Clubius Contained Part 3 – Dinosaurs (November 1960)

It was Saturday and mom took me over to Molly’s new house like she did last Saturday. We drove to the end of our street to where the giant high school was, and then turned left on the “Stadium” street. We drove by the stadium, over a bridge, by the “grocery” store and that “Sunoco” store that had the gas machines. The wind blew the leaves that had fallen off the trees across the street. Then we turned left on this street with big houses and trees, all the houses had that upstairs part. Finally we turned left on Molly’s street, which had more big trees and big houses, like Molly’s new house.

David was mad when I got out of the car and ran to Molly’s front door, but he didn’t get to. I brought two “shoeboxes” with me, one full of dinosaurs and one full of soldiers. I had three more dinosaurs that mom and I had gotten at the museum that I didn’t have last week when I brought my dinosaurs over. Dad said we should have “bought stock in the company” that made the plastic dinosaurs, though I didn’t know what that was. I had the same soldiers as before, and I only brought the green goodguy ones, because the other “team” would be the dinosaurs and not the badguy soldiers.

I had trouble trying to hold both boxes with one arm so I could push the doorbell. But before I could push it Molly opened the door. She saw the boxes I was carrying.

She put her hands on her sides with her elbows out and asked, “So what did you bring this time?”

“I brought soldiers”, I said, “Cuz you don’t have any.”

“I know”, she said, “Mom won’t let me.”

“And I brought ALL my dinosaurs”, I said, “I have three new ones. I’ve got an Ankylosaurus, a Pteranodon, and a Plesiosaurus. The Pteranodon flies and the Plesiosaurus swims in the water.”

“I’ve got FOUR new ones”, she said, “An Ankylosaurus and a Pteranodon too, but I also got another Tyrannosaurus and a Brachiosaurus.”

“You have two Tyrannosaurus’?” I asked.

“Yep”, she said, “I think that’s the best one to have two of.”

“Wow”, I said, “So with mine we have three of them, they can be in charge of the other dinosaurs.”

“I know”, she said, “That’s why I got another one. They’re the best, the Tyrant Lizard King, so they should be in charge of the others.”

I heard a horn honking, and I looked back and saw mom standing by our car. “I’m going to head off”, she said, “Have a good time, Coop. Molly, tell your mom thanks for me, okay?” Molly and I both nodded. Mom got back in the car and drove off with David.

“Molly, is that Cooper?”, I heard her mom ask but I couldn’t see her, “I’m coming out to say hello to his mom.”

Molly looked at me and said quietly, “Uh oh, you better go up stairs and put the soldiers in my room. She might not want us to play with them.” I nodded and tried to run up the stairs, but it was harder holding the two boxes.

“His mom already left”, Molly said to her mom, talking louder, “We’re going up to my room and then we’re going to play in the backyard.” Then she ran up the stairs behind me.

Molly’s new house was really big, but it wasn’t as neat as her old one. Molly’s bedroom was upstairs like her old house, but it was a regular room, not that neat attic room with the low windows and the top “ceiling” part that went up rather than flat. All you could see out her bedroom windows in this house was her backyard and the house next to her house. Also there were no stairs between the living room and the dining room or that neat fence thing like a pirate ship. The basement was neat, it was more like my basement with the hard gray floor and the furnace, washing machine and all those big metal things and tubes, but there was no TV. Molly said her dad had that big wood TV, and Molly liked to go to her dad’s so they could watch it together.

She also showed me her mom’s bedroom, which was really big and had a giant bed. There was even another bedroom that her mom called the “guest room”. I think that was for people who came over to your house but then didn’t leave when it was time to go to sleep. Molly said this friend of her mom’s, who was a grownup man, sometimes stayed all night and slept in that room. Molly said her mom said it was her “guy friend”, which Molly said was like a “boyfriend” for grownups, because she thought they got kissyface at night when Molly was asleep. He lived in another city, but stayed with them when he was “in town”, and was thinking of moving here too.

As she told me about her mom and her mom’s friend, Molly and I sat in those two big puffy chairs in her room, which were now next to each other. She even had a little desk in her room, which was pretty neat. She said she wanted to play with dinosaurs and soldiers in the backyard, but we had to “sneak” the soldiers out, because her mom might not like them. Her mom was in the dining room “paying bills”. My mom did that too, but she did it on the kitchen table. Since the boxes I brought didn’t have tops, Molly told me to put the box with my dinosaurs on top of the box with the soldiers, so you couldn’t see them.

So we went down the stairs. Her first, carrying HER box of dinosaurs, then me carrying my dinosaur box on top of my soldier box. As we went into the dining room with the big table, covered with papers, her mom saw us.

“There they are”, she said, “I’m so glad you could come over Cooper. Molly always looks forward to when you visit.”

“MOM”, said Molly kind of loud, like she was mad that her mom said that. Molly’s mom smiled and nodded.

“Look at all those boxes”, her mom said.

“I got all my dinosaurs”, Molly said, “And Coob’s brought over all his too. He’s got so many that he has TWO BOXES.”

“Are you taking them down to the basement to play?” she asked, looking down at all her pieces of paper and not at us anymore.

“Nope”, Molly said. I liked the way she said it with that pop noise at the end. “We’re going to play in the backyard.”

“Well”, her mom said, looking up at us again like she was figuring something out, “I know you two are polar bears but I think you both need to put on your jackets.”

Molly wrinkled her nose and scrunched up her face. “Okay”, she said, “But we have our hands full with all these toys. We’ll put them in the backyard and then come right back in for our jackets.”

“That’s fine”, her mom said, looking back down at the table, “Have fun.”

Grownups said that “have fun” sometimes, usually when they didn’t want to talk with you any more. I don’t think I’d ever heard a kid say that. Kids already knew you were going to have fun.

We took the boxes out the door in the kitchen to the backyard. It had a garden way in the back like my house and a garage like her old backyard. Next to the garage was a “sandbox”, which was like my dirt pile except it had pieces of wood around it and it had sand instead of dirt. There was a big maple tree in the middle of the backyard, but no spruce trees like my backyard. The rest was grass, but everywhere there were lots of leaves on the ground, mostly yellow and brown, though a few were kind of orange.

We put our boxes down on the fallen leaves and they made a crunching sound. Then we went back inside to get our jackets because it really was cold. The wind was blowing which made it extra cold and made the leaves on the ground swoosh around, sometimes in circles. Back outside we looked over the whole backyard and how we would do our pretending in all its different parts.

“This should all be the dinosaurs’ place”, Molly said, moving her hands around to point at all the different parts of the backyard, “The soldiers are coming from over here.” She pointed at the sandbox.

I nodded and said, “But the dinosaurs don’t want the soldiers to come, specially the Tyrannosaurus Rexes.”

“Yeah”, said Molly, opening her eyes wide then doing lots of thinking, “And the other plant-eating dinosaurs want the Tyrannosauruses to eat the soldiers so they won’t eat them.” I had to think about that for a minute but it finally made sense. If the Tyrannosauruses were busy eating the soldiers they wouldn’t eat the other plant-eating dinosaurs.

“We should set up the dinosaurs first”, I said, “How they are when they’re just doing their regular stuff in their regular place.”

She put her arms around her chest and scrunched up her face and said, “Hmm”. She sounded more like a grownup when they didn’t like something but weren’t sure why yet, but I guess she just had to do more thinking. “I guess all the Tyrannosauruses should be in the same place”, she said, “Because then they think they’re more in charge.” I nodded. That made sense.

“So you want to set up your dinosaurs and I’ll set up mine?” she asked, “Or should we do them all together?” When Molly lived across the street and I saw her all the time, I might have said we could each set up our own. But now that we only saw each other on Saturday, I wanted to do it together so we would do more talking.

So first we decided that the Tyrannosauruses should be somewhere up high so they could see all the other dinosaurs. But Molly’s backyard was all flat, so I figured out we could make a mountain, or at least a hill, with the sand in the sandbox where the three of them could be and see all the other dinosaurs and think they were in charge. We each also had Allosauruses, which ate other dinosaurs too, so we put them on the sand hill but in a different part.

