Stray Dragons

I forgot to send in a prompt to More Odds than Ends this week. But, one of the nice things is that there are always spare prompts. The one I picked was: Dragons are real, and there’s now one curled up at your front door like a stray cat demanding a home.

I give you the following: Stray Dragons

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Sinead pulled into the driveway with a sigh of relief. It had been a hell of a rush hour and she was very happy to be home. Thinking about sitting on the couch devouring a delivered pizza while binge-watching her favorite TV show was almost intoxicating. Her husband was out of town until tomorrow and the kids were visiting their grandparents so she had the house to herself for this one night.

She climbed out of the car, grabbed her bag, slammed the door and headed for the front porch. Putting the key in the front door she caught a small movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned  the key and then shifted to focus on the source of the movement. What the hell?

A young dragon was curled up on the dirty towels that the kids had dropped on the porch a couple of days ago. Sinead slowly put down her bag and moved toward the bedraggled creature. Scales that should have been a shiny green-blue were dull and mud-splattered and the crest on the top of its head was drooping and had leaves caught in it. She felt a stab of pity. It was so young and obviously lost and homeless. What happened to its clan? This little guy’s been alone for a while. That’s really unusual. Dragons usually take good care of each other.

“Hey, little one. Whatcha doing?” she cooed at it.

The small dragon shifted a bit away from Sinead but didn’t move otherwise. “Oh, you poor baby. You look filthy, and you must be exhausted.” She kept her voice low and soothing while moving toward the dragon. Slowly she reached out a hand, hoping the little one didn’t flame her. No flames appeared as she moved her hand to scratch behind the drooping crest. A small, almost purring sound came from the young dragon and the eyes closed halfway as he (she?) reveled in the scratching.

“Kieran’s gonna kill me, but you’re coming inside until we figure out what to do with you.” She smiled down at it making sure to keep her voice soft and soothing.

Sinead stood up slowly and moved back toward the door. She opened the door and tossed her bag inside. Turning back to get the dragon, she jumped when she found it standing right behind her. Even though it was a young dragon, when standing its head came to her elbow.

“Oh! No, no. It’s OK. You’re fine,” she quickly returned to the soothing tone when the dragon flinched at her exclamation.

Sinead moved into the doorway and held the door open. With her other hand she made a “come-in” gesture to the dragon and reached to scratch behind the crest again. The dragon hesitantly moved into the front entryway.

“Go on. It’s OK,” Sinead encouraged it.

The dragon moved cautiously into the living room area. Its head swaying back and forth as it took in everything around it. Sinead moved around the creature and grabbed several of the big pillows she kept for those times when she felt like sitting on the floor.

“You can curl up here. But first, let’s see about getting you cleaned up.” All thoughts of collapsing on the sofa with a pizza had been driven out of her head with the need to take care of the tired, filthy little dragon who had washed up on her front porch.

She went down the hallway toward the bathroom. “Come on. Come with me,” she said encouragingly, gesturing to the dragon.

“Let’s get you cleaned up and fed. Then you’ll feel better. I’m guessing a steak will work for dinner tonight? I’ll call the vet in the morning and figure out what I need to pick up for you tomorrow. Oh, and I guess I better call Kieran. You’ll like him. He’s a good guy.” She kept up a soothing stream of comments while coaxing the dragon toward the bathroom and the bathtub.

The dragon’s head tilted quizzically as it looked at her. She continued down the hall toward the bathroom and the dragon followed curiously.

“Here you go. I’m really glad I talked Kieran into installing that jacuzzi tub in here last summer. You should just about fit. Let me get the water warm and then you can just climb in.” She ran the water and started filling the big tub. The dragon’s eyes lit up and it butted its head into her arm almost knocking her over. Once the tub was about half full, she estimated that was enough as the dragon was large enough to displace about half the water. She stopped the water and stepped back to let the dragon climb into the tub. Its eyes became mere slits as it sank into the warm water. It started making the purring sound again.

