© 1999 Robert M. Leahy

2110 E Crosby Road

Carrollton, TX 75006

(972) 416 - 6098

Approximate Word Count: 6,220

 

A Birthday Wish

 

 

Reagan Michael Christian, Ray to his friends, just turned eight. The day after his birthday, he sat at the old, wooden kitchen table. In front of the blonde-haired boy, a large, scarred egg rested on a worn blue dishtowel. The gray-white egg was a present from his Uncle Burt. It came all the way from South Dakota.

"Do you think it will hatch," Ray asked his mother.

His mother stopped stirring a chicken casserole. She thought a minute, her large wooden spoon dripping sauce back into the steaming dish. "I don't know, Ray," she said.

"I wish it would hatch," Ray continued. "I think it would be cool to have a real dinosaur." The blond-headed boy picked up the egg and turned it over, looking for cracks in the shell.

"It would be your responsibility to take care of it, Honey," his mother told him, closing the oven door.

"I could do it," Ray said.

"You would have to feed it," his mother said, coming over to the table. "And you would have to clean up after it, too."

"I would," Ray said, setting the egg back down on the table.

"You couldn't just let it go in a field when you got tired of it like you did with your turtle," his mother told him.

"Oh, Mom," Ray said. "I was just a kid when I did that. Besides, it was an accident. I didn't mean for Carrot to run away."

"Well, accident or not, you can't let your dinosaur run away," she said, running her fingers through his freshly trimmed crew cut.

"Would you let me keep the dinosaur if my egg hatches?" Ray asked.

"If your egg hatches," his mother said, "you would have to keep it. And you would have to take care of it." She smiled down at her blue-eyed son. "Now put the egg away and set the table for dinner," she told him.

And Ray carried the large, heavy egg into his room and put it under his pillow.

When Ray went to bed that night, he slept curled around his egg. And when he awoke the next morning, he was disappointed because there was no baby dinosaur.

"My egg didn't hatch," he told his mother between mouthfuls of cereal.

"It might not ever hatch, Honey," she told him. "It's been an egg a long, long time. It might not be able to do anything else."

"But I wish it would," he told her.

"I know, Honey. But we don't always get what we wish for."

Ray continued eating his cereal while he read the back of the cereal box. "Can I bring the egg for show-and-tell?" he asked his mother.

"Yes, but you have to be very careful with it. If you crack the egg, then it never will be able to hatch," she told him.

"I'll be careful," Ray replied. He ran to the bathroom to get the biggest, softest towel he could find. He took the towel to his room. And he put the towel inside his backpack to cushion the egg for its trip to school.

"Reagan Michael," the young boy heard his mother call to him. "The bus will be here soon."

"I'm almost ready," he called back, lowering the heavy egg into his pack.

"Do you have your lunch?"

"No," he yelled. He ran back into the kitchen and grabbed his lunch sack off the counter. He took his bag back into his room and put it into his backpack on top of the dinosaur egg.

That morning, during show and tell, Ray could hardly wait for Monica Harvester to finish showing her parakeet. Monica kept talking and talking. Parakeets eat seeds. Parakeets can sing. Some parakeets can talk. But they were still stupid parakeets, Ray thought.

When it was Ray's turn to go to the front of the room, he stood slowly. He waited until everyone was looking at him. Then, he picked his backpack off the floor and set in on his desk. He was very slow and deliberate as he opened his backpack. He could hear Billy Cummins ask, "What's he got in there?" But he didn't hurry. He did not want to damage the egg.

Ray brought the egg, still wrapped in the soft towel, to the front of the room. He set the towel down in the middle of the Mrs. Barkley's desk. Then, he unwrapped the egg, lifting one corner of the towel off the heavy object at a time.

"What is it?" Monica wanted to know. "It's the biggest egg I ever saw," Billy said.

Almost everyone said ooh or ah when Ray lifted the egg up and held it out in front of him. "This is a real, genuine dinosaur egg," Ray told them. "My uncle sent it to me all the way from South Dakota." Several students looked at the big map of the United States on the wall. There was a big, red pushpin on the map showing everyone where they were. They were in Dallas.

"Does anyone know where South Dakota is?" Mrs. Barkley asked from the back of the room.

"I do," said Monica. "My dad took us there last year to see the Black Hills."

Ray was disappointed. He wanted to show people where South Dakota was. But he waited while Monica went to the map to show everyone how far away it was.

