The Real Unreal Dragon

The Real Unreal Dragon

Mr. Lawrence, my Core teacher, started English class by telling us he was giving us a creative writing assignment. I am in the sixth grade at Mayfield Middle School. Being in sixth grade means I have Core for three of my seven periods—the first three, in fact, where Mr. Lawrence teaches us English, Reading, and Social Studies.

"Okay people, the assignment is for you to write a story where somebody learns that something they think is real, well, really isn’t real." Mr. Lawrence likes calling us "people". I mean what does he think we are, chimpanzees or something? "Who can think of something that might fit that category?" he went on.

Well, you gotta figure that the first thing somebody thought of was Santa Claus. And then there was the Tooth Fairy, somebody’s teddy bear, the Easter Bunny—you get the idea. Then Terry Duncan cracked everybody up by saying he wished that was the way his little brother was, something real that really wasn’t real at all.

Mr. Lawrence made sure we all understood the assignment. "I don’t want anybody doing something weird and writing on a different topic." He looked right at me when he said that. Mr. Lawrence is a pretty good teacher, but he doesn’t think that creative writing means we should be creative when we write. He thinks it’s all about following his directions.

I really like to write and I write stories and stuff that aren’t even for school. Since I was in fourth grade I’ve written all kinds of stories that are all saved on my computer and up in that cloud somewhere. I let my dads read them all and they think my stories are pretty good. My Pop is a teacher and he teaches math. But, he and my Dad both tell me how I can improve—they don’t just tell me my stories are good, they help me with them. Sometimes I listen to them and sometimes I don’t because sometimes I think my idea is better than theirs.

Now, about Mr. Lawrence and my writing. This is March and I’ve been in his class since September. Sometimes my creative writing doesn’t always follow directions because I like to be creative. I mean, I write what he wants us to write about, but not the same way. It’s like, if he says to write a story about green rocks making friends with red rocks, I might write about those green rocks rolling into the river, where the water cleans off the moss, making them gray rocks, and then they make friends with other gray rocks. Not that this was one of his assignments, but I’m just giving you my creative way of telling you how I might do a creative writing assignment differently.

He usually doesn’t like what I do. Like I said, he thinks creative writing means doing it his way, and I think it means doing it my way. Pop says that Mr. Lawrence is probably what he calls a frustrated writer and thinks his way is the best and if he wrote a book it would be a best seller so we should write things his way. I got an A in English at the end of the semester because creative writing is only part of our grade. I get A’s on a lot of writing assignments but not on creative writing because I’m too creative.

Well, I don’t care. I’ll take a B. Mr. L knows if I got less Pop would stop by the middle school for a talk—which he did when I got a C- on my first creative writing story. I was really mad, and so was Pop.

Still, Mr. Lawrence tries to remind me of what he expects every time he gives us a creative writing assignment. "You see, Aiden, a lot of good writing is discipline. You write the way I make the assignment then you learn how to tell a story and have discipline while you’re writing it."

I think he says that so when I get a B on a good story he can tell my Pop that I don’t have enough discipline. Pop knows better. He says I should tell the story the best way I know how.

"Be creative," he says. "That’s what the assignment is about. When you get an assignment to write an essay about the lessons you learn from the author of a book or write a book report, that requires discipline. Creative writing requires creativity."

My Dad, who is a highway engineer, simply says that Mr. Lawrence is acting like an asswaffle. We all know he’s not an asswaffle. Like I said he’s a pretty good teacher. For example, he makes Social Studies really fun and full of interesting assignments, but sometimes he acts like an asswaffle.

I’m telling you all of this, because I want you to read my story. Then you can think what you want to think. For example, you might say, "Well, you didn’t follow the assignment, Aiden, but your story is very creative." Or, you might say, "You really need to have more discipline in your writing." Well, whatever, think what you like, this is one of my favorite stories I’ve written.

Before you read my story, I should let you know something about the author—which is me. My name is Aiden Miller. I am eleven years old and in sixth grade at Mayfield Middle School. I am almost average size, have messy blond hair, except when it’s cut short, which is hardly ever, and some freckles along my nose. I’m a good student and a good soccer player. I am just learning to play basketball. I am a really good baseball player.

