Triceratop—that’s what he told me to call him, however silly it sounded. Dressed in lion-themed cotton pajamas, Triceratop didn’t so much resemble a herbivorous dinosaur as he did a gentle, blond-haired third grader with pinchable cheeks and a buck-toothed smile.
My mom had volunteered to give Triceratop a place to stay overnight while his parents traveled out of town to attend a conference. I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of sharing my house with this boy, but mom promised me that her hairdresser’s son liked furry animals, lollipops, and macaroni ‘n cheese.
I helped mom spread sleeping bags and pillows across our living room floor. We picked out a movie that Triceratop and I could watch, and dad even made us some popcorn that he drizzled with extra butter.
Triceratop didn’t laugh during the funniest scenes in the movie. Plus, he didn’t really talk; when my mom offered him some orange juice, he shook his head and then returned to watching the movie and not laughing.
When mom announced that it was time for us to go to bed because it was a school night, Triceratop and I crawled into our separate sleeping bags.
“Sleep tight,” mom said before turning off all the lights in the living room.
I couldn’t remember the last time I got to sleep on the living room floor, but it was one of my favorite rooms in the house because mom had decorated it with family heirlooms that included lockets and marbles and music boxes, not to mention sepia-toned portraits of old people I never had the chance to meet.
As I lay on my back with my eyes closed, I wondered how Triceratop must feel, staying at another kid’s house and all. I also wondered if he missed his parents and if they missed him.
“I . . . I think I like you,” Triceratop whispered.
“You think you huh?” I asked.
Next thing I knew, Triceratop was sitting up in his sleeping bag. The small burst of light coming from the kitchen made his pupils look like small lanterns.
Triceratop’s right hand suddenly leapt out from the inside of his sleeping bag and appeared on my family’s living room wall as a larger-than-life monster with an appetite, snapping its jaws and searching for other forms of life.
“My name is Benjamin the alligator,” Triceratop said, “so come out, come out wherever you are because I wanna eat you for breakfast!”
I wiggled out of my sleeping bag and raised my hand above my head, forming my own hand creature that confidently waddled across the wall.
“I’m Flatfeet the duck and I’m gonna run away from you right now so you starve forever!”
I launched Flatfeet into the air, right up and over Benjamin the alligator, before Triceratop’s laughter knocked Benjamin off the wall and into temporary extinction.
“Can I kiss you?” Benjamin asked, his face nervously turning from side to side.
Before my duck had a chance to answer, Benjamin was already submerged in Flatfeet’s face space. And there they were, making out on my parents’ living room wall, mine and Triceratop’s hands frantically turning and twisting, fading into and away from each other while my ancestors watched.