We have some dinosaurs living in our basement. They were supposed to be for my son’s birthday party several weeks ago, but we had to postpone due to Hurricane Henri. So the dinosaurs have lived with us a little longer than expected.

We have a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops, a Stegosaurus, a Brachiosaurus, and a pair of Pteranodons, which my son tells me were flying reptiles but not actual dinosaurs. Fortunately the dinosaurs (and flying reptiles) in our basement don’t eat much and they’ve barely made any noise. As far as I can tell, they’ve behaved themselves very well.

To create these dinosaurs (and flying reptiles), we took apart the biggest boxes we had in our basement. My wife and I drew them in black magic marker, and my kids had a fabulous time painting them in one afternoon. I think they turned out pretty well; the Tyrannosaurus Rex is bright red and has a beautiful setting sun in the background. The Brachiosaurus has a super long neck and big heavy legs and, perhaps surprisingly, a big smile. The Stegosaurus is happily sniffing a flower; my daughter thought it was awfully cute.

I took a whirl at painting one of the Pteranodons, which I thought looked festive in bright yellow and red. I painted a few clouds behind it, then got to work on the sky. The shade of blue was too dark at first, so I mixed in some white as I moved further down the canvas — I mean, cardboard. When I stepped back to admire the finished product, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Van Gogh’s Starry Night — if only it had featured a flying reptile.

The point of creating these creatures was to keep the kids at the birthday party from hitting each other with water balloons. If the weather cooperates this time around, we’ll place the dinosaurs (and flying reptiles) around the yard, break out some water balloons, and encourage the children to attack. We hope they don’t decide to turn on each other once their targets have been adequately soaked, but I won’t be holding my breath.

If their good behavior in the basement over the past few weeks is any indication, I’ll bet our creatures will make for obedient and enthusiastic targets at the birthday party.

In fact, once the day of the party arrives, I suppose I might miss their quiet presence in the basement. I’ve become accustomed to seeing them, standing quietly propped up against the basement wall whenever I venture downstairs to find the duct tape or grab a screwdriver. I like seeing the Brachiosaurus smiling at me and the Stegosaurus sniffing its flower and especially that Pteranodon flying through a beautifully artistic night sky.

I figure that the day of the birthday party might be a rough time for my new cardboard friends. They’ll be pummeled with water balloons and perhaps picked up and paraded around the yard. Their colors might run, their limbs might be damaged, and they might end up in the trash at the end of the celebration.

I’m anticipating that I’ll be sad when my silent dinosaur companions have gone away. Perhaps on a quiet weekend afternoon in the future, I’ll find some cardboard and markers and paints and make some more dinosaurs. And flying reptiles.

BILL ZUCK might have been a good dinosaur portrait artist back in the Jurassic Age. You can reach him at wcz78@yahoo.com.

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