I live with my dads, Larry (my Pop) and Phil (my Dad). They are gay and are married. I came to live with them when I was eight after my mom died. Phil is my uncle—the brother of my father, who I call my sperm donor. But my father is getting better than what he was, at least sometimes. He and my mom never were married and he left us when I was seven. Anyway, my dads are my dads because they adopted me when I was nine. I love them and they are the best dads in the world.

I have an older friend named Marty who calls me his little bro. So that makes him my big bro. We chat a lot even though he doesn’t live in Mayfield much anymore. He is a pro baseball player and plays in the minor leagues. He is at spring training right now. Eric is also a grownup and is one of Marty’s best friends. He is a big bro, too, but I don’t talk to him as much. My Pop was his baseball coach in middle school and in high school.

Now that you know a little bit about me I bet you already know that I didn’t follow Mr. Lawrence’s directions. The day he gave the assignment in class I started wondering what to write about. It sure wasn’t going to be about Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny, or about Horace my stuffed donkey.

Then I got an idea. What if something a boy thought wasn’t real actually WAS real? That would kind of follow the directions, but would be way different than what everybody else is going to write. Which means, it would be creative.

Here is my story. I haven’t turned it in yet. I am really good at English, but my dads always help me with some of the grammar, spelling, and what teachers call syntax, which means if the words and grammar are used right. That means my dads proofread it.

If I wasn’t writing this story for English, I would have done a couple of things different. I would have had Lucas and Jesse call Nolan and Tanner nasty names instead of wuss, like assholes or pecker heads or queers or something, because they are nasty boys. They might have said Nolan and Tanner were bed buddies, and that would have been true. Hmm, maybe Lucas and Jesse were bed buddies too. LOL.

And when Nolan got home he wouldn’t have changed clothes. He would have stripped to his underpants and maybe even gotten naked. He would have gone down to get his milk and stuff in his underpants. Maybe he would have jerked off after eating his cookies. Nolan might have called Lucas an asswaffle or something. And everybody would have said asshole, or fuck, or shit, and stuff like that because that’s how kids our age talk when adults aren’t around. But, I don’t think Mr. Lawrence would have liked that, so you get to read the story the way I turned it in.

Oh, by the way, I think you’ll notice where I sneaked something in after my dads read the story to tweak Mr. Lawrence. I wonder if he will notice it. I hope you find it.

Here is my story. I hope you like it.


 

THE REAL UNREAL DRAGON

By Aiden Miller

 

Nolan Carter didn’t like bullies. That was because bullies liked to pick on him and on some of his friends. Nolan was a sixth grader and was starting his second day of middle school. He didn’t have any problems on his first day, but on the second day two big kids stopped him.

He didn’t recognize them. That meant they never went to his elementary school. There were only a couple of bullies there, but they didn’t pick on him because he fought back. But these two big kids were really big.

"Hey, Jesse, look at this little wuss," the big kid with black hair said. "He must be the littlest wuss in sixth grade."

"Dang, Lucas, he almost don’t look worth picking on," the big kid with brown hair said. "A little kid in third grade could beat him up."

Nolan tried to go around them, but Lucas stopped him. "You look so cute," he sneered. "You got that nice blond hair all combed and stuff. You look like the biggest wuss at Woodward Middle School." Lucas pushed Nolan and he stumbled back.

"He won’t look so cute with a bloody nose," Jesse said.

"Just be careful, wuss, because we’re gonna get you."

The two bullies walked away. Nolan was scared. He didn’t want to be scared, but he couldn’t help it. He knew the two bullies could beat him up anytime they wanted to.

He went to his locker. He saw his best friend Tanner, who had the locker next to him. Nolan and Tanner had been best friends since second grade.

"What did those big kids want?" Tanner asked.

"They wanted to show how tough they are," Nolan said.

"I think they’re seventh or eighth graders. They sure don’t need to show us they’re tough. But, you’re pretty tough, too, Nolan. You never got pushed around at our old school."

"Yeah, but nobody was that much bigger than me. Plus, there’s two of them."

"Yeah, I’d be scared too if they picked on me."

"If you hang with me I bet they do pick on you."

"That’s cool. Then there will be two of us instead of just one."

