The Dinosaur Keeper

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

By now we know each other well enough to assume that you do not fall in to the category of those people who are cursed with the disease ‘hard of thinking’. We will also presume that you have not an ounce of Cocker Spaniel blood in you. Therefore it is safe to suppose that you have observed the title of the tale you are reading and are awaiting the introduction of the Dinosaur Keeper.

So here he is.

Sorry for the disappointment.

Rex viewed the remarkable skyline on a decidedly humdrum day.

His right, green eye pondered the woods, staring intently at absolutely nothing, whilst the left blue one occasionally lapsed into closing, only to spring back into consciousness and wonder what the right one was doing.

Deciding he should do something, other than let his mind drift off into oblivion, the Dinosaur Keeper took off his hat and rubbed his head. Quite content with the feeling of a stubbly, yet shaved cranium, he placed his hat back and returned to leaning on the handle of the oversized shovel, finally giving in and allowing both eyes the luxury of shutting, happy to doze for a few minutes longer.

Nothing much had happened that day, nor had it changed from the other 6,026 mornings that his absent mind calculated he had spent here on the plains of Chunk, and he was sure a few minutes laziness wouldn’t matter too much.

Pooetesleap charged passed, at a rate that was far too fast than needed, or indeed welcome, causing Rex to return too semi-consciousness, but still neither in the here or the now.

Finally he was snapped back into the real world with the more physical jolt of about a ton and a half of prime Diplodocus poo landing on his head.

Picking himself up and rearranging his tie, desperately trying not to breath in the toxic fumes of what the Diplodocus had just ejected, he whistled for Pooetesleap to come back from the other side of the field.

Unfortunately this involved putting two fingers in his mouth and, as they were still thick with about an inch of grade one Diplodocus dung, Rex began to be violently sick on his boots.

Pooetesleap, in the meantime, was hurtling as fast as his legs could take him toward the Dinosaur Keeper. The tag with the hastily scrawled 67 on it somewhere at the back of his neck holding on for dear life. Scattering Dumdums from left to right, the brisk ginger dog bounded forward, letting his enormous tongue hang from the corner of his mouth, salivating as only dogs can.

Circling the Dinosaur Keeper a couple of times, and ill advisably snapping at his heels, the ginger mutt eventually settled on rolling onto his back and demanding to be tickled.

Rex duly did this, for a good five minutes, whilst wiping his own vomit off the once shiny boots and wondering if the stains would come out of the hem of his trousers. He wasn’t really sure where the Red-setters had originally come from, but looking at the dog and tickling him tenderly, knew that on the cold and lonely nights it was nice to have something to make a fuss of and keep your lap warm, whilst dosing in an armchair.

Picking up the shovel, he lugged the massive bag of poo toward the compost heap and realising he had emptied the contents of his stomach, lunch sprang to mind.

Pooetesleap continued in his quest to catch his own tail, interrupting this only to indicate that lunch would be a good idea by snapping at Rex’s satchel and occasionally lying on his back, insisting on being tickled again.

The whistle went, and Rex dropped everything, lunging into his bag to locate his sandwiches. He broke off a piece and tossed it in the air for Pooetesleap to catch, and took a huge bite himself.

They really weren’t too bad. Well as good as a lunch can be that’s been exactly the same for sixteen and a half years. As always the cold Dumdum was ever so slightly mild and a bit too chewy.

Whilst digesting lunch and still feeling slightly hungry but not enough to actually eat an apple he had packed, Rex pondered what to do for the rest of the day.

It would be another four hours until home time and he wasn’t sure which jobs really needed tackling first. He could check the fence that enclosed the plains and woodland he and the Dinosaurs shared, but to be honest, wasn’t sure why they had a fence in the first place, all the herds stuck strictly to their own areas.

The Diplodocus’ roamed the plains, mainly because it was the only place big enough for their colossal bodies. Tolerating that the edges being would be inhabited in the day by Stegosaurus’, who would only move somewhere else at night, resting under a tree when it started to rain. The Diplodocus’ had tried sheltering under a tree once themselves, but whilst deep in dreams had inadvertently taken out an entire forest that used to be on the west side of the fields. So now they just stayed out on the plains, relishing the rain on their bodies, which was handy as it seemed to clean them, and they didn’t half stink.

