by Kyle Hemmings
Shortly before my girlfriend died, she asked me to take care of her pet dinosaur. It was the kind that flew–a Confuciusornis. For most of the time that we had been together, she never told me she had been suffering from some chronic illness that remained a mystery to the doctors. Her parents told me that they had scattered half her ashes in the backyard and buried the other half in an sealed container near an old Eucalyptus tree that the mother had planted long ago. Gita and I were both 20 yrs. old.
The dinosaur’s name was Herman. He obeyed commands like stop or come back. Attached to a leash, he followed me everywhere on ground. When I let him loose to fly, he always returned. More often than not, he liked to visit the small wooded area behind our house. There, he would eat all kinds of plants and shrubs. Sometimes, he’d bring back a field mouse hanging from his mouth by its tail or the bones from some rodent that he had devoured.
Occasionally, I brought Herman to school. There was a brilliant grove of trees that made an archway over the path leading to the college. At first, some of the students were put off by the sight of a dinosaur that really was nothing more than a prehistoric bird. I mean when you think about it, Herman wasn’t really all that scary. Unless you’re afraid of big birds.
Some of the science professors took a special interest in Herman and one tutored him after class hours in imitating human sounds. They were never exact human sounds in enunciation and pitch. But after a while, Herman could approximate such words as “water” “hungry” “tired.” We even got him to say “Gita” and when we showed him her photos to go along with the name–he refused to fly for weeks and became very lethargic.
When we showed him the Eucalyptus tree where Gita’s ashes were buried by, he flew to that tree and lodged there for hours. Eventually, his energy returned.
Herman continued to fly over our backyard fence and into the woods. However, over time, he became very sick, perhaps from eating some poisonous plant. I’m not really sure. He seemed to be very tired and showed little interest in following me to school where he had become something of a celebrity. I found him lying on his side, motionless, near a tangle of weeds and vines.
I didn’t touch him at first, maybe because of superstition or some romantic feeling inside me that he might come back to life. Months passed and after the other birds ate of him what they wanted, there was nothing left but a skeleton.
I carried Herman’s bones to Gita’s parents and they instructed me to bury him in the backyard near their daughter’s ashes. I had to repeat several times what I was carrying because Gita’s mom was growing increasingly hard of hearing.
For a long time afterwards, I remained despondent and mopey, performed everything at a much slower pace, until it all came to a standstill. Then, I learned to walk away from the wreckage I had become, determined that someday, I would grow a new skin.
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox, Matchbook, and elsewhere. His latest collections of poetry/prose are Split Brain on Amazon Kindle and Scream at Scars.tv. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s.