After school was over, Tanner and Nolan came out the front door together. They usually rode the same bus which made them happy. But, Lucas and Jesse didn’t make them happy after they walked out of the door to the bus pick up area.

"Hey, wuss, remember me?" Lucas said.

Nolan didn’t stop. "Yeah, you’re Lucas," he said as he walked past Lucas.

"Is the carrot top your buddy?" Jesse asked.

"He’s my best friend," Nolan yelled after Tanner passed Jesse and Lucas. Nolan and Tanner got on the bus and sat together.

When Nolan got home after school he went up to his room and changed his clothes. He reached up on the shelf over his desk and pulled down Victor. Victor was a stuffed dragon. He was brown with gray wings and a red tongue. Victor had been Nolan’s stuffed pet ever since he could remember. Nolan got on his bed and lay on his back with Victor sitting on his chest.

"These two boys at school were mean to me, Victor. They’re bullies and are gonna want to beat up me and Tanner. I think they’re eighth graders. They make me mad. I don’t know why they picked me and Tanner. They could go pick on kids in their own grade instead of a couple of sixth graders."

Victor didn’t say anything. Victor never said anything. But, it made Nolan feel good to talk to him. He talked to Victor all of the time when he was little and just because he was in middle school didn’t mean he had to stop. He bet he was the only kid at Woodward who had a stuffed dragon who listened to everything he said. Tanner had a regular old Teddy bear named Ollie. Tanner liked Ollie as much as Nolan liked Victor.

"I wish you were real, Victor. Then you could shoot flames at them when they picked on us, just like a real dragon does. But, there aren’t any real dragons." Nolan started to pet Victor’s soft back with its spiny backbone. "But, I don’t care, because you seem real to me."


The next day Kris met Nolan and Tanner at the bus stop. Kris had been their friend since he moved to Plainville in fourth grade. He went to the same elementary school as Nolan and Tanner but he rode a different bus to middle school.

They walked past the bus stop monitor and into the building where they saw Lucas and Jesse. "Those two guys are in seventh grade," Kris said. "What are they doing standing in the sixth-grade wing?"

Lucas and Jesse let everybody go past until Nolan and his friends came. "Hey, look, Jesse, they got another wussy buddy to protect them. Hey, Kris, what’s going on?" Lucas asked.

"I know them because they ride my bus," Kris explained to his friends after they got past the two bigger kids.

"Are you gonna quit hanging out with me and Nolan since they don’t like us?" Tanner asked.

"No, way, dudes. You’re my best friends."

But later Kris saw Lucas in the hall. "You’re in the sixth-grade hall again," Kris said.

"I didn’t know that," Lucas said with a mean grin on his face. "Hey, are you buddies with those two little wusses I saw you with?"

"They’re my best friends."

"Well, then I guess me and Jess and maybe our buddy George, to keep things even, will have to beat the snot out of you too."

"I’ve never done anything to you."

"You have now," Lucas said and then he ran off before a teacher saw him in the wrong hall.

After school, Nolan, Kris, and Tanner walked to the bus pick-up area. They had to walk past Lucas and Jesse again. The bullies looked to see if the bus stop monitor was close and she wasn’t.

"We know where Kris lives," Lucas said. "And we’ll figure out where you two little turkeys live. We know what bus you ride so we can figure it out kind of close. Your lives aren’t gonna be worth much from now on."

"What did we do to you guys?" Nolan asked.

"You breathe the same air we do," Lucas laughed. "But, maybe…just maybe…there is a way you can be safe."

"What?" Nolan knew what Lucas was going to say, but he asked anyway.

"Since you’re breathing our air, maybe me and Jesse will make you pay money for it then we won’t go messing with you."

"What about George?" Kris asked. Then he wished he never asked.

"Oh, yeah, George, too, if we have to ask him to help us."

"Anyway, we’ll think about if we’re going to do it and then how much you’ll have to pay, or if we’ll just have fun beating you up. So long, losers."

When Nolan got home from school his mom asked him if he had a good day. "It was okay," was all he said and he went upstairs to change his clothes, do his homework, and talk to Victor.

While he changed his clothes, he told Victor about being bullied by Lucas and Jesse. For just a second, he thought Victor blinked an eye. Then he decided that was a crazy thing to think and got his clothes changed.

