Love in the Cretaceous

Love in the Cretaceous

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681143323
Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press
Publication date: 05/08/2017
Pages: 130
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.31(d)

About the Author

Howard W. Robertson lives in Eugene, Oregon, where his ancestors arrived as members of the Lost Wagon Train of 1853. He has previously published two books of fiction and ten books of poetry. He has won the Sinclair Poetry Prize, the Robinson Jeffers Prize for Poetry, the Bumbershoot Award, and numerous other competitions. His work has been published in Nest, Literal Latté, Nimrod, Fireweed, and many other journals. His poetry has been anthologized in many collections, including The Clear Cut Future and The Ahsahta Anthology: Poetry of the American West. His work has been deeply influenced by a lifelong love of Russian literature. For more about Howard W. Robertson, see his webpage: www.howardwrobertson.com.

Anna Faktorovich is the Director and Founder of the Anaphora Literary Press. She is currently teaching college English at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously, she taught for three years at the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and the Middle Georgia State College. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature and Criticism. She published two academic books with McFarland: Rebellion as Genre in the Novels of Scott, Dickens and Stevenson (2013) and The Formulas of Popular Fiction: Elements of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Religious and Mystery Novels (2014). She published two poetry collections Improvisational Arguments (Fomite Press, 2011) and Battle for Athens (Anaphora, 2012). She also released two historical novels: The Romances of George Sand (2014), and The Battle for Democracy (2016). She published two fantasy novellas with Grim's Labyrinth Publishing: The Great Love of Queen Margaret, the Vampire (2014) and The Campaigns against the Olden: Kingdoms of Laruta (2014). She also wrote and illustrated a children's book, The Sloths and I (Anaphora, 2013). She has been editing and writing for the independent, tri-annual Pennsylvania Literary Journal since 2009, and started the second Anaphora periodical, Cinematic Codes Review in 2016. She has presented her research at the MLA, SAMLA, EAPSU, SWWC, BWWC and many other conferences. She won the MLA Bibliography, Kentucky Historical Society and Brown University Military Collection fellowships.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

SKOOKUM

The roar of a T-rex is like a hundred lions in your ear.

Bud shouts, "Merry Christmas to you too, Dorothy."

That's what we call her. We give all the dinosaurs pet names.

Lana gives a polite chuckle and continues her work. She drives the forklift up to the small pile of dead sheep and loads one onto the fork.

Bud has trucked the carcasses out here to the T-rex pen and dumped them. I say "pen," but it's a five-mile by three-mile area with Skookum Creek running through the middle of it. The catapult is a bit uphill, so we can see over the high, massive wall made of reinforced concrete.

Lana sets the sheep onto the catapult and gets down from the forklift.

Dorothy is waiting and watching from the other side of the wall. She has heard us coming in the truck and knows we're going to feed her.

Bud says, "Dorothy knows the drill."

He always says that.

Lana launches the sheep's body, and it flies heavily over the wall, landing with a thud on the other side.

Dorothy roars again, even louder than before. The hackles rise on my neck, and a small electric charge surges up my spine, causing me to shiver briefly.

Dorothy is forty feet long and weighs twelve thousand pounds. She has feet like a giant bird because birds are her close relatives. Archaeopteryx, the first bird, was a small theropod in the late Jurassic; Trex is a giant theropod that didn't come along until the Late Cretaceous more than eighty million years later. The Steller's jays and ravens that flit through the towering conifers around Dorothy are dinosaurs too, members of her extended family really.

Paleontologists know from fossils that the thigh bones of T-rex were warmer at the core than at the surface and that the degree of temperature difference was much greater than today's cold-blooded reptiles but significantly less than modern warm-blooded mammals. So T-rex was somewhat warm-blooded, hemiendothermic. That's why we're out here around noon when, thanks to climate change, it's over eighty degrees on December 24, 2116. We had the geneticists put this hemiendothermism into the genome when we were designing our re-creation of T-rex, so Dorothy is much more vigorous now in the middle of the day than she was in the early morning.

Lana loads up another sheep and catapults it into the pen.