"Do you know what kind of dinosaur egg it is, Ray," Mrs. Barkley asked him.

"My uncle said it was a T. Rex," Ray replied. "And I wish it would hatch, too."

"Oh, that would be so cool," Billy agreed. And soon everyone was talking about what it would be like to have a real, live dinosaur to look at and play with. "It would just go nuts like in Jurassic Park," Monica warned. "It would not," Ray said. "That was just a movie." Half the class agreed with Ray. A real dinosaur would not be the same as the ones that were in the movie. The other half agreed with Monica.

"Unless the egg hatches," Mrs. Barkley said, "we will never know how the dinosaur might act." Mrs. Barkley asked Ray to leave the egg on her desk. He set it down on the soft towel. Then Mrs. Barkley allowed each of the students to walk by the egg and look at it. "Don't pick it up," Ray told them. "Can we touch it?" Billy asked. "Yes," Ray said. "But don't push it around." After everyone had a chance to look at the egg, Ray wrapped it back up in the towel. Then he carried the heavy egg back to his desk. And he put it back into his pack.


*-----*-----*


That night, Ray slept with his dinosaur egg again. Soon after going to bed, Ray felt the egg rock under his hand. He sat us and stared at the egg. He heard a tap-tapping sound coming from within the shell. Tap. Tap. Tap. Ray's heart began to pound. Thump. Thump. Thump. Ray placed one hand on his chest and the other on the egg. Both continued to pulse. Tap. Tap. Tap. Thump. Thump. Thump.

And then the egg began to crack. First, just a tiny crack. Ray could only see it when he squinted in the dim light of the bedroom. But with each tap, the crack grew bigger. And other cracks began to form. Ray's heart continued to pound. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Then, a small triangle of shell fell away from the egg. Ray saw the claw of the baby dinosaur just inside the tiny hole. Tap. Tap. Tap, the tiny leg worked at kicking against the shell. A bigger piece of shell punched out. And the baby dinosaur's claw was outside the egg.

But before Ray could scream his excitement, the tiny claw disappeared back inside the hole. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Ray wanted to reach down and pick away at the shell. But he could not move.

When the baby dinosaur's tiny claw pushed through the shell a second time, the whole top of the egg collapsed. The tiny Tyrannosaurus Rex shook its head back and forth, scattering bits of shell all over Ray's bed. The tiny creature looked up at Ray. It blinked once. Twice. Then it chirped. Ray started to laugh. When the baby T. Rex chirped again, Ray laughed harder.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

Ray couldn't stop laughing.

"What's going on in there?" Ray's dad asked, after he turned on the hall light.

Ray laughed.

"Ray?" his mother called, coming down the hallway, following Dad.

Chirp. Chirp.

"What is that noise?" Ray heard his dad ask.

Ray was still laughing when his parents came into the room. All he could do was point down at the broken shell and the tiny dinosaur sitting in the middle of the bed.

"Oh, my," his mother said.

"I never thought it would hatch," said Dad.

"Oh, my," his mother repeated.

Chirp.

"What are we going to do with a dinosaur?" Dad asked.

Ray started to catch his breath.

"What are we going to do with it?" Dad repeated.

"I'll take care of it," Ray said. "Mom already said I could keep it. But I would have to take care of it."

"Oh, I don't know about that--" Dad started to reply.

But Ray's mother pulled him away. "We'll talk about it in the morning," she told Ray's Dad. "Ray," she said, standing in the doorway. I'm going to close the door. I want you to try and get some sleep."

"Okay, Mom," Ray said, looking down at the tiny creature still sitting among the pieces of broken shell in the middle of the bed. "Night, Dad."

"Night, Ray," his father replied just before his mother pulled the door shut. "I still don't know what we're going to do with a dinosaur," Ray heard his dad say.

"We'll talk about it in the morning," his mother told his dad. And then Ray couldn't hear them anymore.

Chirp. Chirp.

"Mom said we need to get some sleep, baby--" Ray stopped in mid-sentence. "What am I going to call you?" The young boy crossed his arms and sighed. He looked down at the tiny creature. He thought about calling him Chirp. He tried it out by saying the name. The baby dinosaur looked up at him and blinked. Ray sighed again. He pulled his arms tighter across his chest and frowned. But Ray couldn't think of a name to fit this tiny creature. He couldn't use any of the names his friends had given to their pets. Besides, this pet wasn't ordinary, like a cat or a dog or a bird or a snake. Nothing seemed right. Ray's frown grew deeper.