"Dang, Victor, I was so upset I smelled fresh cookies and forgot to get any for homework energy. I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere." He went to the kitchen to see what his mom had baked.

"I thought you’d come back," Nell, his mom, said. "I couldn’t believe you smelled fresh cookies and went right to your room without getting any."

"I wasn’t thinking, I guess."

"Something is upsetting you."

"I’m okay."

"Nolan, don’t lie to me. Moms can tell these things. Now, tell your mom what is bothering and let’s see if I can help you." She placed two chocolate chip cookies on a napkin and set them on the table in front of him.

Nolan knew he had to tell somebody, but he didn’t want to be a snitch and make things even worse. He decided if he told his dad, he would go to the school and get mad at everybody, but his mom might be more reasonable. Just to be sure, he didn’t tell the whole truth. He just told her about Lucas and Jesse being two seventh grade bullies who were calling them names.

"Did they push you or hit you or say they would do something to you?"

"No, they’re just a couple of big dorks."

"Well, just remember that names never hurt anybody."

"Are you going to tell dad what happened?"

"I don’t keep secrets from your father, but I think you should tell him."

"Then tell him not to get all mad and go to the school."

"You can tell him that, too."

"I’ll think about it. I’m gonna go back to my room and eat my cookies." Nolan went upstairs and sat down at his desk. He put the napkin with the cookies on it on his desk. He didn’t notice Victor’s eyes open wider and didn’t notice his head move a teeny bit.

"Oh, rats. I forgot my milk, Victor." Nolan got up and went to his door. He said, "Guard my cookies, Victor," and left for the kitchen.

"Back already?" Nolan’s mother asked when he came back to the kitchen.

"I forgot my milk," Nolan told her.

He took his glass of milk off the counter and went back to his room. When he sat at his desk he saw that his cookies were gone. All that was left was the empty napkin. There wasn’t even a crumb on it.

"Victor, what happened to my cookies? I thought you were going to guard them." His still warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies had disappeared. Nolan looked at Victor and he swore that the dragon’s smile had become bigger.

He knew what his mother was going to say if he went back to the kitchen and told her he needed two more cookies because his cookies had disappeared—she was going to tell him that the cookies had disappeared right into the tummy of an eleven-year-old boy. Nolan knew she was going to say that because she’d said it before when he’d gone back for more cookies.

He decided not to go back for more cookies. But, he spent the rest of the evening wondering where his two cookies went, and he spent a lot of time looking at Victor and his different smile.

Nolan’s dad talked to him after dinner about Lucas and Jesse. He told him he should report them to the assistant principal. "And tell me if those two clowns bother you again. I’m not going to put up with it, not at all."

Nolan said he would do what his father asked, but he didn’t plan to. He knew he could take care of it on his own like he always did, even if they were way bigger than he was.

He didn’t see the bullies for the next couple of days at school. Kris said that Lucas didn’t bother him on the bus. Nolan thought that maybe Lucas was tired of bullying them.

For the next couple of days, he didn’t leave his chocolate chip cookies in his room. But, he kept wondering how his cookies had disappeared when he left them behind with Victor.

On Monday, when he came home his mom gave him some fresh baked oatmeal raisin cookies. He went to his room and stripped to his underpants. The cookies were on his desk on a napkin.

"Oops, I forgot my milk, again, Victor. Funny how that happens when I get fresh baked cookies. I better go get some milk." He left his bedroom for the kitchen. Nolan didn’t really forget his milk. He wanted to see if his cookies disappeared again.

When he got back with his milk, the cookies were still there. They hadn’t been touched. Nolan was kind of disappointed. He was hoping they would disappear. Then he would be able to look for proof that Victor had taken them. Nolan was beginning to think he ate the chocolate chip cookies and forgot that he did it. That was the only thing that could have happened.

"There’s no way you could have taken them, Victor," he told his stuffed dragon. "And even if you did take them, I know you would have told me, right?" Nolan looked up at Victor after he asked the question like he was waiting for an answer. For a moment, he thought he saw Victor’s wings flutter a little bit and then decided there was no way that happened.

On Thursday, Nolan saw Lucas in school two times—once in the sixth-grade hall. Lucas didn’t bother him. But, when Nolan and Tanner got off the bus after school, Lucas and Jesse were waiting at the bus stop, along with another kid. Nolan was pretty sure that kid was George.

