The Dinosaur Keeper

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Chapter 14

Chapter 14

69 was not happy, not happy at all. As Rex had stooped to pat his soon to be companion the salutation had been thwarted by a swift bite.

An actual bite!

Not hard but enough to break the skin, but it did make Rex run howling toward the kitchen, more in shock than pain, thrusting his hand under the cool running water.

In truth the slight bruising didn’t hurt much at all, especially as all his muscles were still aching from the previous days exertion.

But the disbelief was immense and more than compounded a startling situation.

The new Pooetesleap seemed to be quite alarmed at his actions as well, and on reflection perhaps hadn’t meant to clamp his jaws down quite so hard.

So now the furry friend stood next to his master, worrying with the slightest trace of regret in his eyes, which were presently fixed on a cursing Dinosaur Keeper.

Rex laboured the remedy a tad longer than absolutely necessary, in an attempt to make Pooetesleap more guilty than he already felt, but eventually gave in and slightly below a whisper put his recently acquired friend out of his misery,

“It’s Ok. Nothing really just a scratch,” he croaked, “I’m sure you didn’t mean it, bet it was quite a shock for you, eh?”, and with this bent down to stroke his new pet again.

Unfortunately Pooetesleap didn’t like the ease that the pain, and presumably the memory, of the previous Pooetesleaps had passed, promptly biting Rex’s hand again, harder this time, before going to his basket in order to fully enjoy his grumpiness and further scowling at Rex.

Having really screamed this time and looked to see if his hand was still attached to his arm, Rex returned to the sink secure in the knowledge that both hands remained fully functional.

This didn’t stop the occasional ‘Chunking Chunker!’ or ‘Ungrateful Chunkite!’, crossing his mind, but Rex thought it best not to push it, especially as 69 seemed to be the first dog he had received that was soaked in bad attitude and hatred for him.

Great, mused Rex, that’d be all the Dinosaurs and Pooetesleap that disliked him, which just left Max.

Which reminded him, just exactly where was Max?

He had thought he would pop round much earlier than this, it was four o’clock now and the afternoon would shortly be over.

Rex had that morning decided on a couple of days off.

One, because as he awoke to the sound of the whistle he realised he was very, very late and two, he had tried to rush in the general direction of the bathroom, in order to ready himself for the working day, but was greeted by a refusal from the rest of his body. Just about able to move his neck and a few toes, but every other part stayed firmly glued to the mattress. So there he lay until his stomach finally sprang to life and the rest of his body followed in desperate need to have the hunger satisfied.

Anyway there were more reasons. Three, with the amount of work he had done recently he deserved a day off. Four, it wasn’t really a day off as he was going to spend it, and probably most of tomorrow, coming up with his new plan that was so cunning, Rex convinced himself that he may die before he got to tell anybody about it, his body was spiteful like that. Five, well Chunker it, you don’t need a five when you’ve got four reasons of the standard that preceded it.

The swelling in Rex’s hand now stopped, but all this musing had meant the end of his limb had been under the tap a little longer than necessary, turning opaque and slightly blue like chilled Dumdum. Rex quickly withdrew from the splashing water and tried to shake some life into the deadened hand. The best form of exercise, he decided, would be some kind of dexterous manoeuvre and Rex finally settled on opening the familiar manila envelope that came with every Pooetesleap.

This proved to be trickier than it looked and his flaccid hand merely shoved the envelope around the kitchen table. Eventually deciding to steady it with his other hand, he noticed that this too was quite swollen, from the handling of rough wood and the hammering of the hundred or so nails the other day, chest swelling slightly with pride before remembering the end result, and becoming deflated like a week old balloon.

So he wasted a couple of perfectly good minutes flapping about, before finally managing to push the letter off the table all together.

This is what it must be like for Max, he thought, and a quick chuckle escaped from the corner of his mouth, before he finally pinned the letter down with one foot and grasping the thickly handle kitchen knife with both hands slitting the top of the envelope open, releasing the paper inside.

With the note now firmly lay out on the table Rex just stared at it, absolutely stunned.

He hadn’t read any of it but really didn’t need to, the message loud and clear without the need to push the letters together to make words.

