I was listening to songs on the radio a lot now. There were three songs this summer that I had heard a lot on the radio and were interesting because they were different from each other. Two of them were sung by what sounded like older kids.
The first they said on the radio was sung by this girl called “Little Eva”, so that seemed like a kid name to me. It was on that “CKLW” station at the “8” on the radios, and it was one of those dancing songs, like all those “twist” songs I kept hearing. I even heard kids in the park sometimes singing the song.
Everybody’s doin’ a brand new dance, now
(Come on, baby, do the Loco-Motion)
I know you’ll get to like it if you give it a chance now
(Come on, baby, do the Loco-Motion)
My little baby sister can do it with me
It’s easier than learning your ABCs
So come on, come on
Do the Loco-Motion with me
Like a lot of those “Motown” songs I was hearing on that “CKLW” station, this song had the one older girl singing the main words that were always different. But it had other older girls singing the same words over and over. I knew older kids on TV did lots of dancing to songs, and Margie did too. And mom liked to dance when she heard songs she liked. And Margie showed me how to do that “Twist” dance that older kids did, and mom showed me that “Foxtrot” one that I guess grownups did, though I’d never seen anyone do it. But I really didn’t do either of them by myself or with any of my friends when I heard those kinds of songs. Maybe only older girls and grownup women liked to dance.
And after hearing the song a bunch of times I figured out there was that “chorus” part, that you sang over and over the same way…
You gotta swing your hips, now
Come on, baby
Jump up, jump back
Well, I think you’ve got the knack
And I figured she said “baby” not because it was a real baby, but because that was a nickname for her boyfriend.
Then there was this other one on the CKLW and that other station that mom and dad listened to that sounded like it was sung by an older boy. It wasn’t a dancing song, and mom and dad even listened to it sometimes. It was kind of sad and about “love” and wanting to be kissyface, but not being able to because it was summer.
Tho we gotta say goodbye for the summer
Darling I promise you this
I’ll send you all my love every day in a letter
Sealed with a kiss
Yes it’s gonna be a cold lonely summer
But I’ll fill the emptiness
I’ll send you all my dreams every day in a letter
Sealed with a kiss
The song didn’t really have a chorus part, but that guy sang that same thing, “Sealed with a kiss”, over and over again. It was interesting that a lot of songs about “love” seemed to be sad songs.
Then there was this really different song sung by what sounded more like a grownup, which I figured was about that “West” place because it was all about shooting people with guns. It was about this “Liberty Valance” guy, who I guess was a badguy because he didn’t like the regular “law”, whatever that was, and just liked shooting people…
When Liberty Valance rode to town
The women folk would hide, they’d hide
When Liberty Valance walked around
The men would step aside
Because the point of a gun
Was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin’ straight and fast
He was mighty good
But then this goodguy came who liked the regular law that was in this book that he carried around. I wondered if it was that “Bible” book some grownups talked about, though I’d never really seen one…
From out of the East a stranger came
A law book in his hand
The kind of a man the West would need
To tame a troubled land
And then he’d sing this part again since it must be the chorus part…
‘Cause the point of a gun
Was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin’ straight and fast
He was mighty good
Many a man would face his gun and many a man would fall
But the man who shot Liberty Valance
He shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all
So the goodguy was really brave and finally shot the badguy. I wondered if the “West” was like a regular war where there were two sides, the goodguy side and the badguy one. Or if guys just went around shooting other guys when they got mad, or when that other guy did something bad. I guess they were kind of like two sides because the goodguys usually had white hats and the badguys black ones. In dad’s red war books, the pictures didn’t have colors, like our TV, but those German soldiers had different kinds of helmets than the American soldiers, so they all knew who to shoot at.
Dad said during the war his “platoon” of American soldiers shot those mortars at the badguy German Eighty-eights. But dad also said that he wasn’t very brave, and he always ran away when the Germans shot their eighty-eight guns at him. But other times he would help his guys blow up the Germans’ Eighty-eights before they could start shooting at him.
All us kids who were boys knew we were supposed to be brave so we could fight in a war with that “Soviet Union” place, if they decided to have a regular war like World War Two, and not a “nuclear war” with those missiles and “H-bombs”. Both sides had those “Hydrogen” ones now instead of just “Atomic” ones, which couldn’t blow up as much, but still a lot. The other boys in the park talked about it a lot and we would even pretend sometimes we were having a regular war with them. But usually we would pretend World War Two instead, because lots of kids knew those stories from their dads telling them. And when we pretended, everyone always pretended to be brave, though most of us weren’t sure we could REALLY be brave in a real war. Like be ready to get shot and wounded or even shot and killed.
And I had World War Two soldiers, but when I played with soldiers in the basement or the backyard, I liked playing with my Civil War soldiers the best. I think because from the Civil War cards and the books I read about that war, and all the talking I’d done about it with my friends at school, I knew more of the interesting stories. I could use those stories to make my own stories.
And then I could also use the stories in the movies I’d seen. My friends and I all liked Captain Nemo and his stories. There was that “Lost World” movie that got me interested in doing stories with dinosaurs and people. Now there was that second Captain Nemo movie, “Mysterious Island”, which happened during the Civil War. Captain Nemo’s submarine was kind of wrecked and trapped inside a volcano, and all his crew guys were gone. The second movie was neat, but I liked the first one better when his sub was working and he still had his crew.
So last night after dad read a Tom Swift book and sang songs, I was lying in bed thinking, instead of going to sleep. I was thinking about a pretend story that put together Civil War, Captain Nemo and dinosaurs. I figured Captain Nemo and his crew had found an island where there still were dinosaurs, like in the “Lost World” movie where the dinosaurs still were on that “plateau” place. The island also had that “mine” place underground where you could get all these special metals to make submarines like Captain Nemo’s Nautilus.
General Grant and the Union Civil War army also wanted those special metals, so they could build their own submarines like the Nautilus or at least those “Ironclad” ones like the “Monitor”. His Union army had a base by the ocean where they sent out their ships to “blockade” the Confederate ports, so they couldn’t get extra food from other countries to feed their army.
General Lee and the Confederate army, which had their own base, was always trying to capture the Union base to get all those ships that they didn’t have. They wanted to get those ships so maybe they could go out in the ocean and find the Nautilus, capture it from Captain Nemo, and use it to wreck all the other Union ships, since their own submarines, like that “Hunley” one, didn’t work very well. If they could do that, they could get food from other countries to feed their soldiers and keep fighting the war.
Captain Nemo had his own secret base, where he would go out with his crew and the Nautilus and try to sink the Union war ships and keep either the Union or the Confederates from finding that island with the dinosaurs and the metal mines. He wanted all the special metal stuff for himself so no one else could build really neat submarines like the Nautilus.
I kept thinking about it in my bed for a long time before I finally got to sleep, and I slept late the next morning, which was okay because it was still August, and that was still summer, because school wouldn’t start again until September, which would be third grade for me.
The next morning, David was already down in the basement starting to pull out the wood boxes with the dinosaurs and soldiers in them. The boxes were heavy, but dad had put them on the bottom of the toy shelves so David could pull them out without having to really carry them or make them fall down. I told David my pretending story with Captain Nemo, the dinosaurs, and the Civil War guys. I could tell he was thinking about it.
“We can do that”, he said, “But Godzilla’s in charge of the dinosaurs.”
I looked at him like I wasn’t sure that would be good. Godzilla always destroyed everything, and nothing could stop him. I didn’t think that was a good story because it was “boring”. In second grade my friends and I had used that word a lot!
“And there are Martian dinosaurs too”, he said. David’s two best friends, Marybeth’s younger sister Hannah and this kid Joey, really liked Mars stuff, even though they were younger than me and they didn’t even know Mars was a planet like our Earth planet. Hannah went to Kindergarten at Bach, but Joey and David didn’t go yet because they weren’t old enough. David just went to that Play School place that I used to go to. Joey went there too.
“Martian dinosaurs?” I asked. He nodded.
“They’re Tinker Toys”, he said. I figured THAT would be okay.
“Okay”, I said, “We can do that.”
He nodded and looked like he was happy and okay with my story.
“How about the Martian dinosaurs come down to Earth to meet with Captain Nemo”, I said, “He keeps them safe at his secret base while they figure out about the Earth dinosaurs.” He nodded really fast like he liked that a lot.
