called on account of dinosaurs
said the telephone. "Amtrak is still experiencing trackage
issues in the following areas: Portland Metro. Medford. Outlying
"Meep!" I screamed. "Would you give me five minutes,
I set the faux-old-timey brass receiver back down in its forked
cradle and carefully detached my cat Meep's claws from where they
hung in the skin of my back like one of those piercing freaks that
swings on hooks from bungee cords in front of a camera. My baggy
work shirt was showing several more holes.
Every animal in Portland had been flipping out since the first
outbreaks, a month or so ago. And all of them were now apparently
out to mess up my day.
The Compsognathus yearling multitudes tripping over their snake-like
necks up and down the fire escape of my building sounded like a
herd of turtles. After the second outbreak, the Compys had invaded
the recycling bins downstairs, breaking most of the returnable bottles
while looking for the last dreg or two of Carlsberg or St. Pauli
Girl. What an utterly counterproductive breed.
But now they skittered over the fire escape like nobody's business.
Their three-toed feet clanged and bonked on the metal struts of
the painted 1920s idea of safety. A lot of them were almost falling
off, catching and holding with their sewing-machine teeth, then
swinging back up with a snap of the neck that made them look like
little chameleon yo-yos.
It made me really stop and watch, as so many things about them
and all their kind did. What had we forgotten to learn from the
lizards? Some of the knowledge might be recoverable, but for now
we were all treated in actual fact to the idea that they had died
out for one reason: Two major strains of hostile parasite could
not exist on planet Earth.
Any way around, Meep was going absolutely ape. His black-and-white
tuxedo of longhaired fur was streaked with dust from jumping at
the cobwebbed upper corners of our windows. I couldn't really blame
him for going nuts at what he saw outside the window by the couch.
But if I relented to my permissive instincts and let Meep out to
lay waste ... the Compys would gang up on him like Gulliver, and
then it would be a slaughterhouse. Sam Raimi-style. Funk dat. Meep
was an indoor cat to stay, at least as long as I had anything to
Anarchy hadn't taken long, I reflected, sipping my coffee and trying
to chisel from my eyes the bloodshot rheum of too many five a.m.'s
lately, woken up with too much needing to be done. Things had been
pretty wacky the past couple of weeks.
Soon enough, the humdrum would click back onto its relentless track.
Soon enough, the government and the press would pick up right where
they'd left off in the mad rush of blame-game ratings sweeps.
But now ... what was actually going on down at the street was kind
of nice. Because it showed me the way things really were, with no
more masks. If only for a short while.
I had covered most of the upper windows with newspaper. You might
say it was a line-of-sight issue. I learned it from the radio news.
Kat's heavy stage-curtain had been pulled back from the wall of
windows a bit. Lower down, above the tangled green-brown living
sculpture of Compys running up and down the fire escape like obnoxious
little kids, the first visible article, opaque in the gray-translucent
storm light, always drew my eye when I was sitting on the couch.
It was from the Oregonian, the second week in September, and accompanied
by a color photo of our Republican Senator, Gordon Smith, grinning
an oleaginous grin into the cameras (looking, for all the world,
like a sick old Dylan Baker in that movie about the pedophile psychiatrist).
Yet even in the wake of repeated protests in Salem, Portland and
Eugene, Smith was still standing behind the bounty system, which
is being paid for from the recent 68-cent tax increase on cigarettes.
"The Army and National Guard will be supervising this,"
Smith stated at a hastily convened press
conference on Sunday. "Every dead predatory reptile will be
paid for by the ton. Our farmers and ranchers, the lifeblood of
rural Oregon, cannot for one second suffer these attacks if we are
to maintain our agricultural base."
Ha. In other words, park the guns of the population behind the
old money. Smart. I had to give him that. He'd read his Machiavelli,
apparently. Farther down the page, I had to smile.
