THE TRACHODON BLUES
Everyone knew Jerry Travis was an odd duck. After all, how many 32-year-old handymen went around town in a dinosaur costume? Jerry wore the body suit to all his house calls. He would fix leaky toilets, build outdoor decks, clean out roof gutters—no job was too small or too dirty.
The costume was not part of a promo or the product of a lost bet. Yes, Jerry loved to study dinosaurs, but that's not why he wore the outfit or put up with titters and belly laughs when people saw him riding his bicycle to his next job.
Jerry wore the outfit because, in his soul, he was a dinosaur. A certain prehistoric creature: Trachodon, a duck-billed creature with webbed feet. A plant-eater who roamed North America more than 70 million years ago. A dinosaur whose Trachodon genus name is dated and is not used by paleontologists anymore. Simply tossed aside and forgotten.
Yes, the handyman was a living, breathing Trachodon. There were physical similarities. Jerry had a large, sloping nose; as a child he endured taunts of "ski nose" and "Donald Duck." At least now the big beak atop his costume dwarfed his nose. Also, Trachodon means "rough tooth," and Jerry sported a chipped front tooth from a car crash.
And like a Trachodon, Jerry was a vegetarian. A couple of ALT (avocado-lettuce-tomato) sandwiches were on the lunch menu today. They were in a brown bag stowed next to some tools in his bicycle saddlebags.
But this morning, as he pedaled to Mrs. Bernice's house to fix a dripping faucet, Jerry's mind was on one thing: a DNA genealogy test showing that the father he knew briefly was not his father. Jerry got the results two days ago, and he could not stop thinking about all the lies his mother told him about his "wonderful dad" who "had to leave the family to find work" when Jerry was a toddler. Mom passed away five years ago after an overdose...and after her only son began learning about her promiscuous, drug-laced past.
Jerry's doubts scarred his psyche. Was his last name really Travis? Was his moniker dated, something to be tossed aside like Trachodon? It had been more than four years since Jerry doubted himself as deeply. That was when he received a second DUI after his wife of two months cleaned out his bank account and left him forever.
To this day Jerry does not know precisely what saved him from the verge of extinction then. He prayed. He got sober. And when the court took away Jerry's motor vehicle license in the drunken-driving case, Uncle Dan bought him a bicycle to ride to his handyman jobs.
Jerry is simply glad that his mother's brother took an early interest in him and his love of dinosaurs. Dan would mail his shy nephew occasional gifts, from toys to archaeology kits. However, the bicycle was completely unexpected. So was Uncle Dan's death from a heart attack two weeks later, and another package that arrived in the mail the next day. Jerry was dumbfounded when he opened the box. What was Uncle Dan thinking when he sent a kids' dinosaur costume, albeit adult-size, to a 28-year-old man? Grief and indignation overwhelmed Jerry, and he shoved the gift box to a corner of his bedroom. For three weeks it sat there.
But the grief would not go away, and one day that and a customer's fixit complaint drove Jerry to pull the costume from the box. It was indeed a Trachodon. From the moment he tried on the body suit, Jerry experienced warmth and a never-before-felt sense of belonging, bordering on confidence.
And the costume became part of Jerry Travis. He knew it would help him through another rough patch.
"Let them laugh," Jerry said of his detractors. "At least I know I'm wearing a costume."