The OH&S orientation went on even longer than expected, as Thag had somehow found six additional points to cover. Due this, June missed her meeting with Captain Pete and with it her chance of finally seeing one of her beloved trilobite. Disappointed, she decamped for lunch to the nearest café. This turned out to be surprisingly hip little place at the South Hertling Super Centre, just across the road. There she drowned her disappointment in a latte and a chicken Caesar wrap, which both seemed too good for a little coffee shop wedged in between two carpet shops and across the way from three more carpet shops.
“Hey, hi,” said a greasy looking young woman from the next table. “Are you working at the new place? The Park, I mean?”
“Yes?” June said, suspicious.
“Dude! I thought I saw you there! I was getting my orientation too. I’m the new manager of the Trilobite Park café, and I am like, whoa!”
June looked the stranger up and down. She was a skinny young woman of perhaps eighteen, pale, and acne ridden. She wore a t-shirt advertising a band that either had a very difficult to pronounce German name or else a lot of random umlauts.
“You’re the manager?” June said. “You seem a little young. And inexperienced. And greasy. And frankly kind of stupid.”
“Oh, that,” the greasy girl grinned. “I lied about my age. And experience, qualifications, intelligence, general cleanliness levels, punctuality, spelling…”
“So when Trilobite Park opens in a week’s time, you’re going to have a job that you’ve got no idea how to perform?”
“Eh, I’ll wing it. How hard can it be?”
June made a mental note to try to avoid the food at the Trilobite Park food concession.
“So what do you do?” the girl asked, wiping her nose on the back of her hand.
“Me? Education officer. You know, look after the school groups, things like that.”
“I never got to go on excursions. Not after that time we went to the zoo…”
“…And you did something horrible involving lunches? Something that would make me trust you even less where it comes to food safety?”
“Yeah! Wow, you must be really smart. I guess that’s why you’re the education chick, and whatever.”
June shook her head, and mentally downgraded Park food from ‘try to avoid’ to ‘never, never, never.’ Or at least ‘never’ until this young woman got fired, which she gave about a week.
“I’m June Kim,” June said.
“And what’s your name?” June asked through gritted teeth. “I mean, I can’t just say ‘hey, you’ when I see you, ha ha.”
“Hayley Ewen,” the girl said. “But my friends call me Hay Ew.”
June bit her lip, took a deep breath, and counted to ten.
“So I figure my job will be pretty easy, but you’ve got a tough one,” Hay continued. “Trying to get kids to be interested in trilobites ‘n’ stuff.”
June felt a huge, smug grin spread across her face. “Oh, I don’t think so. Kids love trilobites.”
“I think you’re thinking of dinosaurs, my girl. Kids love dinosaurs.”
“Not as much as they like trilobites.”
“Much, much more than trilobites,” Hay said. “Like, a lot more.”
“Well, I loved trilobites when I was a kid!”
Hay gave a fake sounding cough that sounded suspiciously like the word ‘nerd’. As she coughed, the beetroot slid out of her hamburger onto the café floor. Hay picked it up, shrugged, and popped it in her mouth. “Ugh! Beetroot!” she complained as she chewed.
But June didn’t even have the will to be disgusted. All she could think of was the hope that Hay was wrong and there were some kids dorky enough to love trilobites.
Not far away, at Local High School* a meeting was underway. It took place in a small room in the school library, a little area with a table, some electric lights and the standard-issue random poster. The poster showed a cricketer hitting a ball into a bookshelf with the slogan ‘Howzat! Don’t get caught out, illiterate,’ whereas the meeting was between the three members of the Local High School Paleontology club. They only had a few minutes left to finish their meeting before handing the room over to the Dungeons and Dragons society. Granted, all of the Paleo students would be staying when the D&D club started, but it was the principle of the thing.
Blake Cardigan — club president/seventh level ranger — was about to screw up so bad the the D&D game wouldn’t start on time. Blake had an exciting item to discuss, and he’d left it until last because that’s what they always do on TV. He was about to discover why, in real life, people generally do the interesting bits of meetings first.
“Next item on the agenda – Trilobite Park!” he said. “I think it’s important that the Paleontology club should be right there on opening day. To show the flag, as it were.”
As it were! So grown up. But his feeling of triumph only lasted a moment before the expected complaint…
“Point of order!” said Juraj, the club treasurer.
“What now?” Blake sighed.
Juraj screwed up his face and licked his braces before continuing. “We are the Paleontology Club. Paleontology is about extinct animals. Trilobite Park has brought trilobites back from extinction. Conclusion, trilobites now fall outside our purview, ow!”
The ‘ow’ was triggered by a pencil that the club secretary, Daisy, had thrown at his head.
“O’ course we’re goin’,” she said. “Openin’ day, yeah? Those morons at the Park don’t give no tickets to the only school paleontology society in Sydney, they’re gonna get some of this, amiright?”
Blake turned his head so as not to see the gesture that Daisy made alongside her threat. Daisy confused him terribly – more than most girls, even. She had the face of an angel, the brain of a scientist, and the heart, soul and vocabulary of a stereotypical 1950s New York cabbie. She flicked as many of Blake’s ‘run-and-hide’ switches as she did his ‘stare-and-say-something-awkward’ reflexes.
“You’re basically right,” Blake said. “I’ve already written to the Park management, and they sent us a dozen tickets. I forgot to mention that there were only three of us. Guess they thought we were popular.”
“I got their popularity right here!”
“That’s nice, Daisy,” Juraj said, quickly. “And I agree we should go.”
“Then what’s the problem?” Blake said.
“We can’t go as the club,” Juraj said. “Because it’s not paleontology. Not really. But we can go as private citizens.”
“I’m pretty sure club members are private…”
“You know what I mean. We can go, just not as a club.”
“You want us to go separately?”
“No, I want us to go together, but not as a club.”
“But unofficially together.”
“How would anyone tell the difference?”
“Well, we’d know.”
Daisy rubbed her face like she was trying to squash her nose into her skull. “Okay, you wingding: the opening is on a school day, capice? So either we go as a club, or there’s no way they’ll let us out of class, yergetme?”
Blake sighed. “All in favour of just doing what I said, like, ten minutes ago?”
His hand went up, followed by Daisy’s. Daisy glared hard at Juraj until his hand went up, too. “Carried unanimously.”
“And maybe these spare tickets could help us get some new members?” Blake said.
“I dunno,” Daisy said. “What if some new dweebs come along, but get bored? Or worse, what if something goes wrong and they gets hurt?”
Blake and Juraj both laughed. “Come on Daisy,” Blake said. “What do you think the odds are of that happening?”
“Somewhere in the range of one in…” Juraj began.
“Never tell me the odds!” Blake said.
“But you just said…”
The door opened, revealing a pasty young man with a barely visible moustache. “Hurry up, you guyth!” he said. “Or you all get a minuth two on thaving throws.”
* Local High School is named after Sir Robert Local, inventor of the self-sealing envelope. It is also local to the South Hertling area.