When Marie got home from work Thursday, there were scorch marks on the couch. They were so fresh they were still smoking. It was the third time that week and Marie wasn’t sure she had another box of baking soda in the pantry. She felt a distinct snap somewhere in her chest. That was it.
At the far end of the smoldering couch, Marie could see George’s snout poking out, smoke curling from his budding nostrils. He still thought he was tiny and could fit behind the couch the way he use to. He always forgot to account for his elongated snout.
“Get your spiny little dragon butt over here RIGHT now!” Marie demanded, pointing to the patch of rug by her feet.
The nostrils quivered; he had been spotted! George tried to shimmy back further behind the couch, but it was a tight fit that was only becoming tighter. At this rate Marie would have to come pull him out and George didn’t want that. He didn’t like her face when she had to fish him out of trouble. It was scary.
Gingerly, he wiggled forward, first pulling his shoulders out from the narrow space between the back of the couch and the wall followed by his long torso and narrower hips. His tail came last, but it was a long, thin whip of a tail, so he had no trouble with it. Once he was free, he shook out his disproportionately small wings that perched on the middle of his back right behind his shoulders. He couldn’t fly very high, but high enough to get into trouble without intention. With his head hung low, he waddled up to Marie and stopped precisely where she pointed.
“What have we discussed about setting furniture on fire? A burning couch can lead to a burning house. A burning house is bad,” she emphasized the word “bad,” though she probably didn’t need to. To everyone’s surprise, George displayed an almost uncanny ability to understand human speech. Therefore, Marie often talked to him as if he was Tommy.
Marie sighed, squatting down. George looked up, hopefully; the base of his right wing was starting to itch. But Marie wasn’t done.
“Look, I know being indoors all the time is hard on you, but soon enough the village idiots will see that you need space and Bill and Tommy will be able to finish the kennel for you. So be good, okay? No more burning things inside the house.”
George nodded to show he understood. Marie knew it was very likely she would come home to another piece of charred furniture, but she’d let the issue slide for now. She was ultimately more upset with the Department of Building and Zoning (referred to as “the village idiots” in the Finnegan household) than she was with George. Soon after Bill had started building George’s kennel, an inspector had shown up to inform them that they couldn’t build a kennel for a dragon because it would be too close to their property line and put their neighbor’s houses at risk. Marie and Bill were currently going back and forth with the town about building the kennel, so until then George was stick inside and confined to his fenced, ceramic tiled closet and asbestos lined doggy bed. Not that he didn’t escape on a regular basis.
George wiggled his itchy wing, inviting Marie to scratch him. She did so with her fingernails, causing George to hum happily. His lidded eyes half closed, he curved into the scratch. Marie couldn’t help but smile. George always showed his appreciation when given attention.
The back door slammed open, followed by rushing footsteps and, “GEORGE! MOMMY! I’M HOME!”
Marie stopped scratching and George started, as if awakened from a blissful dream. He was instantly alert. His tail wagged, snapping like a sail in the wind at every turn, and his short lizard tongue lolled between his jagged teeth. His favorite playmate was home!
Tommy came rushing in, his backpack half off and shoes still on, and he threw himself at George. George returned his enthusiasm by leaping into Tommy’s lap, his wings outstreatched as far as they would go.
“Tommy, shoes!” Bill called from the door. Marie could hear him hopping to take his own shoes off and shut the door at the same time.
“I’m going outside with George!” Tommy called back. “We can go, right, Mommy?” Tommy asked Marie, both his and George’s eyes pleading.
Marie smiled and nodded, “Just be back in for dinner in an hour.”
“Alright!” Tommy shouted, dropping his backpack on the living room floor and making a dash for the sliding glass door that lead to the backyard. George bounded after him, gliding a foot or so off the ground with every leap.
Marie didn’t bother calling after Tommy about leaving his backpack on the floor. There was no point. Instead, she picked it up and went to check the pantry for baking powder.
[*Bill had named the dragon – a boy as far as they could tell - in the end. Originally, Tommy had wanted to name him Sammy or Max as if he was a dog. But then Bill told him the story of St. George and the Dragon and Tommy changed his mind.
“His name will be George,” he decided, stroking the humming dragon – now named George. “Our George is much smaller than the dragon in the story. I think St. George would have liked him,” he reasoned.]
Hope you enjoyed this week's vignette from Marie & George. For the first adventure, please read Marie & George: The beginning.