The son’s birthday is today. But the son only visits for six to eight hours a week, depending on what time the X drops him off each Sunday for the court-mandated visit. Search Amazon for something not only cool and appropriate, but more importantly, something that can be delivered before Sunday. The douchebag stepfather bankrolls the son’s favor by supplying every single thing so much as hinted at. Feel the pressure to find something the son not only wants, but hasn’t yet realized he wants. Browse through the Amazon suggestions and discover something way too good to be true. Allow desperation and a touch of alcohol to enable belief in the face of common sense.
Mail. Order. Dinosaurs.
The internet guarantees living, mini dinosaurs, roughly the size of a well-fed gerbil, available to the general public thanks to advances in cloning and genetic engineering. Nano-Dino™ Incorporated offers the herbivore bundle for the beginner and the carnivore bundle for “experienced Nano-Dino™ wranglers only.” There is a picture of a miniature T-rex and a blue jay eye-to-eye on a patch of turf, sizing each other up like long-lost half-brothers. The son loves dinosaurs. The internet promises free shipping by tomorrow. It feels like a Nano-Dino™ slam dunk.
Inspect the carefully sealed box that arrives the next day. Hear tiny frantic feet scuffling inside the package. Feel the rise in blood pressure and the acceleration of pulse. Slap a plastic bow on top and leave it for the son to open. Imagine the look on the son’s face, the hybrid of surprise and unbridled happiness that will boost the son’s favor and impart future enthusiasm to visit. Imagine how good that will feel.
On Sunday present the bowed box to the son after the X drops him off. Watch the son tear it open to reveal the Nano-Dinos™, and enjoy that exactly as imagined look on his face. Surprise, elation, a hint of fear. But after that happy moment, prepare for disaster.
Observe the little Nano-Dinos™ (the son calls them Iguanodons) leap from the box and scurry around the house, speedy blurs of velocity. Even for the son, who spends hours chasing lizards and bugs, the nimble Nano-Dinos™ evade all attempts at recovery. Read in the care manual that their favorite foods are apples and lettuce. Attempt to draw them out into the open with a sad mixture of sauerkraut and apple sauce. After an hour or more of hunting and gathering, finally capture them using a dollop of peanut butter, a shoe box, and a string tied to a stick.
Quickly realize prolonged captivity is not recommended. The Nano-Dinos™ repeatedly bash into the walls of any imprisonment in search of escape. Decide instead to let them run free through the backyard unencumbered. Free range Iguanodons. Watch them cavort through the yard at velocity. Watch them eat any plant they can gnash their molars into, and scatter impossibly large piles of Nano-Dino™ poop throughout the yard. Watch them almost immediately start creating little Nano-Dinos™, and soon herds of miniature Nano-Dinos™ scurry wild through the weed-filled plot optimistically nicknamed the backyard.
Witness them eventually devour every shred of vegetation and stomp the patio furniture to memory. Observe the change in behavior as their population grows, how in herds the little Nano-Dinos™ become territorial and fearless, blowing themselves up with air like puffer fish and bobbing their heads up and down in unison. Watch them surround and attempt to intimidate interlopers like a miniature Nano-Dino™ flash mob. Gasp in horror as they trample a squirrel. Come to the sad realization that instead of creating a new bond with the son, the Nano-Dino™ gang makes the son fear visiting altogether.
Call the Nano-Dino™ helpline. Press one if your Nano-Dino™ arrived dead. Press two if your Nano-Dino™ killed your pet. Press three if your herbivore package began multiplying uncontrollably. Press four if you are calling in reference to a liability claim. Please have your case number handy. Press zero at any time to speak to a representative. Press three. Listen to elevator music while on hold. Then listen to an operator convincingly dictate the best way to control the burgeoning herbivore population in the backyard is to procure the carnivore package. Carnivores are important in keeping ecosystems balanced. Only $250. A small price to pay for a balanced Nano-Dino™ ecosystem. It includes gloves and a tiny muzzle.
Look out the back window and see Nano-Dinos™ fornicating on the remnants of the lawn, next to a mountain of their own feces. Pass the credit card digits along to the operator and place the order. No doubt the carnivore package will wrench control of this Nano-Dino™ eco-disaster and win back the son’s affections. What could possibly go wrong?
J.D. Hager lives in Nor Cal with his wife, his dogs, and an army of tiny dinosaurs. He spends his days working undercover as a middle school science teacher. His code name is Mister Hager. His fiction has appeared in the Porter Gulch Review, Bartleby Snopes, East of the Web, Jersey Devil Press, and shall be forthcoming in many other locations.