“There’s the theater”, mom said, pointing to the right as she drove the car. It had this big sign with words on it. Above the sign were even bigger letters on top that spelled the word “MICHIGAN” in red letters. Below it the sign was white, with black words on it that said, “THE LOST WORLD” and other words below that. That was the name of the movie, because I knew all those words from books mom had read me.
That “the” word was all over the place in books, more than just about any other word. It didn’t really mean very much, but it was before other words that meant something. “Lost” was the word for something you couldn’t find. People were always “losing” things and couldn’t find them. And “world” was a really neat word that meant all the places everywhere. There was that other word “Earth” in the Tom Swift books dad read to me that was like “world”, though Tom said that that “Mars” place was a different “world”.
“The lost world”, I said, pointing at the sign.
“That’s right”, mom said, “You’re learning to read.” She seemed really happy that I was figuring that out, and had said I would learn more when I went to regular school “in the fall”.
Mom found a place to put the car, though she had to drive backward to get it between two other cars on the side of the street. When we got out and walked toward the theater place, the air felt really warm, like it was wrapping around my skin like a blanket.
It was interesting all the “store” buildings we walked by. On their top parts, way up above us, they had the regular windows like houses had, though they had the flat top parts like buildings instead of those “roofs” like houses. But on the bottom parts, each had a glass door and giant windows you could see into and they showed you stuff like books or clothes, or they just let you look in and see the inside. I guess that made sense because they wanted you to come in and get that stuff, “buy” it with money, or even sit in there and eat stuff. Like when Molly and I used money to get those ice cream cones at that dairy place, when we went on that adventure on our bicycles.
The theater building had these big windows and doors in the bottom part, and windows on the top part, but not like the regular windows in most buildings or houses, because they had a round part on top. And there was this man with a uniform behind one of the windows on the bottom part, though he didn’t look like a soldier or a police guy. Mom talked to him and gave him money and got two “tickets”. She gave me one and it was this little piece of paper with lots of numbers on the side parts, and words and numbers in the middle part. It had that “MICHIGAN” word, and a bunch of other letters and numbers that I couldn’t figure out.
Whenever I told mom what I’d figured out she liked it a lot and said I was “bright” or “smart”. I was starting to like it when she said stuff like that to me, so I was doing it more now.
“It says Michigan”, I said, pointing at the word on the little ticket.
“Very good, Cloob!” she said, her eyes sparkling and her mouth making a big smile so I could see her teeth, “You’re really starting to read all on your own, I’m so impressed.” She shook her head and said, “I shouldn’t be surprised by anything you do anymore”, then she laughed through her nose. She was still a grownup, but it felt good when she said that.
We gave our tickets to another man with the same kind of uniform on. He ripped each ticket in half and gave each of us half of it back. That was strange because he wrecked it by ripping it in half.
We went inside to this giant room where the top part was really high up, and this stairway on the right turned into two stairways that went up to an upper part with a fence across it like the one in Molly’s house, but much bigger and higher up. The room was dark and had this dark red rug thing all over the floor and even on the stairs. It sounded extra quiet. There were other people in the big room, grownups and kids.
On the other side of the room from the giant stairway there were all these big glass boxes that were lit up and you could see into, with candy bars inside. There was another glass box on top of the others with this silver thing making pop noises with that “popcorn” stuff coming out of it, and it smelled really good. There was a guy standing behind the glass boxes with some kind of a uniform on, but he looked like an older kid rather than a grownup.
Looking at all the glass boxes mom said, “Your dad and I agreed that I should get us some popcorn, because that is part of the movie experience.” She told that guy behind the glass boxes that she wanted a “small popcorn” and gave him some of that green money paper. He pressed buttons on one of those machine things that were in other stores, and a bell dinged and the bottom part came out. Then he put the money paper in one part and took some of those round metal money “coins” out of another part. I liked the clinking noises as he pulled the coins out with his fingers and gave it to mom. He took a white bag in one hand and then opened the back of the glass box that had the round silver thing and all the popcorn that was falling out of it. He took this other silver thing with his other hand and scooped up some of the popcorn that had come out of the round silver thing and let it slide down into the bag until it was full. He gave the bag to mom. It was all pretty neat.
Mom opened this door next to the place with all the glass boxes and we walked into this even more giant room where there were all these chairs stuck together next to each other like at the baseball stadium where I saw Ted Williams play. But these chairs were different, they were red instead of green, and the part where you sat looked soft and puffy like the couch and easy chairs at Molly’s house. And the stair parts between the chairs weren’t that hard gray stuff like the baseball stadium, but had that red rug stuff instead. The front part of the theater didn’t have a regular wall, but these things that looked like the things in Molly’s house on either side of the windows that they would pull over the windows so you couldn’t see outside. There was also this lit up circle thing up in the top part on the left that looked like a clock.
“Where do you want to sit?” mom asked, looking around.
I remembered from the baseball stadium that the tickets had letters and numbers to tell us where to sit.
“Don’t we have to sit in the chairs it says on our tickets?” I asked.
“Nope”, she said, “Not in a movie theater. You can sit wherever you want. And in a theater they call them ‘seats’ instead of ‘chairs’.”
I looked around the place, but I couldn’t tell what I was going to see and where I would see it. There were other people sitting together, some grownups, some with kids like me, some older kids without grownups, but most of the “seats” were empty.
“What do you see?” I asked, “Is it like a giant TV?”
Mom laughed through her nose. “Well”, she said, “It’s kind of like that. See those curtains up front there? They’ll open up and you’ll see a big white screen that they’ll project the movie on. You’ll see. It’s pretty amazing how they do it.”
