(for Heather Almond, Quinn, Ryan, & Jake)
Once upon a time, a little girl named Quinn lived with her mom, dad, and brother Ryan in a very normal house where the city met the country. Quinn loved her family and home, and she especially loved her brother. Ryan protected and looked after his sister with fierce loyalty, and though Quinn was younger and never told Ryan, she was always looking out for him too.
The family lived happily day by day. Quinn loved playing outdoors, dressing up like a princess, and having meaningful conversations with their dog Hank and a number of stray cats that took refuge with the family. For her, each day was an adventure, and each night a welcomed return, but the world was never too scary because of Ryan.
One night as Quinn walked into Ryan’s room, she met a dragon. He was dark gray with a large crocodile-like snout and mouth that gaped open as he slinked along the back wall peeking out from behind the bookcase. His scales chinked as he moved, and he glared at her with shining yellow eyes. Quinn’s heart pounded, and she stifled a scream. Cold fear raced through her body, and for a moment, she froze. As he began to withdraw back behind the furniture, Quinn dashed from the room.
She found her mom and, with tears streaming, finally managed to communicate that there was a dragon in Ryan’s room. Quinn’s mom, practical as she was, took her daughter’s hands and assured her everything was okay and there was no dragon. “Yes, there is!” Quinn insisted. Taking her mom to the room, Quinn saw the dragon’s head and snout were still visible. Pointing, she squealed, “It’s in the shadows!” Quinn’s mom hugged her daughter, again assured her that everything was okay, and showed her that a large pink towel was making the shadow. Quinn calmed down, but she still knew what she saw. A dragon lurked in Ryan’s room. She would alert her brother and keep watch.
Ryan was more receptive than their mom but didn’t seem to share Quinn’s fear or urgency about the matter. “I’ll be careful,” he told his sister and, much to Quinn’s dismay, went looking for the dragon. She followed behind him on tiptoe, but the dragon was nowhere to be found.
A few days later she saw him again, this time in her room. He lurked on top of a toy shelf near the ceiling. Spotting her, the dragon scurried down the wall toward her, and again, Quinn ran for her mom. Again her mom assured her that it was only a shadow, this time caused by stuffed animals on the shelf, but Quinn still knew what she saw. And so, she remained watchful even though Ryan seemed to forget about the dragon entirely.
A week after Quinn saw the dragon for the second time, she went into Ryan’s room looking for her ball. As she sorted through the toy box, she heard a low rumbling voice.
Hungry me. Hungry, I
Must have food before I die.
I’m in the mood for something sweet
And so I’ll catch and eat his feet.
Quinn crouched down behind the toy box and kept very still while the dragon crept out from behind the bookcase. She couldn’t imagine how Ryan’s feet would be sweet, but she knew the creature was planning to eat her brother. And she couldn’t let that happen. She had to stop it. But how? She was still young and not strong enough to fight the beast. She didn’t even have Ryan’s baseball bat to help her. Then, she wondered if maybe she could get the creature out of the room. If she could get it to climb out the window, perhaps she could shut it outside and Ryan would be safe.
The dragon had now climbed out from behind the bookcase and was slinking across the floor toward Ryan’s bed. Quinn slid to the other side of the toy box and, grabbing the bottom, tugged until she moved it underneath the window. By now, the dragon had climbed onto the bed and was rooting around in the blankets and sheets. Quinn jumped up onto the toy box and managed to slide the window open. It was hard work, she could just barely raise the glass, and when she finally turned back around, she found herself nose to snout with the dragon.
Its yellow eyes glowed, and its forked tongue flicked out an inch from her face.
Hungry I have found a treat
That even bests the small boy’s feet.
Quinn was terrified, but she knew she had to do something or she and Ryan would both be dinner and dessert for the dragon. So she plucked up her courage and said the only thing that made sense, “I don’t think feet taste good. Little girls don’t either.” The dragon twisted its head to the side and regarded her with unblinking eyes. “My brother and I are not dinner! Wouldn’t you like a cookie better? Or ice cream? I could get it for you.” The dragon flicked its tongue again.
Ice cream sour, cookie bitter
I prefer a sock or sweater.
“You said you were going to eat, Ryan!” Quinn protested. “Not a sock or sweater.” The dragon continued to turn its head from side to side. Quinn squeezed her lips together as she thought a moment. “You said his feet…where his socks are. You eat socks?” The dragon nodded emphatically. “So if I bring you a sock, you’ll leave my brother alone?” The dragon nodded again.
Quinn didn’t really trust the dragon, but she slid off the toy box and backed over to Ryan’s dresser. On tiptoe, she found a pair of socks, unfolded them, and tossed one to the dragon. He caught it in midair, chewed twice, and swallowed. Licking his lips, the dragon pranced around the room. Finally, he scampered up the bookcase, but before he disappeared behind it, he turned back, flicked out his tongue, and kissed her forehead. And Quinn smiled because she had tamed him and she now knew how to keep Ryan safe.
In the months that followed, Quinn made sure that the dragon was well fed with socks, washcloths, and other small laundry articles. If she didn’t feed him directly, she made sure that such an article was left behind the toy box or near the bookcase, so he could easily reach it. Quinn’s mom blamed the laundry disappearance on the “sock monster”, but Quinn knew better.
Though she always remembered the dragon could be dangerous if he wasn’t fed, she soon became quite fond of him. Together, they would rummage through Ryan’s covers and blankets and jump on the bed. Because her mom would rather she didn’t, Quinn tried not to do this often, but every once in a while, it was good to run wild with her friend.