"Sen. Ron Wyden could not be reached for comment. Wyden's
latest attempt to ease the morale of his constituency has been to
ram through the now-famous grocery-voucher system. Wyden has supervised
National Guard security for all grocery stores left abandoned in
the wake of the outbreak."
Wyden' s initial speech that day began: "Oregon's poverty
and homelessness rates are embarrassing enough as they are. My fellow
Oregonians, we cannot let our elderly and disabled starve in their
SRO hotel rooms while stores full of food rot in the noonday sun.
Vouchers may be obtained at any local social service agency or YMCA.
In rural areas, they are obtainable at any grange hall, post office
or convenience store."
Of course, I had gone through the roof when I read that, and it
had been gourmet French cheese and New York steaks for a long time
which only added to the absolute surrealism of that time
in my life.
The Army and the Guard maintained no more than a token presence
in Portland. There were a few garrisons, and mostly what they were
doing entailed propaganda missions to futilely convince Portlanders
that Oregon was not now, nor would ever be, the independent republic
that it sure seemed like nowadays.
Looking out the window and sighing, I reached for the fat joint
that had been smoldering in the ashtray but had gone out. Meep had
knocked my lighter to the floor when he hopped up on the end table
by the window.
Being constantly stoned really helped to get a handle on the essential
weirdness of living in an urban
version of the old "Land of the Lost" show every time
I left my apartment.
I glanced, not quite idly, at the sawed-off pawnshop pump shotgun
I'd leaned on the wall by the door after the last dying raptor had
figured out how to jimmy the locks on the front door of our building.
The shotgun sat atop 10 boxes of shells, and an orange receipt-tag
stamped: "H&B LOAN. $50/pd. BACKGROUND CHECK: [OVERRIDE/NA]."
I had half a mind to go out and fire off a warning shot to get
the Compys off the fire escape. But there was no one on the street.
They weren't hurting anything. Still, though, they were predatory
and would bear watching this afternoon.
The Compys were among the few and the proud of their type. Most
of the larger predators had died out first.
Among the herbivores, the Stegosaurs were still out in force, but
they were just funny. They acted like giant cattle, moving in great
stompy herds along the waterfront.
I remembered the last time I had gone out on a run for provisions.
My way had not been blocked by any of the lizards, which was a rarity.
Exiting my building, seeing my breath for the first time that fall
and watching the leaves swirl in the burnt-smelling October wind
I had walked down to the waterfront through Lovejoy Village, past
Hot Pot City, now cold and dark, with no more good Chinese seafood
in the foreseeable future. I was sad about that until I had gotten
to First Avenue, and then my spirits rose.
Even taking everything into account, all the madness and terror
since September, there was nothing to thrill the blood and quicken
the heartbeat in quite the same caliber ...
... As seeing the shadows darken your path a bit farther down,
hearing the big footsteps on the grass trying to be silent, and
the weird lowing, smelling the smell like a rank iguana cage sweetened
with cedar chips and time.
And then the Stegosaurs come into view. They nose around like
cats sniffing a new space, mucking through the waterfront grass,
stepping around homeless folks passed out on the lawns in the shadow
of new condos now cold and dark, strewn with cinderblock rubble
broken glass. On one of the lawns, a cellular telephone has been
stomped into mica sculpture. On another, a Mercedes has plowed through
the plate glass of the lobby.
The predators had laid waste at Riverfront Place before their
genomes locked up and shut off. I'd actually heard a halfway-plausible
theory come out of the Drudge Report on the radio, may wonders never
cease. The good Monsignor Matt Drudge had advanced the
opinion that with so much Bovine Growth Hormone and such tainting
all the meat nowadays, both two-legged and four-legged ... perhaps
the carnivores of the Jurassic had been slipped a Mickey. I certainly
was in no position to argue with that particular gift horse.
But the herbivores have lingered on, so far, and profited.
The bulls of the herd come first, cold and aloof, built like
brick shithouses with their armor plates raising high like a back-mounted
That day ... I gave one of the bull Stegosaurs an apple from
my backpack, rolling it forward on the grass like a bocce ball.