“OK. You soak and I’m going to go find something to scrub your scales with. I don’t think that caked on mud is going to come off with just water.”

Sinead left the dragon soaking and went back to the kitchen to hunt for something that could be used to clean a dragon. She grabbed a scrub brush and her phone. I really do need to call Kieran before I forget, and he gets a huge surprise when he comes home tomorrow. The kids are going to freak out too.

She returned to the bathroom to find the dragon had rolled over to soak its back. The exposed belly was crisscrossed with scars, some of which looked older while a couple looked more recent.

“Oh, you poor baby! What happened? How did you get those scars? We’re definitely visiting the vet tomorrow.” Sinead grabbed a washcloth and started gently wiping the dirt off the belly scales. The young dragon flinched once when she went across one of the newer scars, but otherwise seemed to enjoy the attention.

“Come on, now. Roll back over so I can get your back,” Sinead said as she put a little pressure on the dragon’s shoulder to persuade it to roll back onto its belly. One golden eye cracked open and Sinead made a rolling gesture with her hands.

She held up the brush. “I need to get the mud off of your scales and then we have to rinse you off.”

Whether it was her hand gesture or whether the dragon actually understood her, Sinead was not sure. She’d never lived with a dragon before. But it rolled over. The water was already cloudy with dirt but there was still a good deal of mud on the dragon’s back.

As she brushed at the caked-on mud, Sinead kept up a steady flow of talk.

“Look at you. Once we get the dirt off you’ll be a beautiful emerald green. Wow. Do you have a name? What’s a good dragon name anyway? We’ll have to come up with something that fits you. How big are you going to get? That could cause some problems. But don’t worry. We’ll figure it all out. You’re home and you don’t have to worry about anything anymore. OK. I’m done. Let me drain the tub and I’ll turn on the shower so we can clean your wings and you can rinse off. Ready? OK, here’s the shower.”

The dragon gave a slight start when the shower came on, but then lifted its head into the rush of water. He spread his wings as far as possible and keep them under the falling water. Sinead used the flexible shower head to make sure the wings were cleaned and the dragon was completely rinsed off. She grabbed a couple of beach towels and did her best to dry him (her?) off before he stepped out of the tub. She settled on “he” for the dragon. She wasn’t sure why, but it seemed right.

Once he stepped out of the tub, Sinead led the way back to the kitchen and started rummaging in the refrigerator. The dragon followed her more confidently this time, humming his sorta purr. I never knew dragons could purr. He pushed his head under her elbow and scanned the inside of the fridge. Sinead gently pushed him away and closed the door.

“OK, there is a roast here. You can have that. I’ll buy another one tomorrow for us. You and I will go to the vet’s office tomorrow to check you out and I’ll get you some proper dragon food.”

She grabbed a big plastic chip bowl and filled it with water. She put that and the roast on the table in front of the dragon where he could easily reach it. He dove in eagerly, taking a long drink of water before turning to the roast. Sinead smiled and picked up her phone to order that long-awaited pizza for herself.

The pizza arrived about half an hour later and she moved into the living room with the now-sated dragon following. As she settled down on the couch, the dragon curled up on the cushions on the floor and closed his eyes.

Sinead grabbed a slice of pizza and smiled down at her new friend. “Well, little guy. We have to come up with a name, and I guess I should finally call Kieran and let him know that you’re living with us now.”

The dragon opened one eye and looked at her. A small sigh followed and the eye closed again. Sinead picked up her phone again and dialed Kieran’s number.

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

DNA and me

Once again, it’s time for prompts from More Odds Than Ends. Many thanks to ‘nother Mike who created this prompt. It’s so true that practicing writing makes it better. These prompts have improved my writing in the fiction area, just like I improved in the academic area. It’s something I emphasize to my students. But, sometimes, we need to practice what we preach and see things grow for themselves. I’m grateful I have these opportunities to practice and get feedback.

