Sitting at a diner in the morning and listening to Country-Western songs I’d never have the patience to hear on my own. I was on the road, about to get on with it after spending the night at the motel next door. There was a woman who served the food and she was swooning. The crooner on the radio was a lady as well, and she sang about how she wanted to leave her small-town life and ride off with the cowboy who loved her. He was wild and she would show him just how wild she was and how suited she’d be to his wandering ways. A man sang the next song, ironically, a cowboy tired of the range, ready to settle into a small town with his woman. He didn’t mind if they couldn’t afford a fancy wedding, or that he’d give up his much loved country man-freedom. What mattered is that he was drastically changing his life for the lady he loved.

My waitress lost her concentration by the time that second tune began. I have a feeling she had been let down by a fair share of wandering cowboys, disguised as freight-carrying truck drivers, wrangling products shipped from China onto gigantic chain-stores all across God’s blessed country.

I was sad to find the discrepancy between the two highly gendered and perhaps even reversed lyrical positions. The gap that lived in-between. I would have been sadder if I hadn’t felt selfishly romantic about being where I was, on the road and alone, seated outside of situations like the one spewing out in song from the ceiling-speaker above me, and finding myself as the dinosaur I had become. I turned into one somewhere along the way. A Tyrannosaurus Rex, I think… unless I’m some sort of derivation as of yet unknown to man. I’m smaller than you think I’d be, but I do like to eat meat.

I had been to this diner once, years before with a guy called Joe. We were passing through and into what I would come to know as my Midwestern life. After I broke up with him I realized that I’d changed. It was hard, and in some way I blamed him. Trains and Trucks. Free HBO. We stopped in Flagstaff. I bought Brie and a bottle of cheap red wine that wasn’t so bad. We watched a movie about witchcraft on television and laughed with a little liquor in our veins. There were mountains outside the window. Trees too. I had no idea just how different my landscape and my life would soon become. He was annoying and had quirks meant to be left, which is why I eventually did. It was never about him. But he was there.

Now I am driving alone, leaving the Midwest, and coming back home to settle myself, no longer the sort of woman who would sigh for a savior in a no-wheres-ville town. As well as becoming a dinosaur I have become the embodiment of what lives in-between. I stand outside the country song. I’ve learned to like it out here.

Despite my feelings of separation, everyone has been pretty nice considering what they know about carnivorous dinosaurs. In some sort of karmic return for their kindness I became a vegan. That only lasted a couple of years. I had to reconcile a lot of things. I got rid of my car for a while because I couldn’t bear the guilt of using the remains of my ancestors for the sake of my own travel convenience. Soon it got to be a joke. There comes a time, whether you find yourself transformed into the only known throwback of an extinct species or not, when you have to bend with the proverbial wind and submit to your biology and surroundings.

After a while I could look at the situation with a sense of humor. I’m pretty sure I still think and feel like a human, and in this way being a dinosaur is kind of like wearing a costume. At first I was pretty depressed. I realized that I ended up with Joe simply because he was there. The man I really loved didn’t love me back, and these things in conjunction with my turning into a dinosaur really started to bring me down. Not to mention the lack of protein in light of my physical transformation into an exclusive carnivore was not helping the chemical shifts occurring in my brain, but spiritually I think it was the right way to go.

After breaking up with Joe I found myself in a new city and alone. Here I was, this completely new being, I could do anything I wanted. I was scared but I went back to school, got a sweet scholarship based on my ancestry and became a gynecologist.

I just recently started but financially I’m doing pretty well considering that my arms are a bit short and my head is a good six feet away from them, not to mention the fact that my eyes are seated on opposite sides of my face which makes it pretty much impossible to perform gynecological examinations without a team of expert assistants. It’s really a freak-show sort of vibe that brings in my clientele but there’s a certain sense of humor inherent in the kind of person who wants to say that they’ve gone to see a Dino-Gyno that I appreciate. You use what you’ve been given in this life, and I’ve been given a substantial reduction in brain capacity, green scales, a tail and lots of really sharp teeth.

Sitting at a diner in the morning and listening to Country-Western songs, I think about Joe and the one I really loved who just didn’t love me back. I think of the waitress as I watch her, humming along to the song about the red-blooded cowboy who sweeps his lady onto his horse and into the wild blue sunset. I think and I realize: I don’t like Country Music.