He took it and ate it, giving me an imperious half-lidded look that
said: Cross in front of us, but be quick, or I shall give thee a
The cows of the herd walked back behind the bulls, from the
second ring in, guarding their babies, chattering at each other.
Their heads swung back and forth, back and forth strangers
in what must have been for them a strange, strange land.
And in the wake of the herd ... a few of the younger Stegos
stayed behind, visiting with the people, eating right from the hands
of junkies and tweekers who rose from their tarps and sleeping bags
with the air of children seeing the world for the first time. Their
open, callused hands were loaded down with clear cello bags of dried
figs and trail mix from St. Vincent dePaul food boxes, freely offered
with a raw kind of courage that, even now, still makes me cry.
In the other room, there were sounds of a garbled, nonexistent
language and elevator music. Kat was playing "The Sims"
on her computer. That was her drug of choice, lately. Maxis hadn't
come out with a dinosaur expansion pack for "The Sims Downtown"
yet, although afterward they would probably make some humorous nod
at the outbreak.
Gone was the first week of her doing nothing but playing "The
Sims" and sleeping. I'd let her wriggle out of that shell on
her own. She had come out of her rut one night, putting her arms
around me where I'd been sitting on the couch, moodily rerunning
"The Lost World" on the VCR like some sort of obsessed
"The Lost World" was Meep's favorite movie, especially
the part where the T-Rexes push the mobile observation lab over
the cliff and Julianne Moore is caught on the glass pane. I can't
say I blame him. I loved her in "The Big Lebowski," but
could never forgive her for "Hannibal."
"Hello," Kat had quavered, nearly smothering me with
the hug. "I was wondering ..."
Without a word more, she had tugged me to the futon in the front
room that had served as our bed since the previous winter, when
we had discovered that the heater in the back bedroom did not work.
Kat and I spent the night curled up under a mountain of blankets,
and made long, slow, delirious love in the still, gray hours of
the early morning while Humvees roared down Fifth Avenue outside
and the pecking order of Pteranodons screeched and shit on the roof
of our building, their hoodoo chicken-claws digging divots in the
Kat was working on a comic-book screenplay now, and a musical
to boot rediscovering parts of her old music collection she
hadn't listened to in years and, of all things, cranking out paintings
on a mass scale. The outbreak seemed to have been a tremendous creative
fire lit under her butt.
Every now and again, she'd kind of stop, throw up her hands, look
out the window and blurt: "My God! School's out for the fall,
game called on account of fucking dinosaurs!" and I would come
over and give her a hug or hand her a cigarette. And that would
be that. The thing that had held us together for a year and a half,
above all else, was that no drama held any permanency. There was
nothing the two of us couldn't get through when we quit tiptoeing
around each other like a couple of British actors, and actually
put our heads together.
I looked over at the table. USBank was still going strong, and
my latest statement delivered, by an armed postman, lay by the napkin-holder
like the hope of beginning anew.
Doubleday Books had signed the check responsible for that statement,
a week before martial law had been declared. I still had my ATM
card, and I could still get high. But Amtrak was still down in certain
areas, and the planes were still grounded. So my current windmill
at which to tilt was still at cross-purposes.
No one knew how all this shit had started. Right now, that was
the least of my worries.
But one day, three weeks ago, when the phone lines were operational,
I had pulled up www.fark.com and waded through the forum of theories,
speculations and outright nonsense ... deep-linking, eventually,
to some interesting research notes on The Smoking Gun.com, another
"FEASIBILITY OF DNA SAMPLES 95 PERCENT. MAY DEGRADE DUE TO
ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABLES, BUT SAMPLES WERE PRESERVED AT LABREA SITE,
FINEST SUCH EVER ..."
LaBrea ... I had swallowed hard, my head in my hands at the computer.
They cloned old mummified dino-meat from the LaBrea Tar Pits in
southern California, that old petroleum-stinking wasteland of a
national park. No more tour buses there, I'd warrant. Someone should
have come along in the wake of all this and seeded those grounds
The notes were nothing that would hold up in court. Below that
link was an equally tasteless scan of Michael Crichton's suicide
note, written Sept. 7. The world would probably never know the truth.
In times of national disaster, it seems to me that it is a deep
biological reflex to grab up the familiar in your arms and run with
it as fast as you can.
I'm not saying that I was thinking logically. But the situation
defied logic. I was thinking about the good times, when I was young.
I had a picture, on the wall of our front room, of my whole family
ice-skating out on a backwoods pond on the farm where we'd lived
after first moving to Pennsylvania. In those long, late nights,
I stared at that picture for minutes at a time, wondering if the
warning: "WE'RE SORRY, ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY," meant that
the 814 area code in Pennsylvania should be given up for lost.
I was smoking on the joint very slowly, dragging deep and holding
it in. When the phone rang, I jumped half a foot and coughed out
the latest drag.
"Hlaaaugh," I rasped into the receiver in mid-hack. There
was a giggle at the other end, like fast-flowing water.
"Ed?" I would have known Ravyn's voice anywhere, though
the cell phone made her childlike, animated tone sound like she
was talking through a white-noise generator. "Did you guys
find out about ..."
"No, love," I replied instantly, my voice losing some
of its rasp. "They're still not running trains from
"Aww." She sounded near tears, cheated and bone-tired.
Her Steve had been gone for three weeks, and there had been no word
for two days from his mom's in North Carolina. He'd made it back
on a bus full of hippies to check on the folks back east. He was
I answered. "Ravyn, I swear to Christ, the second I can pull
something out of my hat ..."
"I know." With an effort, her voice resumed the bubbly,
animated manner with which I was more familiar. "Eeeeeed, savior,
light of my life, will you do me a faaa-vor?"
"But the goat's still sleeping, and I can't find the tube."
"I got a slip for groceries, but it's for the downtown Safeway.
If you come be my wing man, you can get groceries on my slip. They
I glanced at the glass-fronted kitchen cabinets 10 feet to my right.
A can of Rosy-Red Refrieds, half a bottle of vodka and a mound of
bags of white rice and pinto beans that would have been big enough
to sandbag a machine-gun nest.
"I can be ready in five minutes," I said. "I doubt
Kat'll want to go, but ..."
"She will," Ravyn replied. "Trust me."
I glanced over at the shotgun again. This was starting to feel
like a fucking Bruce Campbell B-movie masterpiece. It was very hard
to stop laughing.
I loaded it quickly, with bored hands, my eyes at the window as
I snapped back the breech and fed my security blanket a fresh helping
of grooved red plastic double-ought buck. It really was an elegant
"Miaaaow," I called into the back room, putting the phone
back on the coffee table and still looking at the article. For a
moment I had expected Kat to save her game, but she flitted to the
door between the back room and the living room as if she'd teleported
"Yes?" Kat brushed one blond-streaked lock of bangs behind
her ear, her dark eyes twinkling and wakeful. "Who was that
on the phone?"
"Ravyn," I replied. "She'll be over in about five
minutes. Got a grocery voucher she found somewhere."
Post offices my ass, Ron Wyden, I thought, glancing back
at the page. Only place you can get a voucher in October is from
a yuppie, at gunpoint. It meant nothing to me, but six grand was
peanuts for black market stuff, and any help was most appreciated.
"Ooh!" Kat beamed, only half-joking. Her face colored
I snorted. "You sound like Meep."
"No, this'll be cool." I followed her eyes to the coffee
can full of pens by the computer in the other
room. Kat was an easy book to read, sometimes. But I was always
grateful for the next chapter. "We're about three pages into
act two, but Ravyn's stuck on the big hero-tells-all number. We
were gonna brainstorm."
"You out of staff-paper?"
She shook her head, leaning with one small hand on the door frame.
"Naw. I scanned the last blank page of what you made and ran
off some new ones. Thank you, though."
"Oooh!" Now I'd be the one glued to the computer. "You
got the scanner working."
"Yeah, but don't get any ideas." she said. "It won't
transfer color, for some reason. I need to get ahold of my dad this
weekend, anyway. He'll figure it out."
I held up one hand. "I'm not even tryin' to mess with that
thing any more. I thought it fried your whole D-drive. Meep!"
Meep took his paw from the latch of the window. Kat padded into
the room to see what he had been doing, and both of us burst out
laughing. He was flattened out on the floor by the sill, hissing
up at a lone Compsognathus peering in the window at him. They looked
like baleful cousins circling each other with knives.
I stepped beside the door and lowered both barrels of the shotgun
at the little lizard behind the glass. It looked up at me with terror
in its eyes and scampered off.
"They know about guns." I looked over at Kat with amazement
as she sat down on the couch. "They're not at all afraid of
us, but they do know about guns."
"Good." Kat looked mistrustfully at the sawed-off. "Now
go put it back."
I sighed, getting up. "So are you going to come with us to
"Of course." She looked thoughtful. "Is it TheftWay?"
"Yeah. The one by the old St. Francis."
"Hmm. You think any of the stuff in there hasn't gone over
I shook my head. "The Guard has Honda generators going out
back. Main and backup. I watched them put 'em in. You can hear 'em
10 blocks away."
"Oh." That was all she needed to know.
Outside in the street, a horn began to honk. Kat and I both looked
at each other.
I pressed my face to the cold glass under the article. A compy
nose bonked against the glass on its way down. The fuckers had eaten
my geranium right out of its coffee-can pot. I thought they were
carnivores, but they probably just did it out of spite. Although
that geranium had fed on so much spilt beer from all the residents
of our building stargazing on the fire escape, I imagined the guilty
party had probably gotten so wasted from the plant that it had staggered
around for a while and fallen to its death sixty feet below. It
would have served him right.
Below, in the street, an enormous 1954 Plymouth Plaza rumbled like
a car from a children's book. Ravyn was hunched over the awkwardly
positioned steering wheel with her knees somewhere near her face.
We'd all solved the riddle of why old people drive in that position
the day she'd bought the land yacht for three grand from the used
lots in the Southeast, across the river.
I moved back for the door. "You ready?"
Kat snatched her leather jacket from the coat tree by the couch.
(I'd considered impressing that big old cast-iron monstrosity into
service as a battering ram if we ever got a visit from any friendly
neighborhood anything that weighed more than me and two or three
of the larger homeboys from the first floor. But Kat would never
bear to part with the coat tree, and I respected that. )
"Okay," Kat said, looking at her wallet. "We got
two hundred bucks, three packs of generic cigarettes, one sawed-off
shotgun." She patted the pocket of her jacket. "A stun
gun. It's almost dark. And I can't find my sunglasses. Did we forget
"Hit it," I grinned. After I snapped the new deadbolts
shut (the one on the window had not been touched), she almost beat
army surplus boots whispered over the 1910 tile of the lobby like
two pairs of padded paws.
Kat held her little stun gun like a TV remote, nervous but glad
to be out of the house. I had the sawed-off at port arms. She'd
offered to make me a trench coat holster to sling over my back,
but that Antonio Banderas shit was impractical for someone who hadn't
discharged a firearm since he was 14.
I'd rather have it right where I could use it, at least until I
got a bit quicker on the draw. I bowed low at the doorknob, but
did not hold the door open for Kat. I would be the point man this
As soon as the door creaked open, a few curious Compsognathi came
toddling toward the steps, their big wedge-shaped heads bobbing,
all eyes. I swallowed hard.
I had their number ... but the sight of them moving in formation
like that (many of them still probably
disoriented from the malty dregs of whatever shopping-cart full
of returnables they'd managed to
cowboy from some bum), still spooked me quite a bit.
