Mesozoic Man

Chuck Redman

"STEGOSAURUS—Stegosaurus had a small head and a brain the size of a walnut. The low position of the skull, plus a horny beak instead of front teeth, indicates it fed on ferns, mosses, and other low-growing vegetation. Stegosaurus was a quadruped, with much shorter forelimbs than hind limbs, resulting in unusual posture. 17 bony plates along its backbone and tail are thought to have acted like radiators to keep it cool in the tropical heat as well as provide protection like armor. The spikes in its flexible tail helped in defending itself from predators."

I marveled at the colossal dinosaur skeletons on exhibit currently at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. But since marveling can be rather tiring to a 60-something body, I sat down on a bench to rest while my wife went ahead with the tour group to check out the Minerals and Gems. Sitting only made me drowsy, so I rested my head on my palm and my elbow on my leg and closed my eyes. I don't know if I drifted off to sleep and was dreaming or if I was still half-awake, but after a few minutes I heard voices quite nearby. . .

"Look, Sweetie, there's an interesting one. It must be a new addition to the exhibit, because it doesn't have any plaque or descriptive material."

"It looks funny, Daddy. Why does it have such wrinkly, white skin and saggy eyes?"

"Janie, don't touch, it looks really fragile and decrepit. It probably spent most of its time watching old movies on TV and listening to its mate chattering on the telephone."

"Oh. But look at the yellow, crooked teeth, Daddy."

"Very good, Sweetheart. I believe they used their teeth to forage for food at all-you-can-eat salad bars and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts."

"Daddy, that's disgusting."

"Well, that's natural history, Sweetheart. Sometimes it's a little bit disgusting. But did you notice the creature's old shirt? It says "Bank of Dad—America's Favorite Lending Institution." That must have something to do with the way it cared for its young, back millions and millions of years ago."

"It has a big tummy, Daddy."

"It sure does—excellent observing, Janie. I'm pretty sure that was an extra food supply for when the Social Security check was late."

"Oh. How come it has no hair on its head, but lots of hair growing in its nose and its ears?"

"Well, that's a tough one, Pumpkin, but the scientists would probably say that it used its head for worrying and giving unwanted advice to its offspring and that the hair had to move to the parts that weren't used as much."

"But didn't it use its ears, Daddy?"

"Um, you see that little device in its ear, Honey?"

"Yes, I see it. What's it for?"

"Well, when it wanted to play with its grandkids, it would turn the device up. But, when its mate called it to come and vacuum the nest, it would turn it all the way down. You see?"

I was feeling so peaceful. Isn't it beautiful the way a parent and child can share a special learning experience like this. It takes me right back to when the kids were young and we . . .

A sudden clattering, rattling sound made me jump and open my eyes. On the floor was my little bottle of Pepto-Bismol—must have fallen out of my jacket pocket. I looked around, didn't see any father and daughter in the immediate vicinity. The crowd had thinned out a bit. More muted now was the light filtering in through the huge museum windows from Exposition Park on a late afternoon. Low clouds might be starting to roll in about now. I stretched my arms and shoulders, especially the right one that's been acting up lately.

Looking up at Tyrannosaurus Rex brandishing his saber-like teeth at me, I wondered what thoughts and dreams might have once danced around inside that fossilized brain of his. Well, sadly, I'll never know. But, from one dinosaur to another, buddy it's nice to have a day at the museum


About the Author

Chuck Redman has practiced law in Los Angeles for 33 years. His novella, The Meateaters, was published serially in Between the Species (1986-87). More recently, he has been published in Writer's Digest, The Jewish Magazine, and Lowestoft Chronicle.