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John came to work one cold morning and found River staring moodily at the herd of iguanodons. “What's up?” He asked, joining her.
“Winter is coming. The trial is still in process; the fate of all these magnificent beasts is up in the air,” River responded dramatically.
John shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Hmm, well it seems to me as though the trial is out of your hands now. Maybe try not to worry so much about it and focus on what you know how to do.”
“And what exactly is that?”
“Raising dinosaurs. How many people can put that on their resumes` under Special Skills?” John smiled.
River stared at him as though she was seeing him clearly for the first time.
John gestured at the milling iguanodons and said, “Come on, we have work to do, boss.”
They started by tracking down the flighty compsognathus flock to check them for bugs and tag them all. John had decided that with all the attention the farm was getting thanks to the trial and the discovery of real-life dinosaurs, all the dinosaurs should be cataloged and tagged in case one or more happened to mysteriously vanish. This was a good idea on paper but catching the agile beasts and holding them steady long enough to secure the small tags was a lot harder than John had anticipated it would be. He knew River was laughing at him whenever his back was turned but he didn't have the energy to confront her about it.
The outside world was buzzing with updates on the farm, the trial and leaked pictures of the dinosaurs but on the farm itself, it was a different world altogether and peace covered the land from the gate to the furthest fenced corners.
Later when they were cleaning the incubators with River's skinny younger brothers, John announced, “So I had an idea for what to do with those buildings.”
“What buildings?” River asked distractedly.
“You know, the processing ones. We should refurbish them and have a dinosaur petting zoo.”
“A dinosaur petting zoo? Who would pay for that kind of thing?”
John shrugged. “Who pays for exotic dinosaur meat?”
“Good point,” River admitted and handed him a sponge.
“We could have some dinosaurs for petting, some for a 4H program where teens could come out in the summer to help raise 'their' dinosaur and enter them in contests,” John elaborated on his plan as he worked.
“Sort of like with regular farm animals but in this case, extinct creatures who may or may not eat you?”
“We don't have any raptors, it'll be fine,” John waved his soapy hand dismissively at her.
“Sure but what happens when someone does get hurt and some uppity parent demands to know what kind of shots to get her kid or threatens to sue us?”
John wiped his forehead and got soap bubbles in his hair. “Well, they are essentially genetically pure because they are so old. I don't think shots would be necessary for any bites. I've been bitten and didn't need shots. Do people get shots after lizards bite them?”
River shrugged. “I never did and I got so many bites.”
“We'll worry about that later then and tell them to use common sense. As for the threat of suing us, it's dinosaurs. People can't really expect them to be civilized and not act like wild animals.”
“People are horrible though and some of the worst are the ones with the money to afford the price of admission for this petting zoo idea of yours,” River pointed out. She was watching the bubbles in his hair pop one by one.
John scratched his head and got more bubbles in his hair. “We could have a waiver written up for them to sign but that might look suspicious. Maybe we'll ask a lawyer about that.”
River scowled, “I hate lawyers.”
“Eh, that's just because of the trial. They have their uses.”
“Okay, well assuming all of these tiny annoying pieces fall into place, do you think people would actually come out here to the middle of nowhere to see real dinosaurs?”
“River, we have protestors and reporters at the front gate who won't leave. I don't think we will need to worry about finding interest in a dinosaur petting zoo.”
River threw soap at him.
“John? Are you in there? Wake up and let me in, it's cold out here!” A voice yelled.
John rolled out of bed and bumped into the table, smacked the wall looking for the light switch and tripped over his boots on the floor. He caught himself before he fell and opened the hotel door.
Without acknowledging him, Anthony Douglas pushed past John and turned the room lights on. John closed the door and rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Early, late, I don't know. I never went to sleep. Listen, I have an idea.”
John groaned and flopped back on the bed.
Anthony clapped his hands rapidly. “No, no, no. You can't go back to sleep! Get up and help me figure this out!”
“Ugh, can I at least have coffee first?” John sat up and looked ruefully at the excited scientist.
“Yes! I brought some,” and he shoved a huge styrofoam cup at John.
John nodded and tentatively took a sip.
“Okay so here is my plan; I give the farm to River. What do you think?” Anthony perched at the edge of his seat to hear John's verdict.
John nodded again, “You need a few more details there.”
Anthony sighed, “Yes, all the legalities will be handled. But I can trust River and she can handle the farm. You can be in charge of raising the dinosaurs and I'll get the full rights to my patent back from my horrible excuse for a human brother.”
“He's only a human. What did you put in this?” John looked at the coffee.
“Hazelnut shot. What happened to your arm?” Anthony suddenly noticed the huge blood-stained bandage on John's forearm.
“Oviraptor didn't want to be tagged.”
“Ah, it looks like it hurts.”
“Okay, well drink your coffee, get a shirt on and let's go find River. I want to run this all by her before the trial later today,” Anthony practically bounced on the chair.
John eyed him suspiciously. “How much coffee have you had?”
“A lot, why?”
A fully clothed John and overly caffeinated Anthony found River, filled her in on their scheme, got more coffee and went down to the courthouse where they caught the lawyers and had an impromptu meeting.
River waved her hands at all the men. “Wait, so let me get this straight. I own the farm, Anthony owns the right to recreate the dinosaurs and John helps take care of everything like a regular farm guy? Who takes the fall for the whole 'you need permits for this' deal?”
“Obviously your dad,” Anthony said. “He sold my dinosaurs! He needs to pay for that.”
“What about Keith?”
“What about him? He brought it to my attention (via very circular and noisy routes) that my dinosaurs were in danger! He should be awarded a medal or something.”
River squinted at her uncle. “How much coffee have you had?”
“A lot, why do people keep asking me that?”
River shrugged. “What about mom?”
“She can stay on the farm, I'm more concerned with the dinosaurs.”
“Big surprise there,” River muttered.
She didn't voice too many more objections after that. When the court was in session an hour or two later, River stayed to watch the proceedings and see how her dad would handle Anthony's proposal. John decided to go back to the farm and keep working. There was always something to do on the farm and he liked the work.