I nodded. That made sense because that was where all the chairs were pointing. I was ready and excited for it to be “pretty amazing”.
“How about we sit in this row in the middle?” mom asked, “So no one will be right in front of us.” I nodded, because I didn’t have any better thinking. She laughed through her nose again and said, “When I was a kid, older than you, I used to go to the movies with my best friend Millie and we’d sit in the very front row sometimes, but this row is close enough for me.”
We walked over the red rug stuff and sat in two “seats”. They were strange because you had to push down the part you sat on before you could sit on it. If you let go of it before you sat on it it would go back up. Mom sat down and I sat next to her. The seat was soft like the couch or the easy chairs at Molly’s house.
She looked around the big place at the other people sitting. All the other grownups were sitting behind us. There were just three older boys sitting in the chairs in front of us right next to the front part. Instead of sitting like grownups usually did, she kind of slid down in the seat and stuck her legs out. That wasn’t how grownups usually sat, and she seemed more like a big kid.
She was wearing white “pants”, like what dad wore, but he would call his “trousers”. She wore a shiny white shirt with that “collar” part around her neck. Dad wore shirts like that too but only when he got “dressed up”. Dad wore “tee shirts” like I did most of the time. Mom never wore a tee shirt. She was wearing sneakers like me except she called them “tennis shoes”.
She looked at me, made her big smile and said, “This is fun!” She took a handful of popcorn out of the bag and chewed it into her mouth, and swallowed it. Then she held the bag in front of me so I could take some. It was kind of slippery and yellow, and when I put it in my mouth it tasted really good – warm, sweet AND salty.
“Buttered popcorn brings back memories”, she said, “Watching those Busby Berkley musicals with Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell. And Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Boy could those guys dance. I always fantasized they were dancing with me.”
“Fantasized?” I asked. I hadn’t heard that word before.
“Imagined”, she said, “Pretended.” She put more popcorn in her mouth. She seemed more like an older kid like Margie right now than a real grownup.
Then the room got dark. I heard a noise and those “curtain” things in front of us opened up and were all lit up. Behind them was a giant white thing and it had a giant moving picture on it while I heard music playing around me but no singing.
“That’s the movie screen”, mom said, “I remember the first time I saw a movie in a theater. It was so big!”
I nodded, but I couldn’t say anything. The picture in front of me was so gigantic I couldn’t even talk. In that giant picture there were lots of grownups holding signs with words on them, and then this grownup man came out of an airplane. There was a grownup voice that was not talking like regular grownups.
Voice: As the G.O.P. convenes in Chicago, Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York dominates the scene in early hours, though declaredly not a candidate for either the presidential or vice-presidential nomination.
Then there were pictures of lots more grownups taking things off tables. They all looked excited or even worried.
“There’s going to be an election for President this fall”, mom said.
“President?” I asked. I had heard mom and dad say that word before, also men talking on the radio.
“Yeah”, she said, “That’s the guy that’s in charge of our country.”
“Country?” I asked. I had heard that word too. It was something we had, but I couldn’t figure out what.
“Yeah, country”, she said, “How do I explain that to you?” She made her mouth into a funny shape. “It’s the big place where we all live. Bigger than a city like Ann Arbor or a state like Michigan.”
“Like America?” I asked, “Or the Soviet Union?”
“Yeah exactly”, she said, “Those are both countries.”
Voice: His proposals for the Republican Platform, agreed to by Vice-president Nixon, touched off a storm of controversy. Mr. Nixon’s position as the G.O.P. favorite was unshaken, but interest in the convention was roused, beyond early expectations. As the convention got underway, there seemed no doubt that Richard Nixon would be the standard bearer of the Grand Old Party.
“So it looks like Nixon is going to run against Kennedy in the election this fall for President”, mom said, “I’m voting for Kennedy. Your dad may be voting for Nixon, unless I can talk him out of it.”
It sounded like a game like baseball, and mom and dad had different teams that they liked.
Then there were pictures of grownups wearing strange clothes standing and waving but they were moving even though they weren’t walking. It didn’t make sense why they were moving.
Voice: But the contest for the position of his running mate seemed wide open, perhaps to be significantly influenced by the argument over the party platform, which threatened to carry to the floor of the convention itself.
Other grownups were holding signs with words on them and waving like they were really excited.
Voice: The 27th Republican convention, a foregone conclusion in its chief item of business, generates true national excitement, giving promise of one of the century’s most electrifying presidential campaigns.
The music finally stopped.
Then suddenly there was different, even more excited music and big red circles on the screen. There was a picture of that Bugs Bunny cartoon guy, and then there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon with that other Daffy Duck cartoon guy. Daffy Duck was trying to get Bugs Bunny and shoot him with a gun but he never could. In the end, Daffy Duck finally had a chance to shoot Bugs Bunny in the head, but Bugs Bunny, eating a carrot and not worried, turned the tube part of the gun around and it shot Daffy Duck instead. His face was all burned up and he looked at Bugs Bunny and said, “You’re despicable!”
Then there was that really noisy end music at the end of each Bugs Bunny cartoon with the red circles again with the black circle in the middle, with Bugs Bunny’s head saying, “And that’s all folks!”
“I’m not much for cartoons with guns in them”, mom said, then putting more popcorn in her mouth and holding it in front of me so I could take some.
Then I heard a noise and the curtains closed in front of us over the screen, but then they opened up again and there was a different picture on the screen. Mom said, “Finally, our movie.”