"What are you doing here?" Nolan asked.

"It’s a free country. I can be anywhere I want," Lucas said. "But, just so you know, you aren’t safe anywhere now. George lives close to here and he can’t ride the bus for the first month of school, so his grandmother picks him up. She gave me and Jess a ride here with George so we could do stuff together."

The other kids who got off the bus at Nolan’s stop were gone, so only Nolan and Tanner were left. Nolan was going to say something, but never got the chance. Instead, Lucas punched him in the stomach, knocking him down on the ground.

"Hey," Tanner said. But before he could say any more, Jesse punched him in the stomach, too.

"Tell your friend Kris that he’s next," Lucas said. Then he, Jesse, and George ran off laughing.

Nolan got up and said, "What a jerk. That really hurt."

"We gotta do something about those guys," Tanner said. "We should tell our parents about it."

"That will just make things worse," Nolan said. Nolan was not going to tell his dad about what happened unless he had to.

When Nolan got home, his stomach didn’t hurt as bad, but it was still sore. He smelled his mom’s fresh baked cookies and that made him feel better. "You just made cookies on Monday," he told his mom.

"I know, sweetie, but I had friends over for coffee this afternoon and they ate up the rest of the cookies."

Dang, they’re a bunch of greedy ladies, Nolan thought. He took two chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk to his room, set it all on his desk, took off his backpack, and stripped to his underwear. He told Victor about being slugged by Lucas.

"He’s really mean," Nolan said to Victor. "If he wasn’t so much bigger I know what I’d do to stop him, but even me, Tanner, and Kris together would have a hard time, and that doesn’t even count him having Jesse and that George dude around." Then he heard his mother call his name. "I’ll be right back, Victor. Don’t let anybody touch my cookies and that includes you." He put on his sweats and went downstairs

But, when he got back from helping his mom, there were no cookies on his desk. There was just his glass of milk and the napkin the cookies were on. Nolan looked at Victor. He was sure Victor’s smile got just a little bit bigger. "Victor, I know for sure I didn’t eat those cookies this time. Chocolate chip are my favorites and if I ate any, I’d know it. So, what happened to my cookies?"

He picked up his stuffed dragon and carried it to his bed. He lay on his back and put Victor next to him. "I don’t know what to do with you Victor. Maybe I should bring four cookies, so I get two and you get two." He heard a little rumbling noise and it sounded like it came from the dragon. Nolan set the dragon on his chest and petted its soft coat. "Did you just make that noise?" Nolan asked, but Victor didn’t answer.

"Boy, do I sound stupid. I mean, how can a stuffed dragon steal chocolate chip cookies? And for sure it can’t make noises." Suddenly, Nolan’s petting stopped. He felt something hard under Victor’s coat. What was that? Nolan thought. He spread the brown coat a little bit with his thumbs and saw that the hard thing he felt was green.

"Victor, is that a dragon scale?" The dragon winked his right eye. Nolan’s eyes got wide with disbelief. "Victor, what is going on? Are you really a dragon? I mean like, a real dragon?" The dragon made another little rumble and fluttered his wings a tiny bit at the same time. "This is crazy," Nolan whispered to himself. "This is, like, really, totally crazy."

That weekend, Nolan left plates of food on his desk and walked out of his room. But, everything was untouched until Sunday. That afternoon he left a plate with two cookies—one oatmeal raisin and one chocolate chip. They were his two favorite kinds of cookies. An hour after he left them he came back to his room. The oatmeal raisin cookie was still there, but the chocolate chip cookie was gone. Not a crumb was left. Nolan didn’t know how, but the secret to Victor changing from a stuffed animal to a real dragon was chocolate chip cookies.

That night, Nolan asked his mom about where she got Victor. He’d heard the story before, but he wanted to hear it again. When she asked why, all he told her was that it was important.

"I bought him from a vendor selling things in a little booth on the street in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We were there on a cruise. He had lots of stuffed toys, but Victor was the only dragon. You were in your stroller and you pointed right at him. So, I bought him for you. You grabbed him and smiled when I put him in the stroller. You were two then."

"Did the guy say anything about him?" Nolan’s mom never said anything about what the man said and Nolan never asked her.