Copyright 2009-2010 Linda Lay All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced without written permission from the artist or author.

Published in the 2009 issue of SPRUNG FORMAL.



(written in 2007, published in 2008)

Like a spy I left a note in that bush, in that field. You knew to wait till I climbed back onto the landing before fetching it. When I checked later it was gone, so I know you took it. I thought you might have let William take it. Things were getting dangerous, but I had to let you know. I don’t know, you never told me anything anyway.

Do you remember, in that field? I told you what I wanted it to be like. A little apartment in the city and you’d come and go. I’d be busy with my own work anyway. I thought it would be nice. I could see the ocean from that spot and always looked toward it when I told you what I wanted. It was far, but mine all the same. Just like you. I said I loved you and that our love reminded me of a time that never happened.

We were on the road the first time I noticed the black birds in the blue sky. We were driving all right. Things were different. Couldn’t put my finger on it. Something was wrong, but at the same time, nothing could go wrong. Like we slipped into some other dimension. Maybe we did. That was when I met that redheaded guy who talked for a very long time about how I needed to stand differently, to stop shifting my weight onto one leg. He wouldn’t stop talking and I just wanted to get away. It seemed as though he might be saying something important, it seemed like maybe he was really concerned about my posture, but mostly I think he was talking to hide his nerves. That night was good for me though. I wrote something. It had to do with dancing and none of it mattered, nothing did, except that I was transcended. He came by our room right before I started to write that bit, can you believe it? He said he’d thought the whole thing through and his answer was no. I was relieved. You said it was important to write everything down.

You had a beard then, and were sitting at that ridiculous bar without saying a word to me. I always considered angels to be the same as demons, and I guess you could say they were there; they were all over the place. I could see them. That’s how I did it. They were all talking, and like I said, you were sitting at the bar watching out for me, and that’s how I knew where to go.

Back home, the dark little hole in the wall, the night when you showed up. The time I looked right at you. I was in on it. It took the entire month of March but I finally got it, and that was the night it happened. I walked past you twice and thought this time it would surely be different, so I waited in the bathroom but you didn’t come.

I got myself into some situation. I was done with it after that. It was too much to take and that’s when the messages started to pour in. You were watching, and I thought you were telling them what to say, so that I’d know. I devised a strategy without you and then had coffee with your colleague. He said he wanted to go with me, but I’m pretty sure you told him to say that. We almost drove to the beach but I decided it better to sit alone for a while. You were at the table beside us. I let you listen but didn’t turn my head in your direction because by then I had learned how you liked to play the game. It was time to be mad. I was sick of how you always kept quiet and stared, how you just watched all that was happening to me.

I chose the motel we didn’t stay at, but I ate breakfast at the same diner and the same two waitresses were there. They gave me a sense of familiarity at a time when I was a constant foreigner, and always alone.

I was in new skin and waiting for you at that dark café. You only drove by and tried to make light of the situation by sticking your tongue out at me. I saw from the window. The owner of the place told me to look straight into his eyes, and I did. The guy who played the music said I should dress differently because people would get the wrong idea. You weren’t there. That was when I met Joe. He spoke in code at first so it was hard to pay attention. I was a good person. That was when I figured it out.

That night in the black boots I hadn’t gotten rid of, I drank some grape juice and fell asleep to some real bad dreams. I woke up and turned on gospel songs in the dark. With chills I cried at my welcome into something I don’t know how to name. But first I was damned. It happened at the dollar store. I never told you about this. I don’t know if you know what it’s like, to know that you are damned, but I do. Every look from everyone told me, and I was without you. I could have lost it. I could have gone another way. I thought you saw it all happen. Now I know you didn’t understand. I gave you too much credit. I thought you thought I was fancy and lovely and strong, but you just thought I was weird.

You watched me make friends with William for a while after it was over. Turns out he liked to dress up as a lady. Truth is I didn’t care. The worst part was being afraid, and once there was none of that, it really didn’t matter. So I tidied up. A man punched me in the face, so I sat silent and channeled a poem. I later undid everything. I know you were wondering why I was hanging around. The men liked my legs and you stayed this whole time with one eye peeking out from around the corner. It made me feel like a science experiment, and maybe I was. I would have got the picture if you’d just left.

Copyright 2008-2010 Linda Lay All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced without written permission from the artist or author.

Both prose and painting by Linda Lay 2008. Originally published in the winter issue of The Black Boot