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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
CHRONON--Time Travel

by
Harris Tobias
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

by
Jeromy Henry
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

by
Gordon Rowlinson
Against a Diamond

by
Michele Dutcher

A Boy and His Dragon

by

Jessica Baumgartner



The television set glows bright in the early morning darkness as the sun is just rising:

 

Come Down to Pete’s Dragon Shop where we’ll satisfy all your dragon needs. We have small dragons that fit in mom’s purse, medium dragons that fill a nice backyard, and even the mightiest dragon’s of all (provided you have land with a cave and the proper insurance).

 

Young Jimmy, a small boy of eight is glued to the screen with eyes glimmering with hope.

 

They can help dad fire up the grill, save mom the trouble of buying fertilizer for her rosebushes. Did little Billy lose his kite in a tree? No problem! Your pet dragon has so many uses.

 

Jimmy jumps with excitement until the advertisement is over, then at the last image of a pot bellied dragon towering twenty feet tall, he jets upstairs to his parents’ bedroom.

 

“Mom, dad, can we get a dragon? I promise I’ll take care of it.”

 

“Absolutely not,” his mother answers in an unwavering tone.

 

“But mom, everybody we know has one. I’ve been real good lately, and it’ll be a good learning experience for me.”

 

“Your mother said no and that’s final.”

 

“But…”

 

“No buts about it,” his father answers sternly before burrowing under the pillows.

 

His mother’s already up and wrapping a fluffy pink robe around her body. “Now run downstairs and we’ll start breakfast.”

 

As Jimmy and his mom move down to the breakfast table he looks pleadingly at his father who slowly walks toward them wiping the sleep from his eyes.

 

His mother’s voice fills his ears with sweet condolences, “Honey I know you want a dragon, but they’re a lot of work and take a lot of time and energy.”

 

“I know that mom. I’ll be nine years old soon, and you’re always saying that it’s time for me to take on more responsibilities.”

 

His father whispers to his mother and she raises her voice in answer, “John, you know how much trouble your brother had with his dragon.”

 

“I know, I know, but we can find something smaller and train it.”

 

“Are you kidding me?”

 

“Why don’t we just try it, and if it doesn’t work out…”

 

“Then what? Re-homing dragons is not as easy as it is for kittens, and that’s no picnic.”

 

Jimmy pleads with his eyes and her face softens.

 

“Oh fine. But I’m not cleaning up after it.”

 

His father winks at him. “That won’t be a problem, and just think how much money we’ll save on fertilizer for your gardens.”

 

“Why John, you haven’t been watching that silly commercial too, have you?”

 

As they sit down to eat, Jimmy smiles at his dad.

 

“Alright,” his mother turns to him as he bounces in his seat unable to contain his excitement. “You can have a dragon, but this will be your pet. You must make sure it is fed, properly trained, and it will be your responsibility to clean up after it.”

 

“I can help you with that,” his father adds.

 

*

 

The week seems to drag by. Finally Saturday dawns and Jimmy is taken on a stroll to the dragon shop. He runs ahead on the sidewalk, and presses his face against the clear store window to catch a glimpse of all the dragons.

 

“Come along now dear,” his mother scolds as she and her husband draw near the entrance.

 

While they pass into Pete’s Dragon Shop, the alarming smell of sulfur, scales, and bleach attack his nose, but he doesn’t care.

 

“Welcome to Pete’s Dragon Shop. I’m Pete and I’d be glad to find you the perfect dragon to suit your family,” a tall corpulent man bellows at them as he approaches from behind the counter.

 

“Such a small store front, how do hold all the dragons here?” His mother asks.

 

“Oh we keep the big ones in the out back,” Pete loudly responds. “I imagine you want something small and sensible, right ma’am?”

 

“Well yes sir. You see this is our first dragon and my son Jimmy here is to be responsible for it.”

 

Jimmy squirms under his mom’s touch as she places her hand on his shoulder. He sends a hopeful look to Pete and his spirits sore when he sees the man quickly wink one of his changing hazel orbs.