From the stories I saw on TV, people, mainly badguys, always thought they were in charge when by the end of the story they really weren’t. Like the Professor in Felix or the badguys in those Westerns that dad liked. Even the Cat in the Hat thought he had everything figured out, but sometimes he didn’t, even though he could always fix it. Molly and I tried to decide if the Tyrannosauruses and Allosauruses were goodguys or badguys. If they tried to protect their place from the soldiers they were goodguys, but if they ate other dinosaurs they seemed more like badguys.

In other parts of the backyard we put the different plant-eating dinosaurs. If we each had the same one we’d put the two together, because that made sense that they would be friends, because they were the same kind. We figured since they ate plants they could eat the leaves that had fallen from the giant tree way above them. The leaves also helped them hide from the meat-eating dinosaurs up on the sandhill.

“What about my Plesiosaurus?” I asked. It was my only dinosaur that lived in the water. Since she knew almost as much about dinosaurs as I did, she knew what kind of dinosaur that was, and that it lived in the water. Molly didn’t have any water dinosaurs, so I guess she wasn’t thinking about that.

“Hmm”, she said, “We need to make a water place for that one.”

“Maybe the driveway could be the pretend water place”, I said, “Like an ocean.”

She nodded but scrunched up her face like she wasn’t sure. “Maybe”, she said, then her eyes opening up wide, “Or maybe we could make a real water place on the side of the garden. We can use the hose.”

She went over to the back of the house where there was a hose hanging in circles on the wall. She took it off and brought the end of the hose where the water would come out over to the back of the yard by the side of the garden by the garage. Then she went back and turned the knob that made the water come out and it filled up a long line between the back part of the grass and the front part of the garden. It was neat because it looked like a river. I put my Plesiosaurus in the new “river” by where the hose was shooting out water and since the dinosaur floated the water pushed it down the river like it was swimming, though the neck and head part fell over into the water and two of the fins stuck up in the air.

“That’s pretty good, right?” she asked, and I nodded, “But does it eat plants or meat?”

“It eats fish”, I said, “Or ‘clams’, whatever those are.”

“My mom eats FRIED clams”, Molly said, “But they don’t look like animals, just brown things.” She made a face like they were really yucky.

With the Tyrannosauruses already on the top of the hill watching what we were doing and the Allosaurus climbing the hill and looking at them, we set up the rest of the plant-eating dinosaurs. When we went back up the steps to the backdoor, so we could see everything better, it all looked pretty neat.

“Now we need the soldiers to come”, Molly said.

“They can come to the dinosaur island from the ocean to explore”, I said, “And maybe take the giant leaves from the dinosaurs for food for the other soldiers back in the war”, I said.

“But we don’t have boats for the soldiers to come in”, she said.

“We can pretend the boxes are boats”, I said.

“Oh yeah”, she said, “We used to do that when we were little in your backyard. Remember?” We looked at each other and smiled, like that was a long time ago and now we were a lot older.

Then Molly looked at me like she was trying to figure something out. The wind whooshed in the trees above us and some more leaves came slowly down, spinning as they fell. She said, “We’ve been friends forever. I can’t remember before that.” I couldn’t remember either, but I liked it that way.

So we did our story with soldiers and dinosaurs. The soldiers came to the island from the ocean driveway on their boats. They came on land and saw all the giant leaves. It was just what they needed to take home on their boats so the other soldiers and regular people would have enough food. But first they would have to set up a base, because it was going to take a long time to get all this great leaf food. They decided to set up their base by their boats.

We figured out that Molly could go inside to get her Tinker Toys and some sheets of paper and we could make sleeping places for the soldiers on the land. We put the Tinker Toys together in box shapes and then put a piece of paper on top of each box for the top part. But the wind kept blowing the paper off until we figured out how to put stones from the driveway on top of the pieces of paper on top of the boxes. If the stones were too small then the wind would blow the paper off anyway. If the stones were too big and heavy then the paper couldn’t hold them up. But if the stones were just the right size in the middle, then the paper could hold them up but wouldn’t blow away, at least most of the time.