But it didn't slow me down. I held up one hand flat, motioning
for Kat to stay where she was. She ducked back and put her index
fingers in her ears.
"Tequila! Arriba! Yee haaaaw!" I screeched to get their
attention, and fired off both barrels into the
central knot of little visitors galumphing up the steps like prehistoric
Mormons flocking at the front door.
The shotgun jerked against my shoulder hard enough to leave a respectable
bruise. I was still getting used to that. My ears rang and I could
smell smoke almost instantly.
The result at the bottom of the stairs could only be described
as a collective, honking screech followed by a collective splat
against the pavement like the sound of someone emptying a mop bucket
from the fire escape. The shotgun blast echoed oddly off the wall
of the PSU dorms across the street, and the Compys scattered in
all directions with the uncanny speed of minnows scurrying back
under a rock.
"Mind the mess," I whispered back to Kat, looking down
at all the bones sticking out of the splatter. I would have seen
it as a horrible waste, a heartbreaking poem of living fossils now
snuffed out on the sidewalk of an uncaring, pollutive, parasitic
human system and blah, blah ... if I had not, the last time around,
looked out the window and seen more Compys feasting on the muck
of their brothers and sisters that had stained the sidewalk chalk-drawings
(still there from the last time Kat and I had tossed aside the humdrum
and gone artin' on the pavement, one unbooked August
Kat put the stun gun back into the inside pocket of her jacket.
"Fucking Rambo," she whispered with no real malice, walking
down the steps to play in the gore with one boot-toe, and coo at
it. I gave her the finger, and she grinned.
"Got two of those?" She ducked under my arm and held
the door open for me. "Shove 'em up your ass and walk on your
We moved quickly across the sidewalk and into the street, ducking
into the ancient lemony smell of
Ravyn's couch on wheels. She looked back at me from the driver's
seat, her angular British face
registering a slow smile at the shotgun. Her bobbed hair, tied back
into pigtails, was bright red this
week. It suited her more than the purple.
"Ha," she sneered jokingly at my sawed-off. "Keep
your peashooter in your pants, little boy."
Leaned up clumsily to her left, against the door, with the business
end tucked into the holdall under the door handle and the rest jutting
over the left corner of the driver's seat, was what looked to my
semi-familiar eye like a Russian assault rifle.
"AK-74." Ravyn pulled out and headed for Broadway, two
blocks up, her eyes fixed grimly on the road. The traffic light
on Broadway had quit working weeks back. "It's Chinese. I still
can't get the damn thing to quit lifting up in my hands about halfway
through a clip, but ... it's a fun little toy."
We turned right on Broadway. There were sandbags stacked up across
the whole front of the Campus Ministries building. An old homeless
man with a rose rubber-banded to the end of his walking stick cruised
a shopping-cart through the intersection, waving at us. His staff
had compy-sized bite marks and blood on it. He looked like the ghost
of Waylon Jennings, and now I couldn't get that damned "Highwayman"
song out of my head to save my life.
As if in answer to my fervent prayer, Ravyn clicked on the radio
and dialed up and down.
"... Sunset Highway looks fairly clear, although wreckers
are still making their way toward what appears to be a jackknifed
Deschutes Brewery double-hauler. Looks like that one tried to merge
in front of an Ankylosaur, although the Compys are makin' it kinda
hard to tell ... Wow. Looks just like a big armadilla, don't it?
(hffffffp) Skycam does not advise clearing lizard bodies off the
road yourself, listeners. You never know what kind of millenial
... clap ... you'll get on your hands from ..."
Farther down the dial, Rush Limbaugh's glutinous harangue: "...
It is plain common sense to anyone with more than three firing neurons
that this was a deliberate cabal. The liberal-Democrat power structure
in Oregon and California has wanted to secede from the Union ever
since Mr. Bush was eeee-lec-ted president. Look at the evidence!