The Velociraptors stayed in the thick of the woodland lurking about, only retreating to their paddock when the Nus was high in the sky, the Pterodons perched above them on a branch, with their heads under a wing.

So, thought Rex eventually, the fences didn’t keep anything in, because the Dinosaurs seemed to chose to be here, and in all honestly if one of them did leave, he was pretty sure he couldn’t stop them. Even the smallest Dinosaur was twice the size of him and at least four times as heavy, so unless one stood very still, waited while Rex grasped them and led them back to where they should be, it was very unlikely he could prevent any one of them from going.

Which leads us on to the second point, going where?

He was pretty sure there was nothing beyond the fences.

I mean there was something beyond the fences, other fields and trees and so on, because he could see them. But no other creature had ever come from anywhere else, so it was safe to assume they were on there own.

Rex had thought about travelling once, to go and see the ocean that was fascinating to read about in the evening, but had been put off by the rule of the Dinosaur Keeper. He rolled this statement round and round his head for a few moments,

‘The Dinosaur Keeper must look after the Dinosaurs’ .

Quite a simple rule as it happens, but Rex liked it as it was easy to remember and not to restrictive. He often thought what would of happened if he had had several rules to remember, or even a job description that listed specifically what to do on each day. However this was highly unlikely, as only he could write, the sole owner of opposable thumbs. So nothing was going to change anytime soon and he was pretty sure he wasn‘t about to set himself anymore tasks.

So travel was out, as the Dinosaurs were staying put and he had to be there to look after them.

Rules are rules.

He mentally struck off fixing the fences, and filed it in a cabinet at the back of his brain labelled pointless.

So what should he do?

Clearing up the poo was a given, obviously he was going to do that as there was so much of it.

He could wash the Diplodocus’ , he supposed, but it was just so time consuming and cumbersome.

As soon as the hosepipe had been found and scrubbing vigorously at a more stubborn stain or clump of mud had commenced, they’d spot him and start to walk away.

Even if one did stand still for long enough, by the time you had got to the other end of their massive bodies, they were dirty at the point you had began and you’d have to start all over again.

No that was definitely being filed under ‘thankless task’.

So this left, turning the compost heap, delousing the Velociraptors (dangerous if they were feeling a bit snappy), counting and recording the Dinosaurs, worming the Pterodons, dipping the Stegosaurus’, stock taking, fixing the house, mending the tractor (it had stopped working a day or to after he had arrived), checking for poisonous berries, sawing down diseased trees, trimming inedible bushes or re-stocking the perimeter fires.

Of course there was the task that he never attempted.

Locating the ‘rogue’ creature.

A little shiver of fear ran down his back, and Rex had to physically shake his shoulders and head to get rid of it.

The piercing eyes and heart stopping roar, however, could not be removed from his mind so easily. His pulse quickened and cold sweat gushed from every pore of his body, except for his mouth which had suddenly become as dry as mid-morning desert.

No, no and thrice no!

For this is too fast. The tale will be told before we’re properly acquainted and this will never do.

Then again we have half the time assumed to tell this yarn, and a quarter less to complete.

Even so we must return, temporarily, to matters more routine.

The counting of the Dinosaurs was done every day, so once more this was a given, mused Rex happy for his brain to return to mundane activities. There was no point restocking the perimeter fires until the end of the day when he would light them, and having just had half a ton of pooh land on his head, he decided the best activity would be one where the dinosaurs weren’t so close, which discounted worming the Pterodons, delousing the Velociraptors and dipping the Stegosaurus’. So this left mending the tractor, a machine he had used once, or sawing and trimming the trees and bushes.

So sawing and trimming it was, and with this Rex headed off back to the house to get his saw and snippers, just as the whistle went again to start the afternoon.

It was less than five minutes later, when Rex was passing the edge of the plains and daring to whistle a rousing tune, that the real task for the afternoon presented itself.

There, for all of Chunk to see, was a Stegosaurus, lying on it’s side groaning in agony and generally looking quite unwell. Now Rex had been the Dinosaur Keeper for a good sixteen and a half years, or there about, and therefore knew that this was not the preferable position for a Stegosaurus, so promptly rushed over.

Bending down beside the creature and huffing, Rex began his diagnosis.

Although positive what the problem was, he went through the routine checks anyway, first looking at the eyes, which were unsurprisingly dilated.

He then reached into his satchel and pulled out a thermometer and with a quick shake, stuck it firmly in the dinosaurs mouth, pleased that it wasn’t the other end.

The temperature read slightly higher than normal, and so he finally checked the animals mouth and gums.

As he had thought, purplish stains and seeds between the teeth, it had been eating berries again.

You’d think they’d learn.

There are no berries, or none that are safe to eat, anywhere in the surrounding area of the plains. Therefore the simple thing to do is eat the grass and don’t even think about the berries.

But no matter how many times he told them this, there would always be one dinosaur that didn’t quite understand, and obviously thought ‘Yum, berries’.

Suddenly there was a hiss of gas from the injured Stegosaurus’ bottom, and a violent shake rippled across its massive body.

Rex raced round to the side of it, concerned now at the change in usual symptoms. There had never been any hissing before and so placed his hand on a rib cage.

Feeling the heartbeat slowing, Rex’s whole body resting on the upturned ribcage now, an ear positioned on the animals belly, it struggled to maintain its constant thumping, murmuring slightly before rapidly beating and then slowing down again.

Rex’s own pulse quickened and horrible surge of dread coursed though his veins.

Normally they’d eat the berries, trot over to Rex, he’d sit with them for a while, they would be a bit sick for a few hours and eventually the fruit would pass through them.

A few days of dry grass and a dose of Betel Nut Palm, and everything was back to normal.

The animal’s eyes started to flicker, as Rex’s widened with fear, and it’s legs shook violently into spasms, causing the Dinosaur Keeper’s head to spring off the animals belly.

Standing up straight he could only hear complete silence now and white froth started to come fizzing out of both corners of the Stegosaurus’ mouth.

The Dinosaur appeared to be dying.

The rest of the herd had circled and were lowing shrilly, anxious at what was happening. Any kind of knowledge had been scattered from Rex’s brain and he could only think ‘Oh my Chunk, I’m going to loose him, I’m going to loose him!’.

Rex was in danger of breaking the one and only rule he had to follow.

‘The Dinosaur Keeper must look after the dinosaurs’.

All of the Stegosaurus’ stood silently, their rotund mass of scaly bodies shrinking with terror. Each one seemed smaller now, none of them appearing to be the two and a half tonnes they were. Even the heavily armoured plates, that ran the length of their spines, seemed dulled by what they were witnessing. Static with fear the herd could only watch, whilst Rex rubbed his head and paced, the terror mounting in his stomach as hard as a stone, gently rising through his throat, closing it at every passing inch.

‘Don’t panic’, ‘DON’T PANIC!’, he thought, which made him instantly real back in horror even more.

Realising he was effectively doing nothing apart from watching one of the animals die a slow, painful death, thoughts scrambled round his brain trying to latch on to any sort of memory, any kind of process he could begin.

Think! Think!

Sweat building thickly on his forehead, Rex passed a hand slowly over it, slipping slightly as he did it.

Gazing at his fingers, their watery residue glinting in the sunlight, lubricating his thoughts once more, a kernel of an idea sprang in.

It was a terrible scheme.

Not in terms of effectiveness, he was pretty sure it would remedy the dinosaur’s present condition, but rather it was one so disgusting that lunch made it’s way back up his neck, forcing him to gulp hard.

There was nothing for it, he was going to have to slip his arm in the bottom of the Stegosaurus.

This would of course manually force the entire contents of the Dinosaurs stomach out, but still it didn‘t stop Rex from rattling round his brain a second longer, just in case an alternative presented itself.

With no other options coming forth he raced round to the back of the animal.

Again realising the awful nature of what he was about to do, his brain screamed ’just get on with it.

One arm was raised high above his head, and with lunch resident in the roof of his mouth, the second arm went up meeting at a point, pushing his hands together, willing himself to start the descent toward the Stegosaurus.

Rex cursed the dinosaur, and the unfortunate place that his arms were about to be located, as well as damning the berries.

Looking like he was on the highest spring board ready to launch himself somersaulting into the air, the Stegosaurus kept slipping in and out of consciousness.

The berry juice began to slowly put him to sleep and it was all that the rest of the herd could do but patiently watch, apparently understanding what Rex was about to attempt .