The Captain in charge of the soldiers sent out small teams to explore the island and see how many giant leaves there were. All the teams were finding lots of leaves, and got excited that they could bring back so much food to other soldiers and regular people back in their place across the ocean. Molly and I took turns figuring out the next part of the story.

Lieutenant Cord’s team, he was always my favorite soldier, found some of the plant-eating dinosaurs, the Brontosauruses and the Stegosauruses. Some of his team got scared and started shooting at them, which didn’t hurt them very much but made them mad, and the Stegosauruses attacked and wounded some of the soldiers with their spiked tails. Lieutenant Cord told his team to stop shooting and they had to carry their wounded soldiers back to the camp and take them to one of the boats where the doctor guy was. Then Lieutenant Cord told the Captain about the dinosaurs.

“That’s impossible”, said the Captain, “All the dinosaurs died a long time ago.”

“Maybe where we are”, said Cord, “But not on this island. And the giant leaves are the food for the dinosaurs too.”

So Cord took the Captain to where the Stegosauruses and Brontosaurus were, so he could see them.

“Those sure look like dinosaurs”, the Captain said, “But we still need to get all these giant leaves and take them back to feed our other soldiers and the regular people.”

So the Captain told the soldiers to go out in small teams to different parts of the island to get the leaves and bring them back to the boats. They were supposed to try not to bother the dinosaurs and not to shoot at them, unless the dinosaurs attacked them. Lieutenant Cord was in charge of going around to each team and making sure they were doing what the Captain said. All the teams worked hard to “gather” leaves, that was the word Molly used. I had heard it before but didn’t really know what it meant until now.

But while all the teams did their work, up on the sandhill that soldiers hadn’t gone to yet, the three Tyrannosauruses and the Allosaurus were watching what was going on down below them on the rest of the island. These new “animals”, the soldiers that is because mom had told me that we were animals too, “homo” somethings, were taking all the food from the plant-eating dinosaurs. If all the plant-eating dinosaurs didn’t have their food, they would die, and then the meat-eating dinosaurs wouldn’t have their food either. So the Tyrannosauruses and the Allosaurus decided that they should start eating those new animals so they wouldn’t cause any more trouble. At least eat a few of them and maybe scare the rest of them to leave the island.

So when it got to be pretend nighttime, all the soldiers came back to their base and most of them were sleeping, except for the guards. Then the next pretend day, the teams went out again to get more leaves. One team was far from their base and near the sandhill with the Tyrannosauruses and the Allosaurus. While the team was worrying about the plant-eating dinosaurs and trying to “gather” leaves, the meat-eating dinosaurs attacked them. The soldiers tried to shoot the dinosaurs but the bullets didn’t hurt them very much and the dinosaurs killed and ate two of the soldiers, and only the third one, who was wounded, was able to get away.

“What should we do with the soldiers that got eaten?” Molly asked.

“Well they shouldn’t just lie there dead”, I said, “Because they got eaten, so I’ll just put those two in my pocket.”

She nodded, and we went back to our story.

That wounded soldier found Lieutenant Cord and told him what happened.

“Dammit”, Cord said. Molly and I both figured that soldiers did swearing, and that was a swear word we both knew and had said before.

“I didn’t know there were dinosaurs that ate people!” Cord said, “I have to get you back to the base and to the doctor, and then tell the Captain that there are dinosaurs on this island that want to eat US and don’t just eat plants.”

Back at the soldier’s base Lieutenant Cord told the Captain about the dinosaurs killing and eating two of their soldiers.

“This is a big problem!” said the Captain.

“The Captain should have a name too”, said Molly, “Not just ‘the Captain’.”

I looked at Molly and thought about her idea. “When I have more than one captain then I give them names”, I said.

“Well”, she said, “Do you have more than one lieutenant?”

She was right, it was just that Lieutenant Cord was my favorite plastic soldier. He had a pistol in one hand and his other hand was pointing with a finger. “So what should the Captain’s name be?” I asked.

