Mom, Mom! I slammed the door, breathlessly. No answer. Where was she?
I searched the house, spying her raking leaves out back. Bursting through the back door I nearly toppled her over. Can you please give me a lift to the mall? I pleaded, plunging into the pile, scattering leaves.
Why? she gave a skeptical look at the mess Id just made.
The dinosaur exhibit opens today!
Only if you help, smiling, she handed me the rake. I hated raking leaves. But I loved dinosaurs.
All right mom, you win, if we can go right after.
Its a deal, I need to get some new shoes for Susan anyway.
Aww, cant you just drop me off? You know Im old enough. My four-year old sister was a real pain in the neck, I didnt want her or my mom following me around.
No can do, Mom laughed, but we promise not to embarrass you!
Impossible, I thought, picking up a rake.
Daniel, tell me about the Mamasaur! Susan demanded in the van. She loved stories about dinosaurs, but never the exciting ones.
How about a story about the vicious pack of Velociraptors that wiped out the Maiasaur herd? I sneered.
No, NO! she screamed, Mama, Daniels trying to scare me!
Daniel! my mothers eyes warned me through the rear view mirror.
Oh, all right. Once upon a time there was a dinosaur called the Maiasaurus. Its name means good mother because paleontologists believe it was one of a few dinosaurs that took care of its young. The Maiasaur was like a fat old cow.
I like the Mamasaurus! Susan interrupted happily, She took good care of her babies.
Its Maiasaur, Susan. I corrected her.
Mamasaur, mamasaur, mamasaur! Thats what she was! her wail punctured my eardrum. When I grow up Im going to be a Mamasaur!
Dinosaurs are EXTINCT!
Not true, I talk to Kiki every night, she protested.
Kiki is STUFFED!
Is not, she just pretends to be. Every night she wakes up and we play.
Whatever! I gave up.
Were here! chimed my mom. Im sure she was ready to get out of the van. I know I was.
Daniel! Mom cut short my attempted escape from the Tyranno-sisterus.
Aw, mom, cant I go now?
Lets discuss the rendezvous plan.
How about 6:00 at the Food Court? I offered hopefully.
How about 5:00 at the gate to the Carousel? she countered. And let me hear the rules.
No leaving the building, no following someone into a deserted area and no making a nuisance of myself. I recited the litany of her expectations. Can I go now?
Freedom! I loved wandering among the annual display of mechanical dinosaurs. They looked, sounded and even smelled prehistoric. If I could have one wish it would be to witness a living breathing dinosaur.
I found myself in front of the T. Rex; now that was a dinosaur. I stared into his huge eye. It was creepy how he followed me with his gaze. Feeling like someones lunch, I decided to press on to another exhibit.
The stodgy Ankylosaur transported me into a primeval swamp. He munched giant marsh grasses while the club of his tail hypnotized me with its lazy pendulum swing. Hot sticky and feeling mired in the mud, I decided to get something cool to drink.
I almost fell over myself as I turned to go. Looking down I saw my sneakers glued to oozing, brown marsh muck. The more I pulled, the deeper they sank. Heart pounding, I searched frantically for someone to help me. Gone there were no people, no stores, nothing only swamp.
At that moment the Ankylosaur turned and eyed me for the first time. I knew that dinosaur was herbivorous. I knew he wasnt even real. I knew I had to get out of there, fast. Reaching down quickly and quietly, I unlaced my shoes and jumped to higher ground with drier and springier turf. At least I was out of the quicksand.
Surveying the landscape was depressing. I was definitely in another age, late Jurassic, early Cenozoic, who could say? It wasnt twenty-first century for sure. A moment ago I was wishing for live dinosaurs. Well, Id seen one, and recalling that fake T. Rex, I didnt want to see another. I headed in the direction I thought would lead to the mall exit, hoping to leave this fantasy just as I walked in. Soon I was trudging through dense underbrush straining forward inch by inch through choking vines.
Suddenly I stumbled forward into a clearing. It was a large circular grassy hill, about 100 feet in diameter. There were smaller mounds every 20 feet or so, about ten in all. Why did I recognize this place? What was so familiar? A warning trumpeted through the trees reminding me I didnt have time to stay and find out. Speedily I backed out of the clearing and hid behind the cover of some giant ferns. From my hiding place it came to me, this was a nesting ground. Crashing through the trees, five giant Maiasaurs pounded into the clearing. I watched in awe as each planted him or herself, I couldnt tell if they were males or females, beside a mound and began pawing at the dirt. Their eggs must be buried there! It was obviously hatching time.
Called by some unseen force, the parents had arrived to assist in the births. As if on cue, five more appeared just as the first group finished unearthing the eggs. The first five had definitely been the males. They were about two feet taller and much heavier than the arriving females. Each female weaved her way to the appropriate nest and began calling. A conversation ensued between the females and their eggs, with hoots and honks of the mothers answered by tiny pips emanating from the shells.
