“Do all dragons breathe fire?”
“Not all of them, I don’t think.”
“What about this one?”
“How am I supposed to know dummy? We just found it!”
The sleeping little dragon peeked an amber eye at the two squabbling boys perched above its nest. The scales glinted a prism of colors in the late afternoon sun, bathing the trees around in little rainbows.
One of the boys stood up with his hands on his hips, looking at the dragon decisively.
“Well, I think it’s been abandoned. And we need to take care of it now. Michael, give me your jacket.”
“Why my jacket? Yours is just as good!”
“Because Michael, you’ll have to keep the dragon at your house. Your mum will never know it’s there if you keep it in the old barn! Also, my mum will kill me if I bring another pet home.” Michael stuck his lower lip out, pretending to be put out. Secretly though, he was excited at the thought of keeping the dragon in that mangy old barn of his. The other boy, Rudy, sighed in exasperation at the charade.
“I’ll even bring some meat to help feed him so you don’t have to or whatever.”
“Deal.” Michael grinned, and the two boys crouched down together again to peer at the dragon.
It lay in a deep nest of pine needles, the ground the boys stood on dipping low into a bowl like formation. It was starting to get dark, and a troubling thought crossed both their minds.
“Suppose that it’s not abandoned.” Michael suggested slowly, prodding some leaves with his foot, sending them tumbling down into the basin. Rudy exhaled sharply, blowing his fringe out of his eyes. He was thinking the same thing, but didn’t want to admit it. After a moment to think, he finally said,
“It can’t hurt to at least hold it. And then if there’s no sign of the mum, we’ll take it with us. We can’t leave it out for other animals to get, it looks pretty defenseless.”
With that, both boys tumbled and skidded into the basin. The dragon quit pretending to sleep and hopped up, it’s tail wagging like a dog’s as it made happy noises at them. The boys were cautious at first, and threw sticks, which the dragon happily puffed fire at the objects, confirming the boys’ earlier question. Seeing as it didn’t aim any fire at them, and in fact desperately leaned up against the boys’ legs for pets, they rubbed its scales with firm palms and found the iridescent white scales to be smoother than a snake. They were soon playing tug of war with Michael’s jacket, and wrestling each other like one may do with a new puppy.
It became colder as the last rosy fingers of the sun reached towards the woods where the boys played, and there was still no sign of the caretakers of the little dragon. Panting from their fun, the boys became serious once again as they considered what to do with the dragon.
“I think we should take it. It’s going to be dark soon, and what if the parents left it here, or something else? It’s too venerable.”
“Vulnerable.” Rudy corrected without hesitation. He was a grade above Michael, and felt a sort of pride when he knew what Michael didn’t.
“Right, that. Well anyway, I think it should come with us.” Rudy nodded his head in agreement, and, having been holding Michael’s jacket for the last tug of war game, scooped up the dragon in it and slung it over his shoulder.
When they reached the edge of the basin, Rudy put the dragon down for a minute to help hoist Michael up. After much grunting and bickering, Michael reached the top of the basin and pulled himself over the side of it. Then, he reached down, and Rudy offered up the dragon. Once the dragon was on the ground next to Michael, Michael turned to it and said in as firm a tone as he could muster,
“Stay.” The dragon, having nothing better to do and enjoying the antics of his two new creatures, sat with its front paws crossed in front of it, its tail contentedly sweeping back and forth through the underbrush as it watched Michael struggle to pull Rudy up. Finally, the boys tumbled over each other, and after taking a moment to catch their breaths, scooped back up the dragon and started to walk again.
“It’s gonna be so cool to take care of a dragon!” Michael cheered, jumping as he walked to catch low hanging branches with his hand. Rudy, who was holding the dragon like a large dog, just gave a grunt of affirmation. The dragon was definitely heavier than he had thought it would be. Michael chatted happily on, and as the evening bugs came out the dragon began to squirm in Rudy’s arms, pushing against his chest and reaching out to try and catch them in his mouth. Starting to become frustrated, Rudy placed the dragon on the ground and said firmly,
“Are you going to walk with us if I set you down?” The small dragon gave out a yip, which Rudy took to mean yes. He released the dragon, and after unraveling the jacket from it, handed the jacket back to Michael. They continued to walk along, talking and occasionally laughing at the way the dragon hunted the bugs around the forest floor.
Finally the boys made it to Michael’s backyard, where they led the dragon into the barn. It didn’t take much convincing to get the dragon in there, as it soon discovered the miracle of rats, and began chasing them around the barn. Satisfied, both boys pushed the barn doors closed, and grinned at each other.
“He needs a name.” Rudy said.
“Right right, absolutely.” Michael agreed, looking around him for inspiration. After a moment of thought, each boy said out loud,
“That’s a rubbish name.” Rudy said, scrunching his nose up with distaste.
“So is James!” Michael shouted, crossing his arms.
“At least James sounds old-time-y! Like one of England’s old kings or whatever.” They paused for a moment more, until finally Michael said,
“What about Bronwyn?” Rudy thought about it a minute. It wasn’t bad. It sounded even older and cooler than James. Not that he would admit it to Michael fully.
“Alright. I like it. Bronwyn it is.” Rudy said. Michael beamed triumphantly, and Rudy socked his shoulder.
“Alright, see you tomorrow.” he said. Michael punched him back trying to get him with more force.
“See you tomorrow mangy grub.” He laughed. Rudy laughed back with an incredulous look on his face, shoving his hands in his back pockets and turning to walk home.
Michael awoke suddenly late in the night to hear the sound of crashing outside his window. With a strike of panic, he remembered Bronwyn the dragon was left in the barn. Was he trying to get out? Was he lonely? What if something was trying to get in?
Michael ripped open his blinds to see a large white dragon, shrieking and tearing at the barn, completely demolishing it. Presently, the little dragon poked its head out of the rubble, crying happily at the sight of its mother. Michael, dumbstruck, watched open-mouthed as the baby dragon retrieved a rat before clumsily flying to its mother. The mother used a claw to help the dragonling onto her back. Before turning to fly off into the night, the mother turned and looked pointedly at Michael, who could have sworn she was smiling, but in that scolding mother way.
After both dragons flew away clear into the night, Michael raced out of his room and down the stairs. Breathlessly, he grabbed the phone and immediately dialed Rudy’s number. Once a groggy Rudy picked up, Michael whispered loudly into the phone.
“Rudy! You’ll never believe it! Bronwyn’s mother came to pick him up, and she destroyed the barn!”