Why did we see no major predators in Idaho? Or even Tahoe, for that
matter? This was an unconscionable act of terrorism by the intellectual
elite, sacrificing thousands of lives in the process when they turned
their Frankenstein monster loose on ..."
"Oh, Rush." Ann Coulter's voice almost sounded off-mic.
"Rush, don't you dare stop now, you're on a roll," Something
that sounded like a zipper ...
After a rolling burst of static and faint music with lyrics that
sounded like Russian or Slovakian,
our eardrums were nearly drilled out when we apparently caught a
"ALL UNITS PROCEED TO THE SOUTH PARK BLOCKS AREA OF THE ART
MUSEUM. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."
Ahead of us, a knot of Humvees went ear-assing through the intersection.
One of them roared up over the sidewalk, clipping the corner of
a phone booth and turning it into a ready-made sculpture in the
space of one eye blink. Ravyn punched the gas, and the Plymouth
walked it all the way up to its maximum wind-out speed of 50 miles
an hour as she followed them.
I shrugged. Kat was horrified, leaning over and looking Ravyn in
the eyes, trying to swivel Ravyn's
head toward her with one index finger and gesture with her hands
at the same time.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!" she hollered.
Ravyn grinned. "I wanna bag a big one," she replied evenly,
but her wide white grin was impish. Her gleeful spirit of the hunt
made her look like nothing so much as one of her beloved PowerPuff
Girls from the cartoons. I sighed in the backseat, fishing around
for a cigarette and gripping the shotgun so hard my knuckles were
white. Part of me wished that the Plymouth's last owner had installed
seatbelts instead of a radio.
We charged up Jefferson Street, actually laying a tiny bit of rubber
as we went. To my right, the bombed shell of the post office gleamed
like a picked skull in the streetlights that were flickering.
The Park Blocks always looked to me like a pastoral 19th-century
village street, missing only the smithy under the spreading chestnut
tree. But tonight, they had become a battlefield.
Protest placards bounced like a marathon of umbrellas in all directions,
pell-mell, spiralling out in the manner of a Monty Python track-and-field
I saw lots of Billy-Bob-Marley white-boy dreadlocks and L.L. Bean
gear. The signs were interesting: "WE KILLED THE DINOSAURS";
"DINO BOUNTIES ARE CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT"; "P.E.T.A"
and, way towards the back, "TOYNBEE IDEAS IN KUBRICK'S '2001'
RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER."
There were muffled drum riffs of automatic fire from much farther
up than the crowd fleeing Museum Place. But there was no tear gas
being fired. The Guard could have cared less about the march du
To the right of the museum, the courtyard full of statues was a
smashed Dali nightmare. Its wrought-iron ornamental fence had been
stomped down by ...
"Oh, fuck me sideways," I gasped, looking up as we roared
over the flagstones. "Ravyn, turn around. Punch it. We can
pick up Main on the far side, and ..."
"Eh-eh." She picked up the 74 by a black strap I had
not noticed, and cracked her window. Kat took a deep breath, let
it out ... and ducked below windshield level.
"Come on, Kitty. Where's your sense of adventure?" Ravyn
asked down at the wide-eyed bundle in the area of the floorboards.
Kat shook her head.
"I'm not getting blood on this leather," she replied
"Oh." Ravyn nodded, steering the ancient tank of a sedan
up over the grass and through a stand of
rose bushes. Kat bounced a little where she was, but said nothing.
Instantly, the apes had descended. A wall of Humvees burbled and
trundled over the grass ahead of us, backing hesitantly up around
the Greek-column legs of sinewy, scaly marble, coated with mud and
oak leaves and great sods of grass at the cloven, alien feet.
I was trying very hard not to piss myself. There were two of them.
I don't know why, but they looked like a pair. Mates, I mean. What
I took to be the female was smaller and gray, with wider eyes. Her
slingshot forepaws were long and angular, and her stalactite-stalagmite
wall of teeth was more curving and delicate.