Waiting patiently until the infants made the first crack, the fathers then gingerly broke open the remainder of the eggs, cleaned the yolk residue from the hatchlings and helped the mothers begin feeding them. Now I understood the reason for the large deposit of leaves beside each nest. The parents used them to feed their offspring. They pre-chewed the big leaves, making a green sloppy gruel for the babies. It looked like oatmeal gone bad.
This family moment was broken by a spine-chilling cry from across the clearing. I tried to become one with the fern, hoping that whatever that was, it wasnt looking for me. The adult Maiasaurs wasted no time in responding to that challenge. In a flash, all the hatchlings were deposited into the center nest and left with the largest female. The other adults, male and female, formed a circle around their offspring, each facing outward toward the impending threat. Answering calls echoed across the clearing, each time a little louder. The terror in each call pounded me into the ground, until I was little more than a curled up ball lying in the dirt. Whatever they were, they were closing in on the nesting area.
Finally the calling stopped. Petrified, I forced myself to peek. My stomach spun at the sight. Three Velociraptors were circling the Maiasaur group. Each pass brought them a little closer, as they darted in and out with their vicious heads and gleaming eyes. Filled with despair, I waited to see the Raptors massacre these gentle giants. But I mistook their peaceful nature with the babies for weakness. The Maiasaur were fierce defensive warriors. Their tightly knit circle honked and hooted, defying the carnivores to attack. Each Raptor was made to pay for stepping beyond an invisible line the Maiasaur declared off limits. Huge tails swung deftly and bowled over the smaller Raptors, but each time the aggressors returned for another round. Slowly the Raptors were gaining ground. A scratch in the tail here, a tear in the leg there, the Maiasaurs, despite their size and strength, could not match the razor sharp weapons possessed by the Velociraptors.
Desperately, I found myself mourning the Maiasaurs. Soon they would be dead, even with their valiant efforts. But then this dance of attack began to change. The Maiasaurus that had taken the brunt of the violence from the Raptors slowly worked his way to the edge of the circle. He then bolted as quickly as his injured legs could carry him, drawing the attackers away from the rest of the group. The Raptors, smelling victory, wasted no time following. They streaked past me in pursuit of their prey. I could hear the Maiasaurs death call as they slashed his flesh, which he gallantly surrendered for the sake of his herd. I turned to go, wishing to be far away from this place.
I walked as silently as I could around the edge of the clearing, hoping to strike out in the opposite direction of the Raptor kill sight. Incredibly, the Maiasaur herd was on the move also. The hatchlings, carefully perched on the backs of the parents, were riding out in the same direction I wanted to go. Feeling naked, I stepped out into the clearing and chased them as fast as I could run. The herd traveled with exceptional speed.
Reliving the scene during my trek behind the herd, I was stupefied at how wrong I had been about these animals. They were obviously intelligent, and devoted to their herd. I assumed that Velociraptors could wipe them out, but they escaped with the sacrifice of only one member of their group, protecting all the vulnerable young. They were infinitely more interesting and complex than I thought.
Night came and I was cold, tired and hungry. The Maiasaur herd finally stopped to rest. I threw myself down on the ground, not caring what carnivore might find me. Sleep came instantly. Huge teeth chased me through my dreams until a giant Maiasaurus grabbed me in her mouth, depositing me safely on a high branch. From my eagles perch I watched her crush the giant teeth to smithereens, pounding her tail like a sledgehammer. She gazed gently into my eye.
Thank you I thought, staring back. She seemed so familiar.
Kiki? I asked.
She gave me a wicked wink, and disappeared with a whip of her head.
I aimlessly continued my trek encountering no sign of other life until I stumbled into another swamp. There another lonely Ankylosaur sat munching the marsh grass; how was I going to get back to the mall?
Son, could you please step aside? a maintenance worker tapped me on my shoulder. It seems our swamp pump has malfunctioned, well have to clean this mess up.
Uh, sure, I answered, dazed. I removed my shoes, only now noticing that the primordial ooze ended three feet to my right. I left in stocking feet to find my mother, carrying my dripping sneakers at arms length.
Daniel, Daniel! Susan bounced like a pogo stick as she saw me approaching. Did you see the Mamasaurus? she screamed.
I did, Susan.
Daniel, what on earth happened to your shoes? my mother asked, incredulous.
Its a long story mom. Can we go home now?
Back in the van I said, Susan, Ive got a new dinosaur story. Its all about the brave Maiasaur that saved her babies from the evil Velociraptor. Want to hear it?
Oh, no thanks, Kiki already told me that one, she quipped, smiling innocently at me.
Donna St. Cyr is a children's author and librarian living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She enjoys storytelling with her students and spends most of her free time raising her three children, two dogs, and husband.