There was a picture of the tops of big buildings in front of a dark cloudy sky. They looked like cartoon buildings rather than real ones. The building in the middle, which also looked kind of like a ship, had the number “20” on top of it and two words below it. One of the words I couldn’t figure out, but the other was “FOX”, which I knew from mom reading me that silly “Green Eggs and Ham” book. There was loud music with drums, like something big was going to happen, but no singing. Then there were other words. Then there was a picture of red stuff bubbling that looked kind of like water but like fire too. Mom said it was “lava”. Then there were more words that changed to “THE LOST WORLD”.
I knew the name of the movie and I could read the “THE” word, and that second word I’d seen before, so I figured the other words were that name.
“The lost world”, I said.
“Yep”, mom said, “Our movie.”
Then the words caught on fire, burned, and disappeared. There was more music and words. And more of that red “lava” stuff looking like water, moving.
I saw a jet plane landing and music playing. The plane filled the whole screen in front of me. Then the plane was on the ground and there was this grownup guy coming out the door of the plane and walking down stairs. All these other grownups ran towards him, yelling. Then there was a grownup voice that sounded like that other grownup voice we had heard when mom talked about the “President” and the “country”.
Announcer: This is the homecoming of that indomitable zoological professor George Edward Challenger.
All those other grownups asked him questions, but he got mad and hit one one of them on the head with his umbrella and knocked him down. Mom said all those guys asking questions were “reporters”.
Then this woman came out of the plane. She had a little dog that jumped out of a basket and went and looked at that reporter guy that the professor hit with his umbrella. The woman talked to him.
Jennifer: The professor is merely eccentric.
Malone: Oh sure. (Standing up) Eccentric enough to be in a padded cell.
She let him ride in her little car, kind of like that “sports” car Molly’s dad had. She and the reporter guy seemed to like each other. Someone said she was the “boss’s daughter”.
Then the movie showed a different place where all these people were wearing dress up clothes and they all sat down except for the ones in the front of the big room who were talking to the other people sitting. This “Professor Challenger” guy stood up in the front part and talked to everyone else. He said he made a “fantastic discovery” on a “jungle plateau”.
Challenger: Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for a shock. For I bring you news of a discovery so staggering, as to rate with the feats of Columbus, Edison, and myself. About 2000 miles out of country on that barely explored outpost of civilization, which is loosely described as the headwaters of the Amazon, on a wild and unscalable jungle plateau, so isolated as to insulate the area from the laws of evolution, there exists today many forms of creatures long believed to be extinct.
All the people sitting and watching him got excited and started talking to each other.
Challenger: The Indians call them ‘Kuripuri’, the terrible spirits of the woods. Creatures of the supernatural, and well they might be, for we know them as gigantic creatures of the long dead Jurassic period. In other words, live dinosaurs.
The people sitting and watching got even more excited and did even more talking.
Challenger: In 20 years of science I have never been known to lie. I say they were live dinosaurs. LIVE DINOSAURS! And I challenge the world to dispute what I say!
Voice from the audience: Can you prove what you say?
Challenger: (pointing umbrella at the guy that said that) Put me to the test, young man! I further propose that a new expedition, consisting of professor Summerlee and myself, together with two impartial and acceptable members of this audience, proceed at once to the Amazon and investigate my claim to the existence of a lost world.
So all these grownup men who were sitting and watching him talk wanted to go find the dinosaurs. This one grownup woman wanted to go too.
Jennifer: (standing) You there professor, and you too. My name is Jennifer Holmes, and I can ride, fly or shoot better than any man I know. I want to go too!
Challenger: There’ll be no women on my expedition!
Jennifer Holmes: But professor!
Challenger: That’s final!
Jennifer Holmes: Hmmph! (sitting down)
It was interesting that he said he didn’t want her to go because she was a woman. I looked at mom, who shook her head.
“Typical”, she said.
So I guess all the men decided to go to find the dinosaurs but they wouldn’t let that woman go with them, even though she said she could do stuff like shoot a gun. So then we saw a jet plane, then a plane with propellers. I guess they were all going in the planes to the place where the dinosaurs were. Then they showed this guy talking about it.
Newscaster: The latest bulletin from Ed Malone, special correspondent for Worldwide News service, reports the Challenger expedition now flying over unexplored wilderness, enroute to professor Challenger’s still undisclosed destination, his ‘Lost World’, somewhere in the endless rainforest.
Then this smaller plane landed in this big river. I didn’t know planes could do that. This little boat came out to the plane and all the guys on the plane got to the land part. There was a house with lots of other people there, and there was this guy playing this thing mom said was a “guitar”. That guy told that Challenger guy who came to find the dinosaurs that he was going to fly the “helicopter” that would take them there.
Then that woman was there that they said couldn’t go with them. Challenger got mad and told her she had to go home. She said if she went home, the helicopter guy would have to take her, so he couldn’t take them to where the dinosaurs might be. Since I guess she tricked them they had to figure out if she could go with them. That Malone guy didn’t think she should go.
Malone: I say no, it’s much too risky!
Jennifer: Please don’t be alarmed mister Malone, if things get too risky for you, I’ll just hold your hand! (to David) C’mon David! (walking into the store)
Later, that Jennifer Holmes woman talked to that Johnny Roxton guy about maybe getting married someday, but he didn’t want to so she got mad. But that Ed Malone guy talked to that Roxton guy about it.
Malone: (To Roxton) So why didn’t you back me up? You’ve got no right to let that girl risk her life, only so she can prove she’s as daring a man!
Roxton: That why you think she’s here?
Malone: She said so herself.
Roxton: (laughing) Malone, you don’t know very much about the female of the species.
Mom did one of those grownup laughs through her nose. I don’t think she liked that Johnny Roxton guy, but I wanted to keep watching so I didn’t ask.
Roxton: If you must know, Jennifer’s here for two completely unrelated reasons. First, she IS daring, she’s as brave as a lioness. Second, and more important, she wants to marry a title, specifically mine.
