“Hey Dad—guess what I did today!”
BlueJay the little Raptor practically cawed his story out to his father, Master Raptor, and anyone else who was listening at the gargantuan supper meal.
“So I was going to climb this huge volcano, and the rocks threw up all over the place and crash-landed onto the ground! I was zooming to and fro, testing the rocks to see whether they would hit me, but they never did. They just shook the earth like a mini-earthquake, and then lava startled drooling out of the volcano—or, at least, I saw it do that when I focused on it after dodging the chunks of volcanic rock and the suffocating smell of brimstone. But it never hit me! It just traveled down, and—” BlueJay hopped onto one foot—”just like this, and it went right by me.”
“Like always.” Master Raptor nodded once BlueJay took a breath and landed back his two black three-clawed feet. “You’re always dancing with death.”
“What’s wrong with that?” BlueJay questioned, throwing himself down onto his knees and looking to and from his father as he set his plate in front of him and grabbed his two pronged hunk of metal the Stegosauruses, Tyrannosaurus Rexes and Velociraptors—among others—smelt and sold at the market a couple of years ago.
“Hey, Dad, these sharp forks are no different from us Raptors. We do the same thing with our three-fingered hands.” BlueJay observed, jabbing the air with his fork and then taking his three claws and forking the air, too. “We’re like forks…”
“No, we’re Raptors, and we stay that way.” BlueJay’s mother, Mistress Raptor, sat across from the blue, green and silver-speckled raptor on the other side of gigantically heavy, wide stone table the family of four used to eat dinner. especially tonight.
“You’d stay a Raptor if you got away from those volcanoes.” Master Raptor prodded the air with his fork, and then used it to dig into his meat, BlueJay followed his fork’s motions.
BlueJay didn’t answer, but instead looked sadly down at his plate. A watery, juicy heap of Mastodon heart wiggled as he poked it with his fork. A serving of meat sat there, waiting to be ground up in the dinosaur’s mouth and digested—like the volcano wanted to do to him, BlueJay thought. The volcano was him, the Raptor, and he was his food.
“You can tell of your adventures, Blue. Just remember that you need to be careful about hopping around that lava. It could scorch you to death.”
“Dear!” Mistress Raptor’s voice pleaded with her husband. “Please don’t consume his excitement! He’s all happy about his adventures—”
“I don’t care what they’re called! His adventures need to be monitored. He cannot just scamper out there—speed out there, whatever—and practically mess with the lava, teasing it like some other Raptor at Raptor Elementary School! He’s going to get burned.”
“But Dad,” BlueJay shot his head up above his plate, his eyes shining contradiction, “that’s my fun and excitement! You can’t just take that away!”
“I can, and I just did.” Master Raptor glowered at his son and then down towards his plate. “You eat your food, Blue. It took four days to capture and make that Mastodon food! You will eat what’s in front of you as a sign of respect.”
Blue felt like he was the only one breathing and thinking. everyone else seemed to stop still. Until his father, who seemed to be in slow motion, jabbed the air with his two-pronged fork.
BlueJay immediately allowed everything to come back to normal, and jumped as his father’s fork almost collided with his own plate.
BlueJay’s eyes shot up instantly with his father’s own intense face. “Yes, sir.” He started diving in, plowing into the heart his fork and knifing it with his pointer talon on his other hand.
Although BlueJay heard his father go back to his dinner and his wife murmur words of defense to BlueJay, BlueJay couldn’t just let the hurt that had jabbed him and dug its talons into him go. He blinked and then suddenly jerked his head up as he heard noise emitting strangled sounds.
“BABY RAPTOR!” Master Raptor boomed like sudden thunder.
BlueJay threw his fork down, hurled himself over the stone, whipped his hands in front of him and collided against the ground. When his father screeched that BlueJay best step aside and let his parents save his younger brother, BlueJay threw back, “I got it! I got it!”
BlueJay felt fingers and talons on his shoulders and back as he grabbed the choking dinosaur toddler, flipping him over onto his stomach and pounding on his tiny back between the shoulder blades as the small reptile gagged. Finally, after BlueJay smacked three more hard thumps down onto Baby Raptor and two tiny white things launching onto the ground, he lifted him up and bounced the screaming, crying, gasping raptor, patting him softly with one clawed hand while murmuring “Shhhh” and “It’s okay, Baby Raptor.”
“Oh!” Mistress Raptor dashed rapturously over to BlueJay, took the half-calmed down Baby Raptor gently from his brother’s arms and squeezed BlueJay’s shoulders with her free arm.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She sobbed, shaking. “Oh, Blue! You saved our son!”
“Mo-om!” BlueJay cried out in pain, jerking away from his mother.
“Oh, Master Raptor! Your older son just saved our baby boy!” Mistress Raptor scurried towards her husband and gently put the crying Baby Raptor into his arms. Once Master Raptor wrapped his arms lovingly and welcomingly around Baby Raptor and copied BlueJay in thumping the hiccupping reptile on the back, Mistress Raptor returned to BlueJay and pulled him to a tight squeeze.
“You are so brave and attentive to save our other son and your younger brother.” BlueJay hugged his mother, and told her he was grateful for her praise.
