NONFICTION March 2, 2012

Life Lessons To Be Learned From The Extinct

First of all, there are three dinosaurs on this page. Three dinosaurs, each of which (each of whom?) is drawing a picture. So now we have three characters and three pictures. And just to make the whole thing almost unbelievably self-referential (and arguably over-determined) two of the dinosaurs have speech bubbles, while one only has a thought bubble.

I don’t know what else to say. It’s like layer on top of layer on top of layer. It’s like these post-modern pre-history and it is blowing my mind.

Reading from left to right, the first dinosaur—I think it’s a girl because she has a polka-dot bow on her head and even though I would argue that the scene with Max rolling on the floor had a kind of risqué subtext, I do not think this book has transvestite dinosaurs—anyway, she is saying “We meet on Sam’s porch” while drawing a picture of a house with the word “Sam’s” and an arrow pointing down. I’m guessing that is Sam’s porch.

Next to her is a dinosaur of unclear gender who looks, I don’t know, kind of ashamed. He/she is covering part of his/her face and his/her eyes are sort of rolling in his/her head. And here’s the main thing: he/she isn’t talking. He/she is silent. He/she has only a thought bubble. Just that. And the thought bubble says, “I’d better ask my Mom!” When I ask my daughter what she thinks that means, she says that this dinosaur feels bad about not having a place to meet. In case of fire. And I myself read “I’d better ask my Mom” as the words of an excessively anxious dinosaur, maybe a dinosaur whose mother is kind of falling down on the job. I see that shame thing with the face-covering, and I’m starting to wonder if maybe Mom doesn’t drink a bit too much. Worth noting too is that this dinosaur’s drawing paper is blank. Another sign of shame, I think. Pretty clearly.

The guy on the other side of him/her goes to the big tree. I know this because his speech bubble says, “We go to the big tree.” And on his piece of paper there is a picture of a pretty good sized tree—presumably the big tree in question. It seems like he and the dinosaur on the far left are talking at the same time, interrupting each other, but I guess they’re just excited because they have a meeting place, and they know that they’re going to be okay.

It’s the one in the middle that I’m worried about. The silent one of unclear gender whose page is blank. The one whose mother has clearly left her unprepared.

“Do we have a meeting place?” my daughter asks.

I shake my head. “Not yet,” I say. “But clearly we should. We will.”

“I think we’re supposed to,” she says.

“I think you’re right.”

Page Eight: Get a smoke alarm. Make sure it works.

Oh, for God’s sake.

I have never seen anyone smile while a smoke alarm is going off. Even if you’re testing it so yeah, technically you’re happy the damned thing works, you still don’t smile at it, do you? You hurry to shut it the hell off. That is the point of smoke alarms. Of alarms in general, as a matter of fact. The better they are, the worse they are, if you see what I mean. When an alarm goes off, you certainly don’t stand around grinning like these two new dinosaurs. (At first I thought the little one was Max, but they have triangular bumps down their spines that he didn’t have).

Anyway, the bigger one, the one with wire rimmed glasses and a polka-dot shirt, he’s pointing (five fingers, not like Max who had only three) up to this alarm beside which the words “beep, beep” are written. He’s showing it to the kid dinosaur. And they are both smiling.

For some reason, my daughter has drawn a thick black line across the kid dinosaur’s eyes. I ask her why. Her explanation is that he’s blind. I didn’t even know she knew the word. Personally, I was thinking they must both be deaf.

In any case, they are certainly not responding to the smoke alarm in a way that encourages me to think it will do them any good. They are clearly both mentally unhinged, and I’m guessing that will not bode well for them.

I know what my daughter is going to say before she speaks.