"What's the difference between a brachiosaurus and a pachyderm?" asked Weevil.

"Well," his father began.

"No you don't," said his mother Nancy, "you can't keep telling Waverley you don't know." She was the only one in the family who called him by his proper name instead of Weevil.

"What's the difference then," asked Weevil of his mother.

She looked this way and that, almost like his father.

"I think," she began bravely, "that a brachiosaurus lived long ago and was a very big dinosaur, but an elephant is a pachyderm."

"Then," said Weevil, "tell me more about the dinosaur."

"What has gotten into you, Waverley," said his mother a little peevishly. "Where did you hear about dinosaurs anyway."

"It doesn't matter," said Weevil, and he wandered out of the house carrying his bag of food and two cans of pop. Being Saturday morning he could adventure most of the day, and so away he went down the driveway along the road.

He had hadn't gone very far when there was a sound of running behind him and soon his small sister Felicity caught up and slowed to a breathless walk beside him.

"I can come too," she said firmly.

"Very well, if you have to," replied Weevil a trifle crossly. "I was just going over to the river."

"I know all about the brachiosaurus" said Felicity, dancing around as she walked. "They had little tiny heads and long necks and tails with great big bodies in between."

"That's fine," said Weevil, head down, thinking furiously about the brachiosaurus. "I saw a picture and that's why I asked, but an elephant has a big head and stuffs tree bits in its mouth. If I had to hunt for food I'd be hungry all the time, and if you've got a tiny head and big body how do you eat enough to live?"

"That's easy," said Felicity, "you lie in the water and eat fish."

"Fish! Wasn't it leaves and things?" replied Weevil.

And so on they went across the footbridge over the river and into the parkland beyond.

Not far ahead they came to one of Weevil's favourite places, a large, quiet, pool in the river, with a big tree overhanging the water. He kept a thin pole stuck in a dead tree trunk nearby and pulled it out now. On the end was some string, a twig knotted in for a float, and a fish hook. He took a scrap of meat from his lunch bag and baited up the hook.

"Sssh," he said to Felicity, who was staring at a lizard moving in the sandy grass, as she hummed a tune just a bit off key. Then out went the line and Weevil settled against his favourite tree.

"I wonder," he thought, "what they really ate."

His attention wandered, distracted by Felicity and the pattern the wind caused, as little gusts rippled the surface of the pool, while some small sticks in a group very slowly drifted downstream.

Felicity was further off in the park now, trying to catch a butterfly. Weevil sat quietly listening to the water lapping against the tree roots when suddenly there was a great tug on his line. He held on and pulled as hard as he could without breaking it, but it felt as though he had caught a large log or tree stump. The line would seem to give a little but then became immovable again. At last, to his astonishment he saw a great, fish-like, creature in the water before him, about ten feet long, with armour plating on its back. It held the line in its mouth, as fish sometimes do to exasperate the fisherman, and carefully avoided the hook. Of course the meat was gone. Apparently the creature was coming ashore willingly now, and stopped at the edge of the water half in and half out. Then it let go of the line so that it was quite free.

"What did you do that for?" asked Weevil.

"I could ask you the same question," said the fish-like creature.

"Who are you?" countered Weevil.

"I'm a young ichthyosaur," said the creature,

"and you'd better be careful what you're doing around here, it's a dangerous place for little boys."

"Is that so," said Weevil testily. "I've been here lots of times before and caught fish."

"I don't believe it," said the armour plated fish. "Why you're not even supposed to be born for another one hundred million years or so, let alone catch fish which don't exist."

"Just because I asked about a brachiosaurus doesn't mean you have to come along and say I don't exist," Weevil complained. "How do you know I don't exist, it's you who's not supposed to exist, not me."

The creature thought about that, propping its head up on something between a fin and a front leg.

"Be that as it may," it said, "it's still a very dangerous place for you to be. Why you're not only small but you don't have any armour plating to save you."

"If we're going to talk, can't I call you Ichthy?" asked Weevil.

"I suppose so," said the creature, becoming more friendly.

"Save me from what, Ichthy," asked Weevil.

"Why, the Brachiosaurus, of course." replied Ichthy.

"But they only have small heads and small mouths," said Weevil, "how could it eat me."

"I didn't say eat you," replied Ichthy, "I said save you from it."

Weevil stared at him, quite perplexed.

"Well, what will it do to me, then."

"Haven't you ever seen one?" asked Ichthy.

"I can't say that I have," said Weevil, "only a picture."

"Then you have no idea how huge and heavy these things are," said the creature. "I have my armour plates to help me and I can squash down into the mud, but you're a soft, land creature and will become another fossil just as soon as a brachiosaurus happens by, which could be any time."

"I'll be safe under my tree, though, won't I?" asked Weevil.

"A tree!" said Ichthy, "they eat trees, and when they're through with them they just walk over them and push them into the mud."

Weevil had begun to notice his tree was growing taller and more rubbery with bigger leaves.

"What can I do then?" he asked.

"Go forward to where you came from," said Ichthy, "before it's too late."

"And how do you suggest I do that?" asked Weevil sarcastically.

"The way you got here," began Ichthy, but just then there was a terrible crackling sound and many small and medium-sized creatures began appearing and scattering in all directions. One looked like an ostrich with front claws and large tail and plating on it, and others looked like little ponies, and pigs, all armour plated and running on two or four legs this way and that. Right between Ichthy and Weevil ran a small armour plated mouse. Weevil could hardly believe what he was seeing.