“Captain Large”, she said. I nodded. That seemed good.

So Captain Large said, “Dammit, we don’t have any cannons or bombs to kill those dinosaurs. Maybe if we get all the soldiers to go shoot at them at the same time it might at least make them wounded.”

“It might just make them really mad and want to eat all of us”, said Cord, “We should just stay away from that sandhill where the meat-eating dinosaurs live. But there are other dinosaurs that eat plants that could also get us with their tails or their horns, so we have to be really careful.”

Captain Large thought that was a good idea and he told Lieutenant Cord to tell all the teams to stay away from the sandhill and to watch out for those other dinosaurs too. So the teams all worked hard at their jobs and brought more and more giant leaves to the base to put in the boats.

As Molly and I kept playing our pretend story the wind kept whooshing in the trees above us making more leaves fall and the leaves already on the ground move around. When the wind blew the paper roof off of one of the base houses, a team of soldiers would have to go get the piece of paper and carry it back to the base and fix the house.

The Tyrannosauruses and the Allosaurus decided they didn’t want the soldiers to steal all their leaves. Even though they didn’t eat the leaves, they didn’t want the plant-eating dinosaurs not to have any food. Even though they ate some of the plant-eating dinosaurs for food, they were still part of their dinosaur team. And they decided that the soldiers tasted better than other dinosaurs and this was their chance to have the best stuff to eat.

There were more fights between soldiers and dinosaurs and some more soldiers got eaten. Captain Large had all the soldiers shoot at an Allosaurus and it wounded him, but that made the Tyrannosauruses more mad.

“Lunchtime”, Molly’s mom called out from the steps in front of the backdoor. “This is quite a scene”, she said, looking at all the dinosaurs and the soldiers, “Cooper I see you brought your soldiers over.”

Molly looked worried and then kind of mad. “But they’re not shooting each other like they usually do”, she said to her mom, “They’re just trying to get giant leaves for food from the dinosaur island to bring back to other people, but the Tyrannosauruses and the Allosaurus are eating some of the soldiers. The soldiers shot the Allosaurus and he’s wounded, but he’s not dead.”

Molly’s mom held up her hands and wiggled them in front of her face and shook her head and looked worried. “Such gruesome mayhem you two. Aren’t there more happy stories you can pretend?”

Molly put her hands on her sides with her elbows sticking out just like the Captain Large plastic soldier. “MOM”, she said with her fierce voice, “The soldiers are just trying to bring food back to the other people so they’ll have enough to eat!” Her mom nodded, and waved her hand for us to come back in the house.

After lunch we went back outside and finished our story. The Tyrannosauruses, and the Allosaurus that wasn’t wounded, ate some more of the soldiers, but Lieutenant Cord got most of the teams to gather leaves and bring them back to the boats. But all the dinosaurs got SO MAD that they all decided to attack the soldiers’ base. All the soldiers ran back to their base and tried to protect it, shooting at the dinosaurs. The soldiers shooting wounded three of them and actually killed one of the Dimetrodons. But that made all the dinosaurs even more mad, and work together even. The plant-eating dinosaurs would wound the soldiers with their tails or horns, and then the meat-eating dinosaurs would eat them. Finally when even Lieutenant Cord got wounded by a Stegosauruses tail, Captain Strange decided it was time to retreat to the boats and leave the island with the leaves they already had gathered. They just barely saved Cord before a Tyrannosaurus ate him.

“What’s ‘retreat’?” asked Molly.

“That’s when you have to stop fighting and leave before all your soldiers on your team get killed or captured”, I said, remembering what dad had told me about the real war.

Mom finally came back and brought David out in the backyard with us while she talked to Molly’s mom. While they talked, David helped us find and put all my dinosaurs and soldiers back in their boxes. Actually Molly and I let David do most of the finding things because we really liked that. Molly and I were too worried about making sure we each got the right dinosaurs back in our boxes. There was only one Plesiosaurus and I knew that was mine, but there was also just one Protoceratops, and we weren’t sure if it was mine or hers. She thought it might be hers, so we had David put it in her box, but she said I could “borrow” it the next time we played dinosaurs together. We both knew about “borrowing” stuff now because we were going to the library to get books. We also went to the bookmobile, which we could do by ourselves, which was really neat.


