Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bullies at the Petting Zoo

"Daddy, I want to ride the Triceratops next!"

Peter looked down at his son and gave a weary smile, "Of course, Georgie. Daddy needs to use the restroom first, though. Do you need to go potty?"

George screwed up his face and raised his voice, "Daddy! I'm twelve and a half! I can go potty all on my own."

"Yes, yes. You wait right there and I will be right out."

"Can I play the telephone, Daddy?"

Peter pulled his smartphone out of his pocket, "See if you can tell me a new fact about the dinosaurs when I come out."

Peter went in the park restroom, a concrete and plastic rock affair made to "blend in" with the Jurassic theme of the place, already exhausted from a day that was not quite half over. Of course, it had been his idea in the first place, a father-son trip to the world's first cloned dinosaur park. People forget sometimes, Peter mused as he looked up at the dinosaur mural painted over the urinals, that we are living in the future.

Still, even in the future, little boys have more energy than their hardworking fathers.

"The internet says that the ichthyosaur in the big tank aren't dinosaurs at all!"

Peter stepped back out into the heat, never an easy task in south Texas, and blinked his son back into focus. "Does it, now?" he asked.

"Yea, look, the Wikipedia says its a pleli-...plis-...pleliosisuarus." George explained with all the learned rationality his young form could muster.

"And what does it say a..." Peter tilted the small screen up a bit, "plesiosaur is?"

George furrowed his brow and read intently for a moment before finding the answer. "Not a dinosaur!" he exclaimed.

Peter held in a chuckle. "Okay, then. Let's get in line to ride the triceratops."

"But if it isn't a dinosaur, then why do they have it at the McAllen Dinosaur Park?"

"Well," thought Peter for a moment, "it was pretty cool seeing that big ol' beast swim right by the glass, right?"

"Uh, huh."

"Well, there you have it."

"Have what?"

"The answer."

"To why they have a non-dinosaur at the dinosaur park."

George stood, unable to think that deeply and move at the same time. "I don't get it."

"They have it because it is really cool."

"But... but Star Wars is really cool. Why don't they have that?"

"Because Star Wars is too different. The ichthyosaur was sort of like a dinosaur, and really cool, but Star Wars isn't at all like a dinosaur, even though it is really cool."

"Ok," George conceded reluctantly as his father tugged his hand towards the less carnivorous parts of the park where the petting zoo and riding attractions were housed, "But Commander Cody rode a heaps big thing that looked like a dinosaur on Utapau, and in episode seven..."

Peter tuned him out, nodding occasionally for effect. George was on a roll and would be fully capable of entertaining himself by listing off every single exception, example, and edge case for the walk over.

They were almost in line when Peter felt his son tug away. He hadn't heard whatever had set him off, but he was back in gear when he heard George's response.

"Yea," said a fat child surrounded by four smaller, though still thuggish, flunkies, "You would think that, prince georgie."

The fat child wore a thick woolen shirt with Thuggie Flat, the notoriously violent DJ, traced on the front. His friends all wore similarly thick clothing with slogans glorifying things that no parent in their right mind should be exposing their children to.

"You stop it Kevin 'cause your a big mean jerk." Peter winced a little inside at hearing a high whine creep into his son's taunts and looked around. Where were this kid's parents?

"Ohh, princess georgie is all tough now that he has his daddy holding his hand."

"George, don't respond to them." Peter said in a low voice as he looked around for any sort of parental figure to leash these thugs. None appeared, though George did yank his hand away.

"Yea, but my daddy could beat up your daddy!" Peter put a firm hand down on George's shoulder.

"Sure he better, because he is at your house right now, beating up your momma!"

"Hey!" Peter barked, taking his hand off George and taking two long strides in front of his son, "that is quite enough. You kids go find your parents or I will be contacting park security."

"Ohh," said the fat child, "why you mad, bro? you mad?" Peter turned back towards his son, angry at having gotten involved in such a childish affair, and began to walk away.

Where George had gotten the stick, Peter never knew, but his son was no longer where Peter had left him. They had crossed as Peter turned and as his father whipped around George ran up, right arm bent holding a long wooden stick pointed right at the bully's face.

A cry of "You stop it jerk!" was punctuated by a gut-wrenching squick. George stumbled backwards a step and fell on his butt, revealing the stick lodged firmly in the fat child's left eye. The fat child stood for a moment longer, blood pouring freely from the wound, and crumpled on the ground. As the fat child's head struck the concrete a sound like a snapping twig rang out from the back of his skull.

"Now you are a jerk with a stick!" cried George triumphantly.

Peter just stood there as the crowd, momentarily silenced, began to roar. The sudden noises startled the great lizards nearby, who added a primordial quality to the din.

"George..." Peter said. He stood there as people rushed up to help the fat child, a boy now far beyond human aid. It wasn't until a blue and grey clad officer clapped him on the shoulder that he came out of the stupor.

"That is your child?" The officer said with a flat, professional tone.

"Yes," was all Peter could say.

"I saw the whole thing. I am placing him under arrest, and you as well. Please don't make this difficult."

The officer was joined by more, and eventually by paramedics who made no attempt at healing anyone. Peter and George were taken away soon after that.



Peter served five years for negligence. George was sentenced to fifteen, though died in a gang related prison fight at the age of twenty two. The publicity cost Marilyn her job, and when Peter got out they struggled together in menial jobs, often paid under the table. They never discussed having more children.

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