"Why are they all running?" asked Weevil.

"You'll see soon enough now." was the reply.

Suddenly Weevil thought of his sister. He looked around quickly but could see no sign of her. "Felicity." he called at the top of his lungs, but there was no answer except the strange cracking sounds and the great swishing noises over to his right. As he looked he noticed that the river had spread out somehow and was covered with tall, thin, grasses and plants, and the trees were mostly tall, thin and soft, and more like bamboo canes with big palm fronds hanging from them. There was such a cracking and swishing and flopping now that he could hardly hear himself think, let alone know what to do. The water had risen quite a bit and he could still see Ichthy's back spine although the creature was now almost submerged.

Then suddenly to his right he saw five or six great heads swaying above the tree tops and crunching down on the trees in front of them, one gulp after another, almost down to the roots of the young, soft, trees, and about half-way down for the others. The sides of their bodies began to come into view now, just like great war ships at sea, except that they pushed themselves along with their feet like huge paddles in the water, or punted along by pushing with their feet on the oozy river bed. They turned and twisted in the water as they went, like a great flotilla, devouring almost everything sizeable in sight.

Weevil was terrified now, had long since dropped his fishing pole and was pressing flat against the tree, although he wasn't so sure that was a good idea. One brachiosaurus (for that was what they were) was floating and pushing its way each side of him now, about twenty feet apart, and his chances of survival were getting slimmer and slimmer. The one in front of him gulped down the top of his tree in almost four huge mouthfuls, letting some of the tree slide down its throat before biting it off again. It stopped short about fifteen feet above Weevil's head. Then tearing off what it had bitten, swallowed a six foot length. Weevil watched in astonishment as he saw the length moving down inside its neck towards its great body. It lowered its head and looked at him from ten feet away.

"So my mouth is too small to eat you with, is it?" said the Brachiosaurus.

"I didn't mean any harm." said Weevil, very frightened.

"No, I don't suppose you did, as if that would make any difference," the dinosaur replied. "It's very dangerous not to have any armour plating, I could eat you up in a trice."

"I'm sure you could, couldn't you," responded Weevil, weakly.

"It's a good thing I prefer trees and plants and the odd creature that swims. You can't swim, can you?"

"I don't think so, how would I do that?" asked Weevil. At the moment he was sure if he got into the water he would sink like a stone.

"That's just as well then," said Brachiosaurus, "because I don't eat land things, they're not juicy enough for my taste. You be careful of my tail now, it's so far away I can't keep track of it."

The dinosaur paused and snatched off the top of the next tree and then the next, and its great body slowly oozed by, churning the water this way and that, and then came the tail twisting and turning back and forth as the creature moved, knocking down trees and flattening plants as it went. The tree next to Weevil's was knocked over and Weevil ran behind his tree, and lay flat on the ground next to it. Sure enough the great, lashing, tail flattened it, but over Weevil's head. Then the crashing and swishing began to die away and the monsters were gone.

Weevil stood up and surveyed the scene. What utter chaos. It was as though a twister had struck the area. A trail of broken, half-eaten and snarled trees, flattened plants and bushes, with mud everywhere. He looked down to where the river had been when he was fishing. To his amazement Ichthy was there again, propped up on the bank going through Weevil's lunch bag.

"Hey, what are you doing with my lunch," Weevil shouted.

"Don't shout," said Ichthy, "you can see perfectly well what I'm doing; I'm finishing off your lunch."

"That's very mean, why did you do that?" Weevil said.

"Because," replied Ichthy, "the water's too muddy now to eat anything there, and what you have in here is quite passable."

"Passable!" exploded Weevil, "You eat my lunch and say it's passable -- and what about Felicity's share?"

"Oh, she's not here," said Ichthy, "but don't worry, she's quite safe." Ichthy finished the lunch, after offering a small portion to Weevil. "Never mind your lunch," he said, "you're lucky to be still alive."

"I must find her somehow," said Weevil, now more worried about his sister than his lunch. "How can I ever do that in this place?"

"That's no big problem," said Ichthy, "just turn around and pick your way along over those fallen trees, one after the other there, and then you'll find it's not so wet underfoot. Away you go, and have a safe journey forward."

"Forward?" asked Weevil.

"Well," said Ichthy, "you can't go back can you, that's not where you came from. Just follow the trees, as I said."

Weevil waved weakly to his companion. He wasn't so sure he was a friend after all, now that his lunch was all gone. But he turned around and set out to balance his way along on the tree trunks, first one, then the other, then the third, hopping and holding his arms out, until he stepped off on to what seemed more like drier, sandier soil, and away he went, running as fast as his legs would go. Soon he saw the footbridge ahead of him and a figure the other side of it. When he had raced across, there was Felicity sitting on a stump, paddling her bare feet in the clear, rippling, water.

"Where's my lunch?" asked Felicity angrily. "Why, you've eaten it all."

"No I haven't," said Weevil, "an Ichthyosaur ate it."

"A what?" asked Felicity. She shook her head in disbelief. "Just because you ate my lunch you don't have to make up stories like that."

"That's not all," said Weevil in a hurt tone, "I was nearly run over and eaten by a brachiosaurus as well."

"Don't be silly," said Felicity, laughing at him, "you know very well their heads are too small."

"You know something," confided Weevil, "now I'm not so sure about that -- you've never seen a brachiosaurus, have you?"

"No I have not, and nor have you," said Felicity firmly, "and that's that."