It was Monday and I had to go back to school. It would have been okay if I only had to go sometimes when I felt like doing that school stuff, with our teacher telling us all the time what to do. But I had to go every day except for Saturday and Sunday which was the “weekend”. And after that “weekend” doing what I wanted to do, it would be Monday again and I’d have to go again every day, nothing was ever different. I felt like I had to keep thinking about school more than I wanted to. It felt like I would have to go to school forever, but mom said there would be a “winter break” for two weeks when it was Christmas time, another one week “spring break”, and school would be all over in the middle of June. So I kept going because I guess I had too, and all the other kids were doing it too. I didn’t even want to ask mom or dad if I REALLY had to, because both of them liked school. Dad liked it so much that he was STILL going to school even though he was a grownup. But at least it was helping me figure out how to read, and now I could read a lot of stuff, even if I didn’t know what some of the words meant.

I had to get up when the small hand on the plastic clock in my room pointed at the “7”, if I remembered to wind it up the night before. But mom or dad would come in and wake me up anyway. Sometimes I didn’t want to get up, but I also didn’t want mom and dad to treat me like a little kid and keep telling me what to do. So even if I didn’t want to, I would get dressed and eat some cereal, and then I had to start walking to school when the little hand was between the “7” and the “8” on our clocks.

If it was raining, mom or dad would drive me to school, but most of the time I walked. It took a long time and in the mornings it felt really cold sometimes. But I wanted to do it to keep showing them that I was a big kid that could do everything myself. I figured it was working because mom or dad sometimes would look worried and ask me, “Are you sure you’re okay doing this by yourself?”. I would ALWAYS nod when they asked me that question. Then they would say, “Good for you Coop!” and would be happy that they didn’t need to worry about me because they had so many other things they were worrying about. Like David, paying bills, fixing the car, dad’s “dissertation”, and not having furniture in the living room.

And when I got to school, sometimes it was okay that our teacher told me and all the other kids what to do, because I liked what she wanted us to do, like reading or going out to “recess”. But other times it wasn’t okay because we had to do things like “spelling”, which I NEVER liked doing. Other kids could read what I wrote even if I didn’t “spell” the words the regular way. My school friend Gabe said spelling was “boring”, which meant that it was okay to do it a few times but not over and over. But our teacher always wanted us to write words the “right way”. Also when I was reading or doing “recess” I usually didn’t want to stop when our teacher said it was time to do something else.

But a while ago I had brought my box of dinosaurs to school, and Amanda, Gabe, Jake and I had all played with them at recess. Amanda and Gabe had dinosaurs too, and they started bringing theirs. We knew all the dinosaur names and even the regular words for those names. My favorite was “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, which was “tyrant lizard king” in regular words. That was Gabe’s favorite too. Amanda said that a “tyrant” was a really bad guy who was in charge. We also knew which ones were plant-eaters and which were meat-eaters. Gabe, Jake and I all thought the meat-eaters were the best, but Amanda said that was because we were boys. We had all read the books about dinosaurs at the library at school, and had our own dinosaur books that we got from the regular library where they let you take books home if you got a “library card”. We had fun trying to know everything about all the different dinosaurs and see if we knew the most. Amanda and Gabe were both pretty good at knowing the most. I knew a lot too, but Jake didn’t know as much because he didn’t have any dinosaurs at home, he only played with them when we brought ours to school.

Other kids in our class asked to play with us and our dinosaurs at recess. We would tell them what each one was named and what the regular words for that name were. Also whether they ate meat or plants. And some of the other kids were figuring out all about them from the books in the school library or the regular library. But today, our teacher came over and said she wanted to talk to us about dinosaurs too. I was worried, because I figured since she didn’t tell us to play with or read about dinosaurs, she would say we shouldn’t bring them to school, but she didn’t do that.

