Dance of the Books, Panel 7, by Helena Clare Pittman, Grahamville Library, Grahamville, NY.

“But I don’t want to do a story!”

When Matthew, my 7-year-old grandson, stays overnight, storytelling is the last thing we do before lights out.

“But you’re good at starting off.

He squints. “Okaay. I’ll do the starting.”

I nod. Our agreement: if he begins, he gets to turn the telling over to me whenever he likes.

Matthew stretches out on his bed, puts his hands behind his head, and looks up at the ceiling.

I sit facing him with my chin in my hand. Will I regret this? Recently, his beginnings have become ever more ferocious. I struggle to find an end that works for both of us.

“Once there was a Draco-Rex. He was the biggest dragon ever. He could blow fire and run infinity miles per hour. And he had three horns, and venom—in a curved tooth—so he could blow fire and bite his enemies and put a venomous tooth in their neck.”

I shiver. The monsters that bad boy Max conjured in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are were teddy bears by comparison. They danced and roared the night away: a good time had by all. No violence and no fatalities.

“And he has spikes in his tail! You know, like porcupines?”

I hear him.

“And sharp claws—could whip off a head!”

I wince.

“Now you do the rest.”

I choke. “Uhh, how old is this Draco-Rex?”

Matthew stares. “This is not real.”

I return his stare.

“Okay, how about 20 hundred?”

I sigh.

Matthew puts his hand on my arm. “These are giant times.”

I begin. “The Draco-Rex is unhappy because he has lost his mate. The love of his life died—”

“—a year ago,” Matthew inserts.

“So he flies off feeling so alone and lonely. He goes back home and has a dream of a beautiful lady Draco-Rex who lives very far away. She had beautiful colors. I think such a lady dragon lives in . . .”

“South Amer-i-ca!”

“So the Draco-Rex heads for South America. He lands in a meadow—and there she is—and she is just the color of the dragon of his dreams. They introduce themselves and it turns out she too has lost her mate. Draco-Rex proposes and she accepts.”

Matthew smiles.

“The end,” he whispers.

I give him a kiss.

He turns on his side, asleep before I leave the room.