The baby dinosaur got on its two hind legs. It swayed a bit when it stood up. Then it took an unsteady hop toward Ray. Chirp, it said, looking up at the small boy. Chirp. Another quick hop brought the dinosaur to Ray's knee. The tiny creature rubbed its nose along the side of the boy's leg. It tried to hop up on his leg. But it couldn't. Ray reached down and picked up the small creature. "You're warm," Ray said, bringing the dinosaur up so he could look it in the eye.

The small creature looked at the boy with one eye and then the other. It blinked. Chirp.

"I might call you Tiny," Ray told the dinosaur. But then Ray remembered how big T. Rexes got, and he said, "But that won't be a good name for long."

Ray stroked the dinosaur's head. It twittered. "You like that, don't you, Boy." The dinosaur's skin was rough and bumpy to the touch. When Ray ran his finger down the animal's chest and tummy, its little forearms shook up and down. Ray ran his finger down to the creature's tummy a second time. It twittered and almost fell out of Ray's hand. "You better sit down here," Ray told it, placing it in his lap. "I don't want you to get hurt."

Ray didn't remember falling back asleep. But when he awoke, the tiny dinosaur was no where in sight. Bits and pieces of eggshell were everywhere on the bed, but there was no baby T. Rex hiding in the covers. Ray looked under the bed. In the closet. He even opened up the dresser drawers. Where could he be? the boy wondered. He sat down to think and kicked one of his tennis shoes further under the desk.

Chirp.

Ray looked under the desk. The baby dinosaur was sitting in Ray's other tennis shoe, chewing on the laces. "What are you doing in there?" Ray asked, pulling the sneaker out from under the desk. The dinosaur had chewed through the laces in several places. "I'll bet you're hungry," Ray said. He picked up the sneaker with the T. Rex inside. He carried the dinosaur in the shoe down the hall and into the kitchen.

"Morning, Sweetheart," Ray's mother said when he came into the kitchen. "I see you have your new responsibility with you."

"Oh, Mom," Ray answered.

She smiled.

"Do we have some kind of meat or something I can give him. I think he's hungry. He's been chewing up my shoe lace."

"Why don't you see if he'll eat some of the left-over meat loaf," his mother said.

Ray set the shoe on the counter near the refrigerator and took out the plate of left over meat loaf. He put some in a small dish and started to mash it up. "Do you think I'll have to feed him?" he asked.

"I don't know," his mother told him. "Why don't you just put him near the food and see what he does. Maybe he already knows how to eat."

Ray took the baby dinosaur out of his tennis shoe and set him next to the plate of mashed up meat load. The baby dinosaur hopped over to the edge of the plate and sniffed. It hopped onto the plate and sniffed again. It tilted its head first one way then the next looking at the meat loaf and sniffing. Chirp.

"Eat it," Ray told him. "Eat it."

The dinosaur chirped again before lowering its head down to taste the meat loaf.

Ray moved closer.

"Squawk!" went the dinosaur.

The boy took a step back. The baby dinosaur looked at Ray.

"Don't bother him while he's eating," his mother said. "Most animals don't like to be bothered while they're eating."

"Okay," Ray said. The boy watched as the dinosaur took another bite of the meat loaf. "I think he likes it," Ray told his mother.

"I'm glad," she replied.

"I wish I had show and tell today," Ray said.

"You can bring him the next time you have it," his mother replied. "Have you thought about what you're going to call it?"

"Sneaker," Ray said.

"Sneaker," his mother asked.

"Yes. Because I found him in my sneaker this morning."

His mother nodded, then said, "You better get your things ready for school. It's almost time for the bus," she continued, looking up at the clock.

"Okay," Ray said, leaving Sneaker by the plate of meat loaf. But as soon as he turned and went through the kitchen door, the tiny dinosaur jumped down from the counter and chased after the young boy. "What are you doing? Are you following me?" Ray asked, as the small creature nipped at his heel.

