There’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex outside our window across the street. I know I know. You’ve heard that a million times. But I’m serious—he’s there. I was staring out of the picture window of our house on 178th St. and I noticed it one day. There’s a small, woodsy area set down, below the ditch-level of the road on the corner of my street and Merrywood Lane. It borders the Deitrich’s and the Miller’s and across from the Draeger’s. (The Draeger’s have a pond! No one in our neighborhood has those. There’s toads and frogs and pollywogs…and goldfish. Sometimes we climb over the fence and sneak to the edge and try to catch them with our tinker toy fishing poles, but that’s another story). I think there might be a Brontosaurus in the woodsy area, too, but I haven’t made him out yet. Tyrannosaurus though—he grew up before my eyes, and has lived there a long time, always looking north, though I only just now noticed him, staring out my window on a gray, rainy day.
I’m ten, and I don’t know too many of the boys in my neighborhood—only the Miller boys and Jake and Luke next door. There’s the Popma boy and the Dewitt boy, but they’re big kids, so we’re not friends. My friends live far away, and my mom has to drive me if I am going to hang out with them. In fact, I only really have one friend: Jeff and he lives a long way away, over the Grand River and in a place called Spring Lake on Cross Lane. It’s funny that he lives on Cross Lane, because his phone number is in the shape of the cross when you punch the numbers. Well, it’s almost a cross. I guess you’d need a 5 and a 0 to make it a real cross, but it’s good enough for me to remember, just by the shape. I dial that number all the time. Maybe it’s more of a diamond than a cross. No matter, because Jeff and I like to imagine what Tyrannosaurus is like as a person. He’s big. Real big. As big as a house! Even bigger. I mean he’s taller than a house, but not wider. That would be a really fat dinosaur. But Tyrannosaurus isn’t fat. He lives in this small woodsy area, and yet only Jeff and I can see him, and he’s always looking north, with his great eye and open mouth, ready to eat whatever gets in its way.
I ventured out one morning after my mother told me to “go play.” My dad and brother were at the farm, and had left without me because I slept in. I got so mad that I broke my ceramic puppy on the front porch step. My mom said, “Hey!” but she sang it really long, like she was disappointed. I remember looking up at Tyrannosaurus and he was looking at me out of the corner of his eye. Was he smiling at my bad behavior or was he disappointed too? I couldn’t tell. His mouth is always open, you see, and his great eye is always in search for food—or something. He’s always looking forward.
I wonder where he came from? Why is he here and not somewhere else? He never moves. Or does he? Every time I look at him, he’s in the same position: always poised with his forward-looking motion, his little claw-arm raised up and his mouth—that big teeth-filled mouth, always agape and facing the same direction: north. I asked my brother about it once and he said “Nonsense. That’s just a bunch of bushes, trees and weeds. There aren’t even any trails in there. That’s not even a real woodsy area anyways. No one plays in there. And there aren’t any dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are extinct, doughy!” (He calls me doughy. I’m not sure what that means, but I think it might mean that I’m dopey, or dupey, or dumb. When I think of something that is doughy, I think of what you think of: gooey dough. Maybe it’ll be something tasty).
“But you do believe in dinosaurs,” I say, sounding desperate. “You and Russell found those bones in the dunes by the beach that one time, and you said they were dinosaur bones. I saw ‘em. I remember.”
“That doesn’t mean dinosaurs are still alive, doofus. Besides, Dad told us those were cow bones. And Dad’s right.”
I look down and shuffle my feet; my hands are stuffed into the pockets of my “farm pants” (overalls). How does Dad know? How does Kurt know? I’ve seen Tyrannosaurus with my own eyes. How come nobody else can, except Jeff and I?
“But can’t you see him? Look! I point out his body, his little claw-arm, the great eye, and the huge gaping mouth. “See, he’s facing north. That way,” I saying pointing. The hills in the background beyond the neighborhood houses at the end of Merrywood Lane stand silent as the trees covering them stare into a void. My own brother looks at me in the same way.
“That’s just a tree, doofus,” he says. Do you want to play baseball? Let’s get the Millers and see what’s going on.”
Kurt tramples inside to look for his glove and a baseball. I stand there in the garage, looking at Tyrannosaurus. I want to believe in him. But is he real? Now it’s not true that only I can see him. Kurt can see him, but he doesn’t believe. I just want something to be real. Beyond real. Is it real? With a deep sigh, I walk inside and find my glove on my dresser. “Baseballs are real,” I think to myself. But I can’t stop thinking about Tyrannosaurus and his great eye, and his big mouth, and his facing north, as if he’s going somewhere. We careen down the driveway and head north up the street. They guys are getting together. Time for some baseball at Mary White. That’s the school about a mile away. You know? There’s a funny tree there with a hole at the base, and all the roots are exposed. I wonder what’s in the hole? Wouldn’t it be great if a whole different world were in there? I wonder. I look back at Tyrannosaurus as we head up 178th and he moves up and down. His big head nods up and down. He seems to be smiling at me. And a gust of wind blows straight at us just as he smiles. Where did that come from? Today’s not a windy day.