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by Colin Watts

I was fixing a radiator in this rich guy’s “creation lab”. It stank of detergent and rubbing alcohol, a sure sign he was into DNA extraction. He was old school tie, jowls and a paunch.

“Melchett-Mellors,” he said.

“Firm Hand Joe,” I said. We shook. He winced.

On a stainless steel bench lay a copy of Reptiles Made Easy, beside it a stuffed platypus.

“Thirty million years,” said Melchett-Mellors, “and that little fella still can’t decide whether it’s fish or fowl. Three weeks from now I’ll have the answer. It will breathe; it will fly; it will be hungry. And it will breed.”

“I could do that,” I said.

“Competition,” he said. “Jolly good!” He pointed to a distant tree. “It must breathe and it must fly. First one from that oak to the house. Fifty K. Month from now.”

We drew up a contract, signed and shook hands; mine was shaking already. There goes the house. I took out a dodgy loan on the business. M-M made a quick transfer. We lodged our monies in a neutral bank.

It’s amazing what you can do in a shed with stop ends and elbows, pliers and a blow torch; a few tubes of super-glue and assorted skin, bones and feathers. Plus, of course, some avian DNA and a few strands of your own.

***

A month on and we’re at the oak. M-M’s Titan has the head of an alligator, the body of a pit-bull and the wings of an eagle. My DIYDNA (Dyna for short) is basically a rat with pigeon’s wings. Titan sniffs and strains at his leash. Dyna yawns and scratches. It’s looking like Dyna might become dinner.

At the signal Titan takes off with a snarl, but Dyna, bless her little rat legs, leaps onto his back; claws for spurs; teeth at his neck. Titan bucks and weaves, but Dyna clings on. We follow on M-Ms’ golf buggy. He’s beetroot and farting with excitement. “Tally Ho!, Titan! Tally Ho!”

Yards from the house, Titan rears up, set to nudge the wall. Dyna heaves him through ninety degrees, rat teeth still locked into his scaly neck. She leaps off and crashes backwards against the wall, wings splayed in triumph, teeth bared in a victory grimace. There is the crackle of sparks and the smell of burning feathers. In a clatter of copper, she slumps to the ground with a whimper.

Squat on his pit-bull legs, Titan sniffs, jaws clacking. He’s hungry; he wants fat. Fortunately M-M has indeed given him the equipment to breed. I grab one of his titanic testicles and manoeuvre him towards M-M, his roar rising to falsetto, his alligator eyes streaming. Hauling our contract from my back pocket I hand it to Melchett-Mellors.

I am very calm. I see a loft conversion and a back extension. I see a new Mercedes van. I see the love-look in Sharon’s eyes. “Sign this,” I say to M-M. “Sign this or you’re packed lunch.”


Colin is seventy-two, married, with grown up children, and has lived in Liverpool for many years. Publications include two poetry collections — Human Geography and Taking Down the Tree House — and various short stories, including Quiet Coach, The Weight of Dunlins and Kissing the Water. He has had plays performed in and around Liverpool, including Real Dreams, Snoopers and She-He. He cycles everywhere, cultivates a quarter of an allotment, is a long-standing member of the Dead Good Poets Society and co-runs a regular Story Night at the Bluecoat Arts Centre.

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