So we made Captain Nemo’s secret base in the “secret cove” in the laundry room part of the basement. Not on the open floor ocean part but through a “secret passage” between the washing machine and the furnace. Secret things were always pretty neat. The furnace was Nemo’s “factory” where he made stuff to fix the Nautilus when it got “damaged”, and made underwater suits for his men and their special lightning guns. The Martian dinosaurs came down from Mars in the Tinker Toy tube, which was their special spaceship that could land in Nemo’s secret base. The little Martian dinosaurs came out first, and then they had to put the big Martian dinosaurs back together, because they were too big for their ship.
“The Earth dinosaurs live on ‘Jinx Island’”, I said to David, “That’s the rug in dad’s office.” Then I stopped talking to think about Godzilla. I said, “Godzilla can be in charge of the dinosaurs, but he’s old now so he doesn’t wreck anything, and just stays in their cave under the desk and tells the other dinosaurs what to do.”
I wanted the special metal mine to be under dad’s desk, but I needed it to be Godzilla’s place so he wouldn’t wreck everything. Dad said that now that he’d finished his “dissertation”, and he had a “real” office at “Eastern” where he was doing a lot more teaching, it was okay if David and I used that part of the basement for playing, and keep things set up there, as long as we didn’t move things on the top part of his desk.
David’s eyes looked down and his lips pushed together like he wasn’t sure that Godzilla should be old like that, but then he nodded and said, “Okay, but I get to set up all the dinosaurs.” I nodded.
The Union base with its ships was on the floor in our quarter of the basement, and the Confederate base was in the TV quarter, on the brick and board shelves that our little TV was on top of. So the whole basement had parts of the story!
We each worked a long time setting up those parts of the story, David setting up the dinosaurs and me making the big Union “Fort Strong” out of Lincoln logs in our part of the basement. It was also the “port” for all the Union ships. And then I made the Confederate “Fort Danger”, also with Lincoln Logs, on the brick and board shelves under the TV in that part of the basement. I was glad I had so many Lincoln Logs that Molly had gotten me for birthday presents.
One problem was what to pretend was Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. Marybeth and Hannah had given me that submarine for my birthday with the clear plastic part on top that showed the inside parts. It was really neat, because I could even play with it in the bathtub. But like a lot of my ships and boats that I could play with in the bathtub, you couldn’t really put plastic soldiers on it or in it. I wondered if I could make a different kind of Nautilus that I COULD put the plastic soldiers in.
Mom and Dad always kept “shoeboxes”, because they said they were “useful”, which meant you could use them for a lot of stuff, like to put things in, like I did with my soldiers. Dad put empty ones in the closet under the basement stairs. That closet was pretty neat because it had tools in there, and nails and screws and other fixing stuff like that. It also had two brooms and that “mop” thing, which was like a broom but you brushed stuff with water. Dad used it to wash the basement floor sometimes, or the kitchen floor. He said you couldn’t use it on the wood floors in the living room and the bedrooms, because you couldn’t clean those with water because it would wreck them. You had to clean them with special “oil soap” stuff.
I figured one of those shoeboxes might be good for the Nautilus, so I opened the secret closet door to see if we had any. It was always cool and dark in there, and smelled like metal. There was just one shoebox, and I took it out and looked at it, trying to figure out how to make it like the inside of a submarine. I figured I needed to cut the box so it came to a point in front like most of my ships. We only had those little “kid scissors” in the basement that were small and had those round edges and only cut paper. Mom said that I was okay using regular scissors, but David might “poke his eye out”. The bigger regular scissors were up in the drawer in the kitchen that had other neat stuff in it like bottle openers, can openers and this thing dad called a “stone” to sharpen knives, even though it didn’t look like regular stones.
So I ran up the stairs to the kitchen. Mom was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a big clear plastic cup filled with ice cubes and brown water iced tea stuff that she drank a lot in the summer. She let me try some once but it tasted really bad. She had all those pieces of paper, those “bill” things on the kitchen table and that pad of yellow papers all stuck together at the top with lines on each piece like my school paper and dad’s bluebooks, to make it easier to write on. She had her elbow on the table and her hand under her chin like it was holding up her head. She looked worried. She didn’t even really look at me but I could tell she knew I was there.