At this point, Dorothy does something out of the ordinary. She roars again, but this time it's different, much less menacing, musical really. It's a cry of love. She's calling to Roger, the male T-rex who shares the pen with her. She's basically offering him some of the food, buying him dinner, as it were. She can do this because we had her designed to be bigger than the male, since T-rex was a dimorphic species.

Usually, Bud and Lana would drive around to the other end of the pen five miles away and feed Roger there while Dorothy was safely occupied with her own ration of dead sheep. They won't need to do that today. Sure enough, Roger understands her intent and comes running. Well, loping is more like it. Paleontologists can tell from the strength of the thigh bone fossils that T-rex couldn't gallop, so we've had our two specimens designed to run at about seven miles an hour.

Roger slows down as he nears Dorothy. He stops and pushes his nostrils forward and up, obviously trying to sniff out the meaningful scent of the situation. We know from fossil skulls what shape the brain was. We can tell that the olfactory area of the brain was very large, indicating a keen sense of smell. We put that into the genome too. Dorothy must be giving off the scent of a sexually receptive female, because Roger moves forward, approaches the food, and eagerly eats, knowing she will allow it this time. Lana keeps lobbing in sheep all the while. When Roger has had his fill, he adroitly moves to Dorothy's rear and vigorously copulates with her.

It's exciting to watch.

I look over at Bud. He's a sturdy man of medium height, fifty years old, with greying black hair. He has an artificial right arm. He lost his limb working with farm equipment here at Cretaceous World more than a decade ago.

Bud winks at me and says, "Atta boy, Roger!"

I peek at Lana out of the corner of my eye. She's a thin, athletic woman of around thirty with a long blonde ponytail. She grew up on a ranch in Eastern Oregon near Pendleton, and she's a tough cookie. Her blue eyes look a little glassy with arousal now, but she stands perfectly still and just watches.

Dorothy will lay eggs, but they won't hatch. We can't handle a population increase in our dinosaurs. When one of them dies, we just make a new one. Our genetic engineers are real wizards. A T-rex would only live thirty years at most in the Cretaceous Period when its life was very violent. The fossil record shows many broken bones for T-rex, especially broken legs from falling down. Living this easy life here with us, Dorothy and Roger are expected to live much longer.

I leave Bud and Lana there to continue their work catapulting food into the T-rex pen. As I drive back to headquarters, I stop by the side of the private road where Skookum Creek runs right next to it. I look at the creek and recollect the meanings of the word "skookum" in the Chinook Jargon: strong, brave, a demon, a ghost, a spirit.

From a couple miles away now, I hear Dorothy roar again and then Roger. Skookum, yes, skookum indeed.

*
Becky's luminous green eyes enchant people. They enchant me. I'm standing in five-foot water, holding her in my arms, gazing languidly into the liquid pools of her enchanting green eyes.

After I left Bud and Lana, I returned to the residence.

That's what we call it, "the residence." It refers to the palatial edifice that Becky and I are privileged to inhabit as the reigning executives who guide the complex corporate entity known as Cretaceous World.

I took the long way home to the residence, since I was just basically checking on our daily operations, keeping in touch with what was going on at our vast amusement park full of genetically engineered dinosaurs.

I drove past the subway station near the main gate where visitors were busy boarding the one o'clock train in order to travel to observation stations around the park. This was the very best time to go take a look at the dinosaurs because this was when they're most active and out and about at spots where they're observable. There were quite a few people visiting the park today, even though Christmas Eve was just a few hours away. The parking structure near the main gate looked pretty full, and I could see through the windows of the large restaurant and the sizeable gift shop that plenty of folks were in both these places. I continued on past the museum full of dinosaur fossils from all over the world, and there were plenty of people going in there as well. I next came to the sprawling apartment building where the park's hundreds of employees lived.

We call this building "the bunkhouse."

Further uphill was the office building where the bureaucracy was located, the middle managers and office assistants who administered the park.

We call this place "the headquarters."

Alongside it was the physical plant, the place where the physical operation of the park was coordinated: electrical matters, plumbing, heating, cooling, road repair, park security, and so forth.

We just call this "the plant."

