Meet Terry. She’s a chipper little flyer who would love to scramble up onto your shoulder and nibble your ear (just a little nibble, it tickles). And could she please, pretty please have a tiny bit of that sandwich?
Heavy boots sank into the spongy soil as Pete walked up the riverbank. With a low grunt, he stepped up onto a large, twisted root of a cypress tree, and clambered out onto a gnarled root slope that jutted out over the slow moving water. He sat down slowly, careful not to squish his paper bag as he held onto the thick trunk for balance, and sat with his legs dangling over the dark green water below.
He swatted at a buzzing insect and mopped at his brow with his sleeve, but there was a smile on his mustached lips as he reached into his paper bag. He took out a sandwich wrapped in paper towels, set the paper bag in a small crevice between two twisted roots beside him, and raised the sandwich up to his mouth for a bite.
He paused. Listening.
There were all sorts of sounds in a place like this. The buzzing of insects, the calling of frogs…the splash of a turtle slipping into the water. Shrieks, squawks, and other bird-like sounds called to each other, sometimes betraying their posts with a rustle in the branches above, or in the horsetails and ferns along the bank.
Pete was looking where he heard a branch snap just above him. You never can tell when poop might rain down on your head. Or your carefully crafted club sandwich.
And there he saw it. Not a bird. Brown and white fuzzy body almost invisible in the branches and cypress needles, but he spotted that purple and orange head crest. And he saw the glint in the beedy brown eyes that watched him.
“Hey little fella,” Pete said with a chuckle. “I won’t stay long. I’ll just have my lunch and I’ll be off.” The small creature shifted its leathery wings and cocked it’s head to one side, eyeing him sideways.
Pete readjusted his sandwich and took a bite. And the creature watched.
Hints of deep red poked out between the green lettuce and brown bread. Pete readjusted his hands and poked the fixings back in as they tried to slip out the back, but drips of white mayonnaise and yellow mustard slipped through and dripped into the water. Plip. Plop. Tiny fish came up to the surface to nibble at the ripples.
Noisy flapping and a rush of air, and Pete leaned over and ducked his head.
“What?” He spluttered, as he looked sideways to see what it was. “Ah, it’s you.” The fine lines at the corners of his eyes crinkled at the sight of the orange-crested flyer. A little female, judging by the size and peachy orange of her fleshy crest. She didn’t look so little now that she was perched on a cypress knee a few feet away. She cocked her head first one way, then another, like a small lizard or bird. One brown eye fixed on the half-eaten sandwich in Pete’s hands.
“Oh, I see what you want,” said Pete, and the ends of his mustache turned up in a grin. “But I’m afraid you can’t have it. This is my sandwich you see.”
The flying creature shifted her wings, and clicked her long, thin snout a few times. Pete noticed the tiny teeth, like a fine-toothed comb. She took a step closer, her wings folded like oddly shaped front paws. Not crouched like a bat, but tall on all four legs. Without opening her narrow snout, the curious creature chirped softly. Pete laughed.
“Oh alright,” he said. “You’re quite persuasive.” He tore off a small piece of the bits hanging off the back end of the sandwhich, and tossed it towards the large, eager head.
The small creature jabbed her long snout in one quick motion, and the bite of bacon was gone before it hit the water. The creature looked around for more with small, quick movements of her head, poking the crevices in the twisted roots with her sensitive snout for hidden morsels.
Her furry chest heaved with a soft, low trill, almost like a sigh. She looked up at Pete sideways, motionless except for the expanding and contracting of her furry chest with each quick breath, and her proportionally large head, which shifted like a bird’s. She blinked.
“I’m sorry girl,” Pete said in between bites. “That’s all you get. Go run off and find some grubs now.” The little female snapped her long, thin jaws a few times, and her fluffy coat ruffled so that the fur-like feathers stood on end.
Agile as a squirrel, she jumped from the cypress knee to the gnarled root Pete sat on.
“Oh I see,” Pete grumbled, and held the last quarter of his sandwich up and away from the nosy creature. “I’ve made a mistake here. Now listen here girl, you can’t have my lunch. No go on. Go on now…”
He waved his free hand at the small creature to shoo her away, and she took a few steps back. She hissed like a cat, her thin jaws open wide so Pete could see all the tiny teeth.
Rustling from above. And Pete looked up to see more of the winged, furry creatures. Some were bigger than the hissy friend beside him, with large, bright orange crests like sails on their heads.
“Perhaps this wasn’t the best place for lunch after all,” Pete said to himself. One of the creatures scampered out of the ferns behind him, and he held his sandwich closer before it could try to snatch it out of his hand.
He wolfed down a few more bites of his sandwich, watching all the eager stares out of the corner of his eye. A few parachuted down to the ground like fuzzy paper airplanes with leathery wings, their hind paws stretched out like landing gear. Those already on the ground crept forward on the clawed paws of their folded wings.
Plip. Plop. A few drips of mayonnaise splashed on the water below, and a few of the creatures dove into the water to snap them up before the fish did. They bobbed back up to the surface, using their wings to keep their large heads above the water, and they clambered up onto the sprawling cypress roots like wet bats.
Pete sucked the mayonnaise off his fingers and grabbed the paper bag out of the crevice he’d put it in.
“All right,” he said, and he pulled his legs up onto the cypress root he sat on. He kept a hand on the thick, rough trunk as he stood.
“Let’s see what I have here…” He leaned back against the tree and reached into the paper bag. Every creature crept forward a little closer with every move he made. He kept his eyes in the bag as he rustled through it.
“Ah, here we are.” He took out a small plastic bag set inside another plastic bag. Inside it was something of varying shades of brown, and it was moving. Every winged, fuzzy creature chirped and clicked their long, pointed snouts with jittery excitement. They clung to the root at Pete’s feet, the trunk of the tree behind him, the lowest branches above him, and the closest patches of ground all around.
“Here’s what you really came for,” said Pete, and the corners of his eyes crinkled. “I did hope to save these for later, but that’s what comes of feeding you pterosaurs. Move aside a bit now. Let me get to dry land.” He picked his way carefully through the small, furry bodies, which was hard when they kept trying to clamber up his pant legs like large, winged squirrels.
Balancing on another cypress root, Pete unzipped both clear plastic bags, and took a handful of the brown, wriggling stuff. He tossed the tiny creatures onto the ground a little further away from the root he stood on, and immediately the winged pterosaurs swarmed the small, wriggling things on the ground.
Pete chuckled as long, thin snouts jabbed this way and that, their sail-like crests bobbing and wiggling in the frenzy. Pete took his chance to step out onto the mossy soil, and away from the sloped edge of the riverbank.
“There you are,” he said fondly, and he tossed another handful of wriggling grubs and worms onto the ground. “Now you can have your treat.”
One of the pterosaurs jumped up with one big push of her strong wings, and fluttered onto Pete’s arm. It was the little female who had the bacon snack, and she was surprisingly light for her size. Her claws dug into his shoulder as she struggled to stay on.
“Ouch!” Pete laughed and helped steady her on his shoulder. “Terry, you cheeky girl. Here you are.” He grabbed a few grubs out of the plastic bag and held his hand flat. With a few quick jabs of Terry’s thin snout, there was nothing left on Pete’s palm but the crumbles of soil that had clung to the grubs.
“Tasty little morsels,” Pete said, his nose wrinkled in a grimace for an instant before his mustache curled into a smile again. Terry nuzzled her snout at his ear, and he laughed. He took the plastic bag and shook it upside down, scattering the worms and grubs in a wide circle. Terry jumped down from his shoulder and landed neatly on all fours to join the other bobbing heads.
“There you go,” Pete said as he dusted the soil from his hands. “Just a bite for all you lot. I’d best get back to the shop now.”
He carefully stepped through the large circle of bobbing heads, paper and plastic bags in hand, and he whistled as he walked back down the riverbank.
Little Steggy is done! Unfortunately two spikes on her thagomizer broke off when I knocked her over while spray-painting. A very bad spray-paint I might add.
She’d already had a coat of the stuff, and the spray paint must’ve made the spikes harder.
Because they had a little bend to them before, and I didn’t have to be quite so delicate.
So I’ll need to find some glue to glue one back on, and make the second replacement. It’s so tiny it got lost, even though I saw where it fell. 😦
I need to learn how to spray-paint things properly, because poor Steggy got all sorts of goopy stuff since I put it on too thick. But hey, learning experience. 🙂 I’m just glad she’s done, and that I can move on to the next step.
Just for size comparison, here she is next to a friend, the Safari Ltd. stegosaurus. They’re just the right size against each other that you could say that my little Steggy is Stegosaurus stenops, and the Safari model is Stegosaurus ungulatus. Steggy is, in fact, a domestic breed of the smaller Stegosaurus stenops.
Yesterday was a lovely day to have a picnic down by the river, so I was able to get all the river rock and gravel I needed for Steggy’s little habitat. Hopefully that’ll be all done by next week! Then I’ll just need my people and the elevator for my diorama, and it’s on to photos so I can start drawing!
Coming Next Week…
This giant likes to bask in warm, sunny waters. He’d be super easy to care for if only the tank didn’t need to be the size of the Mediterranean…