Humor

A Boy and His Dinosaur

By Dave Barry

We have been deeply into dinosaurs for some time now, with many plastic dinosaurs around the house. Sometimes I think we have more plastic dinosaurs than plastic robots, if you can imagine.

This is my son’s doing. Robert got into dinosaurs when he was about three, as many children do. It’s a power thing: children like the idea of creatures that were much bigger and stronger than mommies and daddies. If a little boy is doing something bad, such as pouring apple juice onto the television remote-control device, Mommy and Daddy can simply snatch the boy up and carry him to his room. But they would not dare try this with tyrannosaurus.

No, sir. Tyrannosaurs would glance down from a height of 20 feet, flick his tail, and Mommy or Daddy would sail through the wall leaving cartoon-style Mommy-or Daddy-shaped holes. And tyrannosaurs would calmly go back to pouring apple juice onto the remote-control device.

So Robert spends a lot of time being a dinosaur. I recall the day we were at the beach and he was being a gorgosaurus, which, like tyrannosaurus, is a major dinosaur, a big meat-eater. (Robert is almost always carnivorous.) He was stomping around in the sand and along came an elderly tourist couple, talking in German. They sat down near us. Robert watched them.

“Tell them I’m a gorgosaurus,” he said.

“You tell them,” I said.

“Gorgosauruses can’t talk,” Robert pointed out, rolling his eyes. Sometimes he can’t believe what an idiot his father is.

Anybody who has ever had a small child knows what happened next. Using the powerful whining ability that Mother Nature gives to young children to compensate for the fact that they have no other skills, Robert got me to go over to this elderly foreign couple, point to my son, who was looking as terrifying as a three-year-old can look lumbering around in a bathing suit with a little red anchor on it, and say, “He’s a gorgosaurus.”

The Germans looked at me the way you would look at a person you saw walking through a shopping mall with a vacant stare and a chain saw. They said nothing.

“Ha ha!” I added, so they would see I was in fact very normal.

They continued to say nothing. You could tell this had never happened to them in Germany.

“Tell them I’m a meat-eater,” the gorgosaurus whispered.

“He’s a meat-eater,” I told the couple. They got up and started to fold their towels.

“Tell them I can eat more in ONE BITE than a mommy and a daddy and a little boy could eat in TWO WHOLE MONTHS,” urged the gorgosaurus, this being one of the many dinosaur facts he got from the books we read to him at bedtime. But by then the tourists were striding off, glancing back at me and talking quietly to each other about which way they would run if I came after them.

“Ha ha!” I called out after them reassuringly.

Gorgosaurus continued to stomp around, knocking over whole cities. I had a heck of a time getting him to take a nap that day.

Sometimes when he’s tired and wants to be cuddled, Robert is a gentle plant-eating dinosaur—baby diplodocus. (Diplodocus looked sort of like brontosaurus, only sleeker and cuter.) This one has lost its mommy and daddy, and wrapped in its protective blanket, it understands it’s going to live with us forever and ever. The blanket wriggles with joy.

Lately at our house, we have become interested in what finally happened to the dinosaurs. According to our bedtime books, all the dinosaurs died quite suddenly about 65 million years ago, and nobody knows why. Some scientists think the cause was a Death Comet that visits the earth from time to time. Robert thinks this is great. A Death Comet! This is serious power. A Death Comet would never have to brush its teeth. A Death Comet would have pizza whenever it wanted.

Me, I get uneasy reading about the Death Comet. I don’t like to think about the dinosaurs disappearing. It’s yet another reminder that nothing lasts forever. Even a baby diplodocus has to grow up sometime.