There came a moment when I was simply too exhausted to go on ignoring them. Riding my bike home from work the hilly way and I had just crested the final rise, that last inside curve on Toro Canyon, I pulled over to the side of the road and paused my little GPS computer.
I was just like, Why not listen to the dinosaurs?
“Thank god,” the Velociraptor said, who had been huffing and puffing running alongside me. The Pterodactyl, swooping low, muttered something about how it was about time.
I was new to California and been hearing these dinosaurs since getting out of the Navy a year before. When you leave the military, they make you take this civilian transition course. It’s not optional. They passed a whole law about it. How to write a cover letter, mock interviews, that kind of thing.
But nothing about if you start seeing dinosaurs. Nothing about what to do if they talk to you.
I propped my bike against the stone wall alongside a gravel driveway that twisted through an avocado orchard. I took a long drink from my water bottle and stretched a hamstring.
“Okay,” I said, pointing to the goofy one with these feather horn things. “Let’s hear it.”
The Carnotaurus (I learned the names later) worriedly scratched at the trunk of a eucalyptus tree with her vestigial forelimbs. “Well,” she started. “It’s not like we have a specific message or anything…”
She trailed off and poked the Kosmoceratops, an individual I’d come to know as something of a spokesdino.
“We just…” the Kosmoceratops turned toward the ocean. The sunlight caught the thickly chicled skin of his enormous head. “We want to help.”
“Help?” I said. “Help how?”
“You know,” the Kosmoceratops said. “Like when you’re at a crossroads and you need some guiding wisdom.”
“Like a guardian angel,” I offered.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s like anything else,” the Kosmoceratops said. “We’re kind of our own thing.”
I asked for an example of the crossroads they’re talking about and the Dracorex—this knobby flat headed bastard—cleared his throat to speak.
“Like at work,” he said. “You’re not feeling fulfilled, right? Just as an example, I mean. And you’re thinking about looking for a new job or whatever and you’re weighing your options and you go like, hey, maybe the dinosaurs could help.”
I closed my eyes, taking it all in. It’s difficult to explain, but at the time, it registered as fitting into a strange kind of logic. All part of my new life as a Californian. I decided to go with the flow, which was something people were always saying out here. That explains it pretty well, actually. I went with the flow.
With the help of the dinosaurs, I made a presentation that garnered widespread praise at work and I also tried a new sex thing with my girlfriend who reported back that pleasure-wise, the experience had been a notch above her expectations. I purchased an electric washer dryer combo over a gas one and took the high road in a situation involving me and the guy my sister married, the result of which was the newly held opinion by my family that I was coming around to be quite the adult.
They weren’t a hundred percent on target, though. The dinosaurs, I mean. I lost a medium significant amount of money betting on a football game they swore was going to go a particular way. When it didn’t, they claimed that really wasn’t how they were meant to help out, which I thought was a convenient framing.
Their range was also quite limited. My father, for instance, was going through something of a late-midlife crisis. They suggested he take out a small business loan and open a premium dog grooming salon.
“That market is very hot right now,” the Kosmoceratops reasoned. “It’s wide open for entrepreneurship.”
“Huh,” I said. “Interesting.”
As much as someone could get used to that kind of thing, I did. It sounds funny, but in that way, the dinosaurs became part of my routine. Took them for granted, even. Would summon their counsel about where to go for dinner, which slacks go with which shoes, etc.
Then came that business at Rincon beach.
I blew a tire at the bottom of Bates on my way into work is why I was down there. Just past dawn on a gloomy day.
I could see the two women from where I stopped to replace my tube. One in a wheelchair, the other pushing. They weren’t going anywhere though. You could tell by the way they were pointing that they wanted to get to the water’s edge but couldn’t figure out how with the wheelchair.
The dinosaurs made some grumbling noises like they would have appreciated being brought into this kind of decision, but I was already clomping over in my big dorky bicycle cleats saying good morning, and waving, like an idiot.
The woman not in the wheelchair introduced herself as Delaney. She was a nurse. She explained how June here used to live in Ventura since back before they built the big highway and she was getting down to her last few days, the hospice doctor said, and Delaney had the idea to get June’s old toes wet in the Pacific one last time, that it might help to raise her spirits a bit, which had been quite low lately on account of you-know-what being so close and June being naturally inclined to loneliness and not having the greatest relations with her remaining family, wherever they were.
I looked down at June who gazed vacantly back up at me.
They didn’t expect the tide to be out so far, Delaney said. She thought there used to be some kind of pavement path here. That’s why they came to this beach specifically.
I have no memory now of offering to help. I just remember doing it. Crouching down and asking if it would be okay and getting the nod in response. Delaney locked the brakes on the wheelchair and June draped an arm around my neck and I picked her up like you’d cradle a baby (she weighed almost nothing and I am kind of muscular) and I followed Delaney’s lead down to the ocean where she unfurled a beach towel and where I placed June gently and removed her braided leather huaraches to reveal two of the most beautiful feet I’ve ever seen.
Jesus, those specimens. They defied everything I knew about women, the world, the basic mechanics of my universe. In some ways, they were more incredible than the dinosaurs.
A few surfers in wetsuits bobbed on their boards near the break. The last fingers of a wave stretched to the edge of our beach towel. “It’ll be cold,” I warned June, still looking at those marvelous things at the ends of her legs.
We were suddenly breached by the tide and Delaney shrieked and June’s toes were more than wet, half her body was soaked through, and I picked her up again out of instinct and Delaney went off chasing the towel and June laughed her phlegmy old lady laugh, enjoying the sight of Delaney, and I, rushing around in a pointless little panic.
Her gray face was so close to mine, so creased and spotted and I thought about those feet of hers, those soft curves around her ankle, the high arch of her sole as smooth as calfskin.
We stayed like that for a moment but Delaney broke in with something about how that was enough excitement for one day and I carried old June back across the sand and returned her somewhat reluctantly to the wheelchair and said goodbye.
I went back to my dinosaurs who had gathered around the bicycle rack.
“I was thinking,” I said to the group. “Maybe a few of you could go with her.”
“That’s not really how this works,” the Diplodocus said. She made what I took to be a shrugging motion with her squat leather shoulders.
“I guess I knew that,” I said, even though I totally didn’t.
What did I know? I mean, really. Not a lot, it was turning out. At least that much was becoming clear.
That morning at Rincon marked a change in my relationship to the dinosaurs. They seemed distracted or disinterested and when I brought it up with them, they accused me of doing the same. Fewer and fewer would muster when I called a session until I stopped doing it so much. Felt like I was bugging them.
Then months later, out of curiosity mostly, I did the thing to make the dinosaurs come and not a single one showed. They were all gone.
I married my girlfriend with whom I tried the new sex thing. She’s the only person I’ve told about the dinosaurs. She asks if I ever see them anymore, whether I still hear their voices from time to time. My honest answer is yes, they’re out there, but estranged from me somewhat. As an example, I saw the Kosmoceratops a few weeks ago in the wetlands behind the new housing development they’re building in Goleta. I waved but he acted like he didn’t notice, which I have to say is very on brand for him.
The truth is they’ll always be with me, even if I never see one again. It’s the way, after a while, you think of a limp completely separate from the initial wound. In fact, you don’t think of it at all.
You’re just like, okay, whatever, this is how I move now.