I arrived finally at the residence, the palace that sat highest, majestically overlooking all.

The residence is where I live now, a humble retired professor of microbiology who has been picked by his old classmate from undergrad days at USC to be the CEO guiding this whole affair, plucked from obscurity by his old college chum who has gone on to amass a colossal fortune in various software enterprises and who has built and continued to fund this amazing place, this noble attempt to connect global humanity viscerally with the history of life on Earth, this brilliant spot in the Coast Range of Western Oregon, this imagination-igniting theme park called Cretaceous World.

The valet met me in the circular driveway and took the car behind the palace to the capacious carriage house for our many vehicles. As I progressed along the wide walkway to the massive double doors of the front entrance, I regarded the gleaming white magnificence of the three wide-spreading stories of this grand edifice with the narrow cylindrical fourth floor crowning it all.

We call this lofty cylinder on top "the tower."

Chandler greeted me at the front doors, "Welcome home, sir."

I said, "Good to be home, Chandler. How goes it this fine afternoon?"

The corners of his mouth turned slightly upward, and he replied, "Very well, sir. Thank you."

I inquired, "Where might I find the lady of the house?"

His eyes twinkled, and he informed me, "Madam is in the gym, sir. Specifically in the pool, I believe."

I thanked him and climbed the spiral staircase in the middle of the cavernous entry hall. I went to the master bedroom on the third floor and changed into swimming trunks. Then I strolled down the hall to the gym and went in. I walked past the superb array of aerobic machines and weight machines, past the whirlpool bath and the sauna, to the Olympic-sized swimming pool where I found my charming wife.

She shouted, "Hey!"

I answered, "Hey!"

That's how we typically greet each other. After 35 years of marriage, we keep it simple. It works well for us.

I asked, "What'd you do this morning?"

She said, "I went down to the headquarters and the plant, walked around a little, mostly talked with office assistants. On the way home, I swung by the bunkhouse and strolled around there a bit."

I said, "I was with Bud and Lana feeding the T-rexes."

She suggested, "Why don't you hop in? The water's fine."

I didn't just hop in: I did a cannonball. Then I swam over to her and embraced her.

She wraps her legs around me, and here I am, standing in five-foot water, holding her in my arms, gazing into the liquid pools of her enchanting green eyes.

I say, "I felt like a Spinosaur coming across the pool."

She smiles and says, "If you were a Spinosaur, you'd probably take me out to deeper water."

I agree, "Probably."

I like the feeling of her arms around my neck.

I say, "I saw something at the T-rex pen today."

She says, "Oh yeah, like what?"

I explain, "Dorothy invited Roger to have sex with her, and he did." Her eyes widen, and she comments, "Wow, sounds stimulating." The technology of erectile pills has come a long way. Thanks to this progress, a 68-year-old man like me now has as strong an erection as Roger's.

I hold Becky up with one arm and pull my trunks down with the other hand so they slide off my legs. I move the divider on her bikini bottom aside a little and enter her. I roar like Roger. She laughs and roars back.

*
I'm suddenly awake. I look over at the clock and see it's a little after midnight. I get up quietly so as not to wake my sleeping wife and climb the spiral stairs to the tower, which is directly over the master bedroom.

The tower is a circular room with a large radius. There are floor to ceiling windows all the way around it. I stand looking south over Cretaceous World. It's raining outside. I see the lights of the headquarters and the plant, of the bunkhouse further down, and of the museum, the restaurant, the gift shop, the parking garage, and the subway station down by the entry portal. I see a security car patrolling slowly. Otherwise, all is darkness.

It's very early on Christmas Day now. I imagine I'm a little kid who can't sleep waiting for Santa Claus. I go to the shelves of the book stacks at the north end of the tower. I find the Greek New Testament and take it to the recliner sofa at the center of the room's circle. As I always do on this day, I turn to the Nativity section of the Gospel of Luke and read of the amazing births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

1:13-14 - [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

"And the angel said to him," Don't be afraid, Zacharias, because your entreaty has been heard and your wife Elizabeth will bear your son; and you will call his name John, and joy and exultation will be yours.