Ray continued across the living room, half-hopping, half-skipping to keep the dinosaur from getting him. After the little creature scurried into the bedroom, Ray closed the door. The baby T. Rex investigated the room, sniffing Ray's ball cap and glove, his backpack, and even his dirty socks. It jumped into the open bottom drawer of Ray's dresser to sniff some of the clean clothes. Ray pulled on a sweater and a pair of pants, found some clean socks in another drawer to put on. Then he slipped into his shoes, grabbed his backpack with one hand and the baby dinosaur in the other and returned to the kitchen.

"What am I going to do with Sneaker today?" Ray asked.

"I don't know. I don't want him running through the house. And he's probably too little just to be left in your room. Do you think he'll be all right in your turtle aquarium? You could line it with paper and give him the shoelace from your sneaker. We could put some meat loaf in one of the food trays and water in the other. We could put the aquarium in the laundry room."

"Okay," Ray said. His mother went out to the garage and got the aquarium. When she returned with the glass-sided box, Ray and his mother tore up newspapers to line in the bottom of the aquarium. While Ray's mother fixed the food and water dishes, Ray pulled what was left of the shoelace out of his sneaker and put it down with the shredded newspaper. Sneaker went in next. Ray ran back to his room and picked up a few toys for Sneaker to play with: a green, rubber brachysaur; a ball; and a small stuffed bear. After Ray put the toys in the aquarium, his mother set the food and water inside. Then she set the lid on the top of the cage.

"Looks like we finished just in time for you to catch the bus," his mother said, looking at the clock. "Don't forget your lunch, Honey. I love you," she said. Ray ran through the kitchen picking up his backpack and his lunch as he headed for the bus.

"You be good," she told the dinosaur before she started cleaning up the kitchen. "I have to be at work in twenty-five minutes, so I don't have time to play with you."

 

*-----*-----*

 

When Ray got home from school, he ran straight to the aquarium to check on the dinosaur. The tiny dinosaur was curled up in the corner of the aquarium. The small creature was covered in shredded newspaper. Ray tiptoed away.

 

*-----*-----*

 

By the end of the next week, Sneaker was too big for the aquarium. Ray discovered his pet biting the stuffing out of one of the pillows in the living room when he came home from school that Friday. "How did you get out?" Ray asked. "Mom's gonna kill you," he said, reaching down to take the pillow away from the dinosaur. Sneaker chirped. The harsh sound startled Ray. Then the dinosaur jumped up and bit down on the pillow. The boy's surprise and the added weight nearly pulled the pillow out of his hand.

Ray carried the pillow that Sneaker still had his teeth in down the hall and into his bedroom. "Stay here," Ray told his pet. "I have to pick up all the pillow stuffing you scattered all over the living room." The young boy closed his bedroom door before going back to clean up Sneak's mess.

After he picked up the stuffing, Ray went to the laundry room. The small bear's stuffing lay piled in the corner of the aquarium. The screen on the lid was torn in half. "What's Mom going to do about this?" Ray asked, picking up the lid. He stared at it a moment longer before setting it back down. He made a quick trip through the house looking for signs of his dinosaur's mischief.

Ray had all of his chores finished before his mother got home from work.

"My, we have been busy, haven't we," his mother said.

"I just did my chores," Ray replied.

"Yes. I see that. I'm just surprised I didn't have to remind you."

Ray made a face. His mother ignored it.

"Mom?" Ray started to ask.

"Hmm?" his mother answered as she sorted through the mail.

"What are we going to do with Sneaker when he's too big for the aquarium?"

"I don't know," his mother said. "I guess we'll have to find him a bigger bed. Maybe we could get something at the pet store. I bet we could get something like your Aunt Jeannie has for her dog."

"Can we go get it tonight?" Ray asked.

"I suppose," his mother started to say. "Ray, did something happen today?"

"Yes," Ray said. And then he told his mother how Sneaker got out of the aquarium and tore up one of the pillows on the couch.

 

*-----*-----*

 

For the first few days of the next week, Sneaker was content to be left in the laundry room with the door closed. The dinosaur seemed to like his new bed, a large wicker basket with a thick foam pad. Sneaker kept what was left of the pillow he ruined in his basket, too. But that Thursday afternoon, Ray came home and found Sneaker in the living room again. The animal was chewing on a leg to the coffee table. A lamp lay on the floor in a broken heap. But the rest of the room looked okay.

