,” C.J. said. “Only we’re not allowed to do anything but watch you eat.”
“You’re not allowed to eat?” Paige asked.
“Afraid not,” Davey said as he patted his flat stomach. “Diet soda and biweekly almonds only according to our contract. I almost got fired for eating candy this morning.”
“That’s terrible,” Paige said. “I had no idea you guys suffered so much.”
“Gotta do it for the fans,” A.J. said.
“No one’s going to scream and clap for a fatty,” B.J. noted.
Paige frowned. “Guys, I feel bad about something.”
“The video we just recorded to humiliate your enemies?” C.J. asked.
“No,” Paige said. “Wait…no. They both suck. No, at the concert this girl I just met gave me a seat and blah, blah, blah I’ll spare you the details but she was saving the seat in honor of her sister who died from cancer and now I feel bad for not letting her spend the day at Wombat World with you.”
The boys went quiet. They looked at each other, then at their new friend.
“Wow, Paige.” Davey said.
“That’s pretty low,” A.J. said.
“Despicable,” B.J said.
“Underhanded,” C.J. said.
Davey waited a few seconds then put his hand up in the air.
“What?” Paige asked.
“High five!” Davey said.
Paige slapped Davey’s hand.
“I don’t get it,” Paige said.
“Paigester,” Davey said. “How do you think we got where we are?”
“I don’t know,” Paige said. “Hard work, talent, and charisma?”
The boys doubled over with laughter.
“Oh…oh my God,” A.J. said.
“She’s serious!” B.J. said.
“Then how?” Paige asked.
“We slipped Boysplosion and Boyapalooza the old laxative special when they made it to the final round of America’s Hottest New Boy Band,” C.J. said.
“We won the gold,” Davey said.
“And they won the brown,” B.J. said.
“OMG,” Paige said.
“Mums the word, of course,” C.J. said.
“Oh right,” Paige said. “Of course. I won’t tell anyone. Hashtag totally mum. I just don’t know what to think of this.”
“The world only has so much room for so many winners, Paige,” Davey said. “And victory rarely comes wrapped in a neat, pretty bow.”
“Sometimes its messy,” A.J. said.
“Like two rival boy bands blasting ass all over a public restroom messy,” B.J. said.
“Still,” Paige said. “I feel awful.”
“What’s this girl’s name?” C.J. asked.
“Call her up,” Davey said. “Invite her to join us.”
“Oh,” Paige said. “I’d love to but I didn’t get her number. I only talked to her for a few minutes. I didn’t even get her last name.”
A.J. took Paige’s tablet. “Funny thing about social media. It has a way of making a big world a whole lot smaller.”
The boys lined up behind Paige and looked at the tablet in A.J.’s hand.
“What are you guys doing?” Paige asked.
“If Laura’s on Lifebox,” B.J. said. “This will make its way to her.”
A.J. hit the record button and started a live stream. The boys snapped their fingers as if they had morphed into a 1950s doo-wop group.
They sang together.
“Whoa Laura, whoa Laura…Paige…she done you bad.”
Davey belted out an “Ooo…uh…ooo!”
“But Laura, whoa Laura, now Paige is so sad-uh-ad.”
A.J. launched into a solo. “Will you please join us before the day is over? As soon as you get this message, write to Paige and she’ll tell you where to come over.”
Davey was up. “A budding new friendship is too important to tear apart.”
“Hey guys,” C.J. sang as he looked at the hyena enclosure. “I think one of those hyenas just made a stinky fart.”
A.J. hit the stop button. “Dude! Stinky fart?!”
“What?” C.J. said. “You had a better word that rhymes with apart?”
“Cart, smart, art,” Davey said.
“Boys, boys,” Paige said. “Come on. Hashtag heartwarming. I hope she sees it.”
“In the meantime, Paigester,” Davey said. “No visit to Wombat World is complete without a ride on the Infernacoaster.”
“Infernacoaster?” Paige asked.
Davey put his arm around Paige again.
“Five hundred feet of steel, flaming hoops, and death metal,” Davey said.
“There’s a rumor that three kids have died on it over the years,” A.J. said.
“You have to sign a waiver absolving Carruthers Brothers Amalgamated Studios of all responsibility in case you drop dead from fright,” B.J. said.
“OMG,” Paige said. “I don’t know.”
“That’s just a formality,” C.J. said. “They do that just to cover their butts.
“We’ve been on it dozens of times,” Davey said. “It’s awesome.”
“Well,” Paige said as she looked around at each of the boys. “OK.”
A.J. burst into song. “Awesome…totally awesome. Paige is going on the Infern-oh-uh-oh Coaster.”
B.J. spotted a concession stand shaped like a giant wombat. He walked towards it. “Guys, I am parched. Wanna get a caffeine fix?”
“Sounds good to me,” C.J. said. “Paige, you want anything?”
“Oh,” Paige said. “No. This is embarrassing but my mom usually pays for everything.”
Everyone in line at the stand stepped aside as the boys approached.
“Stick with us, Paige,” Davey said as he bellied up to the counter. “And you’ll never wait in line or pay for anything.”
The sunburnt young man working the counter was surprised. “Wow! Boyz Aplenty.”
“Sup?” Davey said.
“I’ve heard all of your songs,” the worker said. “But only because my sister loves you guys and not because I’m gay or anything.”
“Not necessary to say, dude,” A.J. said.
“Our beats transcend all sexual predilections,” B.J. said.
“Four of your best diet colas, my good man,” C.J. said.
“And for the lady?” the worker asked.
Paige smiled. “I’ll just have a water.”
“Coming right up.”
The worker popped into the back of the stand, where he found a young female worker napping.
“Kelly!” the male worker said.
“Huh?” Kelly said as she perked up.
“What about them, Eric?” Kelly asked.
“They’re here!” Eric said.
“So?” Kelly said. “They’re so overrated. Boytastic has a superior sound.”
“Whatever,” Eric said. “You were supposed to install a new syrup bag yesteday. We can’t serve the boys skunk fizz.”
“Alright, alright,” Kelly said as she opened up a cardboard box sitting on the counter. “Sheesh, if you love them so much why don’t you marry them?”
“Like I told them its not a gay love,” Eric said. “Its a love of their angelic voices combined with the way their carefully selected words speak to my soul….but I mean, when I overhear my sister playing them on her phone because I’d never listen to that shit myself.”
“Carruthers Brothers Amalgamated Studios owns like five hundred boy bands,” Kelly said as she unhooked an old, empty bag from the machine.
“They’re not worthy to rinse out Boyz Aplenty’s socks,” Eric said. “Again, so my sister tells me.”
“I don’t have time to psychoanalyze your boy band love,” Kelly said as she hoisted a bag full of brown, sticky soda syrup and attached it to the machine.
“Is that fresh?” Eric asked.
“Sure is,” Kelly said. “Delivered this morning.”
“Thank God,” Eric replied. “Those boys deserve the best.”