Prompt: Your kids sent in your DNA samples for analysis, and the company wrote back, explaining that they only do human DNA analyses… What do you tell them? Describe that scene with your kids.

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The kids came crashing in through the front door, chattering in excitement. Standing in the kitchen, I couldn’t quite make out what they were talking about, but the level of excitement made me smile. Triplets, like twins, often develop their own language and unique communication characteristics and my crew was no exception.

“Mom! Mom! A letter came for you!” Trystan was the oldest (by three minutes) of the group and often took the lead. I think the other two deferred to him without even thinking about it.

“OK. But, why the excitement? We get mail all the time.” I smiled as I took the proffered envelope. Glancing at the return address, I felt my heart sink a bit. Oh, dear. There was going to be some explaining to do here.

Genetic History, Inc. was one of those mail in a swab and we’ll tell you about your genetic background companies.

“Um, guys, what is this?” I kept my expression neutral as I looked at three identical excited faces.

“It’s your birthday present! We saw an ad on TV and thought it would be fun to find out where we all come from! Read it!” Padrig, the “youngest”, was the explainer and chief negotiator.

“OK.” I knew what the letter was going to say, but how was I going to break the information to the kids? Well, I guess I’d have to make it up as I went along. The anticipation was getting mixed in with some anxiety now. They were wondering why I wasn’t as excited as they were and as they expected me to be.

“OK,” I said again and opened the small package. Inside was a small vial and a single sheet of paper. I put the vial aside and unfolded the sheet of paper. Clearing my throat and taking a deep breath, I started reading it out loud.

Dear Ms. Griffin,

Thank you for submitting your DNA sample to Genetic History, Inc. We greatly appreciate your trust in our company.

Unfortunately, we are only equipped to analyze human DNA, and therefore we are unable to process your submitted sample. In the interests of privacy, we have returned your sample. Should you wish to pursue your genetic research we recommend that you submit your sample to HumanFae Ancestry (HFA, Inc.). They are a highly reliable organization specializing in the analysis of non-human DNA.

Thank you again for your confidence in us and the best of luck in your genetic research.

Sincerely,

Ronald L. Barclay, CEO
Genetic History, Inc.

The silence in the kitchen was deafening. I raised my eyes from the letter to see three astonished faces gaping at me.

“What does that mean? Non-human? Didn’t they do the test?” My “middle” child, Anwyn, was the worrier and the one who didn’t like things to go sideways. Clearly finding out that mom was not human was the ultimate in things going sideways.

“Guys, you know how much I love you. But, yeah. There is one thing I didn’t tell you yet. I was kind of hoping to do this in about a year, but I guess we’ll do it now. Let’s go sit on the sofa.” I moved into the family room and plopped myself down in the middle of our well-used couch. The kids slowly followed and arranged themselves in their usual pattern around me. Trystan on my left; Arwyn and Padrig on my right. This was our pattern when we read to each other or watched TV or movies together. When their dad was home, he sat on the other side of Arwyn. This sofa and our seating arrangement on it represented our family together time.

I looked at each of them. Their faces were alive with curiosity. I smiled. I couldn’t be any more proud of them than I was right now.

“Let me tell you everything and then you can ask all the questions you want and I’ll do my best to answer them. Deal?”

Three heads nodded in unison.

“OK. I’m not human. I’m not a monster. At least not like something out of a story. But, I’m not human. I’m fae. That’s somebody from what your books call fairy people. I was sent away many years ago because the Queen became very angry with me. I wound up here and met your father. We were very happy for many years. We were extremely happy when we found out I was pregnant with you three. Fae have a very difficult time having children, so the idea that we were going to have three children was exciting.” I paused, assessing their expressions.

“Mom? Can I ask a question now?” Trystan’s voice was hesitant.

“Yes, sweetheart. What is it?” The hesitation in his voice tugged at my heart. I didn’t want my children to be afraid to ask me questions.

“You’re…a…fairy?”

“Yes. Does that bother you?”

Three voices came back in a chorus. “That’s SO COOL!!”

