Pages Navigation Menu

George and the Dragon (1994)

George and the Dragon (1994)

©1994, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1994). George and the dragon. Unpublished short story.

Most of my attempts to write stories for children have turned out disasters. I like this tale, however, and hope you will, too.





George and the Dragon

A Short Story By Dallas Denny

You must understand— George wasn’t looking for a dragon. He wasn’t looking for anything. He was just walking around in the woods behind his home, kicking at the leaves. He was unhappy with his mother, who had made the unreasonable demand that he clean his room— a detestable task. George was sure that when he grew up his home would be full of dust and cobwebs, with underwear and shirts draped artistically on the furniture and dirty pots rusting in the sink— or so he was telling himself when he saw the dragon.

Now, again, please understand: it was but a little dragon. That is, as dragons, go, it was on the small side. On a human scale, however, it was quite large. Perhaps we could go so far as to say it was huge. Let’s just note that it was bigger than an elephant but smaller than, say, a fully-grown blue whale. It was perhaps 30 feet from stem to stern, that is, from snout to tail, covered with handsome iridescent scales which sparkled in the stray sunbeams that made their way through the leaves. Its gossamer wings were folded tightly against its sides, and its clawed feet were tucked daintily under its body. The great head was tilted to one side, the eyes closed, and only a bit of smoke trickled from its nostrils. It was quite asleep.

Even a sleeping dragon can be fearsome, but for some reason George wasn’t afraid. He walked up closely and stood, staring at the creature. Gingerly, he reached out and touched a wing with the tip of a finger.

“Be careful of that. It tears easily.” This from the dragon, which had opened one of its eyes ever so slightly.

“Oh, I’m sorry. My— my apologies,” stammered George, who had decided that it couldn’t hurt to be polite to so great a creature. “I was just curious.”

“As you should be,” said the dragon. “We’re quite uncommon these days, you know.”

“I should think so!” said George. “I mean, I’ve never seen a dragon before, even at the zoo. You are a dragon, right?”

“A dragon indeed!” snorted the creature. And we’re more than rare— we’re extinct, officially. Some say we never existed. That would make me a figment of your imagination.”

“I don’t think a figment did that!” said George, pointing to a patch of scorched vegetation.

The dragon sighed. “I must have hiccuped,” it said. “I’m more or less harmless, really, but I would advise you not to stand directly in front of me, especially when I’ve eaten something likely to give me gas.”

“That’s not what the stories say,” said George. “About you being harmless, I mean. Aren’t you supposed to burn villages and eat people and all that?”

Again the dragon sighed. “That was once in the job description,” it said, “but things change, you know. These days we’re rather out of work. In the day we would have to deal with an errant knight now and again— usually, we would devour him, which would more or less put an end to the problem— but in these modern times we’re forced to dodge airliners when we’re aloft and ships and submarines when we’re in the sea, and trains and trucks and bicyclists when we’re in pedestrian mode. It’s not safe to be a dragon these days. And the paperwork! Do you have an idea how many forms I would have to fill out if I accidentally ate even one person? Besides, people wouldn’t leave us alone if they knew we were about, so we try to stay out of sight. If people were to get worked up about us, we would have no rest. Could you imagine the media coverage?”

“You watch TV?” asked George, incredulously.

“You must admit, it’s a great way to waste time— of which I have a surfeit.” The dragon rustled its wings. “You know the legends— we hoard treasure, we do. Would you like to see mine?”

“Certainly,” said George, envisioning jewels and rare metals.

“There it is,” said the dragon, pointing to a sack on the top of which sat a black-and-white portable television and three paperback books. “It’s not much, I’m afraid, but I’ve never been particularly materialistic. I used to have a Walkman, but as you might imagine, it’s difficult for a dragon to order CDs. I’m thinking of getting a computer so I can do my shopping on line. I would have to have an address for delivery, of course, or at least a mailbox. Do you think I could use yours?”

For George, the unreality of talking to a dragon was just beginning to sink in. He sat down heavily on the leaves that covered the ground. “You’re really a dragon!” he said. “How old are you?”

“Oh, not old,” said the dragon cheerily. “I’m just a juvenile. I’d say eight hundred and fifty of your years.”

“That’s certainly old!” exclaimed George.

“For you humans, I suppose it is,” said the dragon. “I don’t know how you people get anything done,” it lamented. “Why, I’ve slept through entire centuries. How can you do so much in just seventy or eighty short years?”

“That seems like a long time to me,” said George. “I’m only nine years old.”

The dragon goggled. “Nine? Why, it was more than two decades before I left the nest!”

“That’s twenty years, right?” said George. “I know what a decade is, and a furlong, and a league, and a fathom. I forget about cubits. How big is a cubit, Mr. Dragon?”

“Cubits were before even my time,” said the dragon, “although perhaps not my grandfather’s. Call me Max.”

“Max? A dragon named Max?”

The dragon looked quite put out. “It’s short for Maxmillian the Fire Breather and Destroyer of Lands,” it said. “The third. My father was Maxmillian etc. Junior.” Its great face grew pensive. “Papa perished over the Channel during World War II,” he said. “He was mistaken for a dirigible by a Spitfire pilot. He exploded. All those gases in the stomach, you see, and the hot bullets. Mom was beside herself. He was still a young fellow, as dragons go.”

“Is your mother—”

“She’s quite well, thank you,” said Max. “After Papa became a casualty of war, she and my sister moved to Peru. She lives in the Andes, surviving on guinea pigs and the occasional alpaca or peasant. It’s not a dignified life, but it offers stability. The humans there have a name for her— chupacabra. It means goat sucker. And indeed, she does have a taste for goats, although she certainly don’t suck them. She takes them whole, in one bite.”

“And your sister?” asked George, gawking at Max’s huge mouth.

“She moved on to Antarctica. The cold doesn’t bother dragons much, you know. We get a bit lethargic and sleep a lot, but then we’re that way generally, even in warm weather.”

“And you live here? In the U.S.?”



“I’m an English dragon. I don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, and I’ve no great talent for learning languages, so there’s not much use in me going to South America; besides, the diet would be boring. I do fly down and see dear Mama now and again. And Antarctica, which has no languages because it has not people— except researchers, of course, who don’t count— is too cold. England, has become too small. Even the moors and peat bogs are full these days of hikers and lovers. After the war, I moved up to Scotland, which is less densely populated than England, but I was careless and was seen a few times. That got me a bit of a reputation around the Loch. Can you believe it, they called me a monster!”

“The Loch Ness monster!” exclaimed George.

“I did spend some time there,” Max admitted. “But soon they were throwing dynamite into the water and shooting motion picture film from skiffs. I retreated to the Hebrides.”

“I don’t know those,” said George whose strong suit was not, in fact, geography.

“Some islands at the top of the United Kingdom,” said Max. “But there just wasn’t enough breathing room. I flew to Newfoundland by way of Iceland, where I laid over for a month or so, to rest up. Dragons aren’t built for transatlantic flights. The sheep in Iceland are delicious.”

“But you’re not in Newfoundland any more.”

“No, I’m not,” said Max. I knew from reading— by the way, did you ever try to read a book without using your hands? It’s most difficult. I knew the East Coast was teeming with people, so I made my way west through Saskatchewan and Alberta, and up to the Northwest Territories, with an occasional foray into the Yukon and British Columbia. If I could no longer be a British dragon, I thought I might as well be Canadian. But eventually I decided to spent a few years in the States to see what all the fuss was about. Besides, the Canadian dollar wasn’t doing well. And so, here I am.”

“But there are so many people hereabouts!” exclaimed George. “However do you avoid being detected?”

“Sometimes I don’t avoid it. People see me all the time. Sometimes they shoot at me.” Max extended a wing, nodding at a pattern of small holes. “Shotgun pellets. Twelve gauge. Just last week. Most annoying. Could have lost an eye or something.”

“But I’ve not read about dragons or seen them on TV,” said Geroge. “You must not be seen much.”

“When people say they’ve encountered a dragon, other people think they’re crazy. And I do try to stay in the deepest woods. I come out only when I’m hungry.”

“Are you hungry now?”

“I was. I come here sometimes for a snack. People are most careless about their dogs and cats. I occasionally get a deer. They live amazingly close to your neighborhoods.”

“You eat dogs and cats?”

“Well,” said Max defensively. “I have to eat something!”

“I suppose so,” said George. But people are fond of their pets.”

“So am I,” said Max. “Mostly, they’re delicious. Except for the collars. And terriers. They give me heartburn.”

“So you’ve already eaten?” said George, feeling, despite the thought of unfortunate dogs and cats, a bit like a late night meal.

“Well, I’m not full, you understand,” said Max, “but I did have a nice snack. I guess I dozed off afterwards.”

“So you’ll be returning home now?” said George. “Wherever that is?”

“By and by. And by the way, you never told me your name.”

“It’s George.”

Max looked perturbed, and a jet of flame escaped from one nostril. “You’ll excuse me, I’m sure, but we dragons haven’t had a particularly good history with Georges. You’re not a knight, but any chance?”