Suddenly, just as his hand was nearing the most awful part of a Dinosaur imaginable, a murky swimming pool almost pierced by a Dinosaur Keeper determined to tread water, there was a low sort of a rumble, causing Rex to hesitate and step back slightly.

Then a quiet sort of a belch followed, resonated through the body of the animal, and as he stared at the wrong end of the Stegosaurus a gurgling took over, before a straining emanated from the bluntest end.

Then, quite unexpectedly, without warning and certainly without a please or thank you, the Stegosaurus exploded.

Not literally of course, as this would leave us with a sight too horrific to comprehend. But rather what was previously in the Stegosaurus, now quite spectacularly found it’s way out.

Rex, unhappily, was still located directly behind the animal.

Upon hearing a sharp pop, the unfortunate Dinosaur Keeper was greeted with the runniest, most foul liquid, sprayed liberally into his face and covering the rest of him.

As the last of the spray ricocheted of his peaked cap, Rex stood shock silent, surveying the new environment he found himself, stomach lurching at the sight of himself below.

There was dinosaur juice everywhere.

It dripped from his peaked cap on to his shoulders, which were thick with copious amounts of the offending berries, slowly sliding down the front of his jacket.

The jacket itself was now joined seamlessly with his trousers, fused together in the thick, brown goo.

The trousers, Rex presumed, were also welded to his boots in the same sticky fluid.

Rex had to suppose this, because he was stood in about a foot of the more solid part of the projectile, which was hiding his feet.

The disgusting mess also seemed to spread as far as his plastered in poo eyes could see, but remarkably missed all the other Dinosaurs, as well as the one lying on the floor with a much emptier stomach.

With this the Stegosaurus briskly got up, and shot Rex a look that asked how dare he turn up for work in such a heavily soiled state, as he trotted back to join the rest of the herd.

Rex stood still, dead still.

He hadn’t quite come to terms with what had happened.

A thick, syrupy globule fell from his eyebrow on to the ground, and continued to drizzle until he finally wiped his brow, his palm becoming as one with the brown custard.

He was determined to keep lunch firmly at the bottom of his stomach, having already lost his breakfast, and so wrenched himself out of the pile of dung thickly collected around his ankles.

Regrettably, this had already started to set and so the Dinosaur Keeper toppled over, falling face first in the rest of the offending material.

I wont repeat what was shouted next, because you really don’t need, and wouldn’t want to hear it.

Lets just say many a colourful metaphor was bandied about, and if Almighty Chunker had been listening, would have surely blushed, shortly before striking Rex down.

It was that bad.

Picking himself up he headed for the river to attempt to clean himself up, and on passing the Velociraptor enclosure could have sworn he heard laughing, but brushed this off as paranoia.

Retrieving a handkerchief from his inside pocket, thankfully left unsoiled from the untoward event, he dipped it in the icy water. Several minutes later, there was a much cleaner, if still stinky, Rex. He decided over that short space of time, that it was perhaps best spending what remained of the afternoon, and indeed the rest of the working day, trying to locate berries, before thrashing the living daylights out of them.

This it appeared gave Rex an enormous amount of satisfaction, although I feel it would be unwise to mention to him that it was really no match, man against shrub.

As the afternoon waned, the thought that dusk would soon be upon them troubled Rex, having passed the last couple of hours merrily slaughtering several berry bushes and the odd sapling. The whistle would shortly be heard and the Dinosaurs still needed to be counted and wood collected for the fires.

Although a very important task, Rex didn’t feel like counting exactly how many Stegosaurus’ there were tonight, instead he would simply put down a rough approximation.

This of course would not be rough nor approximate, as it would be the same figure as all the other previous nights. But he felt he had seen quite enough of them for one day, too much of one in particular, and in his head he snubbed them even if none of them would know it.

Whilst sawing logs and picking up branches, he made a note of all the other Dinosaurs and was pleased to receive an exact tally, making his way to the four corners of the field, stacking a neat pile of wood in each.

Proceeding to the Velociraptors paddock, Rex tended to their deep fire pit, checking for any Dumdums that may have strayed into the mounds as he went.

Standing next to a tree and hugging it with all his might, Rex braced himself for dusk.

This, you would be forgiven for thinking, is a curious thing to do. However there was no gradual turning of Planet Chunk, it simply flipped from one side to another at the appropriate time.

