A Year Under the Endless Sky

Myrtle hatched in a warm, cozy cave high in the mountains. She was the first dragon born to her clan in a long, long time. That meant that everyone was a little overprotective. When it was time for her to go and see the world, her family didn’t want her to leave.

“I don’t know,” her mom said. “When I left the cave, humans were dying from a terrible disease. Everyone seemed to be sick. It was all terribly frightening.”

“When I left the cave,” her grandfather said, “there were humans sailing around the ocean attacking people and burning down villages. It really isn’t safe.”

“Things were fine when I left the cave,” her father said. “Although everything seemed quite dirty and smelly.   Maybe she can just make a short trip out and hurry home.”

“It’s tradition to let her go,” Grandfather said. “But that doesn’t mean she has to leave right now. We could wait another one or two hundred years.”

“I’ll be fine,” Myrtle said. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back in a year.”

And so they unsealed the entrance to the cave and Myrtle left. It was summertime first. The bugs were plentiful and the days and nights were warm.   Myrtle spent her time hiding and observing. Things weren’t as dirty or scary as she’d expected. In fact, there was so much to see and do that she wished she had longer than a year.

Time passed. Soon the worms were burrowing deeper at night to get away from the frosty night air. Dried leaves settled in layers over the brown, sleeping lawns. It was autumn time. The crisp, chill air was the early warning system informing everyone that winter was coming.

Myrtle was a little dragon, only a few decades old.   She was small enough to not really need a cave to sleep in, so she had a little burrow instead at he base of an oak tree. The squirrels living upstairs were mostly good neighbors, and the people living in the house nearby never seemed to notice her.

Just before dusk, she hurried out and joined the other little animals trying to gather materials to ready their homes for winter.   One day, Mother Squirrel was sitting on a branch, chewing the fingers off a soft, cloth gardening glove.

“What do you have there?” Myrtle asked.

“Sleeping bags for the little ones,” Mother Squirrel said. “They’ll sleep warmer at night now.”

“Well done,” Myrtle said.

Father Squirrel was burying acorns over by the pine tree. He waved as Myrtle flew past, and then went back to his work, his bushy tail twitching. He snatched up another acorn and hopped a few feet away and started digging again.

Myrtle kept an eye on where the ladybugs and caterpillars were burrowing into the piles of leaves. She’d get up early and eat a few for breakfast. Yum.

She reached the sidewalk and flew low over the gutters, looking for a bit of sparkle. Most of the time, she darted down, only to be disappointed by bits of broken glass.   Tonight, she was lucky and found three pennies. It’s better than she’d done all week.

She flew home with the pennies and pushed them into the piles that lined her burrow. She settled into her hoard, and it soon warmed up as it conducted her heat.   She would be warm this winter as she hibernated.

And when she woke up, it was spring. Her time outside was running out. Myrtle spent more time peeking into windows and spying from trees. The robins had returned and kept her company in the afternoon. They told her stories about strange people and scary cats and worms eaten at dawn when they tasted best.

The people mostly kept to themselves. The animals were a little friendlier. But everyone seemed so busy now that spring was here.   They dashed about fixing up their shelter and checking in with all their favorite places.

And so, Myrtle watched the sky. She loved the sunsets and sunrises. She loved the clouds that so easily changed their shapes from one moment to the next. She loved the rain that fell from nowhere and washed everything clean again.

She loved the graceful trees and flowers and the brilliant green that was everywhere. She even tried eating berries, at the urging of the squirrel family.   They tasted sticky and far too sweet.   She didn’t love the berries.

And then it was summer again and time to go home.   Her family met her at the entrance to the cave. They cheered when she stepped inside. “How was it?” they asked. “Was it dirty? Was it scary? Was it awful?”

“It was nice,” Myrtle said. “I think I may want to go out again someday.”

 

Time Flies

“I’m going to the grocery store,” Mother said. “I made a list, so I won’t be gone long. Use your time wisely. Past is in charge.” And then, she left.

