This week McTiller once again hosts the Twenty Four Hour Short Story Challenge.
A little boy or girl constantly insists that they really have a pet dragon.
You can find the full contest/rules here:
Luckily, I got up early enough to write this and still have today to work on the house.
Here are my story and my hat.
Sally sat with her dragon in the child psychologist's office with her parents, Henry and Janet.
Henry is a construction worker and Janet, a homemaker.
Dr. Richardson smiles pleasantly and watches the family.
“Our little Sally keeps saying that she sees a dragon,” says Henry.
“We just think she is a little too old have an imaginary friend,” says Janet.
“It’s just that she really believes it,” says Henry, “We are worried . . . is this normal?”
Sally sits quietly and smiles. The dragon sits on the floor next to her with a worried look. He is large and fills the corner of the room where he sits. Puffs of smoke coming from his nose as he breathes.
“Call me Theodore,” the dragon said to Sally when they first met years ago.
“Theodore . . . after Dr. Seuss?” Asked Sally.
“Yes, that is his real name,” said the dragon, "Theodore Geisel, how do you know that?”
“I read a lot,” she said, “And not just little children's stories . . . I read about bigger things. Sometimes I go to the library at school and just read. Our school has three kinds of encyclopedias: World, Collier, and the Encyclopedia Britannica; I’m going thru Colliers now.”
The dragon looked up and put his hand to his head . . . he tapped his skull with his claws. He is thinking hard like dragons do; a thought, slow but sure . . . begins to emerge.
The dragon rolls his enormous head, his smoking beak creating a white puffy ring in the air. His wings take up half the room's wall, and his tail easily stretches full across the floor.
“You are reading the encyclopedia . . . and you are eight years old?”
“Yes, of course, I like to read. I spend a lot of time reading in the library. We don’t have many books at home . . . the few we do have, I have read so many times. My Book House series . . . that’s where you’re from . . . I’m sure.”
“Oh’ yeah,” said Theodore, “. . . that was an unpleasant slaying.”
"The Wild Life Encyclopedia . . . that’s mostly a picture book series . . . it’s where I took a liking to encyclopedias; so much information in a set. Each time I read thru the letters, I go more in-depth and learn about things I glossed over the first few times,” Sally added, “You are not in the Wild Life Encyclopedia . . .”
Theodore looked off to one side sheepishly . . . and smiled.
That was six years ago.
Today, Dr. Richardson is saying, “Many children, sometimes as old as 17 years, report having an imaginary friend. In this case, Sally’s imaginary friend just happens to be a dragon.”
“I never had an imaginary friend,” said Henry, “All my friends work hard, just like me.”
Janet looked pensive, “I had some dolls that I would play with. I talked to them . . . maybe that’s where she gets it.”
Janet looked at Sally then at Henry as if to say, “It’s my fault.”
“They don’t like to read,” said the dragon.
Sally shot Theodore a quieting glance.
Theodore cupped his hands in front of his snout and yelled . . . “They are both morons!”
“Would you like to say something Sally,” asked Dr. Richardson?
“You don’t have to call me sir,” said Dr. Richardson, “You can call me just Dr. if you prefer.”
“Thank you, Dr. . . . Richardson,’’ said Sally.
From the corner of her eye, she could see that Theodore had diminished in size. He was looking at his blue scaly arms . . . then at his hands and claws . . . he was half his former size. He looked at Sally . . . his beak open; he couldn’t get out . . . he couldn’t run away . . . he was trapped.
“They never read to you as a child,” said Theodore, “. . . now they want to control how you live.”
The dragon reached out to Sally.
Sally made a stealthy fist and squeeze hard.
“She always wants to read,” said Henry, “All the . . . time. The same books . . . over and over.”
“She only needs to read one book over and over . . . and she won’t do that,” said Janet.
Dr. Richardson continued, “Sometimes children with an active imagination will create an invisible friend as a way of adjusting for being an only child . . . such as Sally.”
“She is fourteen now, Dr., it’s time for her to put away childish things," snapped Janet.
“Obviously she is a very intelligent and imaginative young woman,” said Dr. Richardson, “Sometimes that just needs to be expressed in a safe way.”
“We just want whats best for her,” said Henry, “For her to know that the world . . . is a very practical place.”
“She daydreams too much,” added Janet.
Dr. Richardson's ever relaxed and pleasant smile, along with his easy-going manner made Sally grin. She knew: He could see Theodor.
She furtively winked at the dragon . . . who was shrunken to the size of a puppy.
“Tell me, Sally . . . tell me about the dragon,” said Dr. Richardson.
“I first read about dragons in stories. My Little Book House; later in the encyclopedias . . . now, they are in the movies, television, all over the place.”
Theodore whispered, ". . . my fire is going out.”
“Are dragons real?” Asked Dr. Richardson, “Is there one here now?”
“Dragons are not in the Wild Life Encyclopedia; they are not real . . . there are no real dragons."
Sally heard a sigh of relief from her parents; from Theodore, she heard a sigh of resignation.
Dr. Richardson was quite for time . . . then said, “Our times pretty much up anyway . . . I want to thank you for coming in.”
Janet and Henry thanked Dr. Richardson. As they prepared to leave Dr. Richardson said, “I want to talk to Sally alone for a minute.”
Janet and Henry stepped out and could be seen with the receptionist beyond earshot.
Dr. Richardson turned his attention to Sally and asked, “What is your dragon’s name?”
“Theodore,” said Sally, “like the writer.”
“Dr. Seuss," the psychologist nodded, “Do you plan on writing children’s books?”
Not the least bashful or intimidated . . . more like the old soul who she really is, Sally said, “Aren’t they all just children’s books.”
Dr. Richardson leaned back and saying, “Your parents are also right you know; the world is a practical place. It’s not easy being a writer. Being a psychologist isn’t a bad job - to fall back on.
Sally smiled, “. . . I know . . . I’ve read your books, Dr. Richardson.”
“Sally . . . call me Ted.”
"Thank you, Ted.”
Sally Sanders rejoined her parents.
Theodore sat looking at his new fawn sized body approvingly.
Dr. Ted Richardson was writing when he noticed the smoke from the dragon’s snout, he looked up and said to Theodore, “Go on . . . get out of here . . . she’s waiting for you.”
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