(///.together.deal.zebra – Khalifa International Stadium, Qatar)
It was Pedro’s turn to deal. Marco nibbled meditatively on some fine savannah grass. Franco sipped from his clay pitcher of water. Bob fidgeted nervously, as he always did.
They looked at their cards. Marco checked. Nibbled some more. Franco put down a handful of grass. A sharp intake of breath. All eyes on Bob.
“I’ll see you and raise you,” betting some grass and a twig.
“Every time,” Pedro muttered. “Check.”
Cards were swapped in and out. Betting resumed. Marco folded. He was calm. Franco folded. Less calm. Bob put down three acacia leaves.
“OK that’s it,” Pedro exploded. “Whenever we’re together, it’s the same. You win!”
“Problem?” Bob asked warily.
“Yes,” and Pedro reached for his phone. “CCTV’s been watching you. I know.”
“You’re cheating. And you’re no zebra!” He turned his phone round to show them the video, and they could clearly see a card being surreptitiously pulled from a black and white sleeve, with golden fur briefly revealed underneath.
“He’s a lion!” Marco and Franco screamed. They turned the card table upside down in their haste to get away. But Pedro stood bravely in front of the unmasked Bob, demanding answers, oblivious to the danger.
“What’s your excuse?” he asked.
Bob stood up and shook off his zebra suit, revealing his huge mane, shining teeth and massive paws. And then he slumped down again, bereft.
“It’s the grass,” he said. “I need the grass.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m such a disappointment to my family. A vegetarian lion! I can’t tell them. But you guys, you’ve got the best grass going at your game. I had to get some.”
The zebras watched as Bob shed tears and quivered on his seat. Pedro went over to him and patted him gently on the paw.
“Next time, lose the costume,” he said kindly.