Present and Future looked across the table at their sister. “Why are you always in charge?” Present asked.

“Because I’m the oldest and most responsible,” Past said.

“You haven’t done anything responsible lately,” Present said.

“I did my homework an hour ago,” Past said.

“Like I said,” Present said.

“Did you do your homework?” Past asked.

“I’m working on it,” Present said. “Future hasn’t even started hers.”

“I’ll do it later. It’ll be fine,” Future said.

“I still say it’s not fair,” Present said. “Oh hey, look at that squirrel!” Present jumped up and ran to the window. “Let’s build a squirrel feeder so we can see cute squirrels all the time. Let’s build a giant squirrel feeder and feed all the squirrels in the city. Or the world.”

“I can see it now,” Future said. “We’ll be invaded by rats carrying a resistant strain of the bubonic plague. It will take twenty years to find the cure, but the world will be so devastated that we’ll have five years of peace.” Future had a dreamy look on her face. “World peace, doesn’t it sound marvelous? I’m sure it would be worth two decades of pain and suffering.”

Present made a face. “I don’t want a squirrel feeder after all.”

“Look what you’ve done,” Past whispered to Future. “That’s the same face she made when you told her that if she took ballet class she’d fall off the stage during her first performance.   Now she’s going to sing sad pop songs at the top of her voice.”

Present took a deep breath. “Unbreak my heart…” she sang loudly.

“Hey, maybe we could make cookies later,” Future said.

“See, I just drew a dog in a funny hat,” Past said. “What was I thinking?”

Present stopped singing. “Cookies?   A funny dog?” She held out a hand for the scrap of paper that Past had scribbled on. She turned the paper sideways and upside down. “Are you sure this is a dog in a hat? I think that maybe it’s a flamingo on a motorcycle. Hey, let’s go ride bikes!”

“Pass. Last time you forgot you had brakes and ran into me. It hurt,” Past said.

“Why do you always remember the bad stuff?” Present asked. “The glass is half full.”

Past frowned. “If it’s half full, it’s probably because you drank half. Wait a moment. You did!   Drink your own orange juice and leave mine alone.”

“I like orange juice,” Present said. She held up her spoon and let milk dribble back into her cereal bowl.   “But I don’t like when the cereal gets mushy. Do you want it?”

“You’ll get hungry later if you don’t eat it,” Future said.

“But I don’t want it,” Present said.

“I ate all my cereal, and that’s all the cereal I wanted,” Past said. “I wanted all my juice, too.” She picked up her cup when Present reached for it and drank it quickly.

“We’re all done! Let’s ride bikes,” Present said.

“You didn’t finish your homework,” Past said. “Plus Mother said we’re not supposed to go out while she’s gone.”

“You’re boring,” Present said. She smacked her spoon into her bowl, and milk splattered on the table.

“You should clean that up,” Future said. “Mom will be here soon.”

“Cleaning up is boring,” Present said.

Future reached a hand across the table to Past. “I’ll put the bowls in the sink if you will help me with my homework.”

Past stacked her dishes and put them into the waiting hand. “I finished mine so I have time to help,” she said.

“Help me, too,” Present said.

Just then, Mother came in. “I’m home.   Did you use your time wisely?” she asked. “What did you do?”

“We sat at the table and talked,” Past said.

“Past is going to help me with my homework,” Future said.

“I’m bored and I hate mushy cereal,” Present said.

“That’s great girls,” Mother said. “Why don’t you pause and help me put away the groceries. Present, you need to wipe up the milk first.”

“Hey! Let’s go buy a self-cleaning table instead. Right now.   I’ll drive,” Present said.

“You don’t know how to drive. Clean up the mess you made, it will teach you patience,” Mother said.

“Patience is boring,” Present said. But she cleaned up the mess while her sisters put the groceries away.

Empty Your Pockets

“Mom,” Gracie said. “Mom? Mom. MOM.”

“I’m in the kitchen,” Mom said.

“Mooooooooom,” Gracie said as she hurried down the hall.