There in the middle of the page was one solitary sentence, looking rather angry in its brevity, a mere smattering of words.

Finally mustering up the courage to focus on the words he read the short passage.

‘Two days! Another dog! £600.00!’

All printed this time, it was distinctly lacking in hand written frivolity or cryptic message.

Six. Hundred. Pounds.

“Chunktic!” whispered Rex, which was a word so rude, so wrapped in connotation, euphemism and down right filthiness that Rex immediately retracted it from his own hearing and blushed slightly, looking round the room less anybody should hear.

Pooetesleap did look slightly stunned. But as a rather pungent smell emanated from the dog a moment later, Rex put it down to this rather than any sort of understanding of the vile word.

Standing at the now open back door, Rex wafted it from side trying to rid the kitchen of the foul stench, eventually giving up and deciding on a short walk around the back garden, if his legs would allow.

Every single appendage groaned wearily, but seemed to admit that the motion would help loosen up the very stiff limbs, eventually cracking and creaking into some kind of relief.

As he was about to turn back, Rex squatted for a moment taking the opportunity to stretch his back on the way down, which he later regretted.

He patted the ground and enjoyed it’s solidness, depth and purpose, the smile from last night returning again, surely to turn into a semi-evil cackle had he not observed what he had next.

Crouching there smiling like a loon, his eyes twitched as the corners took in something other than the green lush grass.

Rex thanked them for responding so quickly by moving his whole head up, to view the image before him. He just as quickly cursed his eyes and thought they too had turned against him.

Coming up the path, with the wrath of almighty Chunker himself in his timid but purposeful stare, was a cautious looking Velociraptor.

There was something very strange in the animal’s manner, the fear was obvious, but fear of what Rex couldn’t quite fathom. The creature was walking in such a way that also gave the appearance of concern, of not belonging, of a child caught with their hand firmly in the cookie jar.

Rex remained crouched, unsure of what to do until eventually horror filled his eyes.

It was something that he had thought about over the years, dismissing it as hellish fantasy, a morbid thought that passed easily when something more pleasant replaced it.

But he was convinced now and if anything was to do the job, it was bound to be a Velociraptor.

No Dinosaur ever approached the house, unless Bob had appeared, but then they would charge up the path, panic stricken and pounding the door for Rex’s assistance.

This one was horizontal to the ground, nervous yes, but stalking, full of purpose.

He was here as an assassin.

He was here to kill Rex.

This notion was now a definite, and so convinced was Rex of his fate that he began to wonder why now, what had been the straw that had finally broken the camel’s back.

Was it the new Pooetesleap? Had they found their final ally in the hatred towards him, the missing piece that qualified and quantified this murderous intent?

He knew they weren’t particularly keen on him, but thought the dinosaurs tolerated him because of the duties he performed. He also recognised that anyone of them could dispose of him at a moments thought, Henry, for example, would just have to move one of his feet to complete the job in a trice. But maybe that was it, perhaps they had finally agreed between themselves that Rex wasn’t needed any more, what with Max showing that he could light the fires and at least tend to the basic tasks.

So in his weakened condition Rex stood up to face the creature, focussing properly for the first time and noticing it was Rupert, waiting to slit him from top to toe, hopefully quickly and painlessly with one swoop of a mighty claws.

Chunking Max! Always knew he would be my downfall, thought Rex.

With this Max burst through the undergrowth, just in front of the tractor and more importantly in front of the Velociraptor, who had a moment ago started to sprint, arms wide open and eyes fixed firmly on Rex.

He had never been so pleased to see Max in all his life and as the words,

“Only me!” resonated through the trees, Rex thought he hadn’t ever heard such a lovely phrase in all his time on Chunk.

He also noted that a startled Rupert had quickly turned and fled to back to the paddock.

Craning his neck to greet the lovely and marvellous Max, a phrase that was a smidgen different to the thought he had had a moment ago, Rex saluted his longest serving friend,

“Morning Max”, Rex croaked, realising that his voice was in poor condition as well.

He supposed it was to be expected, what with all the dramatic sobbing and shouting the night before.

