First Dinosaur on the Moon
By Liz Wride
We pick the balloons for size, rather than sentiment; they professed every greeting, regret and celebratory exclamation it’s possible to express via an inflated foil shape. The coloured string of the balloon bouquet is entwined like DNA, and knotted around your little plastic brontosaurus. I hold the dinosaur tightly in my palm, so that it, and the balloons, are tethered to me. I don’t let them go. Not just yet.
There’s a slow puncture in the huge champagne bottle balloon, but I don’t have the heart to tell you. The sea breeze picks up, and the balloons jostle against one another in the wind; as if impatient for takeoff.
Sea air is good for the lungs – or so they say. I have no clue if this has ever been backed by science; but it’s something my mother would say; her mother before her…
You’re dressed in an old Halloween costume – a spacesuit – a hand-me down from a kid in school who was obsessed with space – but quite literally – grew out of it. You’ve added our country’s flag to the arm of the suit: a paper-patch held on with glue.
You take deliberate steps in the sand, as you head away, down the beach. You leave little footprints, as you recite facts about planets and famous lines from astronauts. You tell the sea that Jupiter has sixty-seven moons, that Pluto isn’t a planet, and that really, space is only a hundred kilometres away. It absorbs the information in waves – as do I.
You were specific about the dinosaur. It had to be that toy. I remember the day you got this little dinosaur. We were at the Fairground for your birthday and you took your reel of tickets to the booth: a bundling mass of paper, to be told it was only worth a cheap brontosaurus. I expected tears, but you were ecstatic. The world offers us more impressive prizes when we are young. The dinosaur came everywhere with you: school, the bathtub, the bathroom, the hospital, the barbers, the doctor’s office, bed, the nurse’s office…
I wonder now, what’s made you let him go. I don’t know why you traded dinosaurs for space, either. It’s funny how small seeds germinate. Things inside us we never see – then suddenly, they are full-blown and taking over.
You tell me again and again how funny a dinosaur on the moon will be.
I tell you that if it reaches the moon, you won’t get to see it. You tell me with plucky optimism that it’ll be all over the internet, so all you’ll have to do is sit and watch.
The champagne bottle balloon operates like a collapsed lung, and the afternoon breeze encourages more and more air out of it.
I tell you again that you won’t get to see it. I tell you that’ll you’ll have to hope it gets there – hope it’s alright in the end. You tell me that it’ll get there, speaking with loose-tooth optimism.
“Ready?” I ask.
You turn and for a moment, I see a hesitant maturity flash through your eyes, like a far-away falling star. I blink, and you’re all wide-eyed wonder again. You give a stiff-armed salute, as your space-man suit creases with the movement.
We stand on ceremony before I release the balloons. Your countdown is through cupped-hands. We both imagine the flame of rocket engines – but I know you don’t feel the heat of them, like I can – you just see colours dancing.
The balloons carry the nameless brontosaurus into the air as he is whipped up higher and higher. We crane our necks upwards, until he disappears.
Space is only a hundred kilometres away.
When I turn, I see you again, taking purposeful footsteps in the sand. This time, you are getting further and further away.