Sand in hair, mouth, eyes and nose.
“Why don’t you go back to your own country, towel head?”
“I was born in Pennsylvania!”
They don’t listen to him. The big boy attacking him, Jeremy, is looking back at his posse, making sure they laugh before he joins in.
“Amir is a queer! Amir is a queer!” They chant.
Amir’s cheeks burn. He hurries to his feet, brushing sand from his clothes as best he can. He’s going to be uncomfortable for a while, but that’s nothing compared to what Jeremy has coming to him. If the other boy is surprised at his quick recovery, he doesn’t show it. He simply levels another punch, sending Amir crashing back into the sand.
“My daddy is over in the desert right now kicking all your towel head brother’s asses!”
Oh, he is an ugly boy. Amir struggles to his feet. His friends Bill (William to his mother and father) and Ted sit a little far off on a bench, watching Amir with a raised eyebrow. They won’t help Amir. They wouldn’t do that to his friend’s pride.
“My dad is in the same unit as your dad, asshole!”
It’s true. Amir’s dad, Abd Al-Karim, serves with the 101st Airborne as a translator. Right next to First Lieutenant William Scott, Jeremy’s dad. The two are friends. Their mothers share recipes and have “girl’s days” on Saturday nights. Amir is even in love with Jeremy’s sister Rebecca, though he would never say anything about it. To anyone.
“Pfft. Whatever, towel head.”
Amir gets to his feet, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth. A few teeth wiggle precariously in his gums.
He turns around, bunching his hands into fists. Yes, he’s a Muslim. His whole family is. They blended the Koran and Christianity because his grandfather is a priest and doesn’t hold grudges. Amir watches Boris Karloff, Humphrey Bogart, Eddy Izzard, and Disney movies because he has the right to do so. His dad signed up for the Army when he was eighteen and married his American mother Julia because they were in love. He doesn’t treat her rotten, he worships her and Amir’s baby sister Aleena. His anger builds. Tears come to his eyes.
“Aw look everybody, Amir the queer is crying!”
“That’s it!” He screams, tearing his backpack from his shoulders. The zipper, rusty on a good day, falls open.
Bill speaks for the first time, headphones complete with microphone appearing over his ears. His voice reverberates through the air. “Well, Ted it looks the the gauntlet has been thrown. It’s a challenge that took longer than any of us expected.”
“You’re right, Bill. It’s a wonder Amir has lasted this long!”
Bob looks at his twin and nods. “Right you are, let’s see what happens.”
Amir pulls out a remote control, slamming his thumb on the single button. The small crowd separates. Steam hisses from somewhere in the trees.
The ground shakes. Sand ripples. A roar sounds. Steam hisses again. The trees fall to the side as the hulking metal thing between them shudders to a halt.
“Oh shit,” Jeremy moans feeling a warm liquid slide down his legs.
A metal tyrannosaurus stares down at him with burning eyes and gleaming teeth.
“Let’s settle this, old school!” Amir yells, climbing up its leg and into the cockpit. Strapping himself in, he grabs hold of joystick controls. “Ready?”
Jeremy’s fright turns into lofty self-assurance. “Oh, look, a tyrannosaur. You think you can beat me? You think you can beat an army of velociraptors?!”
“Ooh. A new challenge Ted.”
“That’s right Bill. Question is, can the tyrannosaur hold up against the velociraptor? Science has proven they’re smarter and faster than the bigger meat eater.”
“And apparently they’re electric.”
“The steam-dinosaur is going to have a real hard time here, Ted.”
“You’re right, Bill. Let’s watch.”
The twin boys jerk on the bench.
“No kidding Bill! The tyrannosaur has taken a nasty bite to the leg. Steam is hissing everywhere!”
Fog quickly obscures the battle. The boys scramble for a closer look, planting themselves in the middle of the sandbox, waving frantically to clear the white cloud in front of them.
“He’s crippled! The velociraptors are on him, teeth champing! Those little arms aren’t doing him any good here, Bill!”
A velociraptor is thrown, screaming, into a nearby tree, breaking in half. Electric wires sizzle and screech. Its occupant runs out holding his useless arm. An explosion rocks the park. Bill and Ted stare in amazement.
“What a throw!”
“There’s something to be said for that tail-”
Doppler snaps Bill’s head back to the battle. A shadow appears from nowhere.
Bill rushes into Ted, throwing him bodily outside the sandbox. He hunkers down as another velociraptor meets tree trunk.
“Only two more, Bill!”
“Right you are, Ted!”
The tyrannosaur roars again. Two velociraptors stand in its way. One lunges, claws bared, mouth full of sharp teeth hissing violently. T-rex deflects the blow, turning sideways and lashing out with its tail. The velociraptor goes flying back, skidding against the ground, creating a deep crater all the way to the sandbox.
“And he’s down for the count! Only one left, Ted!”
“Right you are, Bill! It’s a one on one face-off between the tyrannosaur and the velociraptor. To say that these two haven’t been waiting for this moment is like saying the world isn’t going to end on January one two thousand twelve!”
“And there he goes! With one mighty blow, the velociraptor is down! No, he’s back up again! Wait, T-rex has bitten a chunk out of its chest! The fight is over! It is over ladies and gentlemen! Amir in the steam tyrannosaur has won!”
“What does that say about technology, Ted?”
Amir stares down at Jeremy. From the cockpit, he throws down a soft, white towel, a smirk on his lips.