Diaulus

By
More by this author
Dinosaurs had big teeth. They had claws. Their skin was rough, like a snake. Some of them walked on two legs, or four legs, or even flew. Some of them ate only plants. Some of them ate other dinosaurs. Real dinosaurs weren’t made of plastic.
Dinosaurs had strange names: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Megalosaurus, Pteranodon. His dinosaurs were plastic. Real dinosaurs were much bigger. He would make them fight each other. Or make the big ones eat the little ones. Some of them were so big that the other dinosaurs couldn’t eat them. His favorite was the Stegosaurus, and so that dinosaur never got eaten, even by the bigger dinosaurs. But it was pretend. Real dinosaurs were bones in museums. All the dinosaurs died.
Then after the dinosaurs died, they lost their skin and their eyes and their brains and their insides and turned to only bones. Bones deep inside the ground. If you found a dinosaur, you could dig it up and all its bones would be in the right places, still in the shape of the dinosaur.
At school, the teacher asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. Paleontologist. That word felt good. It was a big word, but it wasn’t hard to say, if you said it slowly. Paleontologists dug up dinosaurs. Just from looking at the bones they knew what kind of food the dinosaur ate. They knew how old it was and how long it had been in the ground. Then they put the bones in museums so that people could see them.
Except nobody else knew how to say Paleontologist.

When he entered the room, he was confronted with the distinct stench of formaldehyde. It was a sweet, sickening smell that made him feel as though it was embalming him just by inhaling it. He took the tray, the scalpels, the labelless diagram, the frog. He placed the specimen on the tray, belly-up, eagle-spread, its arms and legs splayed, and ran pins through each of its feet to hold it in place. Not that it was going anywhere. The thumbs of the frog’s front feet were long and thin; it was a female.
He slid his scalpel into the frog, near the head and coaxed a slit down its belly. Then he made parallel cuts perpendicular to the first, and carefully opened the chest cavity of the frog.
Slowly, he began identifying the internal organs: the heart, the lungs, the intestines, the kidneys, the little slivers of brain running along the insides of the frog’s eye sockets.
With careful, precise movements, he began peeling back more skin, removing organs, cutting tendons, slowly stripping everything away to reveal a clean, cream-colored skeleton. He began labeling the parts on the drawing he had been given. Scapula, Vertebrae, Humerus, Sacrum, Femur, Astragalus.
When he had filled in all of the blanks, he became aware of a strange sense of surprise. He had somehow felt as though something should have been missing, as though his skeleton shouldn’t have matched up with the picture.
But it was perfect. Everything was perfect.

He almost dozed off in the elevator. The steady upward movement and the even click of the elevator as it went from floor to floor made it almost impossible not to succumb to the total exhaustion that filled him. He had been awake for over twenty-four hours. He didn’t know how many times he’d cursed himself for wanting to be a doctor: med school had all but buried him in debt, and now he felt as though his body wasn't going last the night, much less the residency.
He realized as the doors slid shut behind him that he had stumbled out of the elevator onto the floor one below his own. His clouded mind ordered his feet up a flight of stairs.
He didn’t sleep in his bed anymore; he only ever made it as far as the couch.
He felt his body hit the cushions, the springs that were fighting to break through the thinning, coral-colored upholstery digging into his body.
He always dreamt after a shift. He had never grown used to these dreams—they managed to terrify him every time. He had come to expect them, but his heart was pounding every time he woke up from one.
He always felt like he was falling through pink clouds that smelled like hospital soap. He was falling and trying to perform a surgery. There was a tumor in his chest and he had to remove it himself. He never felt the pain, and he wasn’t frightened of cutting himself open. But once he had his torso folded open like a book, something was always wrong. His intestines were tangled. His liver was missing. His lungs were upside down. And regardless of everything else, he could never find the tumor. And he would know that it was hopeless, that there was nothing he could do. So he would ponder and stare at his gleaming ribs, futilely protecting his faulty organs and the evasive, malignant tumor.
Usually in falling dreams, you hit the ground and wake up. But his dream usually just faded away, without an ending, still falling.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback