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Dragon in the Family
by David B. Reynolds

 
People say you can find the most unusual objects in the universe by travelling the back roads of the Southwest after dark. Conventions of UFOs in the sky or on the ground, lost cities of gold, and strange, weird beings roaming the earth and sky have all been reported by people driving along on a crystal clear desert night.

Skeptics claim that all you’ll see are pre-flattened coyotes, the occasional rattler, and enough sagebrush to numb your mind. They are also the ones who say the only people seeing these lights and other objects are the ones who’ve been drinking when they should have been sleeping.

I don’t know about UFO aliens, and I’d sure like to find me a city of gold, but I know for a fact that there are some strange and wonderful creatures out there: I had one roaming my ranch a few years back.

My wife Emma and I were somewhere east of Flagstaff, on our way back to our spread west of Santa Fe from a Christmas vacation trip to that city where the real weirdness is, Los Angeles, when we saw this strange animal dash in front of our headlights. I slammed on the brakes to try and avoid it, but I think I dinged one of its legs.

This sucker looked kind of like a cross between a coyote and an armadillo: it was long and somewhat low to the ground, kind of graceful like, but armored. When it first passed in front of our headlights, I had this momentary glimpse of something about the size of your average pit bull, maybe a little shorter, with scales. What set this sucker apart from the other desert denizens, though, were its tail, like what you’d expect to see on a lizard, and a long, sinewy neck with a small triangular head, about the size and shape of that on a big cat.

What as really weird, though, were its wings. When extended, they probably weren’t any longer than two or three feet each, and they sure didn’t look like they could get help this here thing fly. From the way it was acting that one weird night, I’d bet they worked just the wings on a roadrunner: they gave just enough lift to help it over some bushes when going after prey.

Well after we hit it, it just stopped beside the road, turned its head on that long neck to look at its suddenly limp right rear leg, then stared up at us with these big, soulful eyes.

We’d parked the car a little ways beyond it, then Emma, well she’s a sucker for any stray that comes her way, hopped out of the truck. Healthy or injured, Emma’ll treat it stray dogs, cats, horses or what have you like they was her own youngun’.

“What have we here?,” she asked as she got closer. “You sure don’t look like no coyote I ever seen.”

All she could see was a dark lump under the stars until I got close enough to shine my flashlight. When I hit it with the beam, it seemed startled and ready to run away, but then just kept looking at us. I’d swear the thing was telling me, “You hit me. Now it’s your turn to make me right,” but it didn’t make a sound.

As Emma got closer, she stuck her hand out, like you would to a strange dog so they can smell you. The animal just looked at her like it was saying, “OK. You’re here. Now what are you going to do?”

“Don, go get some of them rags out of the trailer, but don’t disturb Princess none, and we’ll make a little bed for this poor little thing,” Emma told me. So being the dutiful husband I am, I went to the unoccupied half of our horse trailer, being careful not to disturb our family’s prize pet, Princess, who’s one sorry-looking excuse for a horse if there ever was one. However, she and Emma work well as a team at gymkhanas, which was why we went to L.A. in the first place.

Emma rummaged around in the bed of the truck, being careful not to disturb our two kids, Brad and Nancy, who were still sound asleep on the back seat, and somehow came up with a big cardboard box. I swear I ain’t never seen that box before in my life, but that’s Emma: when she needs something, it’s always there, no matter if it never existed a moment before.

The lizard/coyote whatchamacallit, or as Emma called it, “a poor little dear,” gave me a wary glance like it was ready to bolt when I scooped up an armload of rags then tried to be gentle as I scooped it up, too. When I straightened up to carry back to the truck, I got the first of many surprises: for being as big as it was, it sure wasn’t that heavy. I’ve carried many a calf that weighed more’n it. It might have looked like a reject out of freak show, but it was light as a bird.

And as it close to my face, something else hit me: the stink of its breath. Phew! A couple cases of rotten eggs would have smelled like French perfume compared this old boy. When its mouth was closed, it smelled no worse than any other animal, and probably better’n me, but when it was open, you’d wish there was a gas mask handy.

Princess got a whiff as I got it closer to the trailer, and she was none to pleased, I can tell you. She started prancing and dancing, but seemed to be more scared than anything else. How something the size of a dog, and so much smaller than that, could make her so scared, I’ll never know.

Well anyhow, we got it loaded into the horse trailer, then headed on home with Emma and me, mostly me, taking turns behind the wheel. The kids were quiet until the sun woke them and Emma up not too long before we turned onto the dirt road that eventually ends at our ranch.

I put Princess in her stall, then moved our new pet into an empty one a few stalls down on a pile of straw near where I’d seen some mice. Thinking he (I was beginning to think of this thing as more a “he” than a she or an “it” now) was about the right size to like mice, I figured I’d give him a quick source of nourishment. Then it was off to bed for some much needed sleep.

By the time I awoke later that afternoon, Emma and the kids were nowhere to be found, until I went into the barn, that is. All three of them were just standing or kneeling there, looking at our new pet in awe.

“Look at what Sparky did,” Brad said, pointing to what looked like the remains of a well-roasted mouse it was contentedly munching on. “He was just lying there when this mouse comes out of the straw, and without seeming to move a muscle, Sparky just fried it on the spot, then reached over and got it.”

Kids are known to exaggerate, so I was going to shrug it off as youthful exuberance, until that is, Emma stepped in.

“You know Don, I’ve never seen anything like it. First, I went into my books (she works part-time with old Doc Tsossie and has built up quite a collection of books on veterinary medicine) and I couldn’t find anything that looked even close to Sparky. As far as these books go, he doesn’t exist. And second, I don’t know of any animal in the world that shoots a jet of flame out and cooks it prey.”

“Come on Emma, are you sure? I’ve never heard of one doing that, neither. And I’m sure this here thing’s got to be in one of your books. You just haven’t found it yet.”

I still thought both Brad and Emma were pulling my leg, about the time it (somehow “it” had become “Sparky” while I was sleeping) belched and a foot-long jet of blue-white flame came out of his mouth.

That threw me for a loop, ‘cause I’d never seen any animal do that either, and I’d been to the San Diego Zoo where they got most animals known to Man.

Now that I was finally awake, I noticed that Emma had put a splint on Spark’s hurt leg, fixed up his straw, and stuck a bowl of water near him. Somewhere one of the kids had found a collar that used to belong to one of our old dogs before the coyotes turned it into a snack.

I heard a noise over my head, and I saw one of the barn’s other critters, a cat, looking down at Sparky. Sparky was looking up at it like the kitty was gonna be lunch. “Don’t you even think about it,” I told Sparky. “These here cats are part of the family and they pay their way by keeping the mice under control. So far you ain’t done squat to justify yore measly excuse for existence.”

I don’t know how, but Sparky gave me the tiniest little nod of his head, acting like he understood what I’d just said, and suddenly the cat had lost all interest for him.

Well I still had the rest of the unpacking from our weekend trip to that horse show near L.A. Emma had already hung her blue ribbon from the gymkhana on the trophy wall, along with the others, so it was time to sort out the kids’ clothes and our new purchases. Then it was time for me to hook the new 10 gig hard drive into our home network, and get back to work.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention I’m an Internet page designer. Since I can do my thing from anywhere on the planet, I’d rather do it where the sky is blue and there’s plenty of wide open space around me. Besides, living next to the Navajo reservation meant I had some great neighbors and my kids learned a lot more in their small school than they would in some impartial big city “learning factory.”

The kids and Emma did there thing with Sparky and I did mine with the computers and pretty soon, I forgot completely about him. As the days went by, the kids developed a regular routine: they’d go out in the field and round up a few mice, ‘cause none in the barn would get anywhere Sparky, then bring them in and let Sparky have his fun. Nancy, who’s all of six, said he’d sometimes herd the mice with jets of flame, directing them this way and that, before tiring of it and barbecuing them.

Instead of giving Sparky dog biscuits for treats (they tried but he wasn’t interested) they gave him chunks of charcoal, which he loved. He seemed to like the ones covered with lighter fuel best. The kids would throw one up in the air, Sparky would get back, take a running start, then jump up about six feet off the ground and catch it in his teeth. Then he’d gnaw on in like a dog with a bone.

The funny thing was, he never set the straw or barn on fire, and that barn was so old and dry, I was just really glad that it was a long way from the house. Princess, though, she got to be so spooked, we ended up letting her roam around the corral all the time. She didn’t want to have anything to do with the barn if Sparky was in it.

I’d go out sometimes, especially when things were rough, and just sit there and talk to him and tell him my troubles. I swear that old boy understood every word I said.

Another thing didn’t happen. Sparky became such a part of our everyday lives there the first few weeks, that I forgot to try and figure out what he was.