Malone: That’s very modest of you, Lord Roxton.
Roxton: It’s true. She tried to bring it up for the last two years in London. She’s wonderful, but I’m not in the marrying mood at the moment.
Malone: Oh. She’s not quite good enough for you?
Roxton: Let’s say I know her well enough to realize that she doesn’t love me, but she does love what I represent.
Malone: I don’t believe a word of it.
Roxton: That’s because you’re interested in her yourself. No need to deny it, I knew it the first day that we met. But forget it, we’ve got much more important things to worry about now, like getting an early start in the morning. Goodnight Malone!
“A love triangle”, mom said, then looking at me because she knew that I didn’t know what that was, “Two men in love with the same woman.” That was that kissy face stuff, I figured, but didn’t say anything.
Then I guess it was later, and this Gomez guy was flying the helicopter and Challenger was next to him smoking a cigar. The rest of them were in the back part of the helicopter. They saw this mountain that had a flat part at the top.
Challenger: Land Ho! (looking at the plateau) There it is, the greatest moment of your lives! Not too long ago I was at that plateau. Walking along the cliff edge was a live dinosaur.
Summerlee: (scoffing) Dinosaur!
Challenger: I could have been mistaken, in any case we’ll soon know. Either way, (sticking out his arms) there is the plateau!
Jennifer: Doesn’t look very big to me!
Challenger: (excited) A body of land uplifted by volcanic eruption 100 million years ago, cut off from the march of time by the unscalable nature of its cliffs. The land where monsters live. George Edward Challenger’s lost world!
That Gomez guy flying the helicopter looked worried. He landed it next to these giant trees while worried music was playing. They made a “camp” and didn’t seem worried anymore, but then they heard a loud roaring noise and there was some big animal crashing around in the trees that they couldn’t see. The men grabbed guns.
Malone: Whatever it is, it’s coming this way!
Roxton: (worried) Get back, all of you. Get back under the trees. (they all run back)
A giant animal appeared through the trees. It had spikes on its back and crunched through the trees.
“Is that a dinosaur?” I asked mom.
“Guess so”, she said.
The people kept heading back through the trees. This strange moving plant grabbed Jennifer Malone around the neck and she screamed. Gomez, Roxton and Malone helped her get away. They all kept going until the dinosaur was not around any more. Challenger said it was a dinosaur, but some of the other men still didn’t believe him. This Costa guy who helped Gomez got scared and ran away. Some of the other men ran after him and found out that the dinosaur had wrecked their helicopter.
“Oh boy. Not good”, mom said, looking at me with big eyes. I could tell she was doing pretending, kind of like a kid, but also still a little bit silly like a grownup.
So all of them made another “camp” with tents and a fire where they could sleep.
“Was that a real dinosaur?” I asked, looking at mom.
She shook her head and kept looking at the screen and said, “All the real dinosaurs died millions of years ago.” Then looking at me said, “I read in Time magazine that the guys that made the movie used real reptiles and attached fake horns and spikes on them somehow. But they sure look real, don’t they?”
I nodded. Right now mom seemed more like an older kid, like Margie, than a grownup.
Then the next picture was all of them walking through all the plants and trees, “the jungle”, in the daytime. I’d seen that happen in TV shows before, and I knew that meant it was now the next day. They found these giant red flower things.
Challenger: Prehistoric vegetables Summerlee. At least we’re going to have breakfast.
Summerlee: I couldn’t stand the thought of it.
Summerlee stepped into a giant circular red plant which closed around him with a crunching sound.
Challenger: (Laughing) Well Summerlee, you may not like vegetables, but they’re certainly crazy about you!
Gomez pulled down one side of the plant so Summerlee could get out.
Mom laughed and said, “Good one”. Then looking at me asked, “Do you understand the joke?” I shook my head.
“Well”, she said, “We usually think of people liking or not liking to eat vegetables, but we usually don’t think of vegetable plants liking to eat people.”
That made sense. Strange things that hadn’t happened before could be funny, though if the plant had really eaten him would mom still think it was funny? But I didn’t ask her that.
So Roxton and Malone were out on their own in front of the others and found a giant dinosaur “footprint” in the ground.
“You know what a ‘footprint’ is?” mom asked me. I wanted to nod that I did, since I didn’t want mom to think that I didn’t know very much. But I really DIDN’T know, and since she seemed happy to tell me a bunch of stuff I just looked at her.
“Have you ever walked in the mud and then looked back and seen the outline of your shoe in the mud?” she asked. I nodded.
“That’s your footprint”, she said. That made sense.
When all the people looked at the footprint the music sounded worried again. Jennifer’s dog got out of his little basket and ran off so she got worried too, and went off to look for him. Her dog found this giant dinosaur eating grass, and started to bark at it. The dinosaur looked at the dog like it wasn’t worried about it and kept eating. Jennifer found her dog, but then saw the dinosaur and screamed.
Mom shook her head and said, “They always have the women scream, like we’re all such dainty creatures and can’t deal with any scary surprises.”
Hearing her scream, the men ran over to where she was and saw the dinosaur.
Challenger: I knew it was true… A dinosaur!
Summerlee: I do believe it. Challenger, how can I ever apologize! But what will they think of this at home?
Challenger: (Angry) They’ll say you’re a liar and a charlatan!
Summerlee: In the face of Malone’s photographs?
Challenger: Fakes they’ll say! Fakes!
Summerlee: Specimen then?
Mom laughed through her nose and said, “Good luck with that.”