Nolan’s mom wondered why he was asking so many questions. "He said something in Spanish."

"What did he say?"

Nolan’s mother could speak pretty good Spanish, but it wasn’t great. She was sure she heard the vendor say, "Senora, someday, your little boy’s love will make the dragon become real." What she thought he probably meant was, "Senora, someday, your little boy will think the dragon is real." She decided to tell Nolan what she thought the vendor said instead of what he might have actually said.

Nolan said, "Oh, okay," but he didn’t think his mother was telling him the whole truth.

On Monday, Mr. Lawrence gave the class a special assignment. They needed to bring something from home that was special to them and tell what it is and why it is important to them. Nolan knew right away what he was going to bring to school. He was going to bring Victor.

On the way to the bus after school, Nolan, Tanner, and Kris were stopped by Lucas at the end of the sixth-grade hall. Nolan wasn’t worried. First, Lucas was by himself, and second, even he wasn’t stupid enough to start something in the crowded hall. But, he did step in front of them and stop them.

"What do you want?" Nolan asked as he tried to sound brave.

"Nothing big," Lucas said. "I just wanted to remind you guys that your first payment is due next week."

"What first payment?" Tanner asked.

"Yeah, what are you talking about?" Kris asked.

Nolan knew what Lucas was talking about and he wasn’t happy.

"You guys are stupid even for sixth graders. Me and Jesse told you that you would have to pay us rent money for breathing our air. Then we wouldn’t bother you after school. So, next Monday you each pay us ten bucks. And don’t complain about it because that’s really cheap."

"No way you’re getting anything from me," Nolan growled.

"Or me," Tanner and Kris both said together.

Lucas laughed. "See you guys on Monday after school," he said as he walked away.

"What are you bringing for your speech?" Tanner asked Nolan after they got on the bus.

"I’m bringing Victor."

"Victor?"

"You know, my stuffed…"

"…oh yeah, your stuffed dragon. Isn’t your talk supposed to be next Monday?"

"Yep."

"That’s when Lucas and Jesse and their buddies are planning to stop us to get their money."

"So?"

"So, they might grab Victor and mess him up or kidnap him or something."

"I think you probably have to dragon-nap Victor," Nolan giggled. "Besides, I just have this feeling that I’m supposed to bring him. I can’t explain it, but it’s just there." Just like I can’t explain Victor eating chocolate chip cookies and growing scales, Nolan thought.

"Well, you at least get to bring your animal. We can’t bring live animals, so I’m bringing Topsy’s leash, so I can talk about him." Topsy was Tanner’s cocker spaniel.

When Nolan got home from school, the first thing he did was take four chocolate chip cookies out of the cookie jar. His mom wasn’t home and he hoped his mother wouldn’t notice that he took two extra cookies. He had a feeling that Victor was going to need all the cookies he could get to be strong for his visit to school next Monday. He noticed that the cookie jar was almost empty.

Nolan took the cookies to his room. He ate two of them and left two out for Victor to eat. When his mom got home he asked her if she could bake lots of chocolate chip cookies.

"You mean more than usual?" she asked him.

"Yeah, I’m in a big chocolate chip cookie mood."

"What about oatmeal raisin cookies? You like them a lot, too."

"I need chocolate chip."

"What do you mean you NEED chocolate chip?"

"Please, mom. I need them just for the next couple of weeks. Pretty please. I’ll do anything."

"I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing a lot of Tanner after school for the next couple of weeks. Okay, extra cookies, but for the next two weeks only."

Nolan gave his mother a big hug. "Thanks, mom. And remember, they have to be chocolate chip."

"Okay, but I hope I learn what this is really all about when it’s all over. Unless it’s about Tanner and Kris and any of your other friends coming over. Then I guess I’ll know."

When the weekend came, Nolan invited Tanner and Kris to come to his house on Saturday. He did it mostly because they were his best friends, but also so his mom wouldn’t get suspicious about him needing the extra cookies.

"Hey, Nolan, how come your dragon is turning green?" Tanner asked.

"I dunno," Nolan answered. He didn’t think Tanner or Kris would notice and he didn’t have an answer ready. "Um, probably because he’s getting kinda old," Nolan said. He knew that sounded lame, but it was the only thing he could think of.