“Help yourself to a peanut butter or baloney sandwich when you get hungry”, she said as she looked down at those pieces of paper on the table, “And be a good big brother and make one for David too. I’m all tied up trying to pay the damn bills, or at least the most important ones.” I nodded, and I wasn’t sure she saw that until she nodded back a little bit. She had a pencil on top of her ear.
I opened that drawer with the big scissors in it.
“What you need?” she asked, still looking at the bills on the table.
“The regular scissors”, I said, not liking to have to answer questions like that. I didn’t ask THEM what THEY needed all the time.
“That’s fine”, she said, nodding just a little bit again, “But don’t let your brother use them, and make sure when you’re done you bring them back and put them right where you found them. I HATE looking for those scissors all over the house when I need them!” She finally looked at me and did one of those grin smiles. At least she didn’t ask me what I was going to do with them.
“And I assume you know not to run down the stairs when you’re carrying scissors or any other sharp tool”, she said. That made me a little bit mad. That was that sneaky way grownups told you not to do things by saying that they knew you wouldn’t do them.
“I always do mom”, I said. Dad said stuff like that to her all the time when he was a little bit mad at her, except he said, “I always do Liz.” “Liz” was the nickname he called her but nobody else did. But I guess that made sense because Molly used to call me “Coob”, but no one else did.
I slowly stepped down the stairs, banging my foot on each step so she could hear it and know that I was going slow.
“Ha, ha”, I heard her say from behind me in the kitchen, “Very funny young man.”
As I walked down the stairs I could see into the laundry room to the right where David was putting Tinker Toy pieces together to make more Martian dinosaurs. I sat on the other side of the stairs by the door to the secret closet and put the shoebox in my lap and figured out how to cut it.
I cut one of the small sides of the box off. Then I cut between both long sides and the bottom about halfway. Then I bent those long sides so they came together to be the front part of the submarine. I took it over to dad’s desk and used his Scotch tape to tape that front pointy part together. Then I cut the bottom part so it matched and taped it to the bent together side parts. Then it wasn’t easy, but I poked the scissors through one of the cardboard sides by the pointed part at the front and cut a circle window. Cutting a circle was a lot harder than just cutting in a straight line, but I did it. Then I cut the same kind of window on the other side. The shoebox sub didn’t have a top part, but that was okay, because if it HAD a top part, you couldn’t see the people inside.
I thought about using the gray badguy German World War Two soldiers for Captain Nemo and his crew. But since they were gray, they looked a lot like the gray Confederate soldiers. So I decided to use the green goodguy American soldiers instead, since they were a different color than the blue Union OR the gray Confederate ones. Captain Nemo was the green general guy who had one hand on his middle part with his elbow sticking out that the other hand pointing forward. He had one of those hats like Nemo rather than a soldier helmet. I put him in the middle of the box submarine on the basement floor. Then I lay on my side and looked in the front part through the two circle windows so I could see him standing there. He looked really neat, like he really was Captain Nemo giving orders. I put two other green soldiers in front of Captain Nemo, one by each of the windows. Only one of the other soldiers wasn’t holding a gun, so I made him the guy driving the ship and turning the giant steering wheel.
I couldn’t figure out how to make a giant steering wheel, like the Nautilus or other ships had, so the guy was just pretend steering it. The other soldier was holding a pistol instead of a rifle, so I made him that “first mate” guy who Captain Nemo told what the crew had to do, then he told the crew guys to do it. I put other green soldiers with rifles behind them to be the regular crew guys with their lightning guns. I lay down again and looked in the front windows, and it looked even neater now. David came out from the laundry room and got down on his hands and knees on the floor and looked in my shoebox sub and I could tell that he thought it was really neat too.
So David and I started pretending the story. We set up all the soldiers and dinosaurs and built forts out of Lincoln Logs. I used those Girder and Panel things to make Nemo’s secret “base” in the laundry room, so it looked different than the Lincoln Log forts. I figured since Nemo knew more stuff about building things with metal that his fort shouldn’t look like one of those old log ones.