“Gracie, what’s wrong?” Mom asked. She turned off the faucet and dried her hands.

“My super amazing beautiful glittery rainbow rock is missing!” Gracie said. “It’s gone!”

“Well, I don’t think I’ve seen any rainbow rocks anywhere today. When did you last see it?” Mom asked.

“I had it yesterday. I took it to school, and everybody wanted to see it. They passed it around class after the math quiz. Janice offered me a candy bar for it, and Scott said he’d pay five dollars for it, but I said no because it’s my rock and not theirs, and now it’s gone,” Gracie said.

“Take a deep breath, Gracie,” Mom said.

Gracie took a deep breath. And then another. It didn’t really help.   “But, Mom,” she said. “What if someone stole it? I’ll never see it again. I bet it grants wishes, too. If someone suddenly has a hundred pink bunnies, they stole my rock. Can we drive around town and see if there are any pink bunnies?”

“When was the last time you remember seeing your rock?” Mom asked.

“After everyone looked at it, I put it in my pocket,” Gracie said. “But it’s not there now.”

“Are those the same jeans you wore yesterday?” Mom asked.

“I don’t know,” Gracie said. “They all look the same to me.”

Mom sighed. “Gracie, where did you put your clothes yesterday when you took your bath?”

“Hmmmm.” Gracie thought for a moment.   “I left them on the floor.” She raced off to the bathroom. “MOM!” she yelled. “They’re not here! Someone stole my jeans.”

Mom looked in through the bathroom door. “Gracie, I put them in the wash.”

“So, where’s my rock?” Gracie asked.

“Probably in the dryer. You’re supposed to empty your pockets before you put your clothes in the laundry,” Mom said.

“But I didn’t put my jeans in the laundry,” Gracie said. “I left them on the floor.”

“You’re supposed to put your clothes in the laundry basket when you get changed,” Mom said. “So, you skipped two steps.”

“Can we check the dryer for my rock? What if the dryer breaks it?” Gracie asked.

“Okay,” Mom said. “I don’t want your rock to dent the inside of my dryer.” They went into the garage together. The dryer was rumbling.

“What’s that sound?” Gracie asked. “It sounds like growling.”

“It’s the sound the dryer makes when something small and heavy gets bumped around inside,” Mom said. “It’s not growling.”

But, when she opened the dryer door and the dryer stopped spinning, the noise didn’t stop. Gracie shrieked. “Mom! There’s a piece of my rainbow rock on top. The dryer did break it.”

Just then, the clothes started moving. Something blue and lizardy pushed some socks aside and climbed onto the top of the pile of clothes at the bottom of the dryer. The noise was louder.

“It’s a baby dragon!” Gracie said. “I think maybe it’s angry.”

Mom looked at Gracie. “Where did you get that rainbow rock?”

Gracie looked at Mom. “It was by the dragon statue in the park.”

Mom frowned. “I don’t remember a dragon statue.”

Gracie frowned. “Well, it was there.”

Mom pulled on some gardening gloves and scooped up the little blue dragon.   It stopped growling and tried to bite her fingers. “Okay, Gracie. We’re going to the park.   Show me where you saw the dragon.   This baby needs its mama.”

“So it was an egg, not a rock?” Gracie asked. “But that’s not fair. I didn’t even get a wish!”

“Come on, Gracie,” Mom said. “Let’s go.”

“But, Moooooom,” Gracie said. And she followed her mom out the door.

Wishes are Dangerous

Shelly wasn’t sure how long the patch of dandelions had been in the front corner of the lawn. They were probably there when they moved into the house years ago. She’d had too much to do to worry about them before now.   They were green and so they mostly blended in with the rest of the lawn anyway.

But today, she’d started folding laundry while waiting for her egg to cook.   Not only did the egg burn, but her plastic spatula had melted too. The house smelled terrible. Shelly left pan in the sink and the windows open and went outside. She’d finish folding the load of laundry later.

