NIco and Grandma’s Big Adventure, 1

Nico arrives this morning at 8:15, Allosaurus in hand. We are spending the day together; no pressure, no school, no little sister. The Allosaurus, however, is being chased by a Spitosaurus, or something, which he says properly, but I don’t catch. The Spitosaurus is on the tail of Allo, ripping at him with strong jaws. Allo can run fast,(60 miles an hour, NIco says), but he is tiring. He finds a hiding place, but Spito won’t be long in finding him out, and he’ll have to run again. A cliff lies in front of him. He’ll have no choice but to leap down to the valley below, and risk being smashed against the rocks.

However, we decide that feeding the ducks in the nearby pond might be a good solution, so we set off at 9:00 AM. The air is already warm and heavy. A slight breeze stirs the leaves and dries the air. It feels a lot like dinosaur country.

The pond is the color of coffee with cream. It looks sluggish and hot. Brown ducks are resting on the grassy banks, so Nico tosses out a few bread crumbs. The ducks don’t budge. Not hungry yet, I tell him. I’m afraid this outing may not be as exciting as hoped. He tosses more crumbs, just for the heck of it. Suddenly, a ripple disturbs the surface of the pond. A black fin cuts through the water. Black shapes a foot long loom under the surface, break it, grab the bread. More shapes appear, and Nico tosses more crumbs, some very close to the shore. A wide black head with long whiskers approaches, comes so close we can see inside his wide pink mouth as he snatches the food.

Two or three catfish attack the same crumb, the water roils, alive with slippery black bodies. Suddenly we see a calm, triangular black head sticking up from the water. A turtle glances at us, and slowly paddles towards the food. A catfish rushes towards him, nips at him, beats him to it. The turtle moves toward another crumb, and now we can see his moss-covered back as, this time, he calmly snaps up breakfast. There are so many catfish here I can’t count them now. They are not good at seizing the crumbs on the surface, missing them half the time, which of course is why the slow old turtle sometimes gets it. I explain to Nico that catfish are normally bottom feeders and don’t like surfacing, but they can’t resist these delicious whole wheat organic bread crumbs from Whole Foods.

The bread is gone. We continue along the sidewalk which leads to the park, Kids Together. There is a secret path in the park, Nico says. He shows me where it snakes through the bushes and then rejoins the main walk. We follow it and come to the submarine speaking system. There isn’t any water, but that doesn’t keep us from speaking to each other through the tube. We trade places now and then, with me climbing up to the second level and Nico descending. After two or three exchanges, though, I suggest the swings.