We had the Martian dinosaurs come down in their tube spaceship which landed on the washing machine in the laundry room. The little dinosaurs came out first, since they could ride in their spaceship without being taken apart. Then they had to take all the pieces of the bigger Martian dinosaurs out of the tube spaceship so they could put them back together. David liked my idea that the smaller Martian dinosaurs could be in charge instead of the big ones. I think he liked that because he was smaller than I was. The smaller Martian dinosaurs had a “meeting” with Captain Nemo on top of the washing machine. They wanted to know if there were any dinosaurs on Earth, and Captain Nemo said there were, but they weren’t like Martian dinosaurs at all. He said he could take a couple of the little dinosaurs on his submarine to show them “Jinx Island” where the Earth dinosaurs lived.
I knew David wanted the Martian dinosaurs to find the Earth dinosaurs right away, but I wanted them to wait so I had time for the Union soldiers to build their mine on Jynx Island and the railroad that took the metals from the mine to where their barge ships landed on the island.
“So you keep playing the little Martian dinosaurs figuring things out with Captain Nemo”, I said to him, “He can take them on the Nautilus and they can show him how they put the big Martian dinosaurs together, because he likes to build things too.” David nodded really fast, which was good because that meant he really liked that idea, and that would keep them all busy for a while.
So the Union soldiers had to get all the stuff over to Jinx Island to build the mine to get the special metals and bring them back to Fort Strong. They needed that stuff to help them build bigger cannons and more neat new metal ships like that “Monitor” one, or even a submarine like the Nautilus to “blockade” all the Confederate ports.
None of my toy ships were big enough for what I needed. I needed bigger ships that could hold more stuff. Since I had already used a shoebox to make the Nautilus, I figured I could use other shoeboxes for other boats. Dad didn’t have any more of those empty ones in the secret closet, but I had four of them where I kept all my soldiers. One for the World War Two American soldiers, one for the Germans, one for the Union Civil War soldiers, and one for the Confederates.
Since I was using all my soldiers except the German guys, I could use their three boxes, and two of them still had the top part, though I usually kept those top parts under the main box part so I could see which soldiers were in each box. When I took a box of soldiers over to Molly’s house, since her mom wouldn’t let her have any soldiers, I would put the box top part on top, so Molly’s mom couldn’t see they were soldiers. Since I had three boxes and two top parts I could make five of those “barge” ships that I saw in the pictures and read in the words in one of the Civil War books I had gotten from the regular library. They were like boats, because they went in the river, but they looked more like the tops of giant boxes floating in the water since they weren’t pointed in the front or the back. The Union guys put lots of those mortar cannons on them and used them to shoot at the Confederate river forts. That was good, because I didn’t want to make them pointed in front like the Nautilus, because that would wreck them for keeping soldiers in.
General Grant said Lieutenant Cord was in charge of the first barge. It would get to Jinx Island first and have to figure out the best way to get to the mine and get the special metals back to the barges to take back to Fort Strong. The Confederates had their Fort Danger over by the TV in that part of the basement, and since it was up high on the cliff they could see Fort Strong and all the barges, so they would know what the Union guys were doing.
So Cord took the guys in his “regiment”, that’s what they called the smaller groups of soldiers in the Civil War books, and all got on the first barge. They headed off across the ocean to explore Jinx Island. A couple of the regular Bean Bag Buccaneer ships with cannons went with them to try to protect them if Captain Nemo tried to attack them with the Nautilus. They were lucky because David still had Nemo talking to the Martian dinosaurs in his secret cove in the laundry room.
Lieutenant Cord and his guys landed on Jinx Island and started to explore. The plant-eating dinosaurs saw them but didn’t worry about them because they all had a lot of plants to eat. But some of the meat-eating dinosaurs saw them too and THEY were more worried, and went and told Godzilla in their dinosaur cave under dad’s desk. Cord’s regiment found the special metal mine in the bookcase to the right of dad’s desk and figured they better go back to tell General Grant. They went back to their barge and left Jinx Island before Godzilla and the meat-eating dinosaurs figured out what to do about them.
