Yesterday, I abandoned the promotion of Celebration House to join my husband’s family at their annual retreat at Priest Lake, Idaho. The sun was shining; the water was warm. The food at the family potluck was amazing. Alas, with less than a week to go, I needed to be here, in front of my computer, coordinating publicity for my book.
But, I was fortunate enough to spend time with one of my husband’s cousins, Sarah, who a few weeks back opened her home to three young children in need of sanctuary. With her own two daughters, and a friend of one of these girls, Sarah took six children to the lake this weekend. I would need medication to do this, perhaps a Prozac patch. Just slap that sucker on and all is good.
While strolling to the restroom with Sarah’s daughter, Emma, I was asked, “Do you really write books?” And with a ridiculous amount of pride, I said, “Yes. Yes, I do.” I then launched into the telling of this short tale, which I share here for all to see, but especially Miss Emma. Please to enjoy The Carwash Dragon.
THE CARWASH DRAGON
Jack was afraid of nothing. Except dragons. And carwashes.
While riding his bicycle to the schoolyard to play, he heard someone crying. He stopped pedaling and there, underneath a tall pecan tree, sat a little green dragon, a pink barrette in her hair.
Her wings were folded around her body like ear muffs. Her tail draped around her neck like a lost scarf. But despite tail and wings, Jack heard the little dragon crying.
Jack was afraid of dragons. But who can pedal past someone who is so sad? Jack had to stop. He got off his bicycle and walked over to the little dragon, who sat sniffling and snuffling. After a minute, she blew her nose on her tail.
“Are you okay, little dragon?” Jack asked.
Without even looking up, the dragon said, “I’m lost,” and cried even louder. A puddle of tears pooled around her feet.
Jack didn’t know what to do. His mom and dad would know what to do, but they were a block behind him. They couldn’t keep up with Jack when he rode his bicycle. They walked but he pedaled.
“Fly up high, little dragon. You can find your house if you fly above the trees.”
“I’m afraid of heights,” the dragon said, pointing to the sky with her front foot. Unfolding her wings, she looked at Jack for the first time.
When she saw Jack, she closed her wings back against her body.
“What’s wrong?” Jack asked, looking around to see what had spooked the dragon.
“I’m afraid of little boys,” she said, her sobs shaking her whole body.
“Everybody is afraid of something,” Jack told her. “I’m afraid of the carwash.”
The dragon stopped sniffling. She unfolded her wings and laid down her tail.
“I’m not afraid of the carwash,” she said.
“You’re not?” Jack asked. He was surprised.
“No. I like the cool water on my skin, and those big blue brushes scratch my back in just the right spot. It’s a lot faster than a bath too.”
“What about the hot air that blows at the end?” Jack asked. “Doesn’t that scare you?”
“No. It blows my scales dry so I don’t catch a cold when I go outside.”
“But carwashes are so loud,” Jack said.
She shrugged. “I guess I’m used to it. Our lair is right by the carwash.”
“It is?” Jack asked. “I know how to get to the carwash. Climb on my bike, and I’ll take you there.”
“Well, are you sure it’s safe?”
“C’mon,” Jack told her. “You can trust me. Here, I’ll help you up. My name is Jack.”
“I’m Olive. It’s nice to meet you.”
Jack got off the bike and held the handlebars steady. The dragon stepped up into the basket on the bicycle, right behind his seat. Jack swung his legs back over the bicycle frame. Her feet tucked into the basket, the little dragon rested her front claws on Jack’s shoulders. Her breath felt warm on his neck.
“Okay. I’m ready,” she told Jack. “But go slow. I’ll get scared if you go too fast.”
Jack started pedaling, the dragon perched behind him. He pedaled this way and that, turning left and then right, until he got to the carwash. Soaring high above the building were two huge dragons, their shadows crisscrossing the ground.
“That’s my mom and dad,” the dragon said. “Hey! I’m down here,” she shouted to them and waved.
Suddenly, the earth shook. Sitting right in front of Jack were the two biggest dragons he’d ever imagined, their wings green and golden in the sunlight. Olive jumped down from the bicycle and ran to her parents, who both looked at Jack curiously.
“Where have you been, Olive?” the first dragon asked. Her voice reminded Jack of his mother’s voice when he was in trouble.
“I got lost, Mom,” she said, looking down at the ground.
“And who is your friend?” the other, even-bigger dragon asked, his deep voice booming in Jack’s ears.
“His name is Jack, and he’s very brave,” Olive said to her father. “He’s not afraid of anything.”
“He’s not?” her father asked. “How unusual.”
“Do your parents know where you are, Jack?” her mother asked.
“No, ma’am. I better be going.”
Olive stepped up to Jack and kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you for bringing me home,” she said to Jack. “You are fearless.”
Jack turned his bike around and pedaled back towards home. He heard both of his parents calling his name as he reached the schoolyard.
“Where have you been, Jack? We looked for you everywhere,” his mother said.
“I went to the carwash.”
“That’s a long way to pedal by yourself,” his dad said.
“I wasn’t alone. I took a friend home.”
“You rode all the way to the carwash, Jack? Weren’t you afraid?” his mother asked.
“Yes, I was. But it seemed more important to take her home than to feel afraid. And when I got there, I felt…”
What word had Olive used? Jack remembered.
“I felt fearless.”