Ignore Your Shortcomings!

            shortcomingsAs much as Annabelle hated to admit it, the neighborhood really had changed. More progressive types had moved to Brooklyn in the past few years and their liberal antics sometimes made her seriously consider moving back to Montana. Annabelle wasn’t from Fort Greene originally, but she’d lived in the neighborhood a hell of a lot longer than these yo-yos. She was taller and longer than each of them, by at least a foot in both directions. Her tail and claws were much more serious too.
            Supposedly, the new neighbors were recent converts to vegetarianism, which Annabelle thought was total bullshit. Sometimes she felt like the only meat-eater left in Fort Greene. Annabelle was a Deinonychus, and on a Sunday morning in June in the year 88 Million B.C., she roamed the unpaved streets of Fort Greene hunting for some brunch.
            A low foghorn of a sound filled the 10 o’clock morning air, and Annabelle paused as a pack of Parasaurolophus crossed in front of her. Their long crests were arched backwards and the low-baritone honks continued, louder and longer.
            “Just because you can make that sound doesn’t mean you have to do it all the goddamn time!” She snarled as the final bony-crested Dinosaur passed. The last Parasaurolophus in the pack either hadn’t heard her, or decided to blow her off. If she hadn’t been so drowsy, she might have jumped on one of them and ripped out its jugular. “That would show them to honk at me,” she thought. But Annabelle wasn’t in the mood for that kind of food right now. Instead, she was after a little furry rodent thing. She loved those. They hadn’t started popping up until a few years ago. Some said the rodents were a sign of an impending and possibly destructive climate change. Annabelle didn’t buy it. The little rodent things were a tasty snack. Period.
            Spotting one, she snapped up the sickle-shaped claws on her feet and pounced. Her claws pierced the soft body of the little rat with ease. Victorious, she stuck her face into the warm flesh and started to feast.
            “You should really eat slower,” a voice from behind said.
            “Excuse me?” Annabelle said, her eyes darting around looking for the origin of the voice.
            “You should slow down when you eat. That beautiful plume on top of your head gets all messy when you scarf your food down like that.” The voice was talking about Annabelle’s feather. Both male and female Deinonychuses frequently sprouted colorful feathers from their heads, but Annabelle’s feather was known throughout Fort Greene as being the most beautiful. It was bright red.
            “Who’s there?” Annabelle said, her front claws poised for an attack. From out of the foliage, one of her new neighbors emerged, small and ridiculous. As she’d known, he was a Velociraptor. Millions of years later, most human school children would think of him as the same basic kind of a Dinosaur as Annabelle. But they’d be a little confused. A Velociraptor was nothing more than a poor man’s Deinonychus.
            “I’m Jonathan,” he said. “Your new neighbor?” He articulated the last word with a bit of hopeful approval and even affected a little wave with his claws.
            “Oh hi,” Annabelle said, “You want some of this?” She pointed to the dead rodent with a single claw.
            “No thanks,” Jonathan said. “I don’t eat meat anymore.”
            “Yeah, I heard,” Annabelle snorted, “Are all the Velociraptors in the neighborhood veggies now?”
            “Oh I don’t know about that,” Jonathan said, “But everyone in my pack is.”
            “Cool,” Annabelle said flatly. “But if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my brunch.”
            “No problem,” Jonathan said, “I was just going to invite you to this thing tonight.” Annabelle was getting super pissed now. This guy had some nerve. He was probably going to try to convert her. Just because he was sort of cute, didn’t mean she was going to become a push-over formerly fierce and no-longer terrible lizard. No sir!
            “What thing?” she said.
            “An Archaeopteryx is going to sing tonight at Mo’s Cave.” Annabelle had been to Mo’s Cave. A long time ago, when a Triceratops ran the place. She hadn’t been back in awhile, not since fools like Jonathan had started to change everything. Still, it had been awhile since someone had complimented her feather.            “What’s an Archaeopteryx?” she said with a laugh.
            “Why don’t you come to Mo’s tonight and find out.”
            “Okay,” Annabelle said, “I’ll see you later.” And just like that, Annabelle had a date with her new neighbor.