After putting his pet in his bedroom, Ray went to the kitchen to get a wastebasket for the broken pieces of the lamp. The young boy couldn't believe his eyes. The kitchen was a mess. The breadbox was on the floor, dented from falling off the counter. And the two loaves of bread, or parts of them, lay half-chewed across the floor. Two of the chairs were on their sides. And the vase of silk flowers Grandma gave Mom lay shattered against the wall. But the worst part of the mess was the door to the laundry room. The bottom of the door had been torn apart. Splinters of wood were everywhere.

"Mom's not going to like this," Ray said. "But he's just a baby dinosaur," the youngster said to himself as he tried to think about what to tell his mother.

By the time he had cleaned everything up, the kitchen wastebasket was full of ruined things. The lamp from the living room was in the bottom of the basket. The bread and the vase of silk flowers were next. And then the many small pieces of wood from the splintered laundry room door topped the pile.

"Mom," Ray said before his mother could even get in the door that night. "I've cleaned everything up. And, remember, he's just a baby. He doesn't know any better."

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"About everything," Ray replied. And then he told her about the lamp, the vase, the bread and the laundry room door.

"My. My. My," his mother said as she surveyed the damage. "My. My. My."

Ray followed his mother as she checked the laundry room and the kitchen. "My. My. My," he kept hearing her say. He was afraid to say anything himself. And he tried not to stare at the coffee table leg as his mother made her way through the living room. She ended up at Ray's door. She hesitated for a moment before turning the knob and opening the door.

When his mother stepped into the room, Ray heard Sneaker. Chirp. Chirp. The boy could hear the dinosaur's feet as it scurried across the room. And then everything was quiet.

Ray's mom continued to stand in the doorway.

Ray was still afraid to talk.

Finally, his mother started speaking. "You can hide under the bed if you want to. But I know where you are. And I'm still bigger than you are."

"Mom," Ray said, peering around her into the room.

"What?" she said.

"He's just a baby."

His mother didn't reply for a long moment. "I know, Honey. I know. But what are we going to do with him. He's almost too big for the house already."

 

*-----*-----*


That night, Ray and his parents sat down to have a talk about Sneaker. "He's just a baby," Ray kept saying. "We know," his parents replied. "But he's too big to be in the house."

"But what are you going to do with Sneaker?" Ray wondered.

"I think I know what to do," Ray's dad said. "And you can help me. "I'll pick you up after school tomorrow, and we'll go to the hardware store and by some fencing and make Sneaker a place to play in the back yard."

"You mean like Jean has for her dog?" Ray's mom asked.

"Exactly," he replied. "If one of those things can hold a St. Bernard, I think it will hold Sneaker."

"Yes," Ray's mother agreed.

Ray ran into his room to tell Sneaker all about the new play yard. He didn't even hear his mother ask, "But for how long?"

 

*-----*-----*

 

By the time Sneaker was as tall as Ray, the pen for the dinosaur had been enlarged twice. His dad said he wasn't going to make the pen bigger every two weeks. Ray didn't think it was all that big. It only took up the corner of the back yard. Mom still had her rose bushes, her flower garden and vegetable patch. There was still a lot of room to play catch and tag.

Ray's dad also said the "beast" would soon be eating them out of house and home. Ray wasn't sure about that. But he knew Sneaker pooped a lot. And, since it was Ray's job to clean up the poop, He wondered what would happen if Sneaker kept growing.

One afternoon, when Ray came out to the back yard to play with Sneaker, and to clean up the poop, the dinosaur jumped too hard against the chain-link fence that one of the posts was pushed partway over.

"Don't get so excited," Ray told the dinosaur.

Sneaker twittered and hopped anxiously by the gate until Ray could undo the lock. Then it bounded out of its pen and circled the yard three times before coming to a halt behind Ray who hadn't moved from the gate. Ray reached up and patted the leathery, light brown and green hide of his pet.

Ray eyed the pile of poop in the corner and sighed. "I'll get that later," he told himself. "Let's play soccer," he told Sneaker. The soccer ball was under the biggest of his mother's rose bushes. As Ray started over for the ball, Sneaker took off, too. The dinosaur was faster than Ray was. It got to the ball first, and nuzzled it out from under the bush. When it swung around to chase after the ball, its heavy tail brushed Ray into one of the smaller rose bushes.

"Watch what you're doin'!" Ray yelled. But the eight-year-old was unhurt. He chased after the ball, which rolled toward the fence of the dinosaur's pen. He got there just in time to kick the ball around the T. Rex's large head. Sneaker bellowed as it swung around to chase after the ball. The animal's head was down, and tilted slightly to one side as it pounded across the yard after the soccer ball.