When they got back to Fort Strong they told General Grant about the island, the mine, and the dinosaurs. Lieutenant Cord was worried because he had had trouble with the dinosaurs on the island before, but General Grant really wanted those special metals to build those giant cannons and metal ships to attack and blow up the Confederate’s Fort Danger. And General Lee and the Confederate soldiers in Fort Danger were watching Fort Strong and the ships and worried that the Union soldiers might be able to wreck their best fort.
So the Union soldiers at Fort Strong got all their shoebox barges ready to go to Jinx Island. One had cannons, which they figured could kill dinosaurs if they attacked, since bullets from regular guns didn’t hurt them very much. Another had pieces of the wooden railroad track and a train engine and cars to build a “railroad” from the mine back to the “shore” of the island so the special metals could be put on the barges to go back to Fort Strong. Another had Lincoln logs for building forts. General Grant stayed behind, with some of the Union soldiers to protect the fort. But he told General Sherman to be in charge of all the soldiers going to the island. Lieutenant Cord and his regiment were on the first barge again because they knew where everything was on the island. The second barge had General Sherman and the rest of the soldiers. When the barges got to the island, the soldiers got out and they unloaded all the logs, tracks, engines and cars and other stuff.
“So where do we make the special metal mine?” General Sherman asked.
“Over there”, said Lieutenant Cord, “To the right of the big dinosaur cave. But we have to be careful not to make the dinosaurs mad, or they will attack us.”
General Sherman laughed and said, “Well… we don’t care about that, because we have cannons and we can just blow them up if they attack us.”
“Yes sir”, Cord said, but he was worried about that, but he didn’t say anything because General Sherman was in charge.
So when the barges got to the island, all the soldiers got out and took out all the stuff they needed and started to build the railroad and all their houses. But while they were doing it, the Nautilus came out of the secret cove to show the little Martian dinosaurs, who fit inside the sub shoebox, Jinx island with its Earth dinosaurs. Captain Nemo kept his submarine by the other side of the island away from the Union ships and the Martian dinosaurs could see the Earth dinosaurs on the island. David was pretending to be Captain Nemo, his crew, and the Martian Tinker Toy dinosaurs.
David had never seen the first Captain Nemo movie, though I had told him all about it. But he had watched that second one, “Mysterious Island”, with me and he liked it a lot. But in that second movie, Nemo was more of a goodguy. I had told David how he was more of a badguy in the first movie but still pretty neat. I really liked Captain Nemo because he was really interesting for stories, since sometimes he was a badguy but sometimes he was a goodguy. He could be both.
So Lieutenant Cord’s regiment of Union soldiers used Lincoln Logs on the barges to build a small fort on the island by where the boats landed. Other soldiers used the train track pieces on the barges to build a railroad from there to where the mine was in dad’s bookcase. Cord’s regiment built a second little fort by the mine.
The Earth dinosaurs on the island watched all this and had a secret meeting and decided they would attack the soldiers to try to get them off their island. They attacked, and though the bullets from the soldiers’ guns couldn’t hurt them very much, the cannons they brought could. Lieutenant Cord and his guys were shooting the cannons. While the dinosaurs were attacking, Captain Nemo and the Nautilus hooked onto and stole one of the Union barges and took it back to their secret cove in the laundry room. Since some of them were getting killed or wounded by the cannons, the Earth dinosaurs got worried and stopped their attack to try to figure out another way to get rid of the soldiers.
So then General Lee and the Confederate soldiers in Fort Danger decided to attack General Grant and the Union soldiers in Fort Strong, since most of the Union guys were over on Jinx island working on the mine and fighting the dinosaurs. The Confederates lined up like I’d seen in the pictures of Civil War battles, besides the side of Fort Strong, and they had cannons too. They started shooting and wrecking parts of the fort. There weren’t many Union soldiers to defend it, but they were brave and did what they could, shooting their Lincoln Log cannons back at the Confederates.
General Grant was getting really worried, so he sent a couple soldiers in a small boat to Jinx Island to tell General Sherman to bring most of the soldiers back to help defend Fort Strong. Soldiers came back in the barges and just left Lieutenant Cord and his regiment behind to defend the small Union fort on the island by the mine. The cannon ships went back to help Fort Strong too, to help fight off the Confederates, who finally retreated back to Fort Danger.
