The Dragon Who Wanted to Fly

Liam’s older sister, Riley stood in front of the hallway mirror putting wind-polish on the scales of her long, blue tail. She was proud of how the wind-polish made her dragon scales shine.

Liam stood next to her holding the small jar of polish where she could reach it.
Riley and her friends were going to flying practice. Liam wished he could go, too. He picked up Riley’s bright red cap with blue letters and yellow wings on the front and looked at it. When he went to flying school he would have one, too. He wished he could go today. He decided to ask.

Before he could open his mouth, Riley grabbed her cap from his hand and said, “I need to get my lunch bag.”

She put the cap on as she dashed to the kitchen.

Liam moved to the front of the mirror. He dipped one finger into the jar of polish and rubbed it on his own, short tail. He moved his tail up and down and back and forth admiring how shiny his scales looked.

Riley returned with the zipper bag their mother had packed for her lunch. When she saw Liam, she started to laugh.

“What are you doing with my polish?” she asked.

Liam dropped his head and said, “I thought you might let me go with you.”

“You’re too small,” she answered and took the polish jar from his hand.

“I could just watch you fly,” he said. Liam stepped away from the mirror and looked at his sister hopefully.

“You can’t come with me,” Riley said.

The baby dragon sighed by didn’t move away.

“Stop staring at me,” she shouted. “It isn’t my fault that your wings are too little.”
Liam started to cry. Riley was right. His wings were too little.”

Riley rolled her eyes and put the lid on the polish-jar. She set it carefully on the hallway shelf then turned back to him.

“I’m sorry I shouted,” Riley said gently. “Maybe you can come with me next year. When I get home from practice later, we can play fire-breathing together.”

She hugged her little brother and said, “I don’t want to be late for the bus.”

Liam sighed as she ran from the room.

He climbed onto the couch by the front room window and watched as Riley and her friends hurried down the sidewalk to the bus stop.  The bus had open space inside of it and rails for small dragons to hold.  But Riley and her friends flew up to the dragon perches on the top of the bus.

When the bus drove away Liam went to his cushion in the corner of his bedroom, turned in a circle to fluff the pillow just right then plopped down. He curled up with his chin resting on the base of his tail.

He was lonely. He closed his eyes tightly and pretended to be asleep.

“Maybe next year will come soon,” he thought to himself. “Next year I will be bigger. My wings will be gigantic!”

Later that day, when the bus dropped Riley off after flying class, she came running into the house calling out his name. “Liam! Liam!”

The baby dragon rose to his feet and shuffled slowly into the living room.

Riley had a large smile on her face. “This is for you,” she said and held out a cap.

Liam blinked his eyes and looked at it. It was bright red with blue letters on the front.
“It looks like the hat you wear to school,” Liam said.

“It is,” she answered. “Only it’s yours.”

She took the cap and placed it on his head. It was a too large, but she tilted it over one of his budding horns.

“Perfect,” she declared. She pointed one of her claws at the cap and read it for him. “Dragon School of Aviation”

Liam smiled and ran to the hallway mirror so that he could see himself.

“Perfect,” he agreed.

“That’s not all,” Riley said. “Next week, you can come with us. The flying teacher says that we can carry you in a carriage basket so that you can see what flying is like.”

“How will I get to the top of the bus?” Liam asked worriedly.

“You can ride inside,” his sister answered.

“By myself?” Liam asked.

Riley flicked one claw-finger along side her face and thought for a minute.

“We can pull you up with our tails,” she said. “That way you can sit with us.”

Liam looked back into the mirror at his hat and grinned happily.

The following week there were two zippered bags on the kitchen counter, and Riley helped him put wind-polish on his scales.

The flying teacher was a large, brown and red dragon. He held a clip board that he often clicked with one claw nail.

“Line up. Line up,” the flying teacher called out. “I know that all of you will be nice to our new student, Liam.”

With that the teacher walked over to a shed. When he came back out he handed a pair of goggles and a long spy-glass to Liam.

Riley helped her brother put on the goggles and showed him how to work the spyglass.
The teacher went back into the shed. He returned with a carriage basket that had long, bright ribbons tied along the edges.

“Liam will be your Navigator,” the teacher said. “While all of you are busy staying in the air, he will be using his spy glass to see all around you for any signs of danger. Who can tell me what dangers a flying dragon might face?”

“Hunters,” one student said.

“Bigger robber dragons,” another student said.

“Flash storms that come on suddenly,” a third student offered.

The teacher nodded. “As your Navigator, Liam will be responsible for watching out for all those things and more. Let’s get going.”

Liam looked around at the student dragons. He thought that they did not look happy about him being there. Except for Riley. She smiled at him.

“Two times around the field for warm up.” the flying teacher called out.

When they were ready to fly the third time, he said, “Each of you to pick up one of the ribbons. All of you lift it at the same time. Fly around the field holding it.”

The students leaped into the air. They flapped as hard as they could, but the basket did not come up off the ground.

BLEEEEEE!  The teacher blew his whistle at them. They stopped trying to fly and gathered on the ground to listen to his instructions.

“You have to be able to lift it higher than buildings or trees so that no one gets hurt,” the teacher told him. “Keep trying. You’ll get there. Keep trying.”

The students tried four more times before the carriage-basket lifted.  The teacher signaled for them to keep flying with it and turned to Liam.

“You are not going to up in the basket today,” he said.

Liam dropped his head sadly.

“When you come next week, you will, though,” he added.

Liam’s face brightened.

The teacher took Liam over to the exercise area and talked to him about how to keep his balance in the air. Then he told Liam to stand on a long board with a ball underneath it. Every time Liam fell off, the teacher made him try again.

By the time practice ended, Liam was very tired. Since he was too tired to ride on the top of the bus, Riley rode inside the bus with him on the way home.

At practice the next week, the dragons were able to lift the carriage basket right away.
They flew around the field twice carrying it easily.

It was time for Liam to ride in the carriage basket. Liam was so nervous he almost started to shake.

Riley called out, “Hurry up.”

He looked at his sister in embarrassment. She stood with the other dragons, holding her ribbon. All the student dragons were smiling at him. He swallowed to hide his fear then quickly climbed into the basket. He held the spyglass under one front leg. Straightening his shoulders, he pulled his goggles over his eyes.

The student flapped and flapped and the carriage basket tipped to one side. Liam shifted the other way and it leveled off.

Suddenly, they were flying, straight and true. Really and truly flying!

The air stung his face, but his goggles protected his eyes.

The wind-polish his sister put on his scales helped the wind slide over them.

As they flew higher, things on the ground looked smaller and smaller.

Suddenly, his left wing twitched. He thought he imagined it. Then his right wing twitched. Then both wings twitched. He opened them as wide as his little wings would go. The wind rushed across the webbing.

He looked up and saw that the dragon team was watching him.

All at once they lifted their heads and roared. Liam lifted his head to roar, but instead, coughed. He coughed one more time. Then he was roaring right along with everyone else.

As he finished roaring, Liam saw something out of the corner of his eye. Pushing his goggles to his forehead, he set the spy glass against one eye. He twisted it into focus.

In the distance he saw another young dragon, about the same age as Riley, spinning toward the ground. One wing was hurt.

Liam roared at his teammates and pointed. Together they turned the carriage basket and headed to the desperate dragon.

On the practice field, the flying teacher scratched his head in confusion. He shouted, “What are doing? Stay in your own area.”

They heard the teacher, but went on.

When the carriage basket team reached the injured dragon, Riley dropped her ribbon. She wrapped her tail around him, and she pulled him into the basket. It tipped to one side as she dragon dropped beside her brother, so Liam shifted his weight to keep the basket level.

Riley grabbed her ribbon again, and they flew back to the practice field. When they landed, the teacher helped the injured dragon out and told him on the ground.

“What happened?” the teacher asked.

“I flew too low,” the student dragon said. “My wing ripped on tree branches. When I flew back up, it tore all the way apart.”

“You should have landed right away,” the teacher said. He peered closely at the torn wing and hissed kindly. “Rest here. I will get help.”

The dragons on Liam’s flying team, stood around the hurt dragon. Some asked him questions. Some walked a little bit away and sit down to wait.

After being so excited and working so hard to save the dragon, Liam felt lost. He did not know what to do next. He thought he should do something, but he did not know what.
He picked up his spyglass, adjusted his goggles, and started to walk back the starting field.

Behind him his sister called out, “Liam! Liam, wait.”

He turned around and saw all the dragons and the flying teacher looking at him.

“Good work, Navigator,” the teacher said, smiling.

Liam adjusted his aviator cap. He flapped both his little wings.

“No big deal,” he said, grinning.

Transport

 

The hook flew up, down, in and out. 

She watched the white-haired crafter as the bus shuttered and grumbled. Up. Down. Wrap the yarn. In. Out.  She wondered how the woman could focus.  Her own head throbbed. Hip-hop roared from some punk’s headphones.  Two sisters, well, they looked to be sisters, animated a loud conversation with gestures and laughter.  A small child chanted, “Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the water spout” in a shrill singsong. She could barely think and all she had to do with sit there. Yet here was this old woman working away; her hook blurring in a purposeful, methodical rhythm.  Up. Down. Wrap. In. Out.  The bus jolted to a stop as the driver avoided colliding with a light-colored Kia which had suddenly braked.  The driver blared on the horn.  She couldn’t see what difference it would make. Clearly the Kia’s operator was just as trapped as the bus.  Up ahead she spotted billowing smoke swallowing the horizon.  From somewhere behind the all the stopped vehicles, she could hear the whining of a siren and see pulsating lights. The fire department, she guessed, and wondered how they would traverse the traffic jam.

A young couple, possibly students, rose and navigated between commuters to reach the front of the bus. “Would you let us out here, please?” the young woman asked. The driver shook his head. “Not safe.” “All the cars are stopped. We’ll make better time walking,” the young man said more persuasively.  “Nope,” the driver responded.

            The couple shrugged and headed back to their seats.  She thought she heard the young man swearing but couldn’t be sure. His shoulder slammed into the guy with the headphones, knocking him nearly off his feet. “Sorry” he mumbled.

“What the fuck?” the punk said. As he regained his footing, he pushed the young man backwards causing him to fall into his girlfriend who tumbled across the two sisters.

“Hey,” the sisters cried out in unison. “Be careful.”

“What do you think you’re doing,” the young woman shouted.

“Your boyfriend needs to watch where he’s going,” the guy sneered.

The young man swung his right fist at the guy, missing him by only a couple inches. The guy with the headphones grabbed the man’s shirt and slammed him against the fire extinguisher.

She glanced toward the front of the bus.  The driver was watching everything in the rearview mirror.  The old woman continued crocheting: Up. Down. Wrap the yard. In. Out.

“Driver,” she called out. “Can’t you do something?”

Just as he unbuckled his seat belt and climbed out from behind the steering wheel, a loud crunch jolted the bus, sending all the standing passengers to the floor. An SUV hit the rear of the while trying to get out of the way of the fire truck.  The bus, in turn, crushed into the Kia causing the driver to pitch into the metal fire extinguisher case.

“Shit,” several people said at once.

“Fuck,” several other people said at once.

She righted herself, located her belongings and looked around. The punk with the headphones and the angry young man scrambled over passengers to reach the injured driver.  The sisters and the young woman helped people get up from the floor. 

The small child howled.

She stood and made her way to the priority seats where the old woman slouched with her chin against her chest.  The woman looked up at her when she spoke, touched the back of her hand to her bottom lip, and shook her head as if to clear her thoughts.

“I’ve phoned the police,” a voice said from the middle of the bus.

“We’ve got people back here hurt,” another said.

“The driver is unconscious,” the student said.

“Let’s get him onto the floor,” the punk suggested. Together the two stretched him out in the center aisle between the rows of seats. 

The old woman looked around as if she had dropped something, then spying her yarn on the floor, leaned forward to pick it up.

“Here, let me,” she said.  “You stay where you are.  I’ll get it.”

Her boyfriend retrieved it and passed it to her then she gave it to the woman.

A police officer pounded on the front doors of the bus, so the punk with the headphones located the mechanism and opened them for him.

 “Everyone sit tight,” the officer said. “We need everyone to stay on the bus and remain calm until we get things sorted.  EMT’s will be here shortly.”

“As soon as they can make it through all this traffic,” someone said and everyone laughed. Then, satisfied that the danger was past, they exhaled a collective sigh of relief. 

The old woman picked up her yarn, looped in around the fingers of her left hand to maintain the tension and began to crochet again.  Up. Down. Wrap the yarn. In. Out. Up. Down. Wrap the yarn. In. Out.

###

Rush Hour

Not many folks were in the park. Most massed on the sidewalk waiting for the light to cross onto Winter Street – that’s where I was headed myself. I clipped through Boston Common as quickly as I could without actually breaking into a run and getting my Hugh Boss sweaty. Light Gray. Skinny legs. Nice. Behind me was a chubby black girl, maybe 18 or 19; too much make-up and a hoodie. She carried an iced coffee and listened to music on her phone. Ahead of me tottered an old woman who had a battered backpack slung over one shoulder and a plain, metal cane in her right hand. She progressed so cautiously that I wondered why was she even out at eight in the morning, I mean, when the rest of us are trying to get to work. Surely, Granny could run her errands another time. After studying the area as if trying to get her bearings, she turned to swing around Brewer Fountain. I quickened my pace to pass her, and as I did, the cane skidded sideways on a patch of uneven bricks. She plummeted face-first but managed to bend her elbows so that her knees and forearms took the brunt of the fall. When her backpack slid free, a wrapped sandwich tumbled out. She glanced my way with a pleading look on her face. Clearly, she was struggling to get up and needed assistance. Noting that blood trickled from one of her skinned knees, I thought about my new suit. As I hesitated, the girl with the ear buds and lipstick called out, “Are you all right?” Thank God, I thought to myself then darted onto the Tremont Street sidewalk just as the light turned.

Loss

Why do we zero in on some things, and overlook others?

News outlets expose the ramifications of the Ebola outbreaks and what it has meant to some and what it might meant to others. I watch dispassionately.

Videos of dying children in Gaza and Israel go viral. I watch dispassionately.

Ebola and War affect more people and have the potential to change the entire world. Yet, for some reason I have compassion fatigue.

One participant — in a sport I don’t even enjoy — dies after he runs out into oncoming traffic, and I discuss it with friends for at least two days.

One actor takes his own life and time shuts down.

I have the same relationship with Robin Williams this morning as I did yesterday morning. I knew him through his work – movies, comedy skits, television – and all those things are still available. For years, I have been aware in at least a peripheral way that despite the funny exterior, he had a very serious and sometimes troubled interior, so I can’t even claim that what happened was a complete surprise.

The stupid, senseless loss of a young, vibrant racecar driver is shocking and provokes a great deal of anger.

I can’t even articulate my emotions regarding the loss of Robin Williams.