“Oh dear!”, Max said giving away more concern than was strictly needed, “You don’t sound well, not well at all, hold on!”, and with this he disappeared back through the undergrowth.

As Rex stood motionless, expectant of Max’s return, it was a good three quarters of an hour later that he decided that this statuesque pose had been held quite enough.

In fact his holding had been pushed to its very limits, shaky limbs confirming this and shouting for him to move.

Slightly annoyed at his friend, but still relieved that he had appeared when he had, Rex eventually trudged back to the kitchen only to hear the familiar tone once his back was turned,

“Sorry about that”, Max continued, as if he had been gone but a moment, “Wasn’t where I thought it was!”, and thrust a large brown jar into his hands. In his weakened state Rex promptly fell over, leaving his newly returned friend to sound even more concerned.

“Oh dear! Sorry! I suppose it’s, well, it’s a bit heavy isn’t it!”.

Rex nodded, slightly stunned in his new position flat on his back, before realising he was actually pinned to the floor, such was the weight of the container. With what Max laughingly referred to as a ‘little’ finger, and the more immense index, he removed the offending item from an already damaged Dinosaur Keeper.

“Oh dear!” Max said again, “really took it out of you, this capturing, what! Come on lets get you up”, and with this he picked Rex up by the scruff of the neck and deposited him back at the kitchen door.

“Better use the lever I think”, stated Max and with this Rex entered the kitchen and turned to face the back of the door.

Just to the right of this, next to an enormous Welsh dresser, which housed allsorts of pans, pots and other things that Rex hadn’t used in years, stood a large metal lever that sprang out of the ground about a metre in height. To the side of this was a large silver pedal, similar to the one that made the tractor go so fast. Rex stood on this depressing it in its entirety, foot flat to the floor and grasped the lever with both hands. With a quick jerk he then heaved the whole thing backwards until, after more exertion than he needed after recent events, the familiar click was heard.

After this was all manner of whirring and spinning, with the occasional clang, as cogs and pulleys, concealed behind the walls, sprang to life.

There was a small hiss at the skirting boards, before it and the rest of the wall rose upwards, a bit of steam and dust coming from the sides.

So there it was, or wasn’t, as the case was. The wall had shot up on an immense spring at the side of the house and was currently supported by this just above the roof, allowing the outside in.

Rex had questioned why the system had to be so complicated, but Max said that it had been easier until the button had been knocked inadvertently, exposing the occupant to the aforementioned rogue creature, and Rex had filed this comment in his head, noting that Max had just stated there had been ‘other‘ occupants.

With the side off Max stepped into the kitchen, head scraping on the ceiling.

“Here”, he said and placed the brown jar on the kitchen table. It looked even bigger without the vastness of outside around it and Rex was amazed it hadn’t crushed him to death.

The kitchen table agreed by giving out a little groan.

On the front of the jar was the most extraordinary creature Rex had ever seen. A black and yellow animal with wings, which smiled back at him. He had never seen such a thing in real life, but was convinced that they didn’t smile really. It was like some of the jars Rex had seen in the dresser and cupboards, the contents of which he used sparingly as initially he was sure they wouldn’t get replaced, not that any of them had ran out very often anyway. Sugar was the most frequently used and Rex remembered the sadness as he had spooned the last of it onto the Total Fruit Trees, Plum Pudding Fruit at Christmas. He had saved the few grains for months, having in mind to use them to make Christmas just that little bit more special and had savoured the first mouthful a little bit longer than the previous year.

It had been quite a shock the next day when he had fallen over a crate of the stuff, left on the porch with a note similar to those that came with a new Pooetesleap. It was less damning of his renewal, of a different product that didn’t wag its tail or pant after a long walk, but it did say the dreaded word, ‘deduction’.

Rex had used jars even more sparingly after this, the sugar certainly tasted less sweet now, and eventually realised that most of the things he liked were grown on the plains.

So his gaze returned to the brown jar and having slotted it into a non-growing foodstuff, a quizzical look shot across his face.

“What is it?”, he eventually croaked, not turning his gaze toward Max, but deciding to look at the stripy animals painted before him once more.

“I find”, Max replied, “That the best way to find out about something is to read any text that is presented to me”, a slight hint of sarcasm skimming the last part of the sentence.

