Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 43
Sam concentrated as hard as he could on the path of the front loader in front of him. The smacking and grunting from the bed near him made him want to turn his head in curiosity, but the girls obviously needed some privacy. He wished Girlfriend would appear and take his mind off those two.
When it finally stopped, it felt like it lasted hours, but was only a few minutes, he heaved a sigh of relief. He didn’t hate gay people. That was their choice, but he’d never experienced it first hand. He might have had a different reaction had it been two men, but two women didn’t seem as bad to him. He couldn’t quite explain why. Having nothing but the rumble of the car to keep him company now, he tried not to dwell on it.
At least Tiger Lily had something, or better yet someone, to keep her mind off of her injury now. He was going to need either Lin or Tiger Lily later. Doc had explained to the two of them how to use all the fancy equipment and satellite uplink and all that, but for now, they needed their time.
Sam rubbed at his own injured shoulder. Damn dinosaurs. Myra had probably been ecstatic to see them in action despite what had happened. She’d even brought one of those damn things into the car. Sam was thankful it was dead. They didn’t survive for a reason and it wasn’t their place to take them back to the future. Why had he stopped? Everything would have gone so much smoother if he’d just kept going instead of letting Myra get a look at that nest.
He wanted to make Girlfriend happy, that’s why. He wanted to show her that he’d given some thought to someone else’s feelings by stopping so Myra could see a nest full of eggs. He hadn’t seen anything nearby that would be a danger, but apparently this place was full of surprises. Sam just hoped that there wouldn’t be any more any time soon.
The path of the front loader, still visible in the shallow water through the trail of broken reeds and swells in the nest hills, was easy enough to follow. He passed several groups of trees and a couple outcroppings of rocks, but for the most part the traveling was clear, albeit wet and muddy. Only once did he fear they were going to be bogged down in the mire, but the large tires and all-wheel drive kept the vehicle moving along. Sam wondered how Clive, in a heavier, slower vehicle, navigated some of the areas. He guessed he could just ask once they found him.
“Here Sam,” Girlfriend said, handing him some pills. He hated taking pills, but knew these would fight off any infection and took them without a word. “What’s up with those two?” Girlfriend pointed to the now sleeping Lin and Tiger Lily in their lover’s embrace.
Sam shrugged. “I guess they’re in love. Maybe it’s a reaction to Tiger Lily’s near death experience. I don’t know.”
“It’s cute. That’s what it is.”
Sam raised his eyebrows. He and Girlfriend had never had a discussion regarding same-sex relationships. “Cute?”
“I figured there was something going on between those two, even if it was something they weren’t admitting to.”
“Cute?” Sam repeated.
Girlfriend playfully slapped Sam’s good shoulder. “You know what I mean. I don’t think Lin has ever had anyone to love. She’s always been shut up in her trailer. Boy, girl, I’m just glad she found somebody. She needed to come out of her shell.”
“I guess I see your point there.” Sam turned to look at the two twisted together in the bed.
“So Sam, what are we going to do with that thing?” Girlfriend pointed her thumb over her shoulder at the dead troodon.”
“Well, I’m in no condition to lift it, I can tell you that.”
“But Sam, it smells.”
What did she expect? It was a dead animal. “What do you want me to do?”
“Well, I’m not sleeping in here with that thing anymore. It’s dead and it smells.”
“Aw, Girlfriend, come on. My arm.”
“I’ll help, but I want it out. I’m sure the others will appreciate it, too.”
Sam looked ahead and saw a small rise out of the water. They’d been driving for a good portion of the night and the moonlight had given him a great view. Not to mention that it was far cooler to drive at night rather than during the hot days. Sam pulled the car up onto the rise.
“We’ll dump it here and stay here for the night. It looks like the path goes off that way,” Sam pointed off to the west. At least he thought it was the west. “We can head out there after I’ve had some rest. Those pills are going to mess with my head, I’m sure.”
“That’s fine. I just want it out. I hope the smell goes with it.”
“I doubt that, but at least it won’t be rotting in here anymore.”
Sam stopped the car close to the thick trees. It was a dense growth and dark. Something about prehistoric and dark didn’t settle his mind. He almost decided to move on, but Girlfriend was already at the hatch and opening it. He turned to tell her to stop, but turning shot pain down his arm and she was outside before he could say anything.
“Sam! Get out here. This is gorgeous!”
Lin and Tiger Lily stirred. They gave each other those lovey-dovey eyes. Sam turned away. He didn’t want them to see him looking.
“Where are we?” Lin asked and yawned.
“We’re just stopping for a little while. I need some rest. And we need to dump this thing. It’s starting to stink up the place.
“Do you need help?”
Sam almost said “no”, but decided that help would be welcome at this point. “Sure. Thank you.”