The male was a rich mamba green, with iridescent scales like solar
panels gleaming the whole way up, and up. Steam rose from his sculpted
Chinese-dragon nostrils, and his forepaws were more like sausages,
but with nails no less sharp.
The sense of size was so overwhelming to get around ... I thought
of watching the giraffes and elephants at the D.C. zoo, years before
thinking that the size difference there was a pretty big
deal. But now I felt like a very tiny ant under a very large magnifying
glass, and had to conquer a deep instinct to duck and cover. Kat
was studying the pair of Tyrannosaurs with a cold, clinical eye
peeping out just above the door.
The wall of Jeeps and Hummers was currently only a horseshoe at
best. The crowd was still pretty deep on the Park Blocks. It would
be a moment until ...
The female snaked her head down and to the right. A young girl
with ash-blond dreads, wearing a patchwork skirt, field jacket and
gasmask tight around her face, was suddenly gone from the waist
up. Her feet walked away from her, and the rest of her fell to the
pavement with a thud I was glad to not hear.
The male's head was mowing down placards right and left, gulping
in great choking swallows like a big dog eating scraps. I saw one
placard fall: "NO DINO HOLOCAUST." I had to look away.
Ravyn was leaning out the window, bucking off single shots from
the 74. I tugged at her coat.
"Is it really worth it?" I asked. "No one's filming.
Let's just go get food."
Ravyn hesitated for a long time, then slid back in the window and
put the 74 at port arms. "That's our problem," she said
very slowly, backing up and peeling out on the grass as we rolled
at a good clip back toward Broadway to bypass the crowd. "We
Kat sat back up in her seat. We looked at each other and burst
seemed like a dream to me now. Everything had been still and quiet
and respectful in line as the gangly Guardsman had raised the chain
across the doors in one hand. "Right. You, you and you."
he said to us. I was last in line, and a 19-year-old kid elbowed
me on the way by, with a sotto voce whisper of: "Holy threesome,
"Fuck off, Gomer," I answered without looking at him.
Then we were inside.
Leaning on a cart as though it were a wheeled walker, I drifted
through the Kafka aisles with half the fluorescent lights gone and
the other half flickering, swinging by the meat counter for picked-over
hamburger atop glaciers of ice. They really needed to thaw and drain
those freezers. I was sucking on a grape juicebox I'd found near
an empty shelf. Kat and Ravyn were off looking for vegetables.
Was this what it had come to, then? The military running the bread
lines, industry split along the
lines of the war machine and the collective farm? A population gone
underground, huddled round the radios, desperate for someone to
tell us what to think and where to go?
My foot slid on something plastic and I looked down, irritated.
Oh. Bonus while we were out. And it was worth a try.
I pushed the cart up to the front of the store where the pay phones
were. The pickings were pretty lean, but I'd found some good pasta
and half a dozen eggs. And even a Roma tomato. It was a start. Better
than pinto beans and rice, that was for 65-million-year-old sure.
At the phones, I scratched off the gray wax on the back and carefully
punched in the number on the little calling card ("Envio Dineros
A Mexico," it proclaimed across the front), dialed the 814
area code first, and held my breath.
"Eddie?" My mom sounded surprisingly well. "Oh,
hey. How are you guys doing?"
"Getting by," I answered, reaching for a cigarette. "I've
been worried sick about you guys, and ..."
"It hasn't been so bad." She sounded like she wasn't
lying."The people from our church have really helped us out,
and your dad went out with the militia the other day. You know,
he bagged him a Tyrannosaur, and they let him keep one of the teeth
The calling card died with a boop and a sqawk of punctured minutes.
stood there, looking at the windows that had been shored up with
sandbags and jumbo-sized sacks of charcoal briquettes. The Guardsmen
had made gun ports with glass cutters at strategic points.
I could call Mom when I got home, if the phone lines were still
up ... but I began to smile slowly.
No matter how desperate and desolate things got out in this tar
pit, it beat the hell out of Pennsylvania.