Elizabeth was well along in years and barren. Zacharias and she had no child. Then the angel came with the message.

1:39-41 - [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

"And Mary, having risen, went with haste in these days into the mountainous country to a city ofJudah and entered the house of Zach!3 arias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened that, as Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the holy spirit."

Tonight, I'm focused on Elizabeth, this old childless woman who was able miraculously to give birth to a son who grew up to make a difference in the world.

Becky and I never had a child. We're old now. We never thought we wanted kids. We had our careers. We met in the Biology Department of the State University of New Geneva less than a hundred miles east of here over in the Upper Willamette Valley. She was a professor of botany who'd come to SUNG from graduate school at the Ohio State University. From USC, I'd gone on to graduate school at UC Berkeley, where I'd become a microbiologist fascinated by the four billion years of cellular life on Earth. Becky and I'd just wanted to read, to think, to write, to teach. Children had no appeal at all. Now at age 68 on this dark and rainy night, I can't help wondering and wishing.

When I was a kid in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, I knew a woman who was a mother of two young children. I knew her very well. She seduced me, and I had sex with her for a summer. She was thirty-eight, I was eighteen, and her daughter and son were eleven and eight respectively. Her husband was an executive in the recording industry. He'd become impotent from something the pills couldn't fix, something that came from losing interest in sex, in life, with her anyway. She was a counselor at my high school, and as soon as I graduated, there she was, calling me on the phone, inviting me over when her husband was away. She became convinced that she could divorce her aging husband and marry me. She thought that would work. We'd be one big happy family living off the alimony and child support. At the time, I was tempted. Now I know how many ways that could've, would've gone wrong. I went off to USC where I lived in a dorm on-campus, and she faded away. Driving down to South Central Los Angeles from the west end of the Valley was too hard a reality to overcome, and her living nearby was out of the question. She had an aversion to poverty and gunfire. It could have been a real mess if I'd made her pregnant. As it was, it was just over. I would've impregnated her if she'd wanted me to. She wouldn't have had to trick me or anything. I wanted to fill her with my seed. I'd had no idea what I would've been getting into. My biology was all in favor of the project; my becoming a biologist would likely have been a casualty of it. That was a close call. And yet, if I'd plunged into all that, I'd have a child now, probably children.

I think of Dorothy, of how her eggs will never hatch because it would be most inconvenient for us. I wonder if she cares at all about that.

I finish reading about the wondrous birth of the Christ-child and return down the spiral stairs to my sleeping wife and my king-size bed. I crawl in and pull the covers up around my face. I think of Roger. I think of being in the pool and roaring like Roger. I think of Becky roaring back. God, I love her.

CHAPTER 2

TARZANA

Harold well remembers the day his destiny changed. Not a night goes by that he doesn't think about it.

He was driving east on the Ventura Freeway, heading from his cozy apartment in Tarzana to his current acting gig at a TV studio in Burbank. It was a minor part. That's the only kind he ever got. He was resigned by then to calling himself a character actor. It could've been worse. At least he could find work. Most of the aspiring actors in LA earned their meager living as waiters in restaurants and cafes. This had been so for a century and a half. Harold never had to wait long for the next part to come along. He always had lines to say, and the lines were usually important enough to make it into the final cut. Millions of people recognized his face when they saw it on the screen. Very few could remember what his name was.

He was driving along admiring the majestic San Gabriel Mountains, which were clearly visible to the east now that all vehicles were electric and thick smog was a thing of the past. Without warning, the Earth lurched beneath his wheels and kept on lurching. As it did for most everyone in LA at that moment, the word "EARTHQUAKE" flashed in his mind and kept on flashing.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Love in the Cretaceous"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Howard W. Robertson.
Excerpted by permission of Anaphora Literary Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Skookum, 7,
Tarzana, 15,
Tumtum, 23,
Dewberry, 30,
Illahee, 36,
Founder, 44,
Horns, 50,
Dojo, 58,
Drums, 66,
Reaper, 74,
Reeds, 80,
Orbit, 88,
Armor, 93,
Paleobugs, 101,
Belly, 108,
Bones, 116,
Sail, 120,

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