“I don’t know how much I can help, but I’ll do what I can.”
“Well, I was thinking if we tie some rope around it and …”
Sam stopped talking when he heard the strange crack. Not the soft crack of a twig or anything small like that, but the crack of a tree being bent to the breaking point. A large tree!
“Girlfriend!” Sam yelled, but as he did, he heard her shrill scream.
Something collided into the side of the car and rocked it violently. Sam launched himself at the ladder, but another crash and the car tipped violently. Girlfriend’s shrieks faded and he heard something splash.
“What happened?” Myra shouted from the back.
“What is that?” Tiger Lily asked, hanging onto the bed.
Sam had hit his shoulder into the bulkhead and waves of pain clouded his vision. He could, however, see Lin rushing to and up the ladder. She poked her head outside, screamed, and fell to the floor.
Something, Sam couldn’t see it, covered the hatch, blocking all outside light from the outside. Sam fought to get to his feet. He had to find the gun. Something was attacking them and he had to kill it. He couldn’t just lie there. Whatever it was, it was huge and Girlfriend was out there.
The hatch cleared. Lin scooted away from the open hatch and back toward the bed.
“What is it?”
“It’s big!” was all Lin said, her eyes wide in fear.
Adrenaline cleared Sam’s vision and focused his mind on the problem, not his pain. He retrieved the gun from the locker near the hatch and started up the ladder.
Again the car was rocked, this time it tipped all the way onto its side. Sam had to let go of the ladder and stood on the wall, while Lin and Tiger Lily slid across the floor and crashed into the troodon body.
From where he stood, Sam could look out the hatch. He saw Girlfriend lying in the shallow water. She wasn’t moving. Not at all. Was she dead? Was she unconscious? Was she hurt? Would that thing get her?
“Lin, Tiger Lily, help me!” Sam dropped the gun and with his good arm, started to pick up the troodon. “Maybe with this thing out there, it’ll ignore Girlfriend. Come on! Hurry up!”
The arm of the troodon was limp and Sam feared it would snap off, but Lin and Tiger Lily each took up a leg, and quickly the body was raised to the hatch. They shoved it out, but nothing happened. Sam took up the gun and pointed it out the hatch.
“Where is it? Come on, you bastard. I dare you.”
The car rocked, but differently this time. A hissing noise came from the bottom of the car.
“That damn thing it chewing on the tire!”
Sam climbed up and wiggled into the hatch. He didn’t fall to the ground, but instead stood up on the hatch so he could see what he was dealing with.
The head, with its mottled, green skin and forearm-sized teeth, spoke terror beyond belief. This thing thought it’d killed some prey. Large bite marks showed in the rear of the car. This thing had rammed and bit the car, then turned it on its side. This thing? No. This monster. This T. rex. Now it was chewing on the tires. If it popped more than one, they’d have a real tough time getting back, let alone saving Clive. Hell, they’d have a hard enough time just righting the car.
The T. rex raised its head and looked directly at Sam, but went back to the front tire, digging its massive teeth into it again and again, almost like a dog with a chew toy.
Sam raised the gun. One shot. That was all he’d need, but it would have to be a perfect shot. He’d have to get the eye. The skull would be far too thick and he’d be lucky just to stun the creature. He steadied himself, but as he did, the T. rex pulled on the tire and jerked the car. Sam fell hard onto the ground and bumped his head. He groaned.
“Shhh,” He heard someone shush.
“Be quite. It’ll hear you,” Girlfriend said in a hushed, scolding tone.
Sam rolled his head over to look at her. She had moved her head only slightly. Sam pointed at the car’s open hatch. She shook her head, eyes wide.
“We’ll die out here.”
Through the hatch Lin and Tiger Lily motioned for the two of them to return. Sam rolled over and pulled at Girlfriend’s arm. “Go.”
He stood with her, but his thoughts were muddled and he didn’t pick up the gun. Girlfriend walked quickly to the car and reached up into the hatch. Lin and Tiger Lily pulled her in, but only just before the T. rex pulled again on the tire and flipped the car over onto its roof. Sam had to dive out of the way to keep from being crushed.
He slid into the water, and watched as the gun was trapped under the car, and the body of the troodon squished. Girlfriend’s face appeared in one of the windows. She pounded on the glass and shouted, but Sam couldn’t hear anything. He struggled to get out of the water. As he did, the T. rex circled the car.
The thing had looked at him once and done nothing. Sam hoped it would do the same again. It cocked its head to the side and watched. Sam didn’t move. Maybe it would think he was a tree or something. Sam could feel a warm stream wash down his leg. He didn’t know if it was blood or urine. One would be far worse than the other. Blood, this thing would smell as prey, the other just offensive. Or at least that’s what Sam wanted. Just for once in his life let him be offensive. Just once.
The beast howled and charged.