The Good Boy
by Derek Paterson
Appeared in "Creatures" anthology
published by Tell-Tale Press, May 2019.
Let me tell you about Timmy the T-Rex, Timmy the ferocious monster, Timmy the terrible people eater. Let me tell you about the magnificent dinosaur who was the most kind-hearted and intelligent creature I ever met in my life.
If you haven't heard about Doc Rawlinson and his time travel experiment by now, you must've been living on Mars or something. Rawlinson and his team made a hole in space and they got sucked into it, while Timmy the T-Rex came through the other way. I'm told there was a blinding flash of light and a boom like thunder, and it was done. Twelve people gone and Timmy standing there looking bewildered, as if he was looking for his mom or something.
The time machine got confiscated by the Army, or maybe it was the FBI or the NSA, it doesn't matter who, it just got broken down and taken away and all that was left was Timmy. They didn't have any interest in him.
He was about six feet tall then, just a kid. They pulled me in because of my experience in African wildlife parks and a dozen city zoos. I had trained tigers and I had trained elephants and I had trained seals. There wasn't anything I couldn't train an animal to do if I put my mind to it, that's what I told them, and it was true.
I had to sign all kinds of paperwork promising to keep my trap shut, but in the end it didn't matter because someone got wind of Timmy and the next thing you know a thousand cameras were taking pictures, helicopters were flying overhead, people were climbing the fences to see the actual living dinosaur.
The Army didn't like that so off we went to a special secure facility in the mountains with a nice compound for Timmy to play in and a big, deep cave for privacy.
For a while it was just me and Timmy, but then Julia arrived. She was something else. She was smart. She had so many letters after her name it was like she had her own alphabet. I think she learned to love Timmy, just like I did. I know that sounds corny, how can you love a reptile the size of a small bus? He was a sweetie, that's how. We always followed safety protocols and always kept the bars between us and Timmy. He never tried to get through the bars and he never tried to hurt us, never mind eat us.
He liked playing with his toys, especially the furry ones I'd stuff meat inside. Boy did he rip them to pieces to get at that juicy meat. I talked to him, a lot. I told him I was sorry he didn't have any of his own kind around, for real companionship. I wondered if he knew what I meant. Sometimes he would look at me and give a big sigh. I'd get such a sympathetic feeling from that look.
In the afternoons Julia did things with her whiteboard and the colored shapes, like pre-school teachers use, while Timmy sat on his haunches and watched her every move. She always talked to him, saying nice complimentary things when she would name a shape or a color and he'd point to it. Where is the red square, Timmy? His little arm would squeeze through the bars to touch the red square. Where is the letter T, Timmy? And he would touch it. He always got it right. He learned to associate the letter T with himself, T for Timmy. That's how bright he was.
We had a fun time while it lasted. At least I think we did. Despite his size, despite his species, Timmy turned out to be a gentle soul. He was a good boy.
But then there was that morning when Julia made a bad throw and a breakfast toy bounced into a corner, and she thought she'd be able to reach it before Timmy woke up. I was coming back from the can when I looked up at the monitors and saw the bars open and Julia tip-toeing into the corner. My heart stopped. There was a sudden pounding in my head. And then it happened, so fast.
Afterwards I guessed Timmy hadn't recognized her because her back was to him and she was bending down so he couldn't see her flame-red hair. She was just an object, an object that was moving, a bigger than usual stuffed toy, and Timmy shot out of his cave and snapped her up before I could do anything about it. I saw the puzzlement in his eyes, because what he'd just eaten tasted different and had a different texture. I saw how he looked at the open bars. I saw how he looked at Julia's whiteboard, which she'd been setting up for his classroom session. And then he looked around for Julia but couldn't find her anywhere.
The idiots in the control room were running around and shouting in a panic, but Timmy didn't move towards the open bars. He just stood there, the saddest-looking creature I'd ever seen in my life.
No, he didn't try to escape. Before they even got the bars closed again, Timmy had turned away and walked slowly back into his cave, losing himself in the shadows there.
The bad news went all the way up the command chain, to levels I didn't usually get to talk with. Timmy had killed a human being and this didn't sit well with the people in charge. A conference was called and the facility chief was invited to attend. They sure as hell weren't interested in anything I had to say. I'd told them there wasn't an animal I couldn't train. And now Julia was dead.
A decision was reached. They left it up to us to decide whether we wanted to stay and witness what happened. A special Army unit was going to take care of it. I didn't know if they were going to inject him with something or shoot an anti-tank rocket at him. I just knew I had to be with Timmy when they executed him.
There wasn't anyone I could talk to about it. There wasn't someone I could appeal to. I sat in the education room alongside Julia's whiteboard, waiting for the fateful moment to arrive. Some of the letters were missing, I guessed they must have fallen off. I didn't give it a second thought, not then.
The Army guys arrived. They brought heavy ordnance and looked as if they knew how to use it. If Timmy came at them, they were going to take him down hard.
Their captain came to stand beside me. He didn't say anything, but I glanced at his sidearm and I knew he had his orders concerning me, too, if I tried to interfere.
So they opened the bars and went inside the compound. They spread out, covering each other. They approached the cave and shone their flashlights into the darkness. Then they went inside. My heart was in my mouth. But nothing happened. I couldn't hear what they were saying to each other over their radios. It sounded as if they were confused. The captain listened to the voices in his earpiece. Then he stepped forward, into the compound. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder at me. I couldn't read his expression, but I got up and I followed him and he didn't try to stop me.
We passed the soldiers, who were pointing their weapons at the ground, as if they were no longer needed. We entered Timmy's cave.
Bundles of ropes we called kongs were part of Timmy's toy collection. He'd grip the kongs with his little claws and tear at them with his teeth. I don't know how he'd managed it, but he'd untangled several kongs and he'd looped the ropes up and over the metal framework that criss-crossed the ceiling of his cave, supporting the lights.
Did you ever see that old photograph of the elephant they murdered? Don't look for it on the internet, it'll just make you sick. An elephant in some circus killed one of its keepers, back in 1916. So they sentenced it to death. They used a crane and rope to hang it. Don't look, because it'll make you lose all faith in humanity. But that was what this reminded me of.
The captain called in some medics. I guess he wanted to make sure Timmy was dead. I could have told him. Timmy was so still that it was obvious life had fled his body. The framework was bent and distorted with his weight but it had lasted long enough to do the job.
Something caught my eye. I went over to the spot where Timmy usually slept on his furry blankets. The missing letters from the board were there, positioned so they formed words. It was like getting punched in the gut. I wanted to cry. Maybe I would, but not here, not in front of the Army guys. I'd cry for Julia and I'd cry for Timmy too, right after I saluted them with a full bottle of Scotland's finest. I kicked the letters so no one else would see Timmy's final message. It was meant for me, not for them. Who would have believed me anyway? So long, T. It's okay, pal, I know you were sorry.