The dinosaur roared. They moved back and away from it as it kept roaring. Challenger and Malone fell down and slid down to another place. Challenger saw a strange woman not wearing regular clothes run away into the woods and told Malone to run after her. She ran through giant webs between the trees and Malone ran after her. She ran through tunnels of white webs, while the excited music played. A giant green and back spider came down from above and the woman stopped and screamed, and I thought about what mom had just said. But then she sneaked by it and kept running back into the woods. Malone now came around the corner and saw the giant spider and shot it, and it screamed and fell to the ground. Malone carefully moved by it and kept running.
“Is that a real spider?” I asked.
Mom shook her head and said, “Real spiders don’t get that big.” That was interesting, because it meant that the movie was doing a lot of pretending like I did.
Malone finally caught her and brought her back to the others as the dinosaur continued to roar.
Challenger: You caught her? What in the world?
Gomez: A girl. A real beauty!
Malone: (Smiling at the woman) We met informally in the jungle.
(Malone lets go of her wrist and she tries to run away but the three men surround her)
Jennifer: (Walking up to her) Don’t you see she doesn’t understand you. (Puts hand on woman’s shoulder who shakes it off and looks at Jennifer worried) Poor girl, probably thinks you’re trying to hurt her.
They kept talking about the woman but I guess she couldn’t figure out what they were saying. They kept calling her a “girl” like she was a kid, but she didn’t look like a kid. She just didn’t talk the way they talked. But grownups did sometimes call other grownups “boys” or “girls”, but usually when they liked them a lot.
Roxton: (Angry) I tell you what she is. She’s a hundred pounds of walking dynamite. (To Malone) You dragged her in here. Don’t you have any sense at all?
Challenger: I told him to catch her! Her anthropological value is incalculable. This is a SCIENTIFIC expedition!
Roxton: (Still angry) Alright. This is a scientific expedition, but bringing this girl here could get us all killed!
Malone: (To Roxton) How?
Roxton: (Still Angry) Don’t you understand? This girl proves that there’s human life on this plateau. A tribe will be trying to find her. Now unless tracking is a modern art, they’ll find us too.
Malone: (To Roxton) But she’d already seen the both of us!
Roxton: (Sarcastically) And she chased after you? Chased after the irresistible red-blooded American boy?
I noticed that Roxton had called Malone a “boy” even though he didn’t seem to like him.
Malone: (Angry) But she wasn’t after my title!
Jennifer: (Jumping up) What’s this?
Roxton: Leave Jennifer out of this!
Malone: (Still angry) That’s what I said! Leave Jennifer out of this! But you had to have her along to build up your ego.
Jennifer: (Angry) Mister Malone!
Malone: (To Roxton) Then you go on boasting that she was after your title.
Malone turned away from Roxton who grabbed his shoulder. Malone turned around towards Roxton and they started fighting, hitting each other in the face. All the others just watched, and Gomez smiled. Malone knocked Roxton to the ground.
Mom made a clicking sound with her mouth and shook her head. I didn’t think she liked that they were fighting. I had never seen grownup men fight before for real, though I’d seen it on TV in those “Western” shows. I’d seen boys in the park get really mad at each other, but they just pushed each other.
But when Roxton was on the ground he found something. It was a little book. They looked at it and figured out that it was this other professor guy, Burton White’s, “notebook”. They read that he had figured out how to get up to the top part of the plateau.
Summerly: Ascend? How?
Roxton: (Looking at the ground, looking sad) White had a map showing the way up.
Challenger: (Reading) December 11th. Reached the top of the plateau. No time to write now the marvels we’ve seen. Rain may come any day. Heading for the diamonds tomorrow.
Costa: (Excited, to Gomez) Diamonds! He said diamonds Gomez!
Gomez: (To Costa, angry) Quiet!
I looked at mom and asked, “What are diamonds?”
She looked at me. The way she was sitting she didn’t have to look down at me, which made her seem not as much like a grownup. “They are precious jewels”, she said, “That are worth a LOT of money and can make people rich if they find them.”
“Like gold?” I asked.
“Exactly”, she said, nodding and then turning to look at the screen again.
Jennifer: I think you’d better tell us the whole story, Johnny.
Roxton: (No longer angry, just sad) I guess you’re right Jennifer. (Getting up) Actually I suppose it started centuries ago. The legend goes way back.
Malone: The legend of Curupuri?
Roxton: Of Curupuri, the terror, and all what Curupuri seemed to guard. The 16th century Spaniards talked of it. Voltaire wrote of it in Candide. So he must have heard of it too. El Dorado. Nobody’s ever been able to pinpoint it. Always the word stood for riches beyond compare. Well, in our legend we have them both. Curupuri and El Dorado. A terror guarding riches.
Summerlee: (Chuckling) Are you claiming that this plateau is El Dorado?
Roxton: (Walking and thinking) I’m not claiming anything, Professor. But for me this story started three years ago when Burton White came to me. He was an American. He spent most of his life tracking down ancient civilizations and all that goes with it. He told me of how, in some Indian village out here in the jungle, he’d met a fever-stricken white man who babbled on about a plateau with monsters and diamonds. Curupuri. El Dorado. Well, the man died. He left a map. A map showing a jungle route to the plateau and a way up to the summit.
Malone: What happened to the map?
I looked at mom and asked, “Are Curupuri dinosaurs?”
She nodded and said, “I guess so”, still looking at the screen.
Roxton: Whit would never let it out of his hands. See, his interest was archeological. Mine was purely mercenary. Diamonds were the only reason I financed the expedition.
Gomez: And Santiago.
Roxton: (Looking at Gomez) You knew him?
Gomez: Many people along the Amazon knew Santiago. A very fine man.
Roxton: Well, they started without me. I promised to guide them, keep them out of trouble, keep them from being killed.