With this noted, the large red lettering came to life for the first time, and running a finger across them on jar’s immense label he read the text.

“TOP HONEY!” he again croaked aloud, and this time turned to Max more puzzled than before.

“It’s actually just called honey, top’s the brand name”, the slightly inpatient Tyrannosaurus replied.

Rex wasn’t entirely sure what a brand name was, but presumed new knowledge was already hurtling toward him and he didn’t need to question something that may not be of any importance.

“Honey from the top, for the top inhabitants”, it continued this time under the pictures in black bold writing, “The top topping on Chunk and on toast!”, it proudly finished.

This was just madness Rex surmised and shrugged at Max.

“The honey,” his scaly friend said, eventually giving up and explaining what he had brought, “is made by the bees, there the yellow and black animals”.

Rex looked puzzled, and Max cross,

“You eat it!” the tall Tyrannosaurus eventually barked.

Rex didn’t like the sound of this at all, and presumed that his friend was either deluded or having him on, maybe both.

“Made by the bees?” Rex eventually said straining the last of his vocal chords, “How can they make it? They haven’t got any hands”

With this Max wiped a hand slowly over his face, which is by no means easy to do when you have arms that short.

“It’s made naturally by the bees, they sort of produce it with their bodies”, with this Rex stepped backwards and looked thoroughly disgusted.

“Look, its not important”, Max said realising he was losing a less than captivated audience, “Put the kettle on, and have you got any lemons?”

Rex nodded and turned the hob on, filling the kettle with water, and locating two lemons he hadn’t managed to squeeze into the pickling jar the other day.

“Right then squeeze the lemons into a mug, and ladle a table spoon of honey on top.”

Rex wasn’t sure about this but duly did as his friend said, in part through trust and the other through the conviction that the last sentence had just been said.

Unscrewing the top and being slightly unnerved by the bees and their ‘natural’ product, Rex plunged a spoon blindly into the top and was greeted by a quick slowing of the motion, as if his hand was passing through the boggiest of marshes. Upon looking as he pulled the spoon out, he was pleasantly surprised by a golden thick liquid, the brightness of which he had never seen before. Quickly, and more carefully now, he moved the precious load into the mug, just as the kettle started to whistle.

“Pour the water on top, and make me a coffee while you’re at it! Make sure you stir thoroughly as well, the honey not the coffee, although you can give it a quick swish around as well!” Max demanded.

Rex poured the hot water on top and stirred for a good minute, before fetching the largest bowl he had and emptying the rest of the kettles contents in to make as big a coffee as he could for his towering guest.

“Sugar?” Rex enquired, knowing the answer, but happy to have found another excuse for delaying his consumption of the liquid.

“Yes forty-two”, was the reply and Rex started to spoon in the request.

His guest tended to, Rex sat down on a chair and just stared at the steaming beverage. If truth be told he would have liked a bit more time to mull it over but the “Drink it!”, that came from Max was such a shock that the contents of the mug were in his mouth before he had chance to think.

Squeezing his eyes together and sticking out his tongue Rex made a slight whimper, before opening both again stunned.

It was absolutely delicious! And to prove this Rex said,

“It’s absolutely delicious!”

This was surprising, not because for once Rex had put no thought in his statement to Max, but because he said it in a clear unrestrained voice.

“Chunking Chunker!”, was the next comment, to which Max had replied with one word,

“Language!”, in a long drawn out way, that still couldn’t disguise the trace of a smirk.

They both sat there quite content for a good few minutes, Pooetesleap even finally gave up his protest and brushed affectionately passed Rex’s legs, accepting a gentle pat this time, before curling up at his feet.

Rex was greatly enjoying the company of silence that his friend had brought, as well as the gentle breeze that the side less house was now generating, when their eyes met.

Max immediately sprang into action, slightly startling Rex, currently relaxed in his thoughts.

“Yes, anyway,” Max began, “I didn’t come here today just for pleasantries”

“I know”, replied Rex and drank in his own thoughts again, knowing what was coming next and for the first time not concerned in the slightest.

“One false start shouldn’t put you off for life, and even if it did, it’s too bad, he must be caught!”

