The Jurassic Juvenile
Dave can hear Samuel L. Jackson’s voice sing-speaking his theme, albeit muffled through the green, rubber dinosaur mask. The two bones he had pulled from the fossil, fastened on now as horns, didn’t improve that at all. It didn’t matter - he could feel something about them - something primal, something primitive, that gave him the strength and courage he needs to step from backstage.
His focus rushes back to the moment at hand. The adrenaline is just beginning to surge its way through his bloodstream, but already he can feel that old familiar feeling. His heart racing, Dave suddenly can hear his own breath through the crowd as they chant his name and sing along to ‘Tyrannosaurus Funk’. Hands reach, grabbing him, pulling him to and fro while the one held firmly in his tugs him forward towards the ring.
As he steps off the ramp, Dave stumbles, then turns to catch himself. He stops: with the tunnel vision caused by the mask, his gaze lands just a few rows behind the clutching masses. He can see a boy wearing an old, first season, ‘Where’s the Egg?’ Dave the Dinosaur t-shirt. Under his arm, the boy clutches a tyrannosaurus doll. Unable to move forward for the masses, the boy merely waves. Dave mimics the movement and then feels a squeeze from his right hand.
He looks over: Alice. He matches her emerald gaze as she raises her notched eyebrows in question. Dave nods his head, continuing to allow her to pull the dinosaur toward the ring where his opponent stands, grim faced and ready. He turns back to the crowd, to where the boy just stood, but the spotlights blind him enough to where he can only see forms - ghosts in the darkness here to watch the living do battle.
The Dinosaur shifts back towards Allison, who is already eyeing him up, and clenches his fist in anticipation.
One by one, he hastily scrawls his name, takes a picture, and then repeats the process. Few pleasantries are exchanged, mostly requests or more aptly put, demands, but few are these days. He knew it was necessary - a part of the job, but at times he could help but feel hollow inside. What would happen if people put down their phones and just experienced the moment?
Dave looks up into the sea of devices aimed towards him and sighs.
Collect a signature.
Take a picture.
Repeat the process.
The night begins to draw as he repeats the steps.
“All in a days work…” he thinks, sighing once more.
“Mr. Dave the Dinosaur, sir?” says a small voice, weak and hesitant. Dave has started to space out, but the tiny question forces his attention downward. There before him, tucked into the arm of his father is the same boy, dinosaur clutched to his chest. As the head turns down towards him, the child cannot help but giggle and pull back into his fathers arms. The dad, a bespeckled man just a few inches taller than Dave, offers a slight smile.
“He’s a bit shy-“ he begins to explain.
The child thrusts his doll forward: “Do you like my dinosaur?”
He makes a roaring noise and Dave pulls back in feigned shock, doing his best to play along. As he starts to kneel down, the boy rushes forward, bowling the wrestler backwards. The father, shocked by the sudden burst of energy, desperately clutches after the child. While trying to wrangle the excited boy, he extends an arm forward to help Dave to his feet.
“I’m so sorry, he’s just a fan I’m-‘
The Bronx champion laughs, waving his hand away. He pulls himself back onto a knee.
“He sure is strong! What’s his name?”
“Jake! Do you think he’ll grow up to be big and strong like you?” The boy begins to bounce, but is brought back to the semblance of stillness as his father clutches firmly at his shoulder.
“Absolutely!” The boy roars again and Dave mimics the noise. After the father shakes his hand, he prys his son away, who promptly proceeds to drag him towards a display of Dave merchandise. The man looks over the prices and kneels down. Even from a distance, the wrestler can see the dismay in the man’s eyes as he tries to explain the expenses. A fan interrupts him, forcing him to look forward.
Dave turns, but he can only see the boys back, shoulders slumped as he follows his father. He looks desperately behind him and matches that green gaze once more. She glances towards the pair then nods. A swift kick on the door leading to the back causes the swell of the Sewerside Squad stepping from the back. There is a gasp, then a few screams as the monster Moliarty steps free. The fans, just inches away from the Dinosaur, turn back stunned to find that in the commotion the champion had slipped away.
The father turns towards the voice, startled at first but upon seeing the approaching reptile, his face softens. The two are standing beside a tan 1992 Toyota Corolla that had seen better decades.
“Hey, it’s Dave!” The boy exclaims.
Dave stops a few feet in front of them, winded from the sprint. He speaks in between deep gulps of air.
“Hi, I’m Dave!” He doubles over, panting heavily for a moment before peeling the mask free from his face. He runs a hand through his matted mane, then turns towards the beaming boy. “You should have this.”
The child and his dad exchange a look before the child rushes forward, taking it into his hands. Without a thought, he pulls it over his head causing his father to wince briefly. The boy makes gnawing noises then boldly steps towards Dave, pointing towards the Bronx championship . “Can I have the belt too?”
Both his father and Dave laugh. The unmasked man shakes his head and smiles, “You’ll have to beat me for it.”
The boy rawrs, then tries to run but is caught quickly by his dad. Dave makes his own rawr back. Unexpectedly, the father lunges forward, his arms wrapping around the wrestler. Before he can react, he finds himself fully engulfed in a hug.
“Thank you,” he manages to whisper. Dave can hear the tremble in his voice and something about that vulnerability reminds him of the relationship he once had with his own father. Dave fishes a wad of bills from his pocket and slides them into the man’s hand. Stunned, the man is unable to react before the champion turns and paces back towards the colosseum.
The man looks down at the folded bills in his hand. Popping the rubber band off holding it together, he flicks through it: a fighting champion's monthly salary. It’s more than he made in a whole year working at the docks. He can feel the tears touch his face and a sense of relief wash over him as he slumps against the side of the car. The boy, lost in his own world, merely growls and roars from under the rubber Tyrannosaurus mask.
‘ABC - D is for Dinosaur’
The scene opens up.
Once again Sewerside Squad bounces on the raft, heading along the Infinite Sewer towards American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Dave stands just behind Alice, the torn and tattered, red dinosaur mask, last worn in the bloody battle with Eion O’Rouke where the man lost sight of himself and chomped a chunk out of his opponent's flesh, pulled low on his face. There is an almost songlike quality to her voice as she whispers in the dark, the raft drifting from under one of the many lamps.
She considers her words, nodding. Her eyes, glaucous in the dimly lit sewer, stare into the frame.
“Beautiful. Bold. Brave. But do you plan to bite this time or just more bark-bark-bark?” A snarl comes from the Dinosaur masked man behind her. She steps aside, waving her hand towards the belt draped over his shoulder. “Can you see this championship? Can you see yourself as the champ?”
Alice slides it from his shoulder, the face following her, but otherwise the man does not move. She holds it around her waist and struts back and forth in front of him, doing her best to mimic a runway model. After a moment of posturing, she laughs, draping it back over his arm. She whips back toward the frame.
“Don’t be fooled. Dave the Dinosaur doesn’t look past you. He does not discredit you. Dave saw what you did versus Dickie and so he doesn’t dare dismiss you. You learned a hard lesson, or at least it was taught: it’s what's inside that matters. The heart of a champion.”
Alice clutches her fist over her chest.
“Do you have it inside you?” The pale woman shakes her head. “I think not. I am going to say this and I mean it with all due respect: you get by on your looks. Your beauty - your charms. You’ve got everything you need to succeed right in front of you and yet you choose to not.”
She settles into a frown.
“Oh Ashlynn, you’re such a pretty girl with a pretty face - it will be such a shame when Dave is forced to put you in your place. See, you talk-talk-talk, but your talk? It’s just all tough. You talk-talk-talked your way into the main event and then wrestled your way right out. Learned your lesson? Have you even had the time? Hardly, however, you are welcome to come test yourself. Challenge the champion and if it turns out you weren’t a good study, which something tells me may be the tale, you will learn your lessons now…by his hands, tiny as they may be.”
Dave looks down at his arms which are not at all small. He shrugs helplessly towards her. Alice laughs.
“You want to be a main eventer? A headliner? A showstopper? Then prove it: uncrown a king. This king or any king, but until then, Ashlynn? Until you do? Talk is cheap and so are you.”
“Undeniable?” With a flourish, she gestures towards the Bronx Champion. “Meet the Undefeated. The Unstoppable. For you?”
Dave holds the title into the air. Despite the dim lighting, the gold glistens and gleams through the dark.
“The Unachievable. See, he doesn’t fight for fame but for greatness: for glory. Not for himself - but for the people. The people who want to see their dreams come true before their eyes. The people who want to believe they can fly and that dinosaurs, even to this day, are real. He fights because what pounds in his chest? It's the heart of a champion and he will scrap and scratch and claw his way, each and every time, back to this title.”
Alice beckons towards herself.
“Come Ashlynn, step once more into the fold. Free yourself of the weight of your failure and challenge yourself to be.”
She searches the air for a moment.
“Better. Braver. Bolder. Beauty?” Alice shakes her head, “Beauty is only skin deep. Come!”
Her voice echoes from the stone walls that surround them.
“Show him your ugly side.”
The raft slips once more into the darkness. Cutting through the gloom, a mighty roar, enhanced by the narrow walls pours forth from Dave. It echoes and reverberates and fills the cavern that makes up the Infinite sewer until the scene fades to black.