Malone: But you didn’t.
Roxton: No, I never made it. The rains were coming in a month. White and his party pushed on, expecting me to follow by means of radio directions they were transmitting. I was thousands of miles away.
Jennifer: But why?
Roxton: A girl. Oh, I told myself I could catch up. Good old mañana. I never even started.
“A girl?” I asked, still watching the screen. I figured I’d do what she was doing and just say things without looking at her.
“Guess Roxton had a thing for some young woman”, she said, still watching the screen too.
“A thing?” I asked.
“A thing, yeah”, she said, “That means he really liked her in a romantic sort of way.”
I nodded but didn’t say or ask anything. I figured it was kissy face stuff, but I didn’t say that to mom.
In the movie they decided to make another camp and not try to explore anymore until the next day. Gomez said he saw something moving, but the others didn’t see it. He took his gun and went off into the trees to try to figure out what it was. Then the music changed, sounding more worried, and we heard Gomez yelling that he was being attacked and the other men ran to find him. We heard a gun shoot, but we didn’t see it, and Summerlee was shot in the shoulder. The native woman ran off into the trees.
They figured out that Summerlee only got shot a little bit and he was okay, so Roxton and Malone decided to go off and try to find the native woman. Malone finally saw her running and ran after her, but couldn’t catch her and stopped.
Then Jennifer went to where Malone was, but a dinosaur appeared, and roared at them and started chasing them through the jungle as the music got more excited. Jennifer got tired of running, but Malone made her keep going as the dinosaur chased them, hissing. The music sounded worried.
The dinosaur finally found them and they couldn’t get away. It roared and then Jennifer screamed. Malone shot his gun at the dinosaur and it made a screeching noise, but I guess it didn’t hurt it very much. Malone and Jennifer hid behind a big rock as another dinosaur appeared with pointed horns all along its back and making a different screeching noise. The two dinosaurs attacked each other. They bit each other’s necks, their tails, and even each other’s long mouths, like they were trying to rip the other one apart. It was really scary.
I knew the dinosaurs didn’t like the people, but that made sense because this was THEIR place, and maybe they thought the people were badguys trying to take it away from them. But I didn’t like it that they were trying to kill each other. When you’re on the same team you shouldn’t kill your own guys, even if you are dinosaurs.
“Why are they fighting each other?” I asked mom, not looking at her.
“Maybe they’re both hungry”, she said, watching the screen and not looking at me, “And they don’t want the other to get the juicy humans.”
The tail of one of the dinosaurs knocked Malone and Jennifer over the edge and they fell down to a part just below as Jennifer screamed again. The two dinosaurs were screeching and fighting and rolling around on the ground just above them. The dinosaurs kept fighting, screeching and biting each other and wrestling around on the ground until they finally both fell off the cliff and fell a long way down, so I guess they were both dead.
Then Malone and Jennifer heard more gunshots, and they ran back to the camp, but no one was there and everybody’s stuff was in a mess on the ground, though her little dog was still there. David appeared and said the natives had captured all of the rest of them. Then we saw that the natives were up above them with their torches and bows, so David, Malone and Jennifer got captured too. A group of native men led them back to the native’s place. Other native men with horns on their heads were beating on drums near a big fire while others sat around them. Malone, David and Jennifer were taken to a cave where all the others in their group were prisoners.
They were all there for a while, talking and worried about what the native men were going to do to them. Then that native woman they had captured before appeared on a place above them with a torch. She showed them a way to escape inside the caves. The native men saw that the expedition had escaped, and they ran on the path after them. The native woman led them down steps in the cave to a place where a man with long white hair and a beard was. I guess his eyes didn’t work anymore because he couldn’t see who they were until they told him. He was that Burton White guy they had been talking about. He said that other Santiago guy that Gomez was worrying about had died, so Gomez was mad about that. But he also said that there was a way through the caves to get down from the plateau, but they had to go through the “cave of fire”.
The native woman knew where the path was and led them down it. Roxton wanted White to come with them but he said he was too old and the natives wouldn’t hurt him because he was “blind”. White had a box with guns in it and gave a rifle and a pistol to Roxton. Roxton took the rifle and gave the pistol to Gomez. They heard the voices of native men coming, so the native woman led them to that “cave of fire” place. The others followed her, but Gomez and Costa were the last ones to go, and Gomez looked like he wanted to shoot Roxton with his gun.
Costa: No, Gomez. Not now. I saw the picture. I understand. But don’t kill him now.
Gomez: (Angry) He’s responsible for Santiago’s death.
Costa: Si, si. I know. But there will be a better time.
Gomez: What better time than now?
Costa: After they help us find the diamonds.
Gomez: I don’t care about the diamonds. But there might be a better time.
Worried music played. The native woman led them down this path along the wall of a cave, followed by David and then Jennifer holding her dog. The music got higher and louder like you should be afraid. The native men were running up another part behind them carrying spears and torches. The cave was shaking and rocks fell down from above. Farther along in the cave, they now walked on a wider path going down, with this white smoke stuff on the ground and all these giant round dinosaur bones in a line like giant circles. The music changed and was more quiet, and even happy.
David: Look at the size of that skeleton!
Challenger: It must be the oldest cemetery in the world.
Gomez: (Stepping forward) The old man was right. It is a graveyard of the damned.
“What’s a cemetery and what’s a graveyard?” I asked.
“They’re two words for the same thing”, mom said, “A place where you bury dead people, or I guess other dead animals, in the ground.” I knew people sometimes got dead, like soldiers that were shot, but I hadn’t thought about what you did with them after they were dead.
With that white smoke by their feet, they walked quickly between the giant bones. Still led by the native woman, they went into a new part of the cave along a path up on the wall of the cave, where they were almost falling off every step they took. Below them were pools of that bubbling orange and yellow stuff.
“That’s that lava stuff, right?” I asked mom.
She nodded and said, “Yep.”
Challenger, using his umbrella to help him walk, broke off some rocks under him and he slid down and almost fell into the lava but grabbed the edge of the path with his hands to hang on.
“He’ll be dead if he falls in the lava?” I asked. Mom nodded.
“Is lava real or just pretend?” I asked.
“Real”, mom said, “But there’s none of it around here. Only where there are volcanos.”
I had heard that “volcano” word before, but I didn’t know what it really was.
When David and the others tried to climb down to help Challenger, he told them not to because it was too dangerous.
“Why doesn’t he want them to help him?” I asked.
“I think he’s willing to sacrifice his own life so the others can stay safe”, mom said.
But David and the others helped him get back up even though he told them not to, and he was mad at them for doing it.
As they got to the end of the lava part, Gomez looked back and saw the native men coming. He went back towards them and set a bush on fire to block the path. Then they all went through a small opening and moved a giant rock in front of it so the native men couldn’t get through. Then they looked ahead.
Roxton: Look! ( Pointing with rifle)
Challenger: A lake of boiling lava.
Malone: Dammed in by the natives.
Gomez: fixed so it can be broken. See that log?
There was a big log sticking out of a wall of rocks holding back bubbling lava behind it. They saw a way to get out, an “escape passage”, on the other side of the dam. They all walked towards it but passed a big pile of shiny glass rocks. Costa said they were “diamonds” and started grabbing them and putting them in his hat. Summerlee found a giant egg on the ground and showed it to Challenger.
Challenger: (Taking the egg and sitting down to look at it) Dinosaur eggs. Summerlee, what unbelievable luck.
Gomez: (Pointing his pistol at Roxton) Not so lucky. This is the end of the journey. Roxton, drop your rifle.
Challenger: (Walking towards Gomez) Gomez, have you taken leave of your senses?
Gomez: (Still pointing pistol) No, Professor, no. I almost wish I had. But this is something I have to do. Don’t move, Costa.
Costa: (Looking scared and holding out the hat full of diamonds.) Gomez, am I not your partner?
Gomez: You never were.
Roxton: (To Gomez) You wanted the diamonds for yourself.
Gomez: I want your life, Roxton. In exchange for that of a man you sent to his death when you deserted Burton White.
Jennifer: (To Gomez) But White’s alive.
Gomez: I don’t mean White. I mean Santiago– my brother.
“Oh wow”, mom said, “Santiago was Gomez’s brother.” I heard her but kept watching.
Challenger: Put that gun down, Gomez. There’ll be no killings here.
Gomez: It is my vow, Professor. I tried it before. My bullet struck the wrong man.
Summerlee: Then it was you who shot at me.
Gomez: That’s right.
Roxton: Gomez, be reasonable. What have these people done to hurt you?
Gomez: (Shaking his head) Nothing. Unfortunately, I have…
Costa: Gomez, don’t kill me. I beg you.
Malone grabbed the hat full of diamonds from Costa and threw them at Gomez. Gomez shot the gun but didn’t get Roxton, and Costa ran towards Gomez to get all those diamonds. A dinosaur came out of the water, roaring, and Jennifer screamed. Roxton shot his rifle at the dinosaur, but it grabbed Costa in its mouth.
Malone: We got to find another way out. There’s one chance. Be ready to run for it. I’ll break the dam.
The dinosaur shook its head with Costa still in its mouth and his legs sticking out.
Challenger: (Watching) Eaten alive. Horrible. Horrible.
Gomez: (Not mad anymore) Roxton I– We are even now. A life for a life. (To others) I’m in your debt now. It was my shot that awakened the monster.
Summerlee held Jennifer who was crying. The native woman held on to David. Malone climbed rocks toward the lava dam while the dinosaur roared close to him, after eating Costa. Malone leaned back against the rock as the dinosaur’s head came up to him. But the dinosaur didn’t eat him too, and moved away still roaring, and Malone kept climbing and grabbed the end of the big log and hung from it as the dam of rocks started to break. Gomez climbed up to where Malone was as the dinosaur roared at him and the music got louder. But he kept going and sat on the log to help Malone break the dam. Rocks in the dam started to fall.
Malone: (Letting go of the log) Come on, Gomez! That’s enough!
Gomez: It’s not enough!
Malone: Gomez, come on! It’s breaking!
Gomez: (Still on log) You go ahead!
The dinosaur kept roaring and threw its head around as Malone headed back to the others, and Gomez kept sitting on the end of the log and pushing it down. The dam began to break. Lava began to spill out, falling on the dinosaur, which screamed and went down under the water as more lava fell on it. The ground began to shake and rocks fell. The others watched Gomez, screaming, fall into the water with lava and the dinosaur. More lava fell over him and rocks were falling everywhere. I guess he and the dinosaur were both dead now too. All the others ran through an opening with lava and falling rocks right behind them.
They came out from the cave with smoke coming out of it. They were back in the jungle at the bottom of the plateau, all coughing. The plateau above them exploded with fire, knocking them all down.
Challenger: (Standing again) My lost world. Lost forever.
Summerlee: Now we’ll never prove anything in London.
Challenger: (Showing he has the dinosaur egg) Oh, yes, we will. (Chuckles) I thought this might help.
Summerlee: (Taking egg) One of the dinosaur eggs.
Roxton: Hardly worth the lives of all those men. But then nor are these. (Taking some diamonds out of his pocket)
Jennifer: (Coming up to him to look at the diamonds) Johnny!