After about a month, Emma pronounced Sparky healed, so she and the kids let him have free reign of the barn. I was a little worried about the cats, since I remembered how he’d looked at one when he first arrived, but he and them got along fine: they ignored each other.

Sparky had come into our lives at the end of the Christmas break, and when school resumed, my kids were so busy with their friends, that they never said a word to anyone at school about Sparky, other than to say they’d gotten a new “dog,” which the other kids pretty much ignored. Sure, they had their fanciful tales about a dog that spouts flame, but the teachers figured Brad and Nancy were just being kids.

Once school got out, the kids took to taking Sparky on walks with them, just like your everyday kids with their dog. They’d go out into the sagebrush and throw sticks which Sparky would usually just look at like the kids were stupid. “If you want to pick up that stick, be my guest,” he’d seem to say.

I’d go out with them on occasion too, and think nothing of it. Sparky, acting just like a regular dog, would chase birds. But unlike most dogs, he’s more often than not catch them. That’s when I saw his wings in action. He couldn’t fly, but his powerful hind legs made him quite a leaper, and those wings gave him just enough lift and just enough speed that he could catch the quail and chukar nearby.

There’s also a bunch of empty arroyos near our place, and after the infrequent storms the Navajo call “male rains,” the short, intense downpours, there’d be puddles and even a stream in some of them. These rains also drew out the local wildlife, and some of it was unfriendly to man.

Now my kids knew what rattlesnakes and scorpions were and how to avoid them, but even the most observant child is still a child. Sparky endeared himself to me when the kids and I, with Sparky tagging along, went on a hike to one of the arroyos where we went hunting for arrowheads, and we failed to see a coiled up rattler. Brad was within two feet of this snake, which had to be four feet of pure nastiness, but since the snake hadn’t made a sound, Brad didn’t know it was there.

I was playing with Nancy a few feet away when I saw Sparky, who was further away from Brad than I was, move faster than greased lighting. Sparky must have seen that snake start to strike or something, but I swear one second he was easily 40-50 feet from Brad and the next, all you could see was Sparky standing over a four-foot hunk of roasted meat on the ground.

Sparky had knocked Brad away to get to the snake, which had gotten close enough to put some small holes in his shirt sleeve, and swatted that damn rattler out of the air. Brad, who was only five, was crying because he’d been knocked down, but other than a minor bruise, he was fine. If it hadn’t been for Sparky, he could have been dead by the time a doc had reached him.

Needless to say, our little family outing was over and done with. I reached over and scratched Sparky between his long, triangular ears, then rubbed his scaly belly, said “good boy,” and picked up Brad and Nancy. Then we hightailed it on out of there on our way home.

Instead of having a regular meal that night, we had a little weenie roast in the yard to treat our new hero, Sparky. Emma managed to find some hot dogs, I rustled up a couple of steaks, then we got a little fire going in the yard using wood. The charcoal was reserved for Sparky.

Sparky and the kids soon developed a new game: Brad or Nancy would stick a hot dog on a stick then hold it out. Sparky would squint with one eye, like he was measuring it, then let loose a burst of flame and presto, instant cooked dog. He got some of the meat, but preferred to munch on his charcoal.

Later that night, after the kids were in bed, Emma and I had a heart-to-hear chat. We figured it was time to figure out just what Sparky was. Since we’d gotten him, he’d grown, more’n just a little bit. Whereas before he was about the size of a small dog, now he was the size of a big dog, like a full grown shepard, and seemed to be bigger every day.

Before he arrived, the cats used to be lean and mean from chasing mice all the time. Now they were fat and sassy because we’d had to start feeding them kibble after Sparky cleaned out not only the barn, but the nearby fields, of mice. With Sparky getting so big, I could see why Princess would consider him a threat; you would to if there was something your size with rows of razor-sharp teeth and what seemed to be a devilish grin on his face who was so damn fast.

Emma hadn’t found any animals matching Sparky’s description in her books, so I turned to the Internet newsgroups. One guy from who knows where, who obviously thought I’d been having a long chat with a bottle of booze, happened to be on-line when I posted my description.

“What you have here is the classical description of an animal that doesn’t exist,” he wrote. “There are stories passed down through the ages of these mysterious beasts flying through the sky,” which I knew was ridiculous, because I knew Sparky couldn’t fly, he continued. “They’ve been called by many names, but the most common one is dragon.”

