Walk the Dinosaur

The velociraptor had come to Ottawa to be with his fiancé, Maria, for the summer. This would be the first time living in an apartment, their own place, instead of at home or the university dorm. It would also be the first time living in a place where human-dinosaur relationships were open. At least, more open. Her parents didn’t bat an eye, but instead threw an engagement party for them. Even her uncle, the Anglican priest, gave them his blessing.

Now that the hoopla had settled down, however, there were practical matters at hand. Maria’s parents had recently sold their home for a smaller, retirement property, and couldn’t fit two more people in, but her father had found them a decent city apartment. They were also willing to put some of their own money into it. The velociraptor knew that if his parents heard of this, they would do so as well, but it would hurt them. They were not as well-off. Work was needed.

First, Maria had pulled some strings with one of her cousins who did landscaping, and the velociraptor had tried his best. The combination of the sleepless night he had spent worrying about the prospect and the fumbling nature of his stunted forearms meant the job was short-lived.

Now it was a group interview at the Chapters bookstore. The velociraptor had library experience, which he thought would give him a leg-up. When the questions came to “workplace conflicts”, however, he could tell by the interviewer’s reaction that he came off as confrontational.

“I wouldn’t let my first impression of… things… colour my professionalism, of course,” he said lamely.

The interviewer said only that they would contact the applicants who were being considered further within a few days.

A few days, then several, passed. He wasn’t getting the job.

“They’re probably just prejudiced against dinosaurs,” Maria said helpfully. She wrapped her arms around him. Maria had fallen in love with his reds and blues, or so she said. The colours had served their purpose. She stroked the sensitive feathers along his neck.

“It’s all right,” she cooed. “You’ll find something. Be more assertive.”

Part of him ruffled at this. It never came up that she didn’t have a job and wasn’t looking.

But Maria was stroking down his chest now, and he shivered.

“I’ll make it better, love. Why don’t we go to bed, and I’ll show you.”

He acquiesced.

And couldn’t perform.

The jobs, the fucking jobs. They’d neutered him, broken him. He had to find one, reclaim his raptorhood.

The next morning he showered, scrubbing his scales shiny and new. He told Maria he was going out. She grunted from the bedroom. The velociraptor shrugged to himself, and went job-hunting.

There was a prep cook opening nearby, but that entailed the same arm problem as the landscaping. Restaurants found excuses not to hire him as a server, but he knew it was because some people found his species’ comportment unnerving.
Finally he found a place desperate enough to take him on.

“We’re the second-worst ranked outlet in the Ottawa area,” the boss said almost proudly.

“We’re low on staff–one of our guys phoned in with a broken arm–so we need to put your on the fast track, training-wise.”

The velociraptor tried not to show his desperate glee. The New York Fries was kind of lonely, in what was technically a food court on the second storey of a third-rate mall, but it was a job. The boss showed him through the employee entrance, gave him an employee shirt, which the velociraptor awkwardly donned. He was directed to the first section.
There was a vat of potatoes, and a lever-powered french fry cutter. The pimply boy using it looked up and gave an awkward wave.

“Rob,” was all he said.

“I think how the cutter works is self-evident,” said the boss. “Easy, repetitive. Now these are the beauties of the operation.”

The boss gestured to three deep fryers, currently being tended to by a middle-aged woman whose name tag read “Elaine.” She smiled shyly at him.

“You’re going to have to familiarize yourself with the three big parts of this job,” the boss continued, not stopping to introduce the woman. “The cutter back there, the till up there, and the fryers. The last one’s the trickiest. We’ll show you how to fry the suckers in the right order, pluck out any strays, and, the trickiest, drain the whole system when we close up. You’re going to have to do all this by yourself, soon, so pay attention.”

The boss must have seen the slight whitening of the velociraptor’s skin, because he said,

“Don’t worry, there’s only a minor chance of major burns.”

This didn’t help. Was the boss joking? The velociraptor couldn’t tell. If it was, it was a bad one. But the man was already gesturing towards the till, the heated chili and cheese sauces. (Mostly flour, and often left overnight. He wouldn’t be ordering those again.)