So at quarter to five exactly, a sharp twist ended daytime and dusk began, and if you weren’t suitably ready for it, it could topple you over like a perilously balanced teacup.

Rex continued to grasp the tree trunk, and whoosh, it was dusk.

With this he went back to all the places just visited and lit the fires, also looking at all the fences and noting why it was important to check them. Mainly it meant if you were mending the boundary, ensuring that nothing left and nothing got in, you didn’t end up with your arm near a Dinosaur’s bum on the tail end of a very nasty occurrence.

The whistle went, ending the working day and Pooetesleap raced in front of him toward the house, hungry for dinner.

Upon reaching the homestead Rex saw his reflection in one of the many windows and realised his uniform really was a bit of a mess, making a sharp detour to the shed.

Stripped down to his underwear he stuffed a cloth laundry bag with the dirty uniform and diligently filled in the laundry tag, ticking the boxes for trousers, jacket and hat, totting up the cost and tutting to himself, thinking that it was going to hurt come payday.

Half naked and dumping the sack on the porch, Rex stumbled through the front door, bolting it behind him.

After this the key was turned in the deadlock, the chain put on, the spy hole checked, bumping his head against the door frame in the process, and finally he slid across the two other bolts at the top and the bottom of the door, making sure the door catch was still working.

Entirely happy that he was secure, Rex walked through the main room into the kitchen, hitting his head on a cupboard again, and peeling off his pants and shirt, hurled them into the sink to soak.

Doing this Rex turned to the back door, noticing that it had been open all day.

Slapping his hand to his forehead, he sighed and begrudgingly made his way upstairs.

Checking under the bed, in the wardrobes, in each cupboard and so on, the Dinosaur Keeper ensured no other creature was in any of the eight bedrooms, the kitchen-diner or the lounge.

Pooetesleap found this to be the most entertaining game and decided to hide in several places, jumping out as Rex approached and scaring the life out of him.

Rex finally bolted the back door.

He then deadlocked it, put the chain across and turned the key in the handle, flicking the floodlight on outside.

Still a bit stinky from the Stegosaurus he decided to bathe, and sunk into a nice hot, foamy bath up to his chin, enjoying the steam that loosened the grime from his nostrils.

Lazing in the bath Rex sighed as he watched the water ripple across his now shrivelled skin.

Upon musing at the loveliness of his toes for a good five minutes, his right green eye suddenly caught something, mused happily for a moment, before leaping back in horror.

In the corner of the window, reflected in the water, were a pair of beady eyes.

There was no doubt, they were the eyes that went with the heart stopping roar, owned by the creature of the task that was never undertaken.

Blind panic consumed Rex. Literally.

Leaping out of the bath, his eyes were tightly shut with fear, hence the blindness, but the panic prevailed in a way that conscious action would never have succeeded.

In the palm of his hand he suddenly felt the smooth, rounded top of an old walking stick, and never was so pleased to clasp an object he had long thought about throwing away.

The top of the creature’s pupils were in view now, as courage mustered from the find of the old cane allowed Rex the luxury of a squinted gaze.

They stared never once blinking, straight at Rex, who raised the old walking stick above his head.

Then, crash!

He brought the wood zooming down through the window pane, ricocheting off the solid timber frame.

The force of the blow was such, that it pushed Rex backwards and for the second time that day he tripped over the blanket box, landing on his back, staring up at the now broken window.

Lying there petrified and unsure what to do, he waited for the sound of pain from the creature, sure he had felt a sharp pop on it’s eyes before he had hit the timber of the window.

Looking up through the shattered pane, his own eyes wide open now, the creatures gaze bared down on him, swaying slightly in the breeze, suspended by a branch.

Pretty sure that most, if not all of the animals Rex knew of, didn’t have branches as part of their anatomy, he got to his knees and edged cautiously to window.

On closer inspection it was the branch of the nearby Total Fruit Tree, that was long passed it’s annual trim, and the only thing peering at him were two apples on an overgrown bough.

Terrible thing fear.

With this he cursed his stupidity, put on his dressing gown and headed down to the kitchen.

Having fed Pooetesleap, Rex settled down to read his Keeper’s Manual, the red-setter asleep on his lap and a bowl of steaming Dumdum stew in his other hand.

He intended to find out the best way to cure a dinosaur of poisoning, to stop the horrible situation this afternoon reoccurring, and flicked roughly through the index at the back.