“You’re right”, said Rex and started to work things out in his head, while his genuinely stunned friend adopted the puzzled look of a Dinosaur Keeper presented with honey for the first time.

“Good, well”, he stumbled not really knowing what to say next,

“So you’ll need a new plan then,”

“Got one,” Rex shot back at him almost before the previous sentence had ended.

Max was concerned, this was not what he expected at all! Mumbling and wriggling out, that’s what he was used to not this positivism malarkey, and with this he had an evil thought about his next sentence,

“Well I expect you to get on with it tomorrow, no excuses!”

“Will do!” was the answer, and had Rex not been so lost in his scheming and the rather pleasant liquid in his stomach that was sadly emptied from his mug, he would have seen the most utterly astounded Dinosaur in the whole of Chunk, get up and leave taking his honey with him in the most stunned way possible.

Rex sat quite happily for a while swirling in the memory of the nicest beverage he had had in a long time.

Before leaping up and pressing the red button on the kitchen table, horrified that he had left himself so exposed without Max there, thoughts returning to the murderous intentions of Rupert.

With this the wall returned securely to its previous position, at a speed that Rex was sure would one day smash all the windows it housed, and he quickly checked that the door it also held was properly locked and bolted.

He than ran, with surprising agility, and ensured that the front door was secure and that all the windows were shut, leaping from room to room, which tired out an already shattered Rex.

Soaking in the bath, some minutes later, his muscles finally gave up there strike concerning overworking issues and started to feel like the slightly limp sacks of jelly they normally did.

Yes, indeed Rex would return to work tomorrow but it wouldn’t be his average day. The Dinosaurs could muddle through, they had proved this the other day. Besides he had a task to undertake that was for everybody’s benefit, so that was that.

He was going to draw everything himself this time, not rely on the manual at all, but sketch detailed plans to exacting specifications.

He would then list everything he would need and write it down in the back of his book, only ticking each item off, when it was physically in front of him ready to be used in the construction of a new trap.

Bob was right of course, nothing on Planet Chunk could trap him.

But Planet Chunk itself could.

It would need to be near the compost heap, Rex had decided, which meant Bob would be caught on the plains themselves.

At first this had worried him, the danger to the other animals and to himself of drawing a creature this close to them, but it would take weeks, months even to execute his plan. So it would need to be near the house and the plains, the compost heap being between the two.

Besides when Bob did make the occasional foray into the plains, it was normally from that end of the woods and he would need to be running at some pace to take the plunge.

Yes there was a lot of work, but Rex liked the plan and even if it took a year, best to start it now and be ready in twelve months than be trying to think of an alternative and still be in the same position a year later.

The thought of all this work made Rex hungry and it was but a moment later that he was towelling himself dry and racing down the stairs, the last bit of strained muscles finally clicking out of his rejuvenated body.

In the fridge he spotted a tub of Dumdum stew and set it on to boil, cutting thick slices of bread, chewing on the occasional crust whilst still pondering the plan.

Lifting the lid every couple of seconds, only to be greeted by the thinnest of liquids, Rex decided to occupy his mind with something else whilst the meal reached perfect consistency.

Grabbing a pad he began to sketch out his design, ignoring the main part of the project, he concentrated on the top.

Thinner logs would be needed this time, preferably slightly rotten for the perfect misapprehension, but after further careful pondering little else was needed.

Sure, he had to lure Bob to the exact spot, and at some speed, but he would get to that later. Happy that he had listed all the materials he needed, still stunned at how simple the plan was, he sketched out his design.

Finishing his sketches, and more than happy with a quick doodle of Bob, Rex heard it for the first time.

He sat bolt upright and listened again convincing himself with every passing second that his ears had tricked him, until it eventually sounded again, louder the second time round.

There had been a knock at the door.

Pooetesleap was there and he hadn’t run out of sugar, but for some unknown reason Rex ran to the door and flung it open, no concern ever crossing his mind, so wrapped up still in his plan to trap Bob.

It was at this point that he gulped, and fear leapt out from where ever it had been hiding, the sight was horror itself.

There claws upturned, muscles rippling, poised for attack, was Rupert.

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