Outside, there were branches to gather and stack up and leaves to start raking and her car needed to be washed. But, just when she’d pulled out the rake and the hose and a bucket, she’d seen the dandelions and knew that now was the best time to pull them out.

She left the tools next to a small pile of branches and got to work. The roots held fast to the dirt and refused to budge. Shelly found a shovel and started to dig. And then, the shovel made a clicking sound.

Shelly brushed aside the dirt. It was an old glass bottle. It looked like an old-fashioned soda bottle.   It was dirty, but not broken or even chipped. Shelly left the shovel next to the half-dug-up dandelions and took the bottle inside.

The house still smelled terrible. But, it wasn’t as bad. Shelly decided to light a scented candle. She left it in the middle of the bathtub, just in case she forgot to blow it out. She remembered the bottle and found it next to the front door. She took it back to the bathroom and started to wash it in the sink.

She had just started to scrub off the dirt, when a genie appeared. “What do you wish for?” the genie asked.

“Just a moment,” Shelly said. “I’m busy.”

“You could wish for all your chores to be done,” the genie said.

Shelly laughed. “That’s silly. They’ll never all be done.   It’s not possible.”

“I could do it,” the genie said.

“That would only happen if my family stopped eating or wearing clothes and the grass and trees stopped growing and the seasons didn’t change. If I have no more chores, either I’m dead or everything else is.   I don’t wish for that at all,” Shelly said.

“You’re smarter than you look,” the genie said.

“That’s not really a compliment,” Shelly said. She finished washing the bottle and started drying it with a towel.

“You could wish to be more organized,” the genie said.

“I’m working on it,” Shelly said.

“I could help,” the genie said.

“Thank you, but no,” Shelly said. “I just wish there were more hours in the day.” She looked up from the bottle, eyes wide. “No, wait. I didn’t mean that.”

“Too late,” the genie said. He snapped his fingers. The house shook and the toothbrushes and soap and lotion and hair dryer all fell on the floor. Then the power went out.   The bathroom was lit only by the glow of the little scented candle in the bathtub.

“What did you do?” Shelly asked.

“A meteor hit the earth and stopped its rotation. You can have as many hours in the day as you want now,” the genie said. “You’re welcome.”

“That’s terrible. Everyone on earth will either bake or freeze,” Shelly said.

“Well, actually there is a small number of people living on the line in-between,” the genie said. “They’ll be fine.”

“Undo that wish,” Shelly said.

“Is that a wish?” the genie asked.

“Yes,” Shelly said.

The genie snapped his fingers. The power went back on. Everything that fell on the floor was back in place. “You have one more wish,” he said.

“No,” Shelly said. She took the bottle and marched outside.

“Are you going to bury my bottle?” the genie asked. “Please don’t bury it. It’s so boring being stuck in the dirt.”

“I’m not going to bury your bottle,” Shelly said. She picked some of the dandelions and shoved them into the top of the bottle. “There, now your bottle is useful.”

Shelly set the bottle in the middle of her cluttered counter. She started to scrape the burnt egg and melted spatula into the garbage. The genie hovered nearby. “You could wish for that pan to be clean,” he said.

“What happens when I’ve made my third wish?” Shelly asked.

“My bottle disappears and moves to a random location,” the genie said.   “It’s nice, because I like to travel.”

“And if that wish somehow goes wrong, I’m left with the consequences, right?” Shelly said.

“Yes,” the genie said. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Maybe. And maybe you’ll trick the next person into destroying the earth.   What happens if I wish you free from the bottle?” Shelly asked.

“Doesn’t work,” the genie said. “I don’t want to be free. I like to be a genie.”

“And if I break the bottle?” Shelly asked.

“Doesn’t work,” the genie said.

“And if I wish that you can’t grant wishes?”

“Doesn’t work,” the genie said.

“Then your bottle is a vase,” Shelly said.

“You’ll wish for something eventually,” the genie said.