Malone: How’d you manage those?
Roxton: No fire monster’s big enough to deprive you of a wedding gift.
Jennifer looked at Malone, thinking and smiling.
Roxton: Well, “Mrs.” is still the best title for a girl.
Mom made that clicking noise again. Jennifer kissed Roxton on the cheek but then hugged Malone.
Malone: (To Roxton) Well, don’t you want any of them?
Roxton: Well, I uh– I kept a few for the rest of us.
There was an explosion on the plateau and Summerlee dropped the dinosaur egg and it broke. He and the others got down on their knees to look at the tiny dinosaur that had been in the egg. It was moving around, so I guess it was okay.
Challenger: A baby dinosaur! Ha! (Picking it up) Tyrannosaurus Rex. Ha!
Jennifer: But will it live, Professor? Will it be all right?
Challenger: It’ll live long enough to grow as big as a house and terrify all London. (He touched it and it gave a tiny baby scream.)
Summerlee: Then what’ll we do?
Challenger: Well, we’ll move out of London as fast as possible!
They all laughed. The words “THE END” plus others came up on the screen as they laughed and the music made sounds like the end. Then there were a bunch of words moving up on the big screen. Finally the lights came on in the theater.
“Well”, mom said, “That was fun!” She sat up straight, put out her arms and stretched her body and her back made a cracking noise. I could tell she was thinking.
Then she looked at me again and said, “Except the way the men on the expedition treated Jennifer and that native woman. There are a lot of men out there that treat women, particularly good looking young women, like children.”
“They call them girls?” I asked.
“Exactly”, she said nodding, “That’s a bad habit a lot of men develop. But not your dad. He’s pretty good about that.”
Mom looked at me and her eyes were kind of fierce. She said, “I don’t try to give you much advice, Cooper, unless you ask for it. You’re a bright kid and you seem to figure out the right way to do things on your own. And I’m sure when you get older, when YOU’RE an adult, you’ll figure out that if you treat all people with respect, men AND women, you’ll have a much better life, with much stronger friendships, and you’ll be able to do a lot more important things.”
“Respect?” I asked. I had heard that word, and it always sounded important, but I figured this was my chance to find out about it.
“Respect”, she said again, “Doing unto others as you would want them to do to you. Does that make sense? If you want someone to be nice to you, be nice to them first. If you want someone to listen to you, listen to them first.”
I nodded. That DID make sense.
As we walked back to the car and drove home, I did a lot of thinking about the story in the movie. I could use some of those things in my own pretending stories.
First it was those giant dinosaurs, that the people couldn’t even shoot and kill them with their guns. Mom had said that a long time ago, before there were any people, there were real dinosaurs, but the ones in the movie were just pretend, though they looked real to me. All the animals I saw for real, or saw or heard about in books, or saw on TV, had people in charge of them. But people weren’t in charge of dinosaurs. I guess there couldn’t BE any people around when there were dinosaurs because the dinosaurs would eat them and the people couldn’t shoot them.
Second, it was that Challenger guy wanting to “sacrifice” himself, because he didn’t want anyone else to try to help him when he slipped and almost fell in the lava. That he thought the others should let him get killed so they wouldn’t get killed trying to save him. I guess that was kind of like when we pretended to be soldiers, and one kid would go first and maybe get shot so the other soldiers on his team would be okay.
Third, it was that Gomez guy wanting to kill Roxton because he thought Roxton had killed his brother. That his rule was “a life for a life”. That if somebody killed somebody you liked, then you had to kill them or someone else to make it fair again. But after Gomez shot his gun and made the dinosaur come out of the water and get that Costa guy, then things were fair again.
Then there were other things I was thinking about real stuff.
The grownup men in the movie thought that grownup women were more like kids, and that they had to be in charge of them, protect them, and keep them safe. And even if those men liked a woman a lot, like that Jennifer woman, they still didn’t think she could do very much. And maybe the grownup women in the movie didn’t think they COULD do very much either, because when they got surprised by something scary, they screamed, like some girls did in the park when they were playing. They figured if they screamed, the men would come and help them, protect them, and keep them safe.
I couldn’t remember mom ever wanting dad to be in charge of her to keep HER safe. It was mom that seemed like she was in charge. Dad would sometimes get mad about that, but he didn’t try to be in charge.
And the last thing was mom acting more like an older kid, like Margie instead of a grownup. Putting whole handfuls of popcorn in her mouth. Sitting more like a kid in those chairs in the movie place with her legs sticking out and not sitting up “straight” like she and other grownups usually did. Also just saying stuff she was really thinking, more like a kid would do. She wasn’t being like a grownup like she usually did.
When I finished thinking about all that stuff, I thought about new things that would be happening soon. I knew things were going to be different when I went to school “in the fall”, so I figured I had to be ready. Mom and dad liked school and would want me to like it too. But I didn’t know if I WAS going to like it, because from what the older kids told me about school, it was the grownups who were always in charge. They said it wasn’t like my Play School, where the grownups didn’t try to be in charge all the time.
Mom and dad didn’t try to be in charge of me most of the time. I think some other people thought they should be in charge of me, but they didn’t want to. I wondered if the teachers at the regular school would want to be in charge of me most of the time. I was worrying about that.
But that wasn’t right now. For right now I wanted to figure out more about those dinosaurs, and make them part of some of my own stories!
You did a great job on this difficult piece. I could feel as if I were there with you. I especially liked the ending, all the lessons learned and the wonderings promoted.
Thanks Terry… your comment made my day, particularly the part about my musings at the end of it. I’m trying to capture a young kid beginning to build their persona and worldview prior to going off to elementary school in another couple months.