Then he suggested I go to a book store and find some fantasy novels and find one with a picture of a dragon on it and compare it to my pet, which the way he was writing, lead me to believe he was certain it was imaginary.

The next day, I had to go into Santa Fe to pick up some family snapshots I’d taken. And of course Sparky was in some of the shots, since he’d become part of the family. As I’m checking them out at the counter, the clerk looks over and says, “that’s cool. It looks so life-like,” pointing to Sparky. “I didn’t know you could do that with a computer. It almost looks like he’s taking a piece of charcoal from your kid’s hand.” Nancy had been giving him a treat at the time.

The clerk didn’t believe me when I said Sparky was no computer trick, he was real. “Sure, right. I know you computer nerds. You swear everything you do is real,” then shrugged his head and wandered off. He was right in one respect: I had the computer gear and training to alter any photo so no matter how bizarre, it would look like the real thing.

I grabbed my film then went to a nearby used bookstore where I told a clerk, who was meditating behind her incense and crystals, what I was looking for. She took me to the fantasy section and within a few minutes, I’d found book covers with animals which might have been Sparky’s cousins. The dragons pictured there were bigger, nastier, with longer wings and looked like they weighed as much as a small tank, but they were close enough.

After paying for the ones which looked closest to Sparky, I headed home.

“Emma, come here, please. I have something to show you,” I said when I got into the kitchen. We then went out to the yard, called for Sparky and he came, just like your regular dog. We compared him to the covers of the books, which he looked at with a critical eye like he was saying, “You think that’s me? You’re not even close, buster.”

“Now that we know he’s a dragon, what are we going to do?” Emma asked. I thought about it, and figured maybe we’d better call a zoo and see what they had to say. After all, maybe they might know how to keep a dragon healthy. Once Sparky had recovered from being hit, he seemed fine, though recently, I’d seen a far-away look in his eyes like maybe he was missing something or someone.

I got back on the Internet and started e-mailing zoos with questions about dragons. Most of them thought I was completely nuts and either didn’t return my messages, or sent a “nasty-gram” saying something like their time was too valuable to waste on a fantasy like mine. I kept it up for about a week, then finally gave up when I couldn’t get anyone to believe me.

Emma and I had thought about calling the local newspapers, but we were sure we’d get ridiculed by them, too. Since we had no desire to move, we just kept our mouths shut. When school started up again in the fall, we told our first and second-grade kids not to say a word about Sparky to any of their friends, a few of whom had visited the ranch since Sparky had arrived.

Looking back, I thought it was kind of strange, that no one except us had ever seen Sparky. We’d had friends over for dinner several times, but Sparky always seemed to be out hunting or playing, or doing something where the other adults never set eyes on him. Sure, other kids had seen Sparky, but did their parents listen? Hell no. Face it, would you believe it if your kids said their friends had a dragon as a pet? I didn’t think so.

Fall turned into winter, and the snow began dropping its white coat on the ground. Sparky began to become harder and harder to find until one day, I chanced on a cave he’d found in that arroyo where we’d encountered the rattler. I couldn’t be sure, but he kind of looked sick.

I told Emma and we thought that maybe Sparky’s time with us was at an end. Christmas vacation was right around the corner, and we wanted to make our annual L.A. trip, but I’d gotten laid-off the web page design business, and finances were getting tough. Emma and I were really wondering if we’d be able to keep the ranch, or if we’d have to sell it and move to some city. L.A. was out, but a trip to Flag was doable.

About that time, the news group postings I’d forgotten about finally got a positive response. Jack Guenther, a Ph.D. candidate in paleontology, left me a message and asked if he could come out and see Sparky. First we arranged to have me scan some photos in of Sparky, who was now as big as a pony, and e-mail them to him. Once he was convinced that the pictures were unaltered, he offered to drive out from San Diego and take a look.

Jack arrived at our home just before a blizzard blew in, so we were kept inside for two days before we managed to pay Sparky a visit in his new cave home. On the way, we’d seen some tracks, which I knew were Sparky’s prints, but which fascinated Jack. “I’ve never seen such fresh prints,” he exclaimed when he saw the first ones. “These look like those of the dinosaurs I’ve been trying to find. They’re a little odd, like something which might have evolved from a dinosaur, but they’re not too far off.”

We got to the cave and I went in only to find Sparky looking thin and weak. Frankly, he looked like he was about ready to die, but I sure wasn’t going to say that to the kids or Emma. I told Jack to come in, which he did.

When Jack saw Sparky, his eyes lit up like he’d just found a mine of pure gold. “I can’t believe it,” he exclaimed. “It’s real. You’ve got a real, bonfire dinosaur for a pet,” as he was jumping up and down with joy. “Professor Burns will never believe this. I’ll be the youngest full professor in the history of San Diego State,” he shouted loud enough to make me wince.

Sparky gave him a critical eye, like he was saying, “who is this nut?”

Then Sparky did something I’ve never seen him do: when Jack pulled out a camera, Sparky took a step toward him and cleared his throat like he was about to french fry Jack. “Put the camera away, now,” I yelled at him.

I knew Jack had mere seconds to comply before Sparky would incinerate him, and possibly me with him. “Come on, just one shot,” Jack pleaded. As Sparky coiled his head like a snake getting ready to pounce, I screamed, “put it away before we both fry.”

Jack reluctantly complied. Then Sparky looked at me like I’d just tried to hurt him and I knew my visit was over.

At that point, I knew what had to be done: Sparky had to go home.

Jack, who was furiously scribbling notes on our way to the house, kept pestering me with questions and demands to use the phone. He wanted to pull in a team of game wardens to tranquilize Sparky then take him to a zoo where he could be prodded, probed and analyzed. If looks could kill, the ones I gave Jack would have made me a mass murderer.

Just after we got home, another storm came out of nowhere and knocked out the phone lines, keeping Jack from reaching his office and calling for help, despite my pleas and demands to the contrary. Emma and I had a conference, just the two of us, before dinner. We decided to load Sparky into the horse trailer and take him home that night.

Neither Emma nor I drink, and as a rule, we don’t keep booze in the house. But keeping Sparky safe long enough to take him home meant some desperate measures. I rummaged around in the back of a cupboard and found a bottle of vodka, an open container of gin and some brandy. With some syrup, sugar, spices and fruit juice, I was able to whip up what appeared to be a sweet, non-alcoholic punch. I also made up a second batch of the same stuff, but without the booze.

A few minutes later, dining by candlelight because the power was also out, we poured Jack a big glass of punch and toasted his “discovery” of Sparky. He said dinosaur, we said dragon. Emma had added some hot spices to Jack’s food, so he was drinking glass after glass of the punch while the rest of us were sipping ours. Shortly after dinner, Jack said he felt strangely tired and excused himself to bed.

The kids, who were in on the plan, got bundled up while I went to get Sparky. Meanwhile, Emma hooked up the trailer, though Princess gave her the look of, “your taking my trailer? Without me? How dare you.”

Sparky, who seemed barely able to walk, and wasn’t interested in a charcoal snack, gave me a dirty look when I entered his cave. His ears perked up, though, when I told him we were taking him home. He gingerly lifted himself off the floor of his cave, which I could now see with the aid of my lantern had the carcasses of some other animals beside mice. There were coyote skins, and even something that might have once been a mountain lion. There were also lumps of what I’d swear was gold, but no one had ever found any gold within hundreds of miles of our home, at least not that I knew about.

I got Sparky home and into the truck, hopped in and we were headed out of the driveway before Jack came running out of the house waving for us to stop. Emma ignored him, while I did something really rude: I gave him the finger. After all, he wanted to cut apart a member of my family, and I wasn’t going to sit still for that.

In the sideview mirror, Emma and I could see Jack trying to start his rental car. “He’s not to get very far,” Emma turned to me and said. About that time, innocent little Nancy spoke up from the back seat and held something up. “Mommy, what’s this?” she said, pointing to a distributor’s rotor.

Feeling a lot better, I relaxed as Emma got us out to the highway before I took over on the wheel. She went back to the trailer to be with Sparky while we communicated using the kids’ walkie-talkies. Nothing happened for the first few hours, but as we got closer to where we thought we’d found Sparky, Emma reported that his ears perked up, like he was hearing sounds which humans couldn’t. He began acting impatient, pawing the floor of the trailer, like an anxious horse. His claws were so sharp and strong, that he was doing some serious damage to the trailer. Emma was actually worried the trailer might not hold together long enough for us to reach where we’d found Sparky.

As we got closer still, Sparky began exhaling jets of flame out the back of the trailer. If any vehicle had seen it, they would have thought we were on fire. Fortunately, we had the road to ourselves and there wasn’t a cop in sight.

We were still a ways from where we’d found Sparky when Emma called me. “Stop the truck right now,” she said. “Sparky is acting like he’s going to break the trailer down if we don’t let him out.”

About all the two of us could later figure out was that Sparky had been away from home when we first found him. I pulled over onto the shoulder and Emma, who had to push an anxious Sparky away, started to unlatch the door. As she was doing it, and I was making my way to the trailer with both kids at my heels, we heard an unearthly screeching noise in the sky.

We looked up and just above the trees, we saw two shapes which looked a lot like Sparky except for one key difference. He was the size of a horse: they were the size of a small plane.

My first thought was for the safety of my family. “How am I going to protect them?” I wondered. My second thought was that maybe these were Sparky’s relations.

About that time, Emma had managed to get the door unlatched and Sparky sprang out into the night. He took a few steps then launched himself into the sky, heading straight for the other two dragons. He was still kind of skipping along, but he was definitely getting more air under those wings than I’d though possible.

Both Brad and Nancy looked at his departing backside with tears in their eyes. “Goodbye Sparky,” they each said. “I’ll miss you.” Then they both came to Emma and I and started crying.

Sparky met the other two dragons on a nearby ridge where all three were silhouetted by the stars and full moon, heard the kids crying and came right back. He bent his head first to Brad, then to Nancy, for a hug, and using his flexible neck, hugged them back.

I came up to him and scratched his head one last time before saying, “Go on. Get out of here. You deserve to be with your own kind. But remember, you can always come visit us whenever you want.”

Sparky stared right at me, like he was trying to tell me something important, then was off to rejoin his folks.

We got back in the truck and made our way slowly and somberly homeward, like we’d just lost a good friend, which we had.

When we arrived home the next morning, Jack was there, and so were several police cars. Our front area had more cop cars in it than the average Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Jack, who was furious, and maybe a little hungover, threatened to have me arrested for releasing an extinct species. The cops, though, were just hanging around and I could tell by the looks they were giving each other, they were wondering who this nut case was.

After the top cop, whose name I never got, asked me why I’d taken Jack’s rotor and why we’d disappeared in the middle of the night, I told him it was private, family business. We’d gone to say goodbye to a dear friend, and we didn’t want strangers hanging around. Since this cop was Navajo, and they really understand the importance of family, he shrugged it off and told his men to get back to work.

Jack meanwhile threatened to sue me for every last cent I’d ever make unless I told him what had happened to Sparky. So I told him, but I lied about the location of where we released him, putting Jack off by at least a couple hundred miles.

Once Emma put the rotor back in Jack’s car, we told him his stay with us was at an end and said, firmly, that it was time for him to go. “What about those photos you sent me?,” he asked.

“Those? I faked them. If you look carefully, you can see the brushstrokes on the chest where the dragon was painted on the cover of a book that I copied.” Those “brushstrokes” were scales.

Of course Jack knew better than to believe me, having seen Sparky with his own two eyes. Now that the evidence was called into question, and I said it was faked, he doubted that anyone else would ever believe a word of his story.

This little tale should just end right here, as my family and I struggle with our finances while Sparky roams free and Jack goes away a frustrated man, but it doesn’t.

A few days later, I went to Sparky’s old cave to see if there was indeed anything in it besides old bones. What I found under the pile of skins he’d been resting on were dozens of nuggets bigger than my fist, and each almost pure gold. My research into dragon lore had said they like to have a horde of riches, but until now, I’d never believed it.

I didn’t know if Sparky would be upset, but I knew Jack might be back, so I took the gold to a spot only I knew about and reburied it. Then I took the animal skins and bones and went out into the countryside and scattered them. I also looked for all of Sparky’s tracks and altered or erased them.

When Jack did return a few weeks later, just as I’d thought, there was nothing for him to find except the bones of some mice. Jack left like he had before, a frustrated and bitter man.

What happened to me and my family? Well that gold took care of our financial problems, especially when it was mixed with some dirt and rocks, but I took care to only “find” one or two nuggets at a time. Emma knew the real story, but I told people I’d been out prospecting and found them on a trip to Arizona.

Sparky? Well, on some nights when the moon is full and the sky clear, we can hear him off in the distance. Every now and then, he’ll set down for a spell and let the kids, who are grown now, pet him like they used to. No matter where he goes, or what he does, Sparky will always be the dragon in our family.

-- David B. Reynolds



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