InDinosaurs on the Roof, acclaimed author and playwright David Rabe delivers a singular work that reaffirms his extraordinary range and talent, and introduces a story and a collection of characters whose genuine audacity will echo with readers for years to come.In the town of Belger, Iowa, recently divorced Janet Cawley is attempting to find some peace and quiet, and perhaps a solitary place where she can finally fall apart. She's quit her job teaching fourth grade, though with the money she has, she will probably get along fine for another six months. She still needs to extricate herself from an affair with an ex-colleague that has the neighbors talking, but after that she can spend her time alone, jogging, drinking, and making the occasional trip into town.Her plans are interrupted one morning by the sudden appearance of her now-deceased mother's oldest friend, Bernice, who has an urgent matter to discuss. Bernice's preacher, it seems, has informed his congregation that they are to be visited by the Rapture that very evening -- and Bernice's first question, and most pressing fear, is how her dogs and cats will be fed and cared for after she's gone.Through
In his entertaining second novel, Obie Award-winning playwright Rabe (In the Boom Boom Room ) presents an overly eventful day-in-the-life of two women in smalltown Iowa. Elderly Bernice Doorley is convinced that in the company of Reverend Tauke and his followers, she will be on her way to heaven that evening, which, according to the reverend, is when the rapture is due to arrive. Bernice's main concern is who will take care of her beloved pets, particularly her old dog, General. On the outs with daughter Irma, Bernice turns to Janet Cawley, the eccentric daughter of her recently deceased friend, whose days revolve around jogging, drinking and sleeping with her married boyfriend. Bernice waits in her best outfit to be beamed up; Janet, meanwhile, has other adventures with a former student (she was a fourth-grade teacher). Serious topics like spirituality and mother-daughter relationships get an airing in this satire of American excess, but the proceedings end up increasingly contrived. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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Simon & Schuster
June 09, 2008
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Excerpt from Dinosaurs on the Roof by David Rabeeya
As Janet crested the hill, her breath was smooth, her stride easy. Sweat streaked her brow, beading and falling. There was an unfamiliar car parked at the curb near where she lived, but she wasn't expecting anyone, and her landlords, the Luckritzes, always had relatives and friends coming and going.
Since she'd increased her distance from three to four miles today, exhaustion might have dragged at her, but the striving had turned into a gleam in her blood that pushed her to sail on. The swish of her ponytail threaded out the back of her baseball cap brushed her shoulders. Her long legs stretched and coiled, promising a future of runs, always longer, always farther. Even races. Miles of concrete flowing under her. Miles of dirt. Marathons, even. Throngs of runners in silky shorts, their lungs gasping. She would float along in a cloud of wild breathing.
A shift in the late-afternoon light turned the ragged old four-door into a shimmering green bubble. She was pretty sure it was a Chevy, and eighties. Not that she knew cars that well. And then nudging away ringlets of sweaty hair, she saw gray duct tape crisscrossing rusted scars on both the front and rear fenders and knew who was inside. Her gaze vaulted the brown siding and the shingled rooftop ahead to a fissure in the autumn colors of the tree-packed hills. Scattered houses rode the summit, and somewhere miles below, the banks of the Mississippi brought the town to an end. Across that gray slab of water rose the Wisconsin hills.
Her attempt to see into the car met only shadows thrown by a nearby oak. While telling herself to jog past, maybe gallop on into the woods, she slowed and then stalled. The window started jerking down in spasms, and the face that pushed out was that of Bernice Doorley, a lifelong friend of Janet's mother, Isabel. Caught upon the hook of the old woman's gaze, Janet felt the rewards of the run leave her. The last time she'd seen Bernice was at her mother's funeral over a year ago.
"How do," said Bernice.
"Straying a little far from home, aren't you?" Janet asked.
"Not so far. Speedometer says here I went just a little more than six miles."
"I ran about that far."
"Did you now? Look at you. All out of breath. Who you runnin' from?"
"Just running, Bernice."
"What's that called again?"
"Just 'running,' as far as I know."
"No, no, it's got some other name so it don't sound ordinary, but somehow there's more to it."
"That's the one." With a sly little smile, she pushed the door open. "Get in. Have a little rest."
Janet looked away and then back but gave no indication she would enter the car. "What brings you to my neck of the woods?"
"Lookin' for you. Isn't that clear?"
"Get in. I need to ask a sort of favor, and I can make it snappy."
Janet smiled but took a backward step, as if something she would be smart to avoid waited inside the car. "Listen, do you know what? We can talk, but I should take a shower. You can come up." Her attempted display of welcome made her feel like a puppet with fingers worming their way up inside her to make her act in ways she didn't mean. Why can't they just leave me alone? she thought. Bernice appeared ready to scowl, her eyes vaguely suspicious, behind the thick lenses of her glasses in clear plastic frames. "Listen," Janet explained. "What I meant was we should go inside. I need to get something to drink and jump in the shower before I catch cold."
"You want me to come inside?"
"Yeah." That was her deal, all right. Polite, compliant, and fake. A cozy little chat with Bernice was the last thing she wanted.
"Oh well, you should say what you mean, then, Janet."
"I thought I did."
"Not as far as I could tell."
Emerging into the day, Bernice made a sturdy impression, always had. Medium height and slightly overweight, she was broad across the back and hips. Her white hair was tightly curled from a recent permanent, and a white knit scarf cradled her neck. She'd even gone to the trouble of pink lipstick, eyeliner, and rouge for reasons Janet doubted had to do with her visit here. Her pleated sage green skirt and flannel jacket, hip-length and gray, seemed to have come straight from the cleaners. All dolled up for something, Bernice still looked built for lugging heavy objects, a workhorse through and through. They'd made an odd pair, her mother and Bernice. Isabel Cawley had been long-limbed and delicate, maybe even rarefied as the years went on, though there was nothing fragile about either one of them when the time came to drive a remark clear to the bone.
Bernice smiled just then, and Janet turned and looked off. The west appeared to have exploded, the aftermath radiant.
"You sure are a tall drink of water," said Bernice behind her, making it sound like a fault.
"I guess." She set off, chuckling,