The Raptor Snatchers
by Rachael K. Jones
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Dad said you can't buy friends, but that's not always true, because I bought my best
friend Zilla with my tenth birthday money. She didn't cost much because velociraptors were
pests, which meant there were too many of them in Absence, and nobody liked them. Rooster's
Rescue was overflowing with raptors.
Zilla was real funny-looking. About half her brown crest feathers had fallen out, and
underneath her skin was bright pink, my favorite color. At the rescue, she'd squeezed out of her
pen to chase a kitten up Mr. Rooster's trouser leg. Mr. Rooster lassoed a cord tight around
Zilla's neck and forced her back into her cage. She looked so sad, like Godzilla in movies Dad
watched, getting shot by airplanes when he just wanted to be left alone, so I picked her and
named her Zilla.
The vet gave me a big tub of slimy white cream that smelled like Grandpa and made my
fingers tingle. I had to rub it on her pink patches once a day. Zilla hated it. She nipped my hand,
but not hard. Zilla had sharp little teeth and a huge, hooked claw on each arm we had to trim
every month. Dad told me she was a carnivore, which means she eats meat, and way back in
dinosaur times velociraptors used to be apex predators, which means huge bullies that eat
anything they want.
We got a lot of stray raptors in Absence. They were indigenous--that means they were
from around here, even before the first settlers, and that's how they saved the lives of Mae Beth
Harris and Old Jim the Presbyterian and the rest, because otherwise the Founders were going
to eat each other. I asked my teacher if people are carnivores too, and he said yes, except
there's another word for it when it's people eating people, but I forgot the word.
Everyone but me hated raptors. They got in people's trash cans at night, and sometimes
they ate people's dogs. We kept Zilla well-fed on raptor chow, which Mom got from the grocery
store. I leaned against the glass barrier while she ordered from the woman behind the butcher
counter. There were meat patties shaped into burgers in the little fridge below, and I poked my
initials into one--AJH for Amy Jo Harris--until Mom made me stop.
"Is this what Zilla eats?" I asked.
Mom said nuh-uh and then showed me where the butcher fed slimy purple strings into a
funnel. "Hamburger is too expensive for animals. We're feeding Zilla organ meat."