by Paul Fattaruso

Twenty. Where They Took the Dinosaur

The ex-president was a master of secrecy. When he was president, there was a prince, and the prince wanted to kill the president. The president starved the prince to death, and not even the prince knew who had starved him. The ex-president liked to keep things secret just for fun, but he also thought there might be a good reason to keep the frozen dinosaur a secret. No cameras came to Antarctica to help move the dinosaur to Argentina. And instead of building a dinosaur laboratory in Argentina, the ex-president built a self-powered baseball stadium, with solar panels and windmills, and underneath the baseball stadium he built a dinosaur laboratory.

The stadium was named after the ex-president, and so was the laboratory. He put together a team of Argentineans, with an acrobat shortstop. The shortstop had the goldbeater for an uncle. He had his uncle's copper-colored irises and a matching beard. He played like he had the baseball on a string around his finger. He played with no glove, and he threw with either arm. Dancers came to watch him play, with the lithe arms of the windmills turning in the sky out beyond the outfield.

Tina the doctor came and rode down the giant cargo elevator. The ex-president had them make a giant cargo elevator so they could sneak in the dinosaur. There were other huge things in the dinosaur laboratory. Huge climate control devices. When Tina got down there, it was still very cold, because they weren't ready just yet to unfreeze the dinosaur. She put on her mittens.

The dinosaur sat there suspended in its enormous ice-cube, and the ice-cube was covered over with a big purple drape. The ceiling in the dinosaur laboratory was two times as high as the enormous ice-cube. There was nothing in the dinosaur laboratory really except the giant ice-cube and the purple drape and Tina and the ex-president. The floor was made of cement and it had a little drain-hole in it. Then there was a door and a big window and on the other side of the window was where they kept all the devices. They kept two fancy computers, and a centrifuge, and a few optical microscopes, and a special neutron microscope, and some Petri dishes. They had some Persian rugs that Benjamin had brought down because he liked to walk on them in his bare feet. Before he could bring them down, Benjamin had to have the rugs thoroughly beaten. Then he had to have them irradiated so that no dangerous little thing could live in them. Benjamin enjoyed having his rugs irradiated. He pretended to be very serious about it.

They called the room with the dinosaur the dinosaur room, and they called the room with all the devices the devices room. They came and went through the devices room, up and down a long spiral staircase. Benjamin and the ex-president both thought the stairs would make for good exercise. But the ex-president liked to bring people down on the huge cargo elevator if the people were coming down for the first time. He thought it was dramatic, and he liked to do dramatic things for people.

While Tina was looking at the giant ice-cube under its drape, the ex-president talked to her about security, about how they would be watching her carefully, but how they also had to trust her, and how he didn't mind trusting her. Then he talked to her about how he didn't like to kill people, but that sometimes people made it so he had to do that, and it annoyed him. He said that what really annoyed him was that usually he had even warned the people beforehand not to make him have to do it, but that they went ahead and didn't listen to him. That just really annoyed him, because usually they were people that he liked, and he wished that the people he liked would just be sensible enough to listen to him. So he said to Tina, "Tina, I like you, and I am going to have to trust you, and I don't mind trusting you. I am trusting you with this secret. It is a secret. Now, can you keep it a secret?"

Tina kept looking at the big ice-cube and nodded. Then she looked at the ex-president and nodded again, and then she made a little smile. The ex-president said OK, and led the way to the devices room. Tina thought that there was something about the ex-president that was cute.

Twenty-three. The Shortstop

Everyone loved the Argentinean shortstop who played in the stadium up above the dinosaur laboratory. Everyone loved him so much that they never bothered him for his autograph or to stop and have a picture taken or even to tell him how much they loved him. They just smiled and nodded or said hello or tipped their hats or made like they were tipping an imaginary hat, or sometimes the ladies with skirts curtsied or they curtsied with imaginary skirts or else they pretended not even to notice him because they loved him so much, and then when he left, they said, "That was the Shortstop," or once in a while someone asked how he was and he would say, "I'm fine, thank you."

The shortstop was superstitious and could only ever say, "I'm fine, thank you," if someone asked how he was. He had grapefruit juice every morning. Every night when he left the stadium he went to the vegetable stand and bought four grapefruits to squeeze into a glass of grapefruit juice the next morning. The vegetable stand had been open by accident the first night the shortstop came to it, and now it stayed open every night until he came for his grapefruits. Some nights the vegetable man would go home to his family and leave the four grapefruits there in a crate. Every morning the shortstop squeezed himself a glass of grapefruit juice and before he drank it, he licked the juiced grapefruit skins and threw them out his window into the tall grass. Then he pulled a hair from his head and drank it in his grapefruit juice. He tapped every doorhandle before he turned it. He shook every sock twice before he put it on. He came home at lunchtime every day and fluffed his pillow. He took two deep breaths between when he thought a new thought and when he said it. He waited every night until the stadium was empty, and then he went onto the field and lay down in the dark, dense outfield grass, and felt the earth getting colder, and the sky drawing out the warmth of the earth, and then he drew a blankness over his senses, until he started to feel a shiver from the center of the earth. Really it was the shiver of the huge climate control devices in the dinosaur laboratory, but the shortstop listened to it carefully, until he felt himself click open like a lock. Then left to get his grapefruits.

Paul Fattaruso lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. In September, he will move to Vermillion, South Dakota. He is currently reading The Dyer's Hand by W.H. Auden.