We’ve been fighting the creeping crud for a couple of weeks and seemed to finally be turning the corner on it.  It had not been a fun experience, and I would not wish it on anyone, but the other day, it reminded me of a time about 12 years ago, when I had a very sick little boy, and as I was sitting there on the edge of his bed, wishing I could make him feel better, he said 5 words that at that moment, with my mind foggy with taking care of him, stumped me.

He said, “Papa, tell me a story.”

I wracked my brain, trying to come up with something, then heard the first four words below come out of my mouth, and then just hung on for the ride…

“Fred was a dragon.”

Uh… Right… where do I go from here?

(My son was really into dragons at the time, had a Folkmanis dragon puppet he loved – he called him Drako, after the movie – I gave him the voice of Sean Connery – which, after a little practice, I did quite well)  I held Drako, who eagerly listened to the story of Fred as I went on.

I was still baffled at where I was going to go with the story, but I plowed ahead valiantly…

“A nice dragon, but a dragon nonetheless.”

One night Fred had some trouble falling asleep, as he had somehow come across some knights that had on a new type of armor, and eating them was giving him some serious indigestion.

So Fred tossed and turned that night (which is bad, since when a 35 foot dragon tosses and turns, it tends to break anything in its path).

Another problem came with that indigestion.

He burped.

Not just your gentle “Oh, pardon me” type of a burp, but a rip snorting full blown gonzo whopper of a burp.

If this had been you or me burping, or even one of those knights, it would have been different.

But Fred was a Dragon.

And rip snorting full blown gonzo dragon burps are things to be seen.

From a distance.

From a Long distance.  Like maybe the next mountain top over.

Another thing about dragon burps is that — well you have to know a little science for this one…

About this time, the light, so to speak, went on in my head, and I had an idea where the story was going to go. 

I asked Michael, “You know how a rocket blows fire out one end and goes in the other direction?”

He nodded.

“The same thing happens with dragon burps.  And by the time Fred had burped a couple of times he was blasted so far back into the cave from them that he could barely breathe.

I’d say, “You can’t make this stuff up,” – but that’s exactly what I was doing.  I had no idea where the story was coming from.

I plunged onward…

“He decided he needed to get out, maybe fly around a bit, and get some fresh air.”

So he got up and started heading for the cave opening.

Now getting up and walking caused several things to happen, one of which was that all that rumbling and growling in his tummy, that had been causing burps, moved a little further down past his tummy, and those things that had been burps were about to become something else, coming out of Fred’s — uh, ‘other end’.

Where they’re no longer called ‘burps’.

Michael smiled.

“After woozily making it up to the mouth of the cave, Fred stood there for some time, resting and breathing deeply the fresh air at the top of the mountain until he felt he could walk, or maybe even fly.”

“That’s it,” thought Fred.  “A night flight would be an excellent idea!”

And so Fred started his takeoff run.

At first it wasn’t a run, it was barely a walk. (he was still a little woozy, you know) and then it became a sort of a lumbering trundle (this would be faster than a walk, but not quite a run yet).

While this was happening on the outside, on Fred’s inside other things were happening.  All of those things that Fred had eaten that were giving him the indigestion (all the knights and that new armor and so on) were rumbling together faster and faster, and it was building up to one pretty good sized burp, or something else, depending on where it was inside Fred at the time.

That lumbering trundle became a bit of a run, and Fred started flapping his wings, as all dragons must do to take off.

Except Fred was so woozy that he wasn’t flapping fast enough.

And he was coming close to the edge of the mountaintop.

As all pilots know, this was a dangerous place to be, hurtling along at a run directly toward the edge without enough speed or flapping to actually fly.  He flapped harder, and tried to run faster, but for a long, scary moment, it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.

And then several things happened so fast that it was hard to tell which happened first.

Fred, by now getting scared more than any dragon really had a right to be be, took a deep breath and held it as he put all his energy into running as fast as he could.

At that same moment, all of the knights and armor and stuff had rumbled together so fast that a burp was coming.

Not an ordinary burp, but a rip snorting full blown gonzo whopper of a burp.

And right then, Fred got to the edge of the mountaintop and tried to give it one last push to get into the air.

And he stumbled.

The claw on the big toe of his right rear foot hit a rock.  A small rock, really, but a special rock.  This was the kind of rock that sparked when you hit it with things like dragon claws.

And at that same moment, the burp finally came out.

Except Fred had just held his breath to run.

So Fred couldn’t burp.  And it had to go *somewhere*

This burp came out, only most folks don’t call it a burp when it comes out *that* end of a dragon.

I then asked Michael, “Remember when I told you about the rocket? And how when the fire comes out in one direction the rocket moves in the other?”

He nodded, paying attention..

“And do you remember how when Fred sneezed it blew him back into the cave?”

He nodded again – and I continued.

“Well, this didn’t blow him back into the cave.  “

It blasted him straight up into the air.  Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING on the top of that mountain, was singed by the blast.

Trees no longer had leaves on them.

Bushes no longer had branches on them.

Even Small furry animals no longer had fur on them.

But Fred wasn’t aware of any of that.

In fact, Fred, who moments before had been worried about even being able to take off, was hurtling through the atmosphere faster than any dragon had ever flown.

His eyes were watering, his lips were almost blubbering from the wind and he was just beginning to get control of his wings when he saw the bird.

The bird, on the other hand, lost control of everything when it saw Fred.

Here it was, flying peacefully along on a cool evening, enjoying the stars, the wind, the scenery, when up through this cloud came this –

– and the sound of the startled dragon scream could be heard throughout the valley below.

In fact, the smell of roasted bird and burnt feathers could be smelled for some time, too.

Fred was climbing so fast that nothing in front of him could hear him, and eventually, as he started gliding down and wiped the bird doo-doo out of his eyes, he realized he was above the clouds, and had no idea where he was or how to get home.

He kept gliding, in circles, until he saw a glow in the clouds, and headed toward that, thinking it might help him find his mountaintop.

And he was right… it did make it easier to spot.

His mountaintop was the only one on fire.

Fred didn’t realize it that evening, but he’d just done the first rocket assisted takeoff in dragon history.

People from miles around still talk about it.

They say the top of the mountain caught fire, and well it did.

Only now you know (with credit to Paul Harvey) the rest of the story.

And my little boy was asleep.

© 2012 Tom Roush

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