She said she wanted to do a “unit” on dinosaurs, because she saw that we were so interested in them and the other kids were too, and it was making us do more reading, which she really really liked. I wasn’t going to, but Amanda asked her what a “unit” was, and our teacher said it usually was something that the school told her to teach kids about, like plants, or families or adding numbers. We were supposed to do a “unit” on regular animals, like cats and dogs and cows and stuff, but the school said she could do a unit on dinosaurs. She wanted us to help her make it more fun so all the kids in our class would like learning about different kinds of animals and do more reading like Amanda, Gabe, Jake and I were doing.

She sat down on the sand next to us, though it was hard for her, like it was for Amanda, because she was wearing a dress and we weren’t supposed to see her underwear.

“Ach”, she said, “I wish Mrs. Sanderson would let me wear slacks to school!” Finally she was able to sit down in kind of a strange way with her legs together and pull her dress down over her knees.

Amanda said, “My mother said that unless you want people to call you a Tomboy, you need to wear a dress or at least a skirt.”

“Well”, said our teacher, “That would be the least of my worries.” She brushed sand off of the bottom part of her dress.

“I don’t wear a dress to school”, Gabe said, “And people don’t call ME a Tomboy.” He laughed through his nose like a grownup.

Amanda gave him a fierce look. “Gabriel”, she said, “Stop acting like such a CHILD!” She said “child” like it was something bad, like the way some grownups said it. It was supposed to be another word for “kid”, but some grownups said it like it meant you were stupid, though mom and dad didn’t say it that way.

I couldn’t believe that they were talking this way in front of a grownup, even though our teacher didn’t always seem like a regular grownup. I would never talk that way around mom or dad or another grownup, though I kind of liked that my friends were doing it, and wished I could too.

Our teacher shook her head. “Amanda”, she said, “I bet you’ve heard your parents or other adults use the word ‘child’ that way, like it’s a bad thing. I really wish people wouldn’t do that.”

Amanda suddenly got quiet and worried that she’d said something really bad. Gabe, Jake and I got quiet too.

“No, no, no, no”, said our teacher, looking worried and waving her hand in front of her, “I didn’t mean to scold you. I just don’t like adults talking like that, it’s so disrespectful of children. You guys just pick it up from them. You’re just trying to learn how to express your strong feelings.”

“But I’m not a ‘guy’, I’m a girl”, said Amanda.

“Of course, I’m sorry Amanda”, said our teacher, looking more worried now. She looked up at the sky, puffed out her cheeks and blew air out of her closed mouth. “Oh boy”, she said, “I should’ve stuck with journalism!”

“You know”, said Gabe, “You’re not like a regular grownup!”

Amanda did a funny look and made a click noise with her mouth and shook her head while she looked up at the sky, like Gabe had said something stupid.

“No”, said our teacher, pointing her finger at Amanda and moving it up and down, “It’s okay. That’s probably the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a long time.”

Amanda looked at her like she was surprised our teacher said that.

“Okay. Okay”, our teacher said, patting her hands on the sand in front of her, “Back to what I came over here to ask the four of you before we got off track. She looked around at all of us and asked, “So what do you guys… and girl think?”

“I don’t know”, said Jake, “Some of the other kids might just want to find out about regular animals, because they have regular animals, like cats or dogs, at home.”

“Yeah”, said Gabe, his eyes twinkling, “We don’t have cats or dogs at home, we have dinosaurs.” Our teacher laughed, and Gabe did too. He liked it when he said stuff that made other people laugh. But I couldn’t figure out what was funny. But then I wondered if Gabe was being silly and pretending we had REAL dinosaurs at our houses instead of a cat or a dog like some other people had, so I laughed too.

“Hmm”, said our teacher, putting her hand under her chin, “I’ll have to figure this out. Do some more thinking.” Her mouth started to smile and she laughed through her nose and said, “I should’ve stuck with journalism!”

“Why”, said Amanda, “What’s journalism?”