            After spending hours combing her red feather with her claws, Annabelle paced nervously outside of Mo’s Cave. The sun had started to set over Fort Greene, and she looked out over the vast horizon like it was the ocean. Sometimes the world seemed to go on forever and ever, and other times Annabelle felt like the edge of everything was right around the corner.
            “Hey there!” Jonathan said, suddenly popping up behind her. He was shorter than her, but she suddenly decided that was just fine. Anyway, he looked really good with his scales all smoothed out.
            “Hi!” Annabelle said, “Should we go in?”
            “Sure.” They found a rock near the back of the cave, and Annabelle quickly realized this must have become a more popular place than years before. Squeezed inside of Mo’s were Dinosaurs of all kinds; Gallimuses, Hadrosaurs, Coelpysisies, Diplodocuses, and several other species that for one reason or another were never discovered millions of years later.
            “Everybody is here to see this one thing?” Annabelle said.
            “Sure,” Jonathan said. “An Archaeopteryx is a bird, by the way.” Annabelle stared back at him blankly, “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a bird sing.” Annabelle shook her head.
            “Do you see a lot of birds sing?” Annabelle said.
            “Yeah, I try to.”
            “That’s cool,” Annabelle said. And she meant it. Actually she had heard of birds, but like a lot of things, was unconvinced if they were here to stay, or just a passing fad.
            “We might have to wait for awhile.” Jonathan said, “These things never start on time.”
            “That’s all right.”
            “Your feather looks beautiful tonight.” If Dinosaurs could blush, then Annabelle looked as bright red as the feather on top of her head. Over the din of the other Dinosaurs shuffling around, she quickly changed the subject.
            “How long has it been since you ate meat?”
            “About two years.”
            “Can you still eat eggs? I love Parasaurolophus eggs.” A low baritone grunt from behind indicated they were sitting near a Parasaurolophus. Annabelle lowered her voice.
            “Sorry,” she said more to Jonathan than the Parasaurolophus.
            “It’s okay,” he said, “And no, I don’t eat any eggs. I don’t really think its okay to eat things on the same intelligence level as myself. I mean we’re all pea-brained Dinosaurs after all.”
            “Sure,” Annabelle said, “But some of us are better equipped than others. You and I each have awesome claws for example.”
            “But that doesn’t mean our claws are our best features, Annabelle. I view my claws as a shortcoming.”
            “Maybe.” Annabelle said. She really didn’t agree with him at all. But it was nice to be out at night around other Dinosaurs. And she liked the way Jonathan looked at her red feather. They sat in silence for a minute or so, still waiting for the Archaeopteryx to show up.
            “Okay, what about this?” Annabelle said.
            “Hmm?” Jonathan said.
            “You know there’s all those crazy theories about climate change right? Like everything is getting colder?”
            “Most of that is true.”
            “Whatever. Fine. Great. Say it is. What if something happened, and suddenly there was a bunch of dust in the air and the sun was blotted out…”
            “Okay…where are you going with this?” Jonathan said.
            “Well, the plants would stop growing. What would you eat then? Wouldn’t you be happy to have your claws?”
            “Maybe,” Jonathan said, “But I’d try not to kill other Dinosaurs to survive.”
            “What if you had to?” Annabelle said.
            “I suppose I might.”
            At that, the Archaeopteryx descended from a small hole in the top of the cave and started to sing. Annabelle wasn’t crazy about the music, but she was in a good mood so it didn’t bother her.   She tapped her claws along politely.
            In between sets, while everyone was shuffling around, she leaned in close to Jonathan and her feather tickled his scales.
            “You know,” she said, “If the world were coming to an end, I would totally eat you.”
            “I know,” he said. “You want to get out of here?”

Image by Gabriela Vainsencher

Read more of Ryan’s stories here. Ryan’s writing has also been published with Nerve, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, Opium and Clarkesworld. He has performed stories on stage with The Liar Show, The Moth, Stripped Stories and Heeb. Ryan’s plays have enjoyed staged readings and full productions in New York City with Collective Unconscious, The Longest Lunch Theatre Company and The Tank. From 2008-2009 he wrote a short story every day and posted them to his blog called “Side Affects.”

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