The boss slowed down. “We’ll just wait for some customers and you can see it all in action.”

The action was slow, unsurprisingly, but still a little befuddling. The till was the most complex, and he worried more about that than the fryers, oddly enough. Burns he could understand, but the arcane operation of the cash? In the downtime he got to know the others a little. Rob was working this job outside of high school, so he was only part-time.

Elaine had this job on top of another one because she supported two kids, alone.

The velociraptor was observing the till again when Elaine squawked. Metal rattled. The velociraptor looked back and saw Elaine prying her fingers from the rear fryer. The boss glanced back as well.

“You all right?” he asked.

“I… I don’t think so,” Elaine mumbled, holding her right hand. “It really hurts.”

“That’s okay,” said the boss, apropos of nothing. “You can take a five minute break. Velociraptor, man that fryer until she gets back.”

“I mean it really hurts. I think my fingers might be broken,” said Elaine, voice wavering.

“Can I go? I think I might need a hospital.”

The boss paused a second, then replied with a false smile: “I can’t operate here if you’re gone, Elaine. I’ve got no one to call in on such short notice. No. Velociraptor, man that fryer.”

“It hurts,” Elaine muttered weakly while the velociraptor simultaneously spoke a determined “No.”

The boss furrowed his brow. Rob had stopped cutting fries and was leaning out to get a better view of the situation.

“You’ll both do as I say or you won’t work here anymore,” the boss rumbled.

“I can’t lose this job!” cried Elaine.

“I don’t give a shit about this job,” said the velociraptor, “but Elaine’s keeping hers. Let her go.”

“You gonna make me?” said the boss menacingly, and he stood up to the velociraptor, chest out.

“I’ve hunted game four times your size,” the velociraptor warned. “I can track you by scent. Let her go.”

The boss blinked, then his face reddened. “Don’t threaten me, you little fag!” he roared, then charged forward, hands out in a strangling grip.

The velociraptor reacted instantly, whipping its leg out, its large, hook-like claw tearing into the boss’s prodigious belly. The boss halted, grunted only slightly, and looked down. His intestines were falling from the gash and coiling at his feet. The smell of blood, interstitial fluid, and putrid feces filled the room.

The faces of Rob and Elaine (her hand forgotten for now) gaped. The boss sank to the floor on his knees, then curled into a fetal position. His mouth opened and closed silently. The velociraptor took pity on the man and tore his throat out.

There was silence, then Rob and Elaine came and pulled the boss to the back. A trail of blood followed the dead man.

“I think this is my last day here,” the velociraptor said, half to them and half to himself.

“Go get that hand taken care of, Elaine. I don’t think it’ll matter if we shut down early, Rob.”

They mumbled their agreement, probably in shock. The velociraptor went home, a growl in the back of his throat, longing to pounce on Maria, ravish her.

He found her packing her things. The velociraptor stared, still caked in the boss’s blood. She looked at him and sighed.

“Typical. Can’t keep another job, huh? And probably killed someone, too, from the look of it.”

“You’re leaving?” he asked. This time he was in shock. “Why? What did I do?”

“I’ve been talking to my friends, and they’ve convinced me that I’m only with you because it feels transgressive being with a dinosaur. The danger.”

“And I’m not dangerous enough for you, is that it? I just killed my boss.”

“Exactly the problem. You act so civilized most of the time, then you lash out.” Maria waved her hand dismissively. “Why do you have to be so… messy?”

“You’re bored with me,” the velociraptor said. “I thought we were serious, Maria. We’re engaged, for God’s sake!”

“You can take the ring back,” she said, working it off her finger and handing it to him.

“And man-up. You’re such a limp-dick sometimes.”

The velociraptor sat down. “I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to. That’s not my responsibility,” she said. “My parents are coming for my stuff. They can fit me in for a while. My dad’s willing to help you move back.”

Then she left, the screen door swinging shut behind her.

A few days later, Maria’s father, embarrassed, came to move the boxes she had packed. The velociraptor helped him. After they were done, the velociraptor returned to find the phone in the middle of a ring. It was Rob, from New York Fries.

“I’m sorry man, but it’s management,” said Rob. “They want their shirt back.”

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