Marie didn’t object when her son brought home what he claimed was a dragon egg.
“That’s nice, sweetie. Now go wash your hands. Dinner will be in a few minutes,” was all she had said, patting Tommy on the head and sending him on his way with his egg shaped rock in tow.
It wasn’t until a week later, when the waft of lighting fluid and charcoal greeted her as she walked into the kitchen with a load of groceries, that she gave Tommy’s “dragon egg” a second thought.
Tommy was out on the porch squeezing a second bottle of lighting fluid onto the grill (the first lay discarded at his feet) with eager gusto. Sitting on the grates was his “dragon egg,” its dark surface splattered with the flammable substance.
“Thomas Cassidy Finnegan! What in the world do you think you are doing?!”
Tommy shook the bottle to get every last drop of fluid from the bottle before he looked up. “Oh, hi, Mommy,” he said and then reached for a third bottle of lighting fluid.
“Give me that!” his mother snatched the bottle away from him. “Are you trying to set the house on fire?!” She was livid. In all her years as a mother, almost eight now, she had never been so angry or scared for Tommy’s safety.
“No, I’m going to hatch my egg,” he said calmly, like he was talking to a younger child who just couldn’t understand the simple facts of life, let alone dragon husbandry, yet.
“Why do you need the grill?”
“My book on dragons says that the egg won’t hatch unless its mother breaths fire on it, so I’m gonna set it on fire. Our grill will be its surrogate mother!” Tommy was very proud of himself for knowing the word “surrogate.” Between knowing a very big word and hatching his first dragon egg, he felt very grown up.
Marie sighed. She’d been having a hard week at work and her son trying to light a rock on fire was the last thing she needed. She hoped there was enough Tylenol in the house to alleviate the throbbing headache forming behind her temples. At this point, Marie would say anything to get Tommy to end his harebrained plan. “That’s fine, sweetie, but can’t this wait until Daddy gets home?”
“Good idea! Daddy will love this!” he exclaimed, dropping the empty bottle of lighting fluid before running into the house.
“Hey! What do we do with empty bottles?!” Marie called after him, but he was already gone. Heaving another sigh, Marie stooped over to pick up the empty bottle and headed into the house herself.
When Bill got home, she pulled him aside and told him about Tommy’s “dragon egg” rock he’d found at school a week ago and his scheme to hatch it using their grill. To her horror, her husband just smiled and said, “What’s the harm in letting him try, Marie? If it’s a rock, nothing’s going to happen. It’ll just char.”
She frowned, “You say that like there’s a chance it isn’t a rock.”
He shrugged nonchalantly, but there was a brightness to his eyes. “Who knows?”
“Alright, alright,” she gave in. “So long as you supervise him. I want nothing to do with this.” And with that, Marie went to heat up the freezer to oven lasagna she kept for those nights when she couldn’t do more than turn on the oven and set the table.
That evening, Marie watched Tommy and Bill flit around the grill, excitedly watching the rock and feeding the flames that now licked its surface. Marie was certain she was just imagining that the rock’s surface had changed from flinty gray to shiny obsidian. The boys covered the grill overnight, letting the dragon egg sit in the smoldering coals.
* * *
Marie jerked awake. The house was on fire. She knew it.
“Marie! You have to come see this!”
That was Bill. He sounded more excited than alarmed. Grumbling, Marie grabbed her bathrobe and shuffled downstairs to see what all the excitement was about.
Bill and Tommy were outside, hovering over the grill, giggling like giddy school girls. Marie was about to give them a piece of her mind for waking her so suddenly over a charred rock until she saw what sat in the grill. Her jaw dropped.
On the ashy remnants of charcoal and lighter fluid sat the rock, chipped open at the top and then split like a chicken egg. But instead of a chicken a small, spindly dragon sat in the egg. It was a dark, reddish brown, its spine lined with spiked scales. It blinked at her and then coughed, emitting a puff of sulfury smoke.
“Can we keep it?” Tommy asked, his ash smeared face bright. The dragon purred as Tommy stroked its nose.
“I need to sit down,” Marie said, plopping into the nearest plastic chair.
“reeeaaa,” screeched the dragon. Then it settled down in the warm ash for a quick nap.
edit: I changed the name of this story from Marie's Dragon to Marie & George: The Beginning because I hope to write at least one other flash fiction based on this family and their unusual pet. In case you haven't figured it out, George is what the dragon will eventually be named. More details on that to come!
Marie and George (c) Lena S. 5/15/10