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art by Shannon N. Kelly


John Van Pelt's day job is in the graphic arts. He lives in Virginia, with his wife Marsh Richards, also a writer. "Saurus" is his first published fiction. Look for future works to reflect his interests in linguistics, evolution, American politics, butterflies, (un)sustainable living, the cosmos, optical illusions, and creativity. He thanks his daughters Alexis, Jamie, and Emma for encouraging him by sitting through late-night readings of his first writing efforts.

"What is it!?" Boy's eyes sparkled. "Is it anything?"
"Let me sit first, won't you?" I steadied myself with my good arm, and sat heavily on an Elder stone. "Let me see." I took the rectangular block from his grasp with both hands. It was lighter than I expected.
"Do you need to piss, Boy? Then quit your dancing. Sit here by me."
Anything else--anything metal, anything useful--he would have taken to the younger men. Never mind that I often had memories of such things, as well. They made of them what they could--blades, chisels, vessels.
Once I tried offering my knowledge. The name popped into my mind from who knows where. "That's a brake caliper," I had said.
"Oho!" Boy's father said. "A break what, hey? It's broken now, inn't?" The young men laughed.
"It was part of a car, part of what made them stop."
"Well now." Boy's father narrowed his eyes, looking past me down the hill, across the vacant, quiet land. "It worked pretty damn good, didn't it?"
Now I brushed the dust from the block in my lap, knocked away dried clots of soil from its edges.
"This is a book," I said. "With stories, maybe."
Boy dragged his gaze away from the object in my lap to see if I was joking.
"There were once all kinds of books." My thumbnail found a place on the side of the block where the pages had not completely fused, and I pried it open.
"Is it stories?" Boy looked eagerly at the spread of pages, studying its antlike markings and blooms of mildew.
Inflamed; scarlet, vermilion; crimson; rubiate; maroon; damask; puce; stammel; cerise...
"No, Boy."
I knew this thing. My thumb searched for another crack in the binding.
Areaway; breezeway; vestibule, portal, portico, entry, threshold; lobby, foyer; propylaeum, stoa; narthex...
"I'm sorry, Boy. No stories."
I suddenly felt very tired. I didn't want to open any more pages. I didn't want to see all the names for money, or airplanes, or terms of endearment. I didn't want to read all the names for war.
"Here," I said, closing it and setting it back on Boy's lap. "Make up your own stories."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
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