“You’re probably right,” Shelly said. She put the pan back in the sink and started to fold the laundry while she thought about what to do. “I wish for you to have a conscience and know good from bad, and to want to do good,” she finally said.

The genie scowled and snapped his fingers. He and his bottle disappeared. “I hope that worked,” Shelly said. She finished folding the laundry.

The Magical Veterinarian

“Paws and Miles?” the pretty dark haired nurse asked.   When a young man in the crowded waiting room nodded and stood, she smiled. Her fangs showed, just for a moment. “The wizard will see you now. Follow me.”

Miles tugged a little on the lead and his dragon uncurled and stepped carefully over the unicorn and the basket of rainbow colored bats. They followed the nurse further down into the large underground tunnels. She left them in a cave lined with straw after checking the dragon’s vitals.

“We could fit your whole house in here, Paws,” Miles said.

The dragon blew out a puff of smoke and curled up again.   The young man found some chairs lined up along the back wall of the cave. He picked one and set it down next to his friend. There was a little chime, and then someone knocked on the open door.

“Come in,” Miles said. “Are you the wizard?”

“I’m a wizard,” an older man said. “I’m Wizard Andrew.” He pointed to his nametag.

“What does the MV stand for?” Miles asked.

“Magical veterinarian,” Wizard Andrew said. “Are you Miles?”

Miles nodded. “And this is Paws.” He patted the dragon’s side. The dragon opened one eye and snorted.

“What seems to be the problem?” Wizard Andrew asked.

“He loves ice cream,” Miles said. “But it puts his flames out. So he’s too cold all the time. He has a coat he wears around the house, but he won’t wear it outside.” Miles frowned, and Paws curled up even tighter and turned his back on Miles and the wizard.

“That is a problem. Ice cream isn’t very good for dragons,” Wizard Andrew said.

“Yes, I know,” Miles said. “It’s kind of a weird story.”

“I’d love to hear it,” the wizard said.

“Well, my grandparents gave Paws to my parents as a wedding gift. You know, to guard their new home and such.”

The wizard nodded. “It’s not uncommon. I assume he was still pretty young.”

“Just hatched,” Miles said. “I was born a few years later.”

“So you grew up together,” the wizard said.

“Yes,” Miles said. “And I’m a shapeshifter, and Paws was my best friend.”

The wizard laughed. “So, I suppose that half the time, your parents were raising two little dragons.”

Miles smiled. “That’s pretty much it. They tried to limit sweets, and mostly they did pretty well.   We both had a bit of a sweet tooth though.”

“That is unusual,” the doctor said. “Usually dragons prefer spicy food.”

Miles laughed and patted Paws again. “Oh we do. But, we’ve both always liked the same things, and I love sweets too.”

“And you haven’t had a problem with his flame going out before now?” the wizard asked, writing some notes in his chart.

“Before last week, we never gave him all that much ice cream. Just a scoop to go with a slice of cake or whatever,” Miles said. “But, last week Miles was pretty sick, and my parents are out of town. He wasn’t eating, so I took him to the store to see if there was something else he wanted.   All he wanted was the ice cream.   He was better in a day or two, but he’s still refusing to eat anything but ice cream.”

They both looked up at Paws. Paws looked over his shoulder and blew a puff of smoke at them. Wizard Andrew laughed. “A stubborn one, is he?”

Miles looked embarrassed. “Mom says he learned it from me.”

Wizard Andrew laughed again. “Well, I’ll tell you what I think we can do. I’ll prescribe a mix of herbs and peppers to use as an ice cream topping.   I recommend adding some vegetables as well. The topping should balance out the ice cream enough to stabalize his body temperature.”

The wizard wrote a list on his notepad and handed it to Miles. “Thank you, Wizard Andrew,” Miles said.

“I would suggest you offer him his favorite foods first, before you dish up the ice cream,” the wizard said.

Paws grumbled and Miles laughed. “We’ll try it,” he said.

“Now go get him home and back into his warm coat,” the wizard said. He smiled and gently patted Paws on the side.   Then he left to see his next patient.