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The Secret of Dinosaurs

April 23, 2010

She knew the secret of dinosaurs.

They’d never really disappeared. They lived in her backyard, by the tire swing, under the arms of the family oak tree.

They made her promise not to tell, and in return she became their special guardian, the goddess who ushered them into the next world. To ensure their voyage, she practiced a secret rite in front of the two-inch deep hole she’d dug at the edge of the woods. She uncovered the hole camouflaged with pine straw (stolen from her mom’s shrubbery) and placed a tiny black body in the center, framed by broken saltines. Then she spun around seven times.

The first time she did it, she finished her spin and found a full-sized T. Rex. She screamed. Then it opened its mouth. “Thank you,” it said, then disappeared, its form outlined in smoke. She was never scared again.

“Everyone knows ants don’t have souls and they certainly don’t go to heaven,” the preacher said with a scowl when she’d asked one Sunday after church. Then he stepped on three of them (she counted) without even looking down. “I think you should be more worried about your own soul,” he said and laughed.

She worried. If ants didn’t have souls, then dinosaurs didn’t have souls, either, because dinosaurs secretly survived in the world as ants. How big did you have to be to have a soul, she wondered. And where did the dead bodies go that she brought to the hole? God must not like ants—or dinosaurs for that matter. He didn’t give them souls.

She performed the rites anyway. She knew dinosaurs went to heaven. They’d told her.

One day her mom caught her spinning. “What on earth are you doing? You don’t want to fall.”

She stopped, worried about what happened if she didn’t do all seven spins in a row. She’d only been on number five.

“It’s time to eat.”

“In a minute.”

She turned back towards the hole. What should she do now? Start over?

A voice behind her said, “Just finish the spins. It’ll be fine.”

She spun two more times and a Brontosaurus appeared. “Thank you, my dear,” it said and vanished.

She remembered the voice. “Who are you? Are you a dinosaur?”

It laughed. “Sometimes I’m a dinosaur, sometimes I’m an ant, and sometimes I roar and sway tree limbs. But mostly I am that which remembers.”

“Remembers what?”

Before her appeared the image of the three ants dead on the pavement at church.

“Oh.” Her heart hurt.

“I remember everything that is and ever was or ever will be.”

It was as if time played backwards. The ants got up and walked around. Then, in the background, dinosaurs appeared.

“I ask you one thing.”

“What is it?”

“To always remember.”

“But how do I do that?”

The voice didn’t answer.

The next day, as she spun, she felt the answer in her heart.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2010 12:01 pm

    Highly random, very creative, and lots of fun — I can remember dreaming up things like she does when I was little.

    • April 23, 2010 9:51 pm

      I know–and I love how random the connections kids make can be–but I think there’s also wisdom in that very randomness at times…

  2. April 23, 2010 12:44 pm

    Your story may have been late, but so glad it came. Just charming tale of a little girl learning the truths of the bigger world.


    • April 23, 2010 9:53 pm

      Thanks, Marisa. I’m glad I wrote it, too. Better late than never! And yes, I think she’s learning truths on many levels… 🙂

  3. yearzerowriters permalink
    April 23, 2010 2:17 pm

    This is such a wonderful voice. So often writers try and offer up the magical world of a child’s imagination and fall flat on their faces. But this rang so authentic. Lovely stuff.

    marc nash

    • April 23, 2010 9:54 pm

      I already said it, but thanks again, Marc. You never quite know if it’s going to work. 🙂

  4. April 23, 2010 8:00 pm

    This is beautiful. It makes my heart sing. “I am that which remembers.” I got chills.

    Simply excellent.

    • April 23, 2010 9:55 pm

      Thank you so much. “I am that which remembers” just came as a line and I love it, too. I felt I learned along with the little girl in the story…

  5. April 23, 2010 10:33 pm

    Reminds me of the dragons I’ve heard of, of elder Chinese mythology. Dinosaur sounds so much more kind, and perhaps somehow less mysterious than dragon, though certainly mysterious in its own

    • April 23, 2010 10:53 pm

      I was just thinking something similar today because in the past I’d written about dragons or done visual poems with them–at least three times. And the dinosaur in this felt like it took the place of the dragon in at least one way I’d been thinking of them (perhaps in my last story)–and I felt that that made it kinder and less scary, too. (Although I have to say, when I was looking for images of dinosaurs for the post so many were scary-looking and not kind at all–and not seeming to show the intelligence I associate with mythical dragons.) Still, dinosaur does seem kinder, more “approachable”…I want to think about this more. Thanks!

  6. April 23, 2010 11:46 pm

    Whimsical, charming, magic through the eyes of a questioning little girl. Like a breath of fresh air. Delicious!

  7. April 24, 2010 12:00 am

    How incredibly refreshing and youthful. It makes me ache for those times… when all I did was imagine and pretend.

    Being grown up is lame.

    • April 27, 2010 10:00 am

      lol! being grown up is lame so many times! i think i take retreats into imagining and pretending…when i’m supposed to be doing something ‘grown up’ like washing the dishes…or paying the bills!

  8. April 24, 2010 1:37 am

    Refreshing–that was a good description of how this piece read. Ants into dinosaurs, so random, but so right somehow. Credible voice throughout.

    • April 28, 2010 1:36 pm

      Thanks! Voice is something I’ve wanted to become better at capturing. I’m glad it worked! And I know–ants to dinosaurs–sooooo random, but it felt “right” to me, too. 🙂

  9. lauraeno permalink
    April 24, 2010 8:09 am

    I loved this! It had everything – laughter, sadness, magic, hope.

  10. April 24, 2010 5:41 pm

    Charming flash, loved this feeling, looking through the little girl’s eyes!
    You’ve captured her voice perfectly 🙂

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