The Skin

by Danilo Thomas

“Cuando despertó’, el dinosauro todo vía estaba allí.” (“When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.”)- El Dinosauro by Augusto Monterosso
31 March 2009 / 12:38 pm

Good afternoon dinosaurs,

It has been raining all day. Our new garden is flooded. The tomatoes are going to drown. I should have noticed the clovers earlier; why they grow in that particular spot between our bricks, and their bricks.

Look, pterodactyl! A sparrow worries its wings upon the sill. Its yellow feathers are slick. Strange to think how like a bat your wings are, pterodactyl. A thin membrane stretched between clawed thumbs. But, you are not a mammal. You are the ancestor of archaeopteryx; you are of the tooth and the feather, the pointed beak, the talons…

How yellow your skins, and bumpy, allosaurs. You must be brothers. I wonder if you share your mother’s smile? You have strong handshakes. Men will know that you are serious upon meeting them for the first time. You will dazzle the ladies. None of that flimsy finger plucking. That’s not a handshake. That’s a handsqueeze. You’re supposed to shake the hand in a handshake. Am I right, or am I right? Your parents would be proud of you, boys.

Dream mighty dreams,


2 April 2009 / 7:33 am

Good day dinosaurs,

The coffee tastes exceptional this morning, where did you buy it? I hope you didn’t spend a fortune. If you did, know that your fine taste is not lost on me. The gloom hanging over this town lingers perfectly for a coffee commercial. If you put on your sweaters, (loop them slowly over your wings, your tiny, withered arms) I will sing us the Cuppy Joe O! song just as it starts to rain, and we can act intelligent. Snuggle together for warmth before the lightning strikes. Wrap our claws around our steaming mugs.

No? Fine, but answer me this, does it hurt having such small brains? Or, rather, does anything feel? I would guess, if I were a guessing man, that all you really feel is hunger. That you gorge yourselves into bloated satiation in the shade of a palm in pools of cool mud. No one really knows you. You can’t really say that you know yourselves that well. Admit it. Overcast days in spring like these hold nothing nostalgic in your pea-sized brains. You do not miss the unexpected brush of one’s hair across your hand. You do not recall how tired we were when we outran the clerk and then smoked those victory cigars. You do not even remember the last time you fed your huge bodies. But, you keep foraging for food and you keep finding it. I admire your work ethic, if nothing else; your rotund aesthetic.

Yours always,


5 April 2009 / 3:00 pm

Dear Dinosaurs,

It is such a ginger evening, couldn’t we leave this house. We could toss around a ball in the street. Allosaurs, you could whack the ball with your tails, and pterodactyl could go get it. I could sit on the porch and read a book drinking bourbon. Falling into a tipsy, with walls built of pride I would place my hand on my belly and guffaw. “How grown up you have become!” I could say.

The day you popped out of those peculiar eggs you were covered in blood and embryonic fluid. You looked so plastic, but so needy, and I just swept you up and took you in. Then, before I knew it, you got big enough to not only stalk the neighbor’s German Sheppard, Flight Clearance, but kill and eat him. That kennel was a mess, and you all just sat on the couch afterwords watching the Power Rangers, and absolutely hating them for defeating poor representations of your race.

Anyway, we must get out sometime. I have just mopped the tiles. I shoveled out all your bone-littered scat, and swept up the cat fur. Replastered the walls. Placed a Dactyl-Door in the ceiling. Patent pending. And, your skins have been buffed. Allosaurs the crests of your spines beam like dusky desert horizons. Pterodactyl, you gleam like a shined boot. Needless to say, you were not meant for the indoors. You are too large for these confines; too lethal in your beauty to hide.

Thinking of your many shells,


7 April 2009 / 4:52 am

Dear dinosaurs and pterodactyl,

You will need names.

Pterodactyl, your hands are remarkable, the origins of flight attached to a long finger, pointing sideways, or curled at the sides while poking your toad impaling beak into the mud. On the Earth, you hop like a gorilla, knuckle walker, amazing dinosaur imposter (yes, I have been doing research). Pterosaur, indefinable nomenclature, birdlizard. Addicted to diet cola and cheese flavored crackers. Not in the history books, but an observation. Asleep on the couch most of the day, your lethargic wings peel on the carpet. However, like Dr. J and the Z Boyz, you are a pioneer. Sick of scrambling in the foliage your ancestors essentially decided one day that they were going to fly and they did. So, I will call you Daedalus, master inventor of wings. Eagles would die for your autograph.