“It was nothing, really. I just did what I learned to do in CPR Class with Dr. Scales.” BlueJay conjured up a time when he was watching his P.E. teacher throw himself onto a soft plush toy to show his class how to save someone’s life should they choke and struggle for air.
Master Raptor , BlueJay noticed after his mother had released him, came up to him. BlueJay looked over at Master Raptor, but he distracted him.
“He’s okay. He’s over there…” Master Raptor turned his head and stepped back a little, “with your mother.”
BlueJay bent his head a little and indeed saw the truth—Mistress Raptor and her younger son played together, tears still rolling down Baby Raptor’s cheeks but his mother wiping them away with the pointer finger of her three-clawed hand.
He moved and looked back over at his father. “Dad, I didn’t really do anything—”
Do anything?!” Master Raptor seemed to split the sky the way he roared out that contradiction. Slapping BlueJay on the back and almost knocking the wind out of him, Master Raptor turned to his wife and son, yelling out, “Hon, Baby Raptor, let’s celebrate!”
When Master Raptor paid BlueJay attention again, BlueJay caught his breath and chuckled. “I’m perfectly happy to just know I saved my brother!”
“Aw, nah!” Master Raptor led BlueJay over to be with Mistress Raptor and Baby Raptor, who was playing with Mistress Raptor’s hand and making her laugh gleefully.
“Dear, we are going to celebrate BlueJay’s heroism! We must honor him as the special dinosaur! Tonight, we’ll eat whatever’s he’s eating, and tomorrow, we can send him to school with an extra helping of Mastodon heart!”
Master Raptor completed the verbal celebration with a hand extended to BlueJay.
“U—” BlueJay hesitated but then clasped his father’s hand. “Thanks, Dad!”
Master Raptor waved his wife and son over to the table again and arranged for everyone to have a specific helping of meat and an additional plump section of the dead elephant’s heart, working away excitedly away at the animal’s insides with his claws and bringing out greasy, delicious smelling food for Baby Raptor, Mistress Raptor and Baby Raptor whom he kept in between his wife and him for the remainder of the dinner.
BlueJay sat down over at his place again, loud and proud—well, only in his mind. Ignoring his parents’ and toddler brother’s conversation, spattering of lips and mouth and hands vivaciously slapping each other and themselves, he ate quietly, his mind churning with ideas. He was going to use the extra helping of Mastodon heart in front of him by giving it to the less fortunate raptors who go to school with their stomachs growling every five minutes. Due to a lack of breakfast and lunch—Rick, Butch and Cassidy among them, as they sat next to BlueJay during homeroom and some of his classes—all watch every other Raptor, Ceratopsian, tween-sized T-Rex and Sauropod at school eat to their little dinosaur’s heart’s content while they have to chew only one lump of Mastodon a day, maybe a half scaly hand of meat on holidays and the week before school lets out for summer break.
BlueJay voiced his desire to see no dinosaur starve as they come and go from school to his parents.
Master Raptor put his three-talon clawed hand down on the stone table and absentmindedly spotted BlueJay’s plate of food. “Well, son, if that’s what you think you should do, then do it.”
BlueJay nodded respectfully, but he still had the nagging feeling that he could also give freely to the dinosaurs of his class—Rick, Butch and Cassidy—even out of school. He raised this concern, too.
“How about it?”
“Well, I think we should think about what you wanted to do first.” Master Raptor continued eating, taking his eyes off of BlueJay’s plate and putting them down on to his own. Mistress Raptor copied him except for the switching viewpoints. “Give to those hungry dinosaurs at school. And then we can think about distributing food to the hungry elsewhere.”
“But why would I do one thing and then another?” BlueJay wondered.
“Why do you suddenly want to do this?” Mistress Raptor implored.
“Well, I…” BlueJay chewed his forkful of food, “thought I’d be pretty selfish if I just eat, knowing my food is going into my stomach and stomachs growl ceaselessly. Besides, you said I could take my extra helping of Mastodon heart to school tomorrow. I’m going to give this extra helping of heart to the hungry and malnourished at school tomorrow!”
Grinning, BlueJay looked hopefully at his parents, but they looked up less than half-heartedly.
“Blue, you can’t just bring something that is yours and give it to dinosaurs you don’t really know and you don’t really get along with!”
“But I do know them. I may not be their best friends, but Rick and I have hung out. Cassidy and I have joked around a bit, and Butch is thinking of inviting me to his cousin’s middle school graduation. I mean, I hang out with them. I just feel so bad they have to starve.”
“I know.” Mistress Raptor sympathized softy. “But I just don’t think giving food out is the best idea right now.”
“But why?” BlueJay, even to himself, sounded whiny.
“Because it’s ours!” Master Raptor almost boomed, jabbing a fork in the air. “We need to respect the food we’ve been given.”
“I am.” BlueJay took a stab of his food with his fork. “See?” He held it up and out for all to see. Even Baby Raptor cawed at his reaction. “See? Baby Raptor wants me to do so.”
“No.” Master Raptor ignored his protest. “No more talking of this nonsense.”
Fine! BlueJay protested mentally. I don’t have to do it with your permission! I can do it all myself. And he ignored the heart supply and wrapped it discretely while his parents were busy with Baby Raptor, tending to him so he wouldn’t choke again and so that he didn’t throw his food all over the floor.
Once BlueJay emerged from his own thinking and zoned in on his food, he had only three chunks left. He swiftly gobbled them up and plunged them into his stomach with his throat muscles when he swallowed. BlueJay finished his meal, and looked over at Baby Raptor. He was still playing with his food, so BlueJay decided to go over and help him eat right.
“Hey—” BlueJay leaped over the big rock of a dinner table, U-turned around his father on the left and then pulled Baby Raptor over to the rock so that both his parents could see him and check on him, as he said, when they did.
“U—” Mistress Raptor started to interject, but BlueJay rearranged Baby Raptor in a way so their mother should—and did—just sit there and watch to see what BlueJay could do so neither parent could be too concerned with their son—as BlueJay told his parents to sit back and watch Baby Raptor get—
“Situated!” BlueJay spun out of the way to reveal Baby Raptor sitting at the table, clawed hands on the stone, food in front of him and a happy smile stretched out onto his face.
“Ta-da!” BlueJay did a little dance, to which his parents strained their smiles.
“Great, Blue. Now get back to eating that food!”
“What’s wrong?” BlueJay hiked over to his spot back behind the rock to where his food sat. “Why can’t I do anything other than eat Mastodon food?”
“Excuse me?” Master Raptor jerked his head up, and the air seemed to still instantly. “What do you need to do, Blue, when talking to your parents?”
“Uh, maybe let them hear me for a change. Let them know that I don’t want to just sit here and be a nobody just hiking myself to school—”
“You close your razor-sharp toothed mouth, and eat it!” Master Raptor’s longest black claw pointed pin-straight down to BlueJay’s heart. “Eat it, and you’ll be happy—no, grateful—for being able to eat every day, night and morning!”
“Dad!” BlueJay threw his hands onto the stone and almost overturned his plate. “You need to realize that I have something I want to do! Why can’t you see that?”
“Because I know that our food is too precious for you to waste!” Master Raptor almost leapt onto his two clawed feet. “You eat your food, Mr. BlueJay, or you will not have any heart tomorrow night!”
Then he calmly landed on his knees and continued eating, murmuring that he needs to see BlueJay’s plate of food empty.
BlueJay blinked and sighed through his nose. He blinked, hurt, and blinked, not being able to focus on his food. Then he slowly started taking the white meat from his plate to his mouth and chewed, finishing his meal at last. He then pushed the plate towards his father, who inched it towards him and then nodded jerkily. Sliding it towards BlueJay, he said, “Keep going.”
“Yes, sir.” BlueJay mustered, making sure he respected his father. Master Raptor nodded in response and told BlueJay he may be excused from his place to put the dish away near the creek.
“Take a hot coal with you so you know where you’re going.”
“You know what, I’ll go myself. I know where I’m going.” BlueJay took another step, but found himself eye-to-eye with the much bigger, stockier raptor he knew as his father.
“You will not take that tone with me, Blue!”
BlueJay looked fearfully into his father’s glaring blue eyes. Then he burst out with, “But, Dad, I was just going to save some food for the starving raptors at the school. I don’t know what’s so wrong about that.”
“It’s not wrong, Blue. I just don’t want you taking our food away.” Master Raptor put a hand out to Baby Raptor, to whom BlueJay looked with reluctance. “We are family. We don’t need to give food away because others are hungry. They can get their food.”
“But maybe we can take a section we don’t like.” BlueJay went over to the Mastodon heart, and as Master Raptor turned with a sigh, BlueJay showed him a portion—near the tusks—that he knew Mistress Raptor and Baby Raptor have tried but rejected time and time again. “I brought it to school and shared it with Rick and Cassidy.”
“No.” Master Raptor pointed at him, and stomped over to finish his meal.
BlueJay thought for a minute and took some more meat for himself. Once he had a second helping of food, he ate quietly, deciding to take some of that tusk meat tomorrow without his parents’ knowledge. Actually, he thought to himself, he was going to grab some tonight—and hide it. So BlueJay jumped up, made sure his parents were preoccupied with his food, and ripped off the meatiest part of the food. Once he had the precious tan and dark beige goodness in his claws, he quickly stomped over and carefully wrapped it up in leaves scattered everywhere under the rock, ensuring no dirt got into the meat. Flicking his eyes up to see whether his parents suspected anything or were noticing at all—thankfully, they weren’t—BlueJay hid the pile of meat right in front of him and quickly returned to eating and chewing his third helping of food he scraped from the Mastodon.
“Like that food, eh?” Master Raptor said.
“Yes, Dad!” BlueJay responded, returning with his meat and some heart. Once he sat down in front of the secretly stashed food, BlueJay continued eating to, well, his heart’s content while his parents kept a wary eye on Baby Raptor.
Good—because tomorrow, I’ll distract those Raptors with my secret food! I’ll feed those hungry Raptors! BlueJay thought heroically.