“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.” Albert Einstein
“Hi. My name is Peter Baker. And I...am a... dinosaur hunter.”
About that time, I heard pounding on the door and had to turn off the camera. I thought having my room up here in the attic would give me a little peace and quiet when I was trying to record my episodes. Wrong. You could still hear almost everything that was going on downstairs. Sometimes even stuff that was happening outside.
“Open up, Petie, Emergency!”
“What kind?” I hollered back before unlocking the door.
“I lost my walking stick!”
I opened up and my sister tumbled in. “Pearl, do you realize you have some kind of
emergency every time I hang up my ‘on the air’ sign? Where is Dad, anyway?”
“In the laundry room. Washing clothes for his first day at work tomorrow.”
“So, why didn’t you ask him?”
“He said if I leave the top off my bug habitat one more time, I’d have to keep it in the garage.” She lifted the brim of her red ball cap high enough to look at me from under it. “Please, Petie?”
“OK, but don’t call me that.” I started down the stairs and she tagged after me. “It’s a new place and it’d be nice if everybody didn’t call me Petie, like they did back home.”
“I’ll try but it just pops out. I had to lock Mr. B in the bathroom while I got my bugs back. Now he’s madder than a hornet!”
“He’ll shred up the toilet paper, again.”
“But I didn’t want him to eat my walking stick!”
“Probably just hiding in Mom’s bamboo plant.”
“I looked there, already. Do you think he’ll kill himself if he jumps off the balcony?”
“It would take him till bedtime to go that far. Better close the slider just in case, though.”
We took a shortcut through Dad’s office to get to her room, and she looked at all the boxes of books that still hadn’t been unpacked, yet. “Boy, I hope he’s not in one of those.” she said.
“Me, too. I’ve got other things to do today besides bug hunts.”
“Like making movies?”
“It’s not a movie, Pearl, it’s documentary show. How come you didn’t close your door right away? Now, he could be anywhere.”
“By the time I made my sandwich he was gone already.”
“Did you check the closet?” Pearl’s room looked like a tornado hit it. “Never mind, it’s obvious. You better put all that stuff back before Dad sees.”
“I wish Mom was here!”
“I wish she was, too, but we just have to deal with it.” I unhooked a flashlight from my belt and crawled under the bed.
“Dad said Africa’s only for adults.” She was right behind me instead of putting clothes away. “Is Mom tired of us?”
“No. It’s just what she said. A chance to work on a special project over there. Be home before you know it. Back up, will you? There’s nothing under here.”
“Want to look in the kitchen where I made my sandwich?”
“I’m going for the drapes, first. They like to climb on things. I only started under the bed because it’s Mr. B’s favorite place to bring—” Her mouth dropped open and she looked about to bawl. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing here.” I said it quick before she let loose. Because once she starts a crying fit it’s liable to last half an hour.
“I wish Mom was here!”
“Try to think of something else. Like all the cool stuff we get to do this summer. Free passes to the zoo and everything.”
“I’m not going to be happy till she gets back.”
“Pearl, that’s not true. I could think of something right now that would make you happy. Two things, in fact.” I stood up and clipped the flashlight back onto my belt.
“What are they?”
“Number one, I found your walking stick.” I lifted the strange-looking bug off the tangle of yellow hair that was sticking out from under the back strap of her ball cap. “Saw it when you turned around just now.”
“Yay!” Instant change. “Thanks, Pete!”
“Better put him back. Too much walking will give him a heart attack. He’d rather just act like a stick.”
“OK, come on, Stinky.” She took him off my finger and headed for the wood and wire habitat box in the corner of her room. “You named him Stinky? Man, you could have at least called him Sticky, or Mr. Stix, or something.”
“I like Stinky better. What’s number two?”
“Number two? Oh, yeah. Number two is I’m going to help you put all these clothes back before Dad finds out you wrecked everything he organized for you, yesterday. Are you happy, now?”
“I’m so happy I’m static.”
“You mean ecstatic.”
“No, I mean static. You know, like what the radio does when you can’t find a station.”
“Nope. Don’t see the connection. But come on, let’s get busy, I’m wasting daylight.”
“Emily Pearl Baker—” Dad’s voice thundered down the hallway. “Come clean up all this toilet paper your cat pulled off the roll!”
“Uh-oh.” She slammed the lid down on her habitat box and hurried out.
By the time I got the clothes back in the closet, everything had settled down, again. It was dusk, but still enough natural light for good filming. So I headed back to the attic before it all disappeared. There would be just enough time to introduce the tools of my trade. Then tomorrow, I could take the camera to the museum and get a few shots of the dinosaur exhibits.
Not an actual dig like I was planning on. I’d have to improvise somehow. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t too happy about Mom going to Africa without us, either. Every summer since I could remember we went on a dig for dinosaur bones. Together. We are a family of dinosaur hunters and I’m good with that.
Then Dad got an offer to work at this huge museum in Jefferson City about the same time Mom finally got a visa to work at some remote dig in Africa. That’s when they decided Pearl and I should be normal kids for one summer, instead of kid scientists.
Thing is, I like being a kid scientist. Not to mention I got the best idea ever for the Young Scientist Contest that the university (where my parents worked) puts on every year. It came to me in a flash and I really think I could win it this time. In my division, anyway. Eleven to thirteen. I’m twelve and the competition can be pretty stiff when all of us have scientists for parents.
Most of the kids that enter have been using their brains since they were tots. Hildie Martin (whose mom is a chemistry professor), won the last one. It was for coming up with a formula for bio-fuel that could run a motorized bicycle. Only for twenty minutes before she had to re-fuel, but it was enough to win her the grand prize. A scholarship to Space Camp, a three- day trip to Disney World with her whole family, and a bunch of other stuff, too.
I won second in my division. It was for a life-size model of a dig site that I put real dinosaur bones in. I used my whole collection on that thing. All the ones I dug up, myself. I worked on it for months and it was totally cool. Right now, I have it set up in a corner of my attic and use it as a backdrop for my documentary show. It’s going to be about me, the kid dinosaur hunter.
Which is true because I’ve been helping my parents on their real dinosaur hunts ever since I learned how to dig. I love to dig. And I have dug up real dinosaur bones. But there’s a lot more to dinosaur hunting than just digging. Exciting stuff. And that’s what I’ll be putting in my show. I call it Dinosaur Planet. How cool is that? I’m only on the first episode but I know where I’m going with it. Like I say, it came to me all in a flash. Right after I won second prize in last year’s Young Scientist Contest.
Second prize in my division was a video camera kit. The whole outfit. Camera, tripod, case, and an editing program to go with it. I dinked around almost till school was out just learning how everything worked. So, now I’m ready t roll.
Except this unexpected move we had to make for Dad’s new museum job and not going on a dig this year was a bummer. Now, there’s only a couple weeks left to get my entry in. Something I could do easy if I was on my own. Only I’m not.
See, our family believes we all have to work together. Especially when one of us has something special going on. Like Mom’s Africa dig that she’s been waiting years for. So, until she comes back, I have to step in and cover for her. Which means keeping an eye on Pearl every day at the museum while Dad’s working.
No problem. I’ve been keeping an eye on Pearl ever since I can remember. The thing is, Dad added something extra this summer, on account of Mom being gone. We have to do one “normal kid” activity every day. Tomorrow, it’s the zoo. So, here’s what I figure. When we get to the rainforest animals, I’ll try to get a couple shots of how the planet might have looked when dinosaurs lived all over it.
Of course, it was a lot warmer back then, but you can’t see heat on a movie. I might have to add in a little steam for special effects, though. I can do that with my editing program. No kidding. I can even do zero gravity with that thing. Not that I would need anything like that on Dinosaur Planet. Just saying. Anyway, I had it all figured out.
What I didn’t have figured out was Pearl.