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'Badlands', A Very Short Story

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'Badlands', A Very Short Story

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'Badlands', A Very Short Story

'Badlands', A Very Short Story

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A group of paleontologists doing field work in the badlands of South Dakota are the subject of this next item — a short, short story by Jeff Ryan. In it, a dig for dinosaur fossils turns up more than expected.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

A group of paleontologists doing field work in the Badlands of South Dakota are the subject of this next item, a short story by Jeff Ryan. In the story, a dig for dinosaur fossils turns up way more than expected.

Mr. JEFF RYAN ("Badlands"): (Reading) `Paleontologist Earl Bradley(ph) pulverized the skull he had just exhumed, cashed the check he was given for its destruction and went to St. Bart's. The other diggers on site, mostly grad students paying their own way, started scouring the area where Bradley found his fossil. What did he find? Who'd pay for a fossil not to be found? And why? After two days, they found a sliver of something, probably a thick vertebrae, but they couldn't determine from what. They were on to something, though. On the 14th day, they found it. It was a cervical vertebrae with a jagged outline of an occipital bone still attached.

Nothing told a story like a piece of a skull, and the shape of this skull meant it walked erect. There is only one other animal in the history of this planet with a flat-bottomed occipital bone: us. Parallel evolution had happened with the dinosaurs, the bone proclaimed, turning some oviraptor into a biped. We were not unique. We were as regular in evolutionary appearance as claws or spots. We were made to be just smart enough to discover our ultimate unimportance in the world. That was Bradley's big find.

The man from the church came to offer the grad students free tuition anywhere else in exchange for destroying the fossil evidence. But he found they had already smashed it.'

NORRIS: Jeff Ryan reading his short, short story "Badlands."

MELISSA BLOCK (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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