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The small vending-machine-bouncy-ball strikes you in the face. Again.

“AIDAN. ENOUGH.”

“Sorry.”

He sounds sorry, too. You sigh and pick the ball up from the floor of the car in the back seat, where it had fallen after striking you in the forehead.

“It’s fine. I’m just going to hold onto this until we get out of the car. Bouncy balls don’t really belong inside cars.

You can practically hear the pout on Aidan’s face, but you can also hear Jamie nodding while she drives.

“Bouncy balls are meant to be set free, outside. When we stop for a bathroom break I’ll give it back to you and you can launch it as hard as you want.”

“Ok.”

You look at the bouncy ball. It’s a dull, candy-red. It almost looks invisible. You hold it up to the car window as the snowy, passing fields speed past. The ball is already starting to chip; soon it’ll look more like a small planetoid sitting in the sky, while another world quickly moves by in the background.

Finally the car stops. Mackenzie wakes up and everyone gets out of the car. She always wakes up quickly and in an instant she hops out of the car and has her camera out. You step out of the car and the morning is still brisk; the snow is the kind that is a million pieces of wet granules—you hear them all crunch under your step. Mackenzie looks at you from over the car roof and she’s smiling.

“What?” you ask, sounding more irritable than you wished. The fresh air is a treat after being in the car for two hours and you wish it made your tone sound nicer.

“Oh nothing,” Mackenzie says, “just that you have a big red dot from where the ball hit ya.”

“Oh c’mon,” you groan. Mackenzie starts laughing and snaps your photo.

“Just kidding, you look great.”

You smile and feel for the non-existing bump where the ball had hit you. You look down at the ball. Aidan has already lost interest in it, and is staring back at his phone. You turn, wind up, and throw the ball as hard as you can.

The sound of a blow drier pulls you into the present. You look up from where your hands, tucked under the barber-shop gown draped over you, and into the mirror in front of you. It is startlingly light here. Images of a darkened forest disappear into the back of your mind as you breathe in the smell of your treated and now drying-hair.

A few moments ago your bare legs were brushed by the untrampled growth of a small wood. You had never walked there before; it seems that no one had been here in a long time. As you passed through the wood you spent time noticing the smallest of sounds: Creeping Thistles and Cirsium swaying like pendulums after coming into contact with you and then springing back; you leave them behind as you continue to walk, continuously meeting new plants and leaving them with your quiet acquaintance); the sound of sunlight flickering through the canopy above you — the sound of it not quite reaching down to the undergrowth; you hear the sound of the one plucked fern you hold; its arms waving freely in the wind of your movement.

“How does it look,” the hairdresser says now, in the present. You don’t say anything, and he takes your silence as dissatisfaction. “Here, take a look at the back.” He pulls up the hand mirror and you see the one plucked fern you had held just moments ago, now resting peacefully, an extension of your hair.

“It’s perfect.”

You spin yourself around in the barber’s chair, faster and faster (faster, and faster, and faster) until the floor starts to swirl. It swirls faster (and the chair, faster) and faster until the chair and you upon it, disappear into the floor with a great suctioning noise.

When you wake up, you are back in the woods.

Does a shirt billow?

In a moment, you will stand by this question, having come to a stop at the bottom of the dune. Moments ago, your shirt filled with the air of your falling; it felt like a sail. There is no water around, and you’ve stopped moving. Looking up, the sky is the closest to an open body of water. You reach your arms up toward it, while you feel every grain of sand surround your still body. You fall back into the sand, and keep staring up, up, up, upward. You pull off your shirt and hold it over your head. You can still see the blue sky through its patterned checked-ness, but even the little shade that it offers makes you feel closer to water than you have felt in days.

In two days you will find yourself splashing water on your face from a dirty porcelain sink. The dunes will be behind you, miles and miles away, but for weeks to come, you will find sand in your possessions—in your socks, in the eyelets of your shoes when you lace them up, in your billowing shirt.

The snow is peaceful and quickly becomes part of the landscape. The colors of grass and still-clinging leaves on trees become grainier and dotted by the dusting of snow. You wrap your arms around Arbatrus, sharing your warmth with her; soon she will become the first snow-dinosaur across this land. She appears cold, but you are unsure—as this is the first time both of you have approached cold weather.

You wrap your scarf around Arbatrus and she looks up at you, smiling. She huffs a breath of warm air into your face. It looks like she is ready to move again. You climb onto her back and she starts at a slow amble away.

It gets a bit warmer as the day progresses but you feel a hint of doubt growing at bringing a dinosaur into the city. When was the last time anybody had seen a creature like Arbatrus? You look down at her bulky snout, as you lean against her warm neck. The slow lumbering movements of her stubby legs will feel out of the place in a city, won’t they? How will she fit in among the speeding cars and the bustling foot traffic?

As if listening to your thoughts, Arbatrus cranes her neck to try and raise her button eyes up to you.

“We could take a little detour, I suppose? There’s no real rush to get into the city.”

An assenting huff.

“It’s not like they’d put you in a circus, right?”

The question hangs in the air for a moment before disappearing. Maybe the city could wait another day. Even if it got a bit colder, what was another day spent exploring on our own?

As if reading your mind, Arbatrus stops and turns slightly west.

“I heard there’s an even bigger park just outside the city. Why don’t we start there?”

Setting off together, the heat from Arbatrus’ sides spreads to your own legs and upward to the rest of you. The snow is falling again, a bit more heavily. With the city to the side of you both, you set off together, dotted by snowflakes.

F.A.Q.

Fresh Artichoke Quesidilla

Somewhere between 250 and 500 words.

Nope! You could submit a photo of a place or thing and we'll still make a caricature for it.

At maximum, no more than two weeks.

We'll send it to you in an email. If you marked your caricature as public, we'll also send you a special link so you can share it. Public caricatures stay up for two weeks.

We delete all caricatures and their respective photos two weeks after you receive it. So you can, like, totally share your caricature with friends for just long enough before they forget about it entirely.

Well that would just be too bad. We hope you do like it, though. (Sorry, no refunds.)

The definition of a caricature is: 'A picture, description, or imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.' So, instead of a picture, we use words. Also, we skew positive, and not mean.

Yeah, please don't. You won't get a caricature and you won't get your money back.

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