Our teacher waved her hand in front of her face and said, “I was just feeling frustrated, being silly. Journalism is writing stories that they put in newspapers, radio or TV news. I studied it in college.”

“Is that like being a reporter?” Amanda asked, “My dad’s a reporter. He works for the Ann Arbor News.”

“Wow…” said our teacher, “That’s exactly like being a reporter.” She was going to say more but one of the girls in our class ran up to her.

“Miss Zimmerman”, she said, “Richie told me to shut up!”

“Oh dear”, our teacher said, turning her head to look at the girl, “Do you need me to come and sort it out?” The girl nodded.

“Stay here for just a minute”, our teacher said to her, “And then we’ll walk over and talk to Richie. I just have to finish up talking to Gabe, Jake, Amanda and Cooper.” The girl pushed her lips together and nodded again.

Our teacher turned her head to look back at the four of us. “Well, back to work”, she said, her eyes looking like she was doing a lot of thinking. “One quick thing”, she said, holding up a finger. “I make a point of calling each one of you by the names you want to be called. I would appreciate it if you called me by my name. I’m Miss Zimmerman.”

“It’s kind of long to say that”, said Gabe.

“Yeah, well”, she said, “The school says all teachers need to use their last names. Mine IS kind of long.”

“What’s your regular name?” Jake asked.

“If you mean my first name, it’s Hannah”, she said, “My friends call me Hanny.”

“Can we call you Hanny?” Gabe asked.

Our teacher opened her lips but kept her teeth closed and sucked air in through them. “I’ll have to say no”, she said, “Because of the school rules. But how about a compromise. You guys… and girls know what a compromise is?” Gabe, Jake and I shook our heads, but Amanda nodded, and seeing that us boys didn’t know and she did, she got a big smile on her face.

“Nobody gets what they want”, she said, “But they get something so they aren’t mad.”

“Hmm”, said our teacher, “I might define it differently, but something like that. Anyway… how about you call me Miss Z?”

Gabe, Jake and I nodded our heads. “That’s good”, Gabe said, “I like that.”

“Well”, said Amanda, not nodding her head, “I’m still going to call you Miss Zimmerman.”

“That’s great”, our teacher said, “Just don’t call me late for dinner!” We all looked at her like we didn’t know what she was talking about.

She saw that we couldn’t figure that out. “That’s just a funny thing adults say sometimes”, she said, waving her hand. Maybe another time I’ll explain it to you. But I’m glad we could work something out. Now Rachel and I have to talk to Richie.” She stood up.

“Where is he?” she asked Rachel. Rachel pointed and the two of them walked away.

So pretty soon at school our teacher, “Miss Z”, said that for our “Animal Unit” we could either do “a pet, a farm animal, or a dinosaur”. She said if you had a pet or farm animal, you could draw a picture of it and then write a sentence under the picture that said where it lived, what kind of food it ate and why you liked it. Or if you wanted to do a dinosaur, you could pick one out, draw a picture, and then write where it lived, what the name meant in regular words, and what kind of food it ate and why you liked it. She got books about dinosaurs and regular animals from the school library and the regular library and put them on the table in our room so we could pick which one we wanted to do.

She said that she hoped that if we were doing a dinosaur that we’d pick one that was different from what other kids were doing. Because Gabe, Amanda, Jake and I liked dinosaurs so much, a lot of the other kids decided to do a dinosaur too, and five of the other boys did the Tyrannosaurus like Gabe did. I did the Allosaurus and Jake did the Pteranodon. Amanda did the Diplodocus.

When we gave Miss Z our sheets of paper, she put them all up on the walls of our room on these things called “bulletin boards”. They were pretty neat, you could stick things to them with these little round things with a sharp point sticking outy called “thumb tacks”.

That Mrs Sanderson woman, who mom and I talked to on my first day here at school, came into our classroom to talk to our teacher, Miss Z, about something. Then she looked at all our pictures and words on the wall. “Very good work”, she said to Miss Z, “But I would have made each child do a different dinosaur so you had more variety.” It didn’t sound like she was saying “child” as a bad word, but I wasn’t sure.

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