He sits in the middle of the living room in a sea of paper, wielding the blue marker. He is writing large letters on the papers, blocky poster-style ones.
"I make a R for Ralphie," he announces. "I make A for Arnold." He turns to me. "What is your name?"
He isn't asking me for my name. He is asking which Magic School Bus character I want to pretend to be.
"I'm Liz," I reply semi-automatically.
"I'm Ms. Frizzle," he nods and draws another letter.
"I'm Dorothy Ann!" his brother lisps happily and dances around, making his dinosaurs fight.
He grabs his blue sand bucket and puts it on his head, with the handle under his chin. For some reason, this is part and parcel of being Ms. Frizzle. Some days he's the bus. Those are fun.
He makes a series of short and long lines- a road. He spends a moment driving on it, then turns back to me.
"I'm Arnold!" he announces. "I should have stayed home today!" This is Arnold's catchline.
"You are a perfect Arnold," I assure him.
"You're Arnold, too," he grins. "Are you coming to my house? Can we stick it?" He holds up a big A drawn on the paper. I pull off a little bit of tape, and he sticks it to his chest. "I am Arnold."
He carefully draws another A, considers it, removes the old one, and makes another demand for tape.
"This is the better A. Is this the better A?"
"It's lovely, dear. You are a very good writer." He beams. He sticks the other A to my chest.
"You are Arnold, too."
"Yes, my love."
"Can I be Phoebe?"
"Of course you can." He takes off the A, and gets to work to make a P. I prepare the tape. He proudly presents his P... and I stick it on him.
"At my old school, we came to my house." Phoebe's catchline: 'At my old school...'
"I'm Ms. Frizzle," he sighs and makes an F. "To the bus! Single file, please!"
He changes personalities every few moments. He labels himself with the appropriate letter. He recites the catchlines, with slight variations (such as the "we came to my house"). The afternoon wears on, shifting from character to character to character. His brother interjects now again with "I'm Dorothy Ann!" His dinosaurs fight on.
Ah, nice, quiet afternoons, full of chatter. Sometimes dreams do come true.