But while they were all worried about the Confederate attack, Captain Nemo and the Nautilus had been able to get some of the big Martian dinosaurs on the stolen barge. Since the Martian dinosaurs had Tinker Toy stick bodies, you could fit a larger one over a smaller one in the shoebox, and then an even larger one over that one. So the one barge could fit the three big Martian dinosaurs on top of each other, the one with the red stick legs on the bottom, the one with the bigger green stick legs on top of it, and the biggest one with the purple stick legs on top of both of them. Then at nighttime the Nautilus brought the barge back to the other side of Jinx Island and Captain Nemo sneaked the Martian Dinosaurs onto the island to find where Godzilla and the meat-eating Earth dinosaurs, who were in charge, were meeting to decide what to do next. Only Lieutenant Cord and his regiment were left defending their small Lincoln Log fort with its cannons by the mine.
All the dinosaurs decided to do their big attack now, in the middle of the night. The big Martian Tinker Toy dinosaurs led the attack. Lieutenant Cord and his men were sleeping but woke up and got their cannons ready. But when they shot them at the Martian dinosaurs with their stick bodies, the cannon balls just missed them. Cord and his guys were in big trouble. They started to retreat to their other fort on the shore of the island where their barge was. The dinosaurs kept attacking and Cord ordered his men to go ahead and he’d be the last one. His guys got to the barge but he didn’t make it and was killed by the Martian dinosaurs.
David, who was doing the dinosaur attack, looked at me worried. “Did Cord really get killed?” he asked, “He’s your favorite guy!”
“I know”, I said, but it made an interesting different kind of story. I had never had a main story goodguy get killed before. “I guess he’s a hero”, I said, “But he had to die to be a real hero.” I kept thinking about how dad had said he wasn’t a hero because he ran away from the German Eighty-Eights when they shot at him. I figured you had to not run away and be ready to get killed to be a real hero. At least that’s the way all the kids played it when we did our pretending to be soldiers at war in the park.
When his men got back to Fort Strong, they told General Grant what Lieutenant Cord had done to save them. General Grant sent them back the next morning to see what happened to Lieutenant Cord. His guys found him dead in their little wrecked fort. The meat-eating dinosaurs hadn’t eaten him, because they knew how brave he had been. His guys were really sad, and they took his body back on their barge to Fort Strong.
“What do you do when guys are dead?” David asked, looking worried.
“I think you’re supposed to have a funeral and bury them in the ground”, I said. David nodded. I didn’t know any real people who were dead, but I remembered that chapter of the Tom Sawyer book where the grownups thought Tom was dead and had one of those funeral things. Also all those grownups on TV talking and showing pictures about that Marilyn Monroe woman who died and had that funeral thing. And in one of those Western TV shows, I’d seen them bury this goodguy in the ground who got shot and killed, and make one of those things with two pieces of wood tied together on top that looked like a plus sign. All the other guys who knew that guy stood around where they buried him and looked sad, and the guy in charge said how good and brave the dead guy was before he was dead. Even one of the badguys was there.
So we took the Lieutenant Cord blue soldier out into the dirt pile in the backyard. We dug a hole with our shovel on the part of the dirt pile that was right by the house and the grassy part on the edge. We put Lieutenant Cord in the hole and covered him with dirt and pressed it down. We made that plus sign thing out of two popsicle sticks that we glued together and stuck it in the ground by where we buried him. We made a circle around it of other soldiers, both blue Union ones and gray Confederate ones, including General Grant, General Sherman, General Sherman and the green Captain Nemo guy. We even put one Tyrannosaurus and one of the small Martian dinosaurs.
General Grant said the words. “Lieutenant Cord was always the bravest soldier we had. He never worried if it was dangerous. He never got scared. He always helped his men, even if he had to get killed to help them. He was a really good soldier!” And then I remembered from that Western TV show where they buried that dead goodguy, that they said they would never forget him. “We will always remember him”, Grant said, “Forever!”
David was quiet while I talked. And he was still quiet after I stopped talking. Finally he asked, “Are we just going to leave him there and not play with him anymore?”
“I guess so”, I said nodding, feeling like a big brother who was in charge of our playing because I knew more stuff about how things worked. I think David thought so too, because he just nodded and didn’t look worried anymore. And we never dug him up and played with him again.