I was thirteen, just a month from starting high school, when I first realized I could do it. I had this clever idea for a story where a dragon and a princess were in love and this bumbling prince comes to rescue her anyway (a theme that would play itself out more than once in my life). I did a few sketches in Sarah’s pages for my story.
There was a line toward the end about the dragon having bits of knight stuck between his teeth, and I found the image so amusing, I did one final sketch of the dragon, similarly indisposed. I took much more time on it than anything else I’d ever drawn. When I was done, I’d made him so adorable, I felt sorry about the nasty armor boot sticking between his teeth. It looked very uncomfortable. Instinctively, I reached to pick it away for him, and to my surprise, a tiny armored foot, with bits of flesh sticking out of it, tumbled off the page and onto my desk!
My picture was already grinning, but there was no mistaking that the grin had changed from one of embarrassment to one of gratitude. I moved my head from side to side. My dragon’s eyes followed me. Suddenly angry at myself for not making the princess in my story look a lot more like me, I snapped my diary shut. The tiny amputated foot still lay on my desk. I thought perhaps if I was fast enough, I could stuff the foot back, so I opened Sarah back up and hurriedly tried. The foot stayed, but the dragon popped out of the page and onto my desk.
This. Was. Not. Good. Those of you who’ve read me for long enough know Daddy was intolerant of any kind of fantasy, and very unpleasant when he was crossed. At best, this was irrefutable proof of my disobedience. I watched my impending doom pace the length of my desktop in reptilian swagger a couple of times, fascinated by the serpentine curl of its tail. It didn’t look anything like the tail I had drawn on another page! Neither did its wings. Each time it reached the end of my desk, it looked down and then back menacingly at me.
Panic was my new best friend. How does one get rid of a dragon? I’ve read the stories. I know how to get rid of those dragons. I mean how was I supposed to get rid of this one? I was dead if Daddy caught me with it, and if Mama caught me, well, she would probably scream and then I would likely still be dead anyway. Thirteen is too young to die.
In ignorant desperation, I pointed back to the page where good artwork belonged and nodded for the dragon to get back in. The little, scaly upstart made Precious Moments eyes at me! I swear it! I started tapping impatiently on the page, and that is where I discovered the authenticity of dragon myth number one: they breathe fire! Fortunately, they do this in a similar fashion to the way cats cough up hairballs, so by the time my diary was in jeopardy, I’d figured out what it was doing. The fireball merely scorched some dust off my desk and dissipated harmlessly into my bedroom air.
That made me mad. “I drew you! I can erase you!” I hissed, without really thinking about what I’d said.
There was one of those quiet moments. That moment where the dragon realizes what you said, but you only realize that the dragon realizes something. I snatched up my pencils from the desk just in the nick of time. Apparently, unlike cats, dragons can cough up more than one fireball at a time, and I felt the second one singe the back of my hand as I pulled my pencil tin to safety. The dragon gave chase, but stopped at the edge of my desk, and I fell backwards over my chair onto the floor.
There is a second myth about dragons I’d like to clear up. I see lots of amazing stories, and they’re fascinating to read and all, but the truth is this: dragons can’t fly. In fact, they appear to be just as afraid of heights as I am. He looked at the floor and back at me and his tail writhed more than ever.
I pulled out one of my pencils and opened Sarah up to the page where my dragon belonged. He lashed his tail furiously and spat a third fireball at me when I taunted him with the eraser end of my pencil. It only made it about halfway to where I lay on the floor before it fizzled out. I touched the eraser to page and brushed it back and forth a couple of times, and instantly, he was back on the page where he belonged, well most of him anyway. I put the foot back in place and secured it there by removing the finger smudges. Not a moment too soon.
“Annie, what’s all the noise in there?” Mama pushed my door open to see me lying on the floor. “Oh my God! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Mama,” I said, snapping my diary closed so she couldn’t see. I stared at the pencil. “They just don’t make pencil erasers big enough. Did you ever notice that?”
Mama looked around my room for an explanation to what she’d found. “You burnin’ matches in here?”
“No Ma’am. I think I decided what I want for Christmas. Erasers.”
“Isn’t August a little early to be thinkin’ ’bout Christmas?”
“You know, in case you were doin’ any early Christmas shoppin’.” I got up from the floor and sat back at my desk. “The good kind, not those crappy ones you stick on the end of your pencil, okay?”
Mama looked suspiciously around my room again and left, shutting my door without an answer.
My heart was pounding. I waited for her feet to reach the bottom of the stairs and turned the pencil in my hand around. I flipped Sarah’s pages to the next blank one and began writing the words I intended to illustrate next.
“Andy was tall and strong, with dark brown hair and the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen in my life…”
© 2013 Anne Schilde