“There are no knights any more,” said Georges. “Well, there are, still, in England, but it’s an honorary thing, for people like Elton John and Paul McCartney. They don’t charge about on horses in suits of armor.”

“One wouldn’t expect them to,” said Max, dryly. “In this age of technology, they would be in Humvees and tanks, carrying machine guns and hand grenades, on in black helicopters, using radar and satellites and drones to track us. If they believed in dragons, that is.”

“But they don’t?”

“Fortunately not.”

“I still don’t see how you can escape detection.”

Slowly, Max pulled himself to his feet. “Watch this,” he said. As George watched, ripples of color began to play across his skin. Within seconds, he was a perfect match for his background. Even though George knew where Max was, it was impossible to see where background ended and dragon started. “We share genes with chameleons,” Max said, from out of nowhere. Suddenly, his head and long neck reappeared. “I’m usually in invisibility mode, but sometimes, when I sleep, the chromatophores in my skin relax. I must be more careful.”

Belatedly, it occurred to George that, having seen the dragon, he might in some way constitute a threat. “What— what do you do when people do see you?”

“Oh, generally nothing. Usually they get a fleeting glimpse and aren’t sure what they’ve seen. Most often, they keep their mouths shut. When they don’t, other people think they made me up or were hallucinating. Come to think of it,” Max said, yawning, “I’ve not had a talk like this with a human since— since— well, the men all wore powdered wigs. I was in France. There was this little peasant girl—

“Joan of Arc?”

Max snorted. “Certainly not. I know of that one. She heard voices from invisible beings. Burned her at the stake for dressing as a man. Come to think of it, it might have been one of my relatives who was chatting with her. But the girl I talked to was smart enough to keep her mouth shut.” Max cocked his head and looked at George in an appraising manner.

“You got it,” George. said. “Mum’s the word.”

“What does your mum have to do with it?” asked Max, who was, after all, a British dragon.

“I thought you watched television,” said George. “I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

“You don’t have to, of course,” said Max, “but I would appreciate it.”

“So, tell me about this fire breathing thing,” said George. “How do you do it?”

“Intestinal gasses, mostly,” said Max. “I compress them and they grow hot, and when I release them and they hit the air they ignite. I’m good for about 30 seconds at a time, more when I’ve eaten someone that has disagreed with me. So tell me about this writing thing. How do you do that?”

“It helps to have hands,” said George, waving his fingers in Max’s face. “Fingers. Opposable thumbs. You mentioned you don’t have—”

“I prefer having wings,” snorted Max, “to those ridiculous little forelimbs of the tyrannosaurs. Still, fingers would be handy sometimes. I would particularly like to be able to remove the collars from those household pets. They interfere with my digestion.”

“Do you ever eat people?” asked George.

“I would in a pinch,” replied Max, “and I have, a time or two, but only when there was nobody else to eat, and only when they deserved it. There was this one—”

“When was the last time?”

“That I ate someone? There was this annoying peddler in Romania—”

“Not this century, I hope, said George.

“No, the last century, but this century is still young,” said Max. “I ate two or three the century before that. Don’t flatter yourself; humans aren’t that tasty. Besides, they’re high up on the food chain and have a lot of toxins; it’s not healthy. You know, I dare say humans have eaten more dragons than dragons have ever eaten humans— although my uncle Malefecan did have an appetite for virgins. He’s gone now, though, bless him. Toward the end, he has having a hard time finding virgins; he complained a lot about the good old days.

“That brings me to another matter,” Max continued. “It’s been determined that I have no need or desire to eat you, even if you should tell other humans you saw me. It would, however, be good to know whether I should er, beat a hasty retreat. Exit stage left, I mean. Cheese it. Go back to Canada for a while. What, exactly, are your intentions? Are you going to tell?”

“Yeah, right,” said George. And who would believe me?”

“And you’re not going to slay me?”

“With what? My running shoes? No, I mean you no harm.”

“And I mean you none. In fact, I rather like you. You’re interesting, in a human sort of way.”

“Well, you’re okay, too. For a dragon. I mean—”

“I know what you mean. So, let’s declare ourselves well met. If I should ever see you again, I’ll come out of concealment and show myself to you.”

“I walk in these woods often.”

“I know. I’ve seen you. I’ll be looking for you.”

“Uh— so long, then.”

“So long.” Max began to move through the woods. As he reactivated his camouflage, he became impossible to see. The only indication of him was the crashing of the underbrush. Gradually, the racket grew less loud, and finally, George could hear it no longer.

“Guess I’d better go pick up my room,” said George to himself.