I had to laugh. I had worried about having this talk, but I guess those fears were overblown. I settled in to answer the flurry of questions that were being fired at me.

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This one was a lot of fun to write. I love the mix of “real world” with supernatural. These are the worlds I like to write in. I think this one has the potential for at least a short story if not more. I’m going to let it marinate for a while.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

And so it begins…

The Spring 2020 semester starts tomorrow. I just got back yesterday from 11 days in Belgium and Netherlands with my students. I have finished two out of three syllabi. And, those two are for the same class (2 sections). The third one, my class on Russian politics, is not in the online learning management system yet. The last time I taught it was before we got this new system. So, that will take some time to input all the modules and info for them. Fun.

On the “I’m grateful for…” side of things, I’m grateful I teach Tuesdays and Thursdays so I have tomorrow to work on getting everything uploaded and semi-functioning. I can spend the day working on that so that on Tuesday it’s all ready and looks like I’m totally organized. Ha!

On the WTF?! side of things, we have our first big meeting of the semester tomorrow as well. Oh, joy. I started seeing the emails for several meetings last week, but since I was busy doing pedagogically sound activities with students I was able to totally ignore most of them.

Continued: Monday Jan. 13.

The semester started today. I’m grateful that my schedule is Tuesday/Thursday this semester. We did have a meeting this afternoon, but at least I didn’t have to teach today. Tomorrow is three classes back-to-back. Oh, joy. More and more I think that work puts a real crimp in the work I really want to do.

You might have noticed that I’m doing a weekly writing prompt exercise over at More Odds Than Ends. I’ve posted them here. Last week’s was “Old Keys.” I had fun writing it and I’m very much looking forward to continuing this exercise in the foreseeable future. Waiting to see what the next one will be. In the meantime, I greatly appreciate your reading them and I’ve love to read any comments you might have.

OK. I’m off to bed. Long day tomorrow. Here’s to a good, and less stressful Spring 2020 semester.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Old keys

The Week 2 of Odd prompts found me sorting through a coffee can of old keys. I’m traveling with my students and this has been a welcome change.

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Old Keys

I pulled the can off of the top shelf in the garage. The left side of the two-car garage had been my dad’s workshop/home appliance repair area. He’d spent hours and days puttering around out here, in all kinds of weather, at almost all hours of the day. If mom hadn’t insisted he get some sleep, and preferably in their bed, I truly believe he would have slept out here as well. Now I was cleaning it out along with the rest of the house so it could be sold.

The can was heavy and there was a metallic rattle when it shifted. Probably a bunch of screws and nails. All saved “just in case.” Dad never threw anything away because, according to him, you never knew when you might need it. He wasn’t really a hoarder, except when it came to screws, nuts, bolts, washers, and nails. I’d already found about 10 coffee cans full of all of those. This was probably one more.

I peered into the rusted Folger’s coffee can. Holy crap. It was filled with keys. Keys! Not just a couple dozen or so (something I would expect to find in a house that had been lived in for almost 50 years), but almost a full coffee can’s worth. Did any of these work on the current locks? Knowing dad, they probably worked on the original locks for the house.

“Michael! Where are you?” My wife’s voice came through the door that went into the house from the garage.

“Out here, in the garage. You gotta see this!” I yelled back, staring into the Folger’s can.

Jenna appeared in the doorway. “What did you find?”

I simply handed over the coffee can. “What am I supposed to do with these?”

“Wow. That’s a hella lot of keys. Can’t you just throw them out?” Jenna looked up at me.

“I suppose. But…something tells me I have to go through them just to be sure. Who knows what dad put in there. Besides, some of them might go to the current locks in the house. I’d feel better knowing we accounted for them all.”

I took the can back and followed Jenna back into the house and went through to the kitchen. I unceremoniously dumped the keys out on the kitchen table.

Jenna started sorting through them. “A lot of these look the same. Why don’t we start there? Find your keys to the house. We can compare them and see if any of these are house keys.” She pulled out a chair and got to work sorting keys.