Then you, Allosaurs. You are the epitome of dinosaur. Your scales balance on the strength of your femurs. Museums are full of your family’s giant bones. However, I will not take you there to witness your dead; to hear the dead language you would never call yourselves, assuming, (again from observation), that you would prefer something more like RRRRaaaaaAAAAArrrrrrr, anyway. Anyway, the men who named most of those bones were rivals. They waged the Bone Wars. They robbed the graves of the Morrison Formation. Every entry of the spade disturbed the work of time, and bit by bit your ancestors were removed from the earth. But bit by bit the earth extracted the souls of these excavators. Every skeleton exhumed was replaced with a piece of their hearts, and these paleontologists wound up empty. The diggers were fierce and you are fierce, Othniel and Drinker Cope. Your legacies are in battle, the loss of tooth in hide and on bone. You are predation.

Come when you’re called,


8 April 2009 / 4:13 pm

Othniel, Drinker Cope, Daedalus,

We got into the booze last night if you can’t recall. For the most part you were all fun, until Daedalus drank too much, and, in a rage, buried his beak in the wall. I had to leave my own house. But before I left it was clear to see that you are all getting smarter. You didn’t attack physically, at first, ignoring that instinct, but ripped your claws through alcoholism and cancer and used-car salesmanship and the eternal smell of cigarette smoke. Then came the brutality you were born with. Then you almost ripped Othniel’s ear off, Daedalus. And then, this morning, you had all obviously been taking bong loads. I could see the glass cylinder smoking on the table. Its ashes blew out of the bowl and spread on the carpet. You were wrapped up in blankets.

In my cave, the desk was shattered, the mattress flipped against the wall. A book had its cover torn off and was buried in the shattered ribs of the blinds. You said that you would fix the desk. You would fix the desk. You would fix the desk when the movie was over.

Still waiting,


9 April 2009 / 2:44 pm

Dear Othniel, Drinker Cope & Daedalus,

You are formally invited to the masque. It’s just a little something we like to do on a Thursday eve. There will be refreshments. Blood oranges and Sparkling wine. Someone is sure to grill meats. I know this tempts you.

As for your disguises, I have tailored you Victorian gentile’s garb. Your arms will not do for holding a bauble, so your faces will be powdered and rouged, wigs will adorn your broad heads. There will be dancing, and yes, your shoes are small. I know you will find a way to get your claws into them.



14 April 2009 / 3:00 am

Daedalus, Drinker Cope, Othniel,

Allow me a recap of the weekend, as I was too busy to write you.

Friday, she soaked the eggplant in a marinade of ginger. Grilled and placed on white bread it was delicious. I hope she keeps the recipe. You would not partake, but had the hot Italian sausages. They were on sale. Two for one. The neighbor lit off fireworks in a display of hostility for the contraband laws of New York City. Can you imagine the sky without regulations? Every night the sky sparkling? The plain whites of the stars stepping aside for the red and purple blooms of gunpowder, the smoke filling the streets, shadows cast inside the smoke dancing with others’ silhouettes? “Lit up like the Fourth of July,” would no longer be a common adage. It would just be, “Lit up. Again.” And, even the clouds could not hide the beauty that starts from the ground up. I know you appreciate that, Daedalus. And you, Brothers Allosaurus, can appreciate the round chunks of light, the red and dripping ones, bitten from the sky, and left bleeding.

Then Saturday you ripped the sheep apart and slathered the doors in blood. I roasted its haunches and you ate the innards. The angel of death passed over our house while we discussed your sexual identities with the neighbors and their picture of the breastfeeding Stone Butch. Their word, not ours.

Sunday, everyone brought something. We did not want for food. We thought about religion during an awkward silence when we didn’t say grace and thought we should have. The neighbor’s parents were there and might have expected it. Maybe we did. I did, call me old fashioned, but you just dug right in and had seconds before anyone finished their first round, unimpressed with us all, because, well, look at you: three beings that predate Christ by 65 million years, sitting at our table on a day of resurrection, and no one even noticed you in your t-shirts.

Monday, the trees were knocked down while we slept. Eight in a three-block radius. One house with an oak in the front room. One house knocked spinning off of its foundation. One house, hardier than the others, snapped the tree. Roads blocked, power outages. Poor people without renters insurance floating down the creek that formed in the middle of Queen City Avenue. No paddle. And the trees were broken, also.

Today, I am going to look for firewood.

Remove the blood from my awnings, will you?

Hacking away,


16 April 2009 / 9:30 am


Put those teeth to the grinding stone and roll yourselves in wax. I will towel you off. Your skins will shine. I will rub mink oil into your wings and light us cigars. I will wear nothing, but my skin will be clean and shiny and pink, and you will wish to devour me. There is no work tomorrow. The weekend is a time for the dapper, the nude, the hunched and wicked, the sly smiles, and the dark sunglasses. Emperors of Thursday Eve wear no clothing. We understand the nakedness, but wear it, again.

Scrubbing up,


22 April 2009 / 9:28 am

Drinker Cope and Othniel,

Tell Daedalus hello, but this is for you two.

No, you are not in trouble here, boys. As a matter of fact, it is good to see you getting outside more often these days. You are both looking leaner, and might I say, meaner, than ever. Ha ha. Only problem is that the drains are being clogged with piles of your, eh, droppings. Again, not scolding here. Raccoons don’t come around and tip over the garbage. Stray cats haven’t been peeing in our gardens, et al.

On the other hand, I know I told you to dookie out where the rain could wash your scat away. The thing is, that it has been working too well, actually. The drains are lined in discarded and partially digested sinew, unrecognizable chips of bone matter, globs of suet. The authorities were notified, and the city workers came with their shovels and the dump truck with the Kandy Krane arm they use to pick up tree limbs. It was fine until one of the workers, leaning on his rake, bent down and picked up what he thought to be bark. The scapula attached to the arm was so unmistakably human. Bone tests were required. They say the severing was a result of chomping, the neighborhood should be aware of large cats in the area, which really doesn’t make any sense in consideration of the regional fauna.

Now, I am not pointing any fingers. I know the campus is a buffet for you guys. Maybe I am completely wrong and a dog got a hold of this person. He fell in the ditch on his way to school and some lurking scavenger had his way with the drowned corpse. I don’t know. Just saying, chew your food twenty times before swallowing and walk down to the river to poop, and we won’t have these problems. Plus, you won’t choke.

All the best,


24 April 2009 / 5:31 pm

Drinker Cope, Othniel & Daedalus,

I had a strange dream about you:

A flooded river peeled its banks off in fat crescented layers. They should have crumbled and fallen apart and flown down and into the current, but they drifted with the water. Dirtbergs. They jammed behind a bridge and then the flooding was worse. That is why I was there, and you were on the other side of the bank, to clear the bridge, to stop the flooding. We got to that broken bridge. The bridge had not completely busted out. Its supports had failed and the deck had fallen flat, skimming the top of the river. Daedalus, you stepped out first and stood in the middle. You got brave enough to hit the bridge with a sledge. Break it and the flooding clears was the thought. I stepped on, and the bridge broke. You rushed away in the current, a flying creature in the water. I hesitated before I jumped in. I tried to yell, Man in, Man in! Man Drowning, to alert the people with the grapples, but they couldn’t hear me. My mouth was full of water and I was about to follow you down the drain.



27 April 2009 / 11:06 am

Drinker Cope, Othniel & Daedalus,

I feel the way skin sounds at the instant of being struck. That confusion of feeling and sound and inertia and potential energies. I am bored. I don’t want to do anything, but want everything to do. I think I am depressed. Why do I even bother telling you this? I still don’t know if your hearts, under your scaly skins, feel things the same way I do? The heart doesn’t actually feel, I suppose, no pain sensors. But, that soft raspberry, that burn on your skin? It feels. It hurts.

But then, “Quit whining,” your black eyes say to me, and I fall through your corneas into a black space and look back out, and where I have fallen from is an absence that seems like a moon, your brain a planet where only the raw materials matter. I land on it heavily. My body shatters with the impact. Impact, I feel, is the moment when matter understands matter. Potential energies release and shoot sideways and create feeling and sound and new inertia that will no longer be a part what it was before. But is that what I want? Do I trust the impact? Can we hurt our way out of this?

Bleeding on your brain,


23 July 2009 / 8:56 am


When I woke up you were gone, and my scales and teeth had hardened. My claws were strong, although I worried about my hunger. I wonder, from where you are, do you look down on me fondly, or do you glare out fiercely?

If I wake again will you be back?

Were you ever here?

Do you remain?

Dreaming of you,



thomas2Danilo Thomas is a MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Alabama where he acts as the current Fiction Editor for Black Warrior Review. He was raised in southwestern Montana and currently lives in Northport, Alabama, with his wife and pets. His work can be found, or is forthcoming in, Midwestern Gothic, Fiction Southeast, Burnt Bridge, 751magazine, The Offending Adam, Precipitate, Milk Money and other publications. He’d like to thank Mason’s Road.

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