The terribleminds flash fiction challenge for March 2, 2012: shuffle a random song. That random song becomes the title of your 1000-word story, which you post to your blog. My song is Pink Floyd’s “Learning to Fly”, and this story is exactly 1000 words.
Name’s Floyd, and my message is this: exotic animals are cool and all, but it’s important to understand what you’re getting into first, before things get…complicated.
I mean, reptiles are fun, but they have limitations. You can’t take a lizard outside to play (at least the ones I had) without the risk of it shooting off into the nether reaches of the yard to die of exposure or get got by a cat. I even tried harnessing one but all that did was make him look stupid before he wriggled out of it and wedged his skinny butt halfway down a mouse hole. Added bonus: the hole had a slug in it so when I fished him out he was all gooey. Biggish snakes can give great neck rubs but most of the time they just lay there. Fairly cool, but boring.
So I took up falconry. Lot of time and expense involved with falconry. It’s the sort of thing where the people who do it know just how cool they are for doing it, so are frequently disinclined to share their coolness with newbies. But I persevered and got a hawk, and learned that this sport was indeed every bit as cool as I’d thought it was. After a year I let my bird go and got another one, which is pretty cool too: don’t like the bird you’ve got? Trade it in for another: no muss, no fuss. But there are laws about what you can and can’t hunt, and where, and when; and then the owners of the best hunting place you’ve found decide they don’t want you hunting there anymore, so then what? It’s not like good rabbit fields grow on trees…or something.
I hadn’t found my thing yet. I wanted an animal hobby but normal animals just didn’t do it for me. I wanted to do something with cool animals but nothing seemed cool enough. Well, you can imagine my utter surprise when, one night this last February, I was downstairs enjoying a nice toasty fire and a shot of nice oaky scotch when a not-so-nice black spiny dragon the size of a cocker spaniel marched across the room (from God-only-knows-where) like he owned it.
I suppose, being an apex predator and all, even a little dragon has a right to think he owns whatever patch of real estate he finds himself on at any given moment. I mean, breathing fire does pretty-much trump whatever claws or tools or what-not some mere mammal might bring to the party. And when the surprised mammal suddenly blows a mouthful of alcohol at the dragon, the startled dragon reacts quick! and snorts a fireball that, well…I didn’t like those slippers much anyway.
So now I have a dragon. How cool is that?
His name is Rax, but I don’t know how I know that. It just popped into my head one day. He started out sharing the cat’s bowl. Then the cat abruptly decided she’d rather just stay in the bedroom, so I got her another bowl and left it by the dresser. Then one day a week or so back I realized I hadn’t seen her in a while and, well, apparently cats and dragons don’t cohabitate. I’d thought that scorch mark in the hallway was the result of a dragonling’s hiccup, but maybe not.
Rax graduated to Alpo a week after the cat went missing, then advanced to hamburger. After a growth spurt took him from Cocker-size to Rottweiler-size he ate bigger meals, but less often. The guy at the supermarket meat counter sure is chatty now. If he’s paid on commission I’m probably putting his kid through college.
But let me just say, there is something outstanding about relaxing on your couch with an oaky scotch and your Great Dane-sized dragon loyally sitting at your knee with his head across your lap. His eyes are bright purple, by the way, and the pupils are vertical. He purrs like a ’69 Mustang.
He climbs like a squirrel, too: a predatory, armor-plated, incendiary squirrel. I came home from work one night to find him lounging casually atop the refrigerator, having knocked off every box and bottle to make enough room. A punctured two-liter of Coke was still a fizzing fountain in the middle of the potato chip and cereal-strewn floor, so this was a recent accomplishment. I have no idea how he got up there, but apparently he didn’t stick the landing: if all that scratching and clawing isn’t his doing, then someone stopped by my house just to key up my fridge with much enthusiasm. I guess stranger things have happened.
By June he still hadn’t flown yet but my house was clearly getting the raw end of this deal. I took leave, and Rax and I went camping. I rented a van because now he was as big as a draft-horse. (Since the waterbed incident he’d been mostly confined to the garage.) The van-rental people won’t be happy: I can probably kiss that deposit goodbye.
I drove up the mountain to a dead-end Forest Service road and set up camp. I’d just gotten the fire going when Rax sat on his haunches and snuffed it out with one awesome stroke of his wings (apparently the next four flaps were just for effect). He said he was stretching. Then he strolled into the trees, swishing that fifteen-foot-long tail dismissively when I meekly suggested he not go too far. He came back an hour later with an elk. The coolest part? When he dropped it in front of me, it was already gutted and grilled medium rare. Sweet.
The next morning we hiked up to the cliff-top, admiring the scenery and the warm wind on our faces. It was a beautiful day; the thermals would be epic. He looked at me and dipped his shoulder invitingly. I got on and we flew.
I think we’ll stay here for good. I have a dragon. How cool is that?