 

“I can show you around in here, but, may I suggest something not too big, yet sizeable enough that you won’t have to fear losing it before you even return home? Some of these miniscule breeds disappear under my own careful watch, sneaky little devils, and they are easier to tame when they have a substantial frame.”  

 

His father grins at the salesman. “There’s no harm in looking.”

 

The shop keeper leads them out the back door which opens to a spacious yard spanning beyond Jimmy’s sight. It’s filled with an array of dragons, from four feet tall weighing around five hundred pounds of pure muscle, all the way to a one ton, lengthy, twenty footer.

 

Jimmy’s eyes widen at this sight.

 

Each dragon is harnessed to a metal pole that’s double cemented in the ground like the foundation of a house. Two of the large lizards are flying overhead at the end of their chain leashes, whereas the others are sleeping upon the shop keepers valuables.    

 

“I want that one,” he exclaims as he points to the largest one. It’s a stocky breed of twenty feet with chubby stub legs, a big round belly, and long leathery wings. The giant lizard’s demonic face is complete with bushy beard and multiple horns growing out of its head.

 

“Absolutely not,” his mother declares.

 

How about that one?” His father nods at an eight foot sapphire blue one, with its long body coiled up, sleeping in a dragon house built like a giant jewelry box.

 

“Oh that one?” Pete scratches his head, “That one came in just a few days ago. Real pretty ain’t he?”

 

At this, the blue lizard opens one of its royal purple eyes and seems to fix its gaze on Jimmy, and his mom standing nearby.

 

“Look, he’s waking up,” he bursts with excitement.

 

“Well looky there,” Pete declares as the object of their conversation stretches and yawns with a cloud of smoke appearing through his nostrils. The creature moves towards the boy and shakes his head.

 

“Is it safe?” his mom asks.

 

“Of course,” Pete smiles. “The only dangerous ones are the giants that I have to keep confined in the mountains on my property out west.”

 

“Go on son.” His father chuckles as he slowly creeps toward the magnificent pet that he’s dreamed of for so long.

 

“He seems a bit skinny,” his dad notes walking up to the dragon to pets it’s slender belly with his son

           

“That’s just the breed,” Pete replies. “This one comes all the way from Japan. See his long snaky body and the hand-like claws?”

 

“Well, I don’t know much about dragons, but this one seems to suit us just fine,” His mother answers.

 

“Says here, dragons are one hundred dollars for every foot of height; what’s this one, eight feet or so?” His father asks.

 

“Good estimate, I like a perceptive customer. He’s just over, but we’ll go ahead with the even eight hundred to cut you a deal.” Pete smiles, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically. “Now, the dragon house that he’s attached to is fifty five hundred, and…”

 

“Fifty five hundred dollars?” Jimmy turns around in shock.

 

Pete stands tall. “That house is custom built to hold your valuables so your dragon can feel that he’s protecting your treasures, a purpose most fulfilling for a dragon, and very important to the training process. Take my advice, buy the house and be happy to have such an affordable breed. Think of the people in town who own our twenty foot biggens.”

 

He eyes his mom as she looks to his dad. “Alright. Come on John, this was your idea. Pay up.”

 

Jimmy breathes with relief.

 

Pete continues as they walk back into the shop and head toward the counter. “Now we can set up a daily shop delivery to keep your pet fed as well, for only four thousand dollars per month, in addition to your annual dragon insurance that we can cut down into a monthly bill if you prefer it, while adding in the tracking chip that’s legally required under the National Association of Dragon Surveillance (N.A.D.S)  for free.”

 

“Fine, fine, do you take American Express?” his father grumbles.

 

“Why yes sir we do,” Pete’s smile lights up his face as he cordially rings up the bill and sends Jimmy and his parents on his way, with instructions to prepare for the next day’s delivery.

 

“Oh dad, I can’t wait till tomorrow when they deliver my dragon. How can I ever thank you?” Jimmy skips down the sidewalk on their way home.

 

“Him? What about me?” His mother questions with a laugh.

 

“Well yeah, you too mom.”

 

*

 

 

The next day, sharp at noon, Jimmy jumps at the sound of the doorbell and runs to greet his new pet while his dad directs the delivery men.

 

“Thanks for coming out on a Sunday. My boy here is so excited to start playing with his new dragon,” his dad pats his head.

 

He follows out to the side gate leading into their backyard, and runs forward to one of the trucks to greet his pet. “We’re gonna have so much fun together.”

 

It takes quite some time for the delivery men to set up the dragon house, just after pouring the fast setting cement to hold the extra strong chain. Once they’re ready to hook the dragon up in its backyard setting, the creature is brought forward. But just as the handlers do their best to carefully guide him towards the strong metal collar, the next door neighbor’s twelve foot, muscular breed (who walks upright with a broad chest and an affinity to dart at anything new) roars and starts shooting fire.

 

“Don’t worry, this happens all the time,” the delivery men assure Jimmy and his father as they pull out fireproof shields to protect them.

 

The beast next door breaks free and darts toward Jimmy’s dragon. His new pet rushes in front of him and yields as the strong dark red dragon calls to him.

 

Jimmy cries out at the sight of his dragon flying off alongside the escaped animal.

 

“Give them a few days they always come back,” one of the delivery men says through his moustache.

 

“I should hope so, or we’ll be demanding a full refund,” his father snaps back.

 

After seeing the last of the exhaust clouds from the Pete’s Dragon Shop trucks disappear, Jimmy marches with his to their neighbor’s house and his dad bangs on the door. A stocky, red headed man answers. “I’ve been expecting you.” He pushes his glasses up his nose as they immediately slide down again.

 

“You have?” Jimmy widens his eyes.

 

“Of course, as soon as I saw the dragon delivery trucks, I had a feeling that Big Mac would do this again.”

 

“Big Mac?” his father asks with confusion.

 

“That’s my dragon’s name.”

 

“You said he’s done this before?”

 

“Only twice, but I have to say the money we’ll make off of the draglings is well worth the trouble.”

 

“Draglings? No, that doesn’t make any sense. We bought a male.”

 

“Based on my dragon’s actions, yours is definitely a female.”

 

“Look now, I know you only moved here a few months ago, but this isn’t very neighborly.”

 

“Well” the man pursed his lips. “How about this, here’s my business card.”

 

His father takes the card to read it and then Jimmy grabs it from his hand to look.

 

                                    Leroy Jackson

            President & C.E.O. of  Sheep for Dragons

 

“When our pets return, and I assure you they will, I’ll set you up with a free supply of dragon food for life. I insist.” Leroy extends his hand to shake on it. And they return home feeling satisfied.

 

“The dragon flew away?” His mother meets them at the door. “I just knew this was a bad idea.  What are we gonna do, if this thing does any harm? You know that the N.A.D.S. isn’t very lenient when it comes to escaped dragons, they won’t hesitate to kill it on the spot.”

 

“Calm down, calm down,” Jimmy steps back as he dad works to sooth his mother. “This sort of thing happens all the time.”

 

“Oh really, then why have I never heard of any such occurrence?”

 

 “Oh you know as well as I do that the N.A.D.S doesn’t want these incidents exploited by the media. It could create some kind of frenzy.”

 

She sighs. “Fine.”

 

“And the man next door says we’ll be able to sell her draglings.” Jimmy tries to be helpful.

 

“Her?” His mother questions him and then looks to his father. “We bought a male.”

 

“I thought so too, but apparently Big Mac was in the mood for a shake.” His father offers.

 

“I don’t see what any of this has to do with fast food.”

 

“That’s the other dragon’s name.” His father laughs.

 

*

 

The next morning at breakfast, Jimmy begs to stay home from school. “If she comes back before I get home, how will she know how much I missed her?  

 

At this, his mother starts. “Sweetie, you can’t…”

 

“…Sure son. You haven’t missed a day all year.” His father takes a sip of his coffee and he grins.

 

“Yea, oh and I’ve decided to call her Dragonya.”

 

“Dragonya?” His father raises an eyebrow at him before returning to his morning paper.

 

His mother sighs. “That’s a perfect name for her dear. But you know there’s a chance that she won’t come back at all and…”

 

“Mom she is coming back, probably today.”

 

“I’m sure you’re right. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up, just in case.”

 

Jimmy moves to sit at the glass door leading to their back yard and stares while his mother cleans the house. He jumps at the sound of cars driving by, airplanes flying overhead, and just before lunchtime, he fancies a familiar roar while she’s vacuuming the living room carpet. Running out the door in the hopes of finding his lost pet come home, there’s no mistaking her. He spots the striking blue dragon landing her long body down into the backyard.

 

All his mother’s objections seem to have escaped her as she reaches his side. “Welcome back Dragonya,” she smiles at the serpentine scaly curves that settle before her in the dragon house.

 

Running up to her, Jimmy pats her stomach.

 

Dragonya eyes his mother’s brilliant gold bracelet and she takes it off. “Here you go girl. Watch over it for me.”

 

Dragonya creeps forward and carefully sits back on her hind leg. As the full length of the beast’s body reaches Jimmy and his mom, the great animal reaches out her foreleg and quickly grabs the shiny bauble with her claws. Instead of heading back to the dragon house, she bows and exposes her neck expectantly.

 

His mother nods. “I think she wants you to scratch her there.”

 

“You too mom,” he reaches out an eager hand.

 

“Why her scales are quite soft here,” she smiles at him.

 

From that day on his parents praise Pete’s Dragon Shop and refer a number of his friend’s parents as well. Everyday Jimmy plays with Dragonya, but after a couple of months he becomes less enthusiastic about having to take care of his large, high maintenance, pet.

 

His father walks into his room and disrupts him after a few weeks. “Now Jimmy, you promised to take care of your dragon and it’s been brought to my attention that you’ve been shirking your duties.”

           

“Mom put you up to this didn’t she?”

           

“That’s not the issue. Anyone with a nose can smell you slacking your responsibilities.”

 

“She’s been eating her sheep everyday dad, but that’s it. Dragonya’s boring, she doesn’t flit about anymore. She just begs for more food, jewelry, neck rubs, and then goes back to sleep.”

 

“Ah I see. Well, I imagine that your dragon will soon be laying some eggs. Your mom was always tired and hungry when she was pregnant with you. And just between us…” his father lowers his voice leaning toward him, “…she was a bit demanding. But you didn’t hear it from me.”

 

Jimmy laughs and smiles. “Really?”

 

“Yeah” His father chuckles, “Tell you what; I’ll help you clean up the yard this once, but from now on you have to keep up on it every day. Remember you promised, and a man must be able to keep his word.” 

 

Another week passes, and Jimmy tries not to complain too much.  He does his best to keep up with his duties to Dragonya, but he misses being able to head over to his friends’ houses without having to work first.

 

“I appreciate how hard you have been trying to make up for letting us down.” His mother smiles at him as he shovels dragon waste into the flower beds while she kneels near her tulips pulling weeds.

 

The clouds make for a grey day and the wind brings a chill to the air. Before Jimmy responds, Dragonya roars a hot blowing breath of fire, and then wraps her body around herself in her dragon house. After more of these episodes, he and his mother get a closer look from a safe distance until the spasms are over. Slowly approaching her, he finds Dragonya exhausted, but calm and eager to receive a scratch on the neck.

 

Look,” he shouts, pointing into the jewelry box shaped dragon house.

 

“Hush, can’t you see she’s exhausted,” his mother scolds.

 

“Mom, there’s an egg!”

 

“Four I imagine, Dragonya’s just trying to cover them for warmth.”

 

“Oh mom, when will they hatch?” he whisper shouts with excitement.

 

“We’ll have to call the dragon shop and see.”

 

When his father arrives from work, Jimmy rushes to him to drag him into the backyard. “Eggs dad, Dragonya laid four of them! And they’re gonna hatch, and we’ll have little draglings!”

 

Stopping to look at the sleeping, scaly, lizard laying atop a nest of their valuables, his father takes a deep contemplative breath. “Great, now what are we gonna do? There’s no guaranteeing that we’ll be able to sell them all.”

 

His mother smiles. “Oh, we’ll make do.” She rubs her own womb tenderly and looks up at them batting her eyelashes. “Jimmy, how do you feel about becoming a big brother?”

 

He looks to his dad, and the man passes out.

 


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