The book was large, very large. So large that it was the only book that he owned and it took up the entire shelf of an otherwise deserted bookcase.

Rex had thought that maybe he should attempt to read something else, but this was thwarted by two things.

One, when you own a manual that is this vast, there’s very little point having another book. Mainly because the other one wouldn’t contain anything that wasn’t already in the Keepers Manual.

Two, he didn’t own any other books.

The manual rested on his lap as he flicked through the pages, slightly crushing a dozing Pooetesleap.

To be more precise, the ginger mutt was being compressed by The Dinosaur Keeper’s Manual, Four Hundred and Seventy-Sixth edition.

It was easy to identify, if you happened to want to take one out from the library, as, as well as being the size of a small house, the cover was a reassuring beige and had simply ‘The Dinosaur Keeper’s Manual, Four Hundred and Seventy-Sixth edition’ dominating the front in silver, glistening writing.

Rex’s copy was as beaten as a rugby player who had tumbled down Mount Everest, hitting several porcupines and hedgehogs as he fell, and felt extremely comforting at every turning of a page.

Pleonasm, Pneumoconiosis, Pogo Sticks, ah! Finally Poisoning, page one thousand and fifty-two.

Right then, thought Rex, enlighten me.

‘Poisoning, an action, deliberate or accidental, that renders an animal foul or unfit by noxious application’ the page began, so far so good, commented Rex, nice definition.

‘Firstly’, the page continued, ‘don’t let the animal become poisoned’.

Marvellous, Rex tutted sarcastically, hadn’t thought of that.

‘Secondly, the deliberate poisoning of a dinosaur directly contravenes the Dinosaur Keepers Rule, (see chapter one, page one)’.

Again not so bad, as startlingly obvious.

‘Thirdly if an animal is poisoned it is important to ascertain how. For fowl water see subsection one, for foreign objects see subsection two, for berries see subsection three, for accidental meat eating see……..’

Rex saw no point reading the other eighteen subsections on the list and flicked to sub section three.

‘Firstly’, it began again, ‘don’t let them eat berries.’

Wow! Thought Rex, how insightful!

‘Secondly, ascertain what berries they have eaten.’

Easy, thought Rex, there is only one berry round here that the dinosaurs ever eat, the ones on the Jasmine Plant.

They seemed almost addicted to them, compelled to devour as many as possible, even if they knew they’d make themselves sick.

So, a quick look down the list; Daphne, Elderberry, ah, here we are Jasmine.

‘Jasmine - Can be fatal, causing digestive disturbance and nervous symptoms.’

Well, thought Rex, there was definitely a digestive disturbance, but he hadn’t until today known the berries could be fatal.

Better do more vigilant checks in the future, he mused.

The nervous system was an interesting one, that would explain the shaking and frothing at the mouth, although this seemed to effect the rest of the herd the most, the site of a fellow Stegosaurus in such a state dumbfounding them all.

This was all very informative, but Rex had witnessed it first hand, and even if very instructive, he really only needed to know how to cure a Dinosaur in the quickest and most effective way after berry consumption.

‘Oral antidote’, the book continued, ‘none. Suppository antidote, none.’

Well thank Chunker for small mercy’s, thought Rex, going anywhere near the blunt end of a Stegosaurus, or any other Dinosaur come to think of it, held no appeal for him, shame about the oral antidote though.

‘To cure the animal’, the book carried on, with not much more writing left Rex noted,

‘manual evacuation of the bowels. The procedure is…’

and with this Rex snapped the book shut.

He was pretty sure that the particular technique wouldn‘t be unfamiliar to him, and had no desire to hear it explained blow by blow.

Sat, motionless for a while, the fire crackled in the hearth that dominated the massive room and the beams creaked and groaned, as if somebody had added another load to their already immense burden. The various pictures and portraits on the walls jarred and flickered in the fire light, turning friendly Aunts into snarling trolls, until the whole room suddenly vibrated with a mammoth bang, causing the pictures to sway from side to side.

Chunk had brutally changed from dusk to night time, in one sharp turn of it‘s sides, rain now tapping at the window.

Yawning he patted Pooetesleap firmly on the head, grabbed the banister, and happy that the stairs creaked and groaned in the right place on his way up, sloped off to bed content with a day well completed.

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