"No. No. No," Ray screamed. But it was too late. The ball rolled between the largest rose bush and a newer bush planted just last fall. Sneaker crushed through the space between the two shrubs, uprooting the smaller plant.

"Sneaker! Mom's going to kill you," Ray yelled.

The dinosaur turned around to look at the young boy. The soccer balled rolled to the side of the house.

"Look what you did," Ray said, coming over to the small rose bush.

The T. Rex came over, too. It pushed the bush with its large head and snorted. Then it turned around and pooped on the bush.

Ray didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He knew his mom wouldn't think it was funny. And, when he thought about it, Ray didn't think it was too funny either. Now he had more poop to clean up.

"Come on, Sneaker," the young boy said with a sigh. "Let's get the poop cleaned up and get you back in your pen."

 

*-----*-----*

 

Sneaker continued to grow. And the piles of poop got even bigger. And Ray's dad complained about all the food the animal ate.

"What are we going to do about that thing," Ray's dad asked his mother one night while the two sat in the kitchen drinking coffee. Ray was in the living room watching a special on dinosaurs. The youngster could hear his parents over the narrator's voice on the television program.

"I don't know," his mother said. "The neighbors are starting to complain about the smell. And the noise."

"If it was just that," his dad said, "I wouldn't worry. But look at what's happened to the back yard. It's a wreck. There's no grass in Sneaker's pen. All except the three biggest rose bushes have been torn up. You won't be able to have any other flowers back there. Or a vegetable garden…." His father's voice trailed off.

"And I worry about Ray," his mother said. And then her voice was too soft to hear.

 

*-----*-----*

 

The following Saturday morning, Ray and his parents were awakened by the sounds of police sirens. When Ray opened his eyes, he saw the flashing lights of a squad car blinking through his window.

"What's going on out there," he heard his dad ask when he stepped into the hallway.

"I don't know," his mother replied.

All three of them put on slippers and robes and went to the front porch to see what was happening.

A police officer approached them shortly after they stepped outside. "Please, stay inside." The female officer told them. "There's some sort of wild animal out here."

"What kind of animal?" Ray's dad asked.

Ray didn't wait to hear the answer. He ran back into the house, through the living room and kitchen to check on Sneaker. But the youngster knew Sneaker wasn't in the pen as soon as he stepped into the back yard. The post that started to tilt when Sneaker jumped against the fence was now flattened to the ground. And the wooden gate that led out into the alley was smashed, pieces scattered across the ruts in the unpaved road.

"Sneaker," Ray called. Once. Then again.

But the animal didn't chirp in response.

The eight-year-old made his way back to the porch where his parents were still talking with the police officer. He stood just inside the door. He stared at them.

A moment later, his mother noticed him. She turned around and cracked the door open. "What's the matter, Honey?"

Ray didn't say anything. He just stared at his mother.

"Oh, no," she said. She eased back into the house and led Ray into the kitchen before she said another word. "It's Sneaker, isn't it," she said after closing the door into the kitchen.

"The fence to the pen is down. The gate's broken," Ray said. His chest heaved. He was trying not to cry. "What are we going to do."

"I don't know," his mother said.

"I tried calling to Sneaker. But I didn't hear a chirp. I couldn't hear anything," Ray said." "I don't know where Sneaker is."

"I know," his mother said, hugging her son. "I know."

"We've got to find Sneaker," the eight-year-old said. "Or somebody might shoot him." The youngster pulled away from his mother and ran out the back door, calling, "Sneaker. Sneaker. Where are you?"

His mother followed after him.

In the alley, the boy turned to the left and ran, stumbling over the rutted tracks. "Sneaker. Where are you?"

Ray's mother trailed her son, calling, "Honey, wait. Wait."

The eight-year-old had been running for about five minutes when he finally heard a familiar chirp.

"Sneaker?"

Another chirp. And this time, he heard the heavy footsteps of his pet on the other side of a long, tall fence.

"Are you okay?"

His pet twittered as it pushed against the fence.

Even in the dim light of the alley, Ray could see the fence bowing in response to Sneaker's weight. The boy took a step back just as nails squeaked out of a post holding up the fence. A four-foot panel crashed into the alley, and the dinosaur tramped across it toward the young boy. It lowered its large head, nuzzling the boy's chest, nearly knocking him over.