Thank God for my wife. If I’d been alone, I would have simply stared at the pile on the table. I had mostly made it through the weeks after my parent’s deaths because of her. She took care of all the practical stuff and just told me where to go. And I went. The police to deal with the aftermath of the accident, the hospital to see them and be there when the machines were unplugged, the funeral home. Everything. She handled it all and pointed me in the right direction. Now she was helping me do something as mundane as sort keys. How did I get so lucky?

“Michael. What could this possibly go to?” Jenna was holding up an antique key with a fanciful design on the handle end.

I stared at the key. “That looks like it might actually open that bottom drawer in the old dresser in their bedroom. I have no idea what could be in there, but why don’t we try it?” I took the key from her and headed into the master bedroom.

I had to stop at the door and take a deep breath. I hadn’t touched this room yet. I couldn’t bring myself to go through their clothes, my mother’s jewelry, anything. In this room, their room, they were still alive. I pushed down a sob and felt Jenna’s hand on the small of my back.

She gave me a hug. “I know. Let’s just see if the key fits and then go back to the kitchen. It’s probably something your dad found and couldn’t throw away. It is a beautiful key.”

I nodded and moved into the room toward the dresser that sat next to the window. I don’t know that it would qualify as an antique, but it was old. And damn if it didn’t look like the key was made for that bottom drawer.

I knelt down in front of the dresser, put the key in the keyhole, and slowly turned it. A soft click and a small release of pressure told me it did indeed unlock the drawer. I glanced over at Jenna who had knelt on the floor next to me. She smiled at me and made a “go on” gesture with her hand. I pulled open the drawer not knowing what to expect.

“Holy shit!”

“Oh, my God!”

Jenna and I yelled simultaneously. The drawer was filled, filled, top to bottom, front to back, side to side with $100 bills. There had to be close to a million dollars or more in that dresser drawer. In cash.

“Michael, look!” Jenna’s hand was shaking as she pointed to a white envelope sitting in the middle on top of all the cash. She picked up the envelope, glanced at it and handed it to me. Her eyes were wide.

The envelope was addressed to me. I tore it open and pulled out the single sheet of paper inside.

Seeing my father’s crabbed handwriting made me tear up again.

Dear Michael,

Congratulations. You found the key and figured out where it fit. This is your real inheritance. I didn’t want to put it in with the other investments even though it might have made more that way. Do with this as you see fit, although I wouldn’t spend it all in one place. That makes the IRS suspicious and you know how I feel about them.

I had to laugh. My father’s dislike of the IRS was a legend in the extended family.

There’s $1,750,000 in here. It’s all yours, son. I love you.

Dad

P.S. Your mother says she loves you too.

Water dripped onto the paper. I took the Kleenex offered by Jenna and wiped off my tears.

“Well, Dad. You finally did it. I’m speechless.” I looked up to the heavens and laughed.

******

This was actually kinda fun to write. My father was not like this in terms of fixer upper coffee cans full of screws, and he didn’t have a workshop in the garage. But for some reason he was front and center while I was writing this.

Writing prompt and traveling

Writing prompt from More Odds than Ends: octopus ink and cuttlefish quills from Cedar Sanderson.

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“Dammit.” Jonathon shook the small bottle. Nothing.

“Edwards!”

“Yes, sir?” the almost sibilant response came from his immediate left. He jumped. “Dammit! don’t DO that! You’re lucky I’m out of ink. If I’d spilled it on this document I would be extremely unhappy with you!”

“Yes, sir. I apologize.”

“Damn straight. I need more ink and a new cuttlefish quill. Now.” Jonathon tamped down his rising impatience. He knew that it would take a few minutes for Edwards to produce enough ink to refill the bottle. The octopod did not like to be observed when producing ink. It could be an annoying habit, but one Jonathon was willing to put up with in light of Edwards’ other talents.

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I’m traveling with my students this week, so I think my next prompt will be inspired by that.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay