by Jake Christie

a story.

Over the manager's shoulder, through the plate glass window, Deb saw a little girl Jeremy's age on the back of some dinosaur – she didn't know the name – being led in a circle by one of the trainers. As the giant creature loped from side to side, the girl's face twisted in delight. The trainer held the lead loosely, as if she trusted in the dinosaur's miniscule brain to keep it from getting any dangerous ideas. Flying dinosaurs, whatever they were called, floated across the blue sky in the distance.

“I can assure you,” said the manager, “DinoLand's dinosaurs are all well-trained and perfectly safe.” He had a bald head that didn't look entirely out of place next to the leathery red and green model dinosaurs on his desk. He could have been some new species of dinosaur himself, all pink skin and enormous build, if it weren't for the glasses on his bulbous nose.

“I'm sure they are,” said Deb. “That's not the issue. Regardless of the number of safety assurances you can provide, my nephew is still scared to ride the dinosaurs.” She placed her hand on Jeremy's own clasped fingers, resting in his lap in the seat next to her. Despite the tropical temperature his small body was trembling slightly from his panic outside. He put up a strong effort to control his tears now that they were in the manager's office, but his eyes were still misty under the complimentary DinoLand hat the manager had placed on his head.

“I'm sorry to hear that,” said the manager. He lowered his eyes and poked one of the models with a finger the size of its prehistoric neck. “Unfortunately, our policy regarding refunds is very strict. We really can't refund a dinosaur ride if your nephew didn't actually ride a dinosaur.”

Jeremy, sensing that he had somehow done something wrong, sniffed. Deb squeezed his hands.

“He doesn't want to ride a dinosaur,” she said. “If he doesn't ride a dinosaur, what exactly am I paying for?”

The manager met her eyes again. “Why, the time travel, of course,” he said, so matter-of-factly that Deb felt as small as her nephew or the little girl on the whateversaurus. “Bringing people here to the Cretaceous period, then sending them back again – well, it certainly isn't free. Or inexpensive. I have to go back to present day quite often myself, and the fee comes right out of my salary, so my hands are certainly tied.” He spread his arms and put his palms up, presumably to show just how tied they were.

Deb shook her head and straightened her back. “Why don't you just send the dinosaurs ahead to our time?” she asked. “Then you'd only have to use the time machines on them, instead of charging everybody twice.”

The manager pressed his lips together and looked at Jeremy. Jeremy met his gaze for a moment, adjusted his DinoLand hat, then looked away, again feeling like he'd done something stong.

“You really should have asked your nephew if this was what he wanted for his birthday before you got into the time machine,” said the manager.

“He loves dinosaurs,” said Deb. “In theory.” She ran a hand through Jeremy's hair. He was watching the girl outside. The trainer helped her off the dinosaur and gave her a head of lettuce to hand-feed the herbivore.

“As I said,” said the manager, “my hands are tied.” He looked at the models on his desk once more, then back to Deb. “Did you try the aardonyx?”

“I don't know what that is,” said Deb.

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