"Let's go home," Ray told the animal which was now a foot taller than he was.

"Yes, let's go," Ray's mother agreed. She stood clutching her robe at the end of the alley.

"Not so fast, Son," came a voice from somewhere on the other side of the fence.

Ray stepped away from Sneaker to see around the large animal. A police officer, gun drawn, peered around the post that had held the fallen panel in place.

"You don't need that gun," Ray's mother said, coming up and standing next to her son.

But the officer didn't put the gun away. He didn't come any closer, either.

"There are others coming," he told them.

"I just want to take Sneaker home," Ray replied.

"I'm afraid that won't be possible," the policeman said.

"Well, you certainly don't need your gun," said Ray's mother. "We won't go anywhere if you don't want us to."

Ray reached up and patted Sneaker on the head. "Be calm," he told his pet.

The T. Rex gave a tiny chirp and nuzzled its head against the boy's chest again.

A few moments later, a man with a strange-looking gun told Ray and his mother that he was going to anesthetize the dinosaur so it could be taken to the zoo. The man told Ray to step back from the animal.

His mother retreated to the end of the alley.

But Ray didn't move.

"I don't know what the animal will do when it gets hit with this tranquilizer," the man told him. He might lash out, and you might get hurt."

"Come on, Ray," his mother pleaded. "I don't want you to get hurt."

Ray still hesitated.

"Tell Sneaker to stay, and come over here by me."

"But, Mom…." Ray's voice trailed off.

"Please."

Ray sighed. "Stay," he said, patting Sneaker on the shoulder. "Stay."

Ray had just gotten to the end of the alley when the shot was fired. He turned to see his pet turn and bellow a bellow he had never heard before. Its tiny hand scratched uselessly toward its neck where a large dart dangled. The animal shook its mighty head and took a step forward. It started to take another step. But when it set the foot back down on the ground, the mighty limb seemed to fold under the animal. The whole body lurched forward and crashed with a thud.

"No. No. No," Ray screamed, running toward his pet. "No. No. No."

"Ray?" his mother asked, shaking her son by the shoulder. "Honey?"

"Don't let them take Sneaker. Don't let them hurt him," Ray cried, turning over and looking at his mother through his tears.

"What are you talking about, Honey?"

"I'm talking about Sneaker," the young boy sobbed. "Don't let them hurt Sneaker."

"Is he all right?" Ray's dad asked, standing behind his mother.

"He's all--" his mother started to say.

"They're gonna kill Sneaker," Ray blurted out. "Don't let them kill Sneaker."

"What are you talking about, Honey?" his mother asked.

"Who is Sneaker?" his dad asked.

Ray looked from his mom to his dad and back again. "Sneaker," the boy said. "Sneaker is my dinosaur."

"Ray, you don't have--" his father started to say. But his wife waved him into silence.

"Did you dream your dinosaur egg hatched?"

"It did hatch," Ray said, tilting his head and staring at his mother. "And I named the baby T. Rex Sneaker."

"I see," his mother said. "And who was trying to hurt Sneaker?"

"Some man. He shot Sneaker with a tranquilizer. But I know he was going to kill Sneaker."

"What's he talking about," Ray's dad asked.

"I'll explain later," his mother turned and told his father.

Then she looked her son in the eye for a moment before continuing. "Ray," she said. "I want you to turn around and reach under your pillow."

The youngster did what he was told. He pulled out a gray white, large, scarred egg. "But it hatched," he said.

"I know you wanted it to," his mother told him. "And you wanted it so much that you dreamed it did. But there it is. Just like it was before. And it probably won't ever hatch."

"But I saw it hatch. I played with Sneaker. The police came…" the boy's voice trailed off. "That man shot it with a tranquilizer."

"Dreams can seem very real, Honey. But that's all it was. Just a dream."

Ray looked down at the rough-shelled egg. He shook his head slowly. "But…" he started to say. Then he pursed his lips and was quiet.

"Now why don't you try to go back to sleep, Honey," his mother said.

Ray put the egg back under his pillow. The youngster shook his head once more then put his head down and closed his eyes. His parents wished him a good night, and his mother kissed him before she left the room. The last thing he remembered was the sounds of their whispers as they headed back down the hallway.

 

The End



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