He was just happy that Victor didn’t decide to eat cookies when his friends were watching. Besides, even he hadn’t seen Victor actually eat a cookie. He was also happy Victor didn’t blink an eye or flap his wings. He hoped his dragon would be that good in school on Monday.

On Monday morning, Nolan carefully placed Victor into his backpack.

Then he packed his math book, his English book, and his notebook. Last, he put a paper bag with his lunch in his backpack and then a clear plastic bag with six chocolate chip cookies in it. The cookie bag was wide open. He put no chocolate chip cookies in his lunch bag, so Victor wouldn’t mess with his lunch.

On the school bus, he opened his backpack to show Tanner what was in it.

"I still can’t figure out why your dragon turned green. He looks even greener now than he did on Saturday," Tanner said.

"Touch him," Nolan told Tanner.

Tanner touched the dragon. "Ew, he feels all cold and hard. He doesn’t feel like a stuffed animal at all. What’s going on, Nolan?"

"I don’t know," Nolan answered. "I really don’t know." But I really do know, Nolan thought. Victor is a live dragon, but how do I tell my best friend that? Nolan had shown Victor to Tanner, so he would know something was different in case Victor started fluttering his wings or blinking his eyes or smiling or maybe doing something else.

Nolan’s speech about Victor wasn’t going to be until after lunch. He put his backpack in his locker. He left the backpack open so Victor wouldn’t feel like he was in prison. "I’ll be back before lunch, Victor," Nolan told him.

When Nolan went into his locker to get his lunch he noticed that Victor had eaten four of his six cookies. Victor was all scaly and was solid green. His eyes blinked and his mouth was open. Nolan could see his tongue. Nolan wondered if giving him all of those cookies might have been a mistake.

Nolan put his books in his locker and took out his lunch. "You be good after lunch when I give my speech," Nolan told his dragon. "People can’t find out that you’re really alive or we’ll all get into big trouble." Victor gave a little grunt and fluttered his wings. Nolan thought Victor was saying he would be on his best behavior.

After lunch, Tanner watched Nolan take Victor out of his locker. "This is so weird," Tanner said. "If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Victor was, like, really alive."

Nolan gave the second speech. He told how he got Victor when he was around two and told how Victor was a special toy for him. "I talk to him about school and stuff," Nolan said. "He never talks back to me though." That made some of the class laugh.

Victor behaved himself, except for a few little times. He sat very still on the table at the front of the room, or when Nolan held him. Every once in a while he blinked his eyes, but nobody noticed. And once he opened his mouth, which Patty Green and Tanner, who were in the front row, noticed.

Nolan finished his speech by saying, "I know some of you think it’s weird for a sixth grader to still have a special stuffed animal, but I know I’m not the only one who has one. I keep Victor in a place in my room where I can see him and he could see me if he was really alive."

After everybody applauded, Mr. Lawrwence said the class could ask questions. Nolan called on Larry Gross. "He doesn’t look like a stuffed animal," Larry said. "Is he made of plastic scales or something?"

"Yeah, that’s it," Nolan said, happy that Larry gave him a good answer to why Victor looked the way he did. "I just like calling him a stuffed animal."

Nolan called on Patty Green. "How does he open his mouth?" she asked.

"Huh?" Nolan asked. He was trying to sound dumb. He didn’t see Victor open his mouth at all, but knew he could have done it.

"I saw him open his mouth. Didn’t you see it, Tanner?"

"I never saw it," Tanner lied.

"I know you did. You just won’t say so because Nolan is your best friend."

"I never saw it," Tanner said again.

"Never mind. I guess I imagined it."

After school, Nolan put Victor in his backpack but left the corner unzipped so the dragon’s head could stick out. Nolan could tell that made Victor happy because he had a bigger than usual smile on his face. He and Tanner and Kris walked down the hall to the bus stop. But when he saw Lucas and Jesse at the end of the hall, he knew that letting Victor peek out had been a big mistake.

"Well, what do we have here, a big lizard?" Lucas asked. Jesse was laughing.

"He’s a dragon. I brought him for my speech. Now, leave us alone so we can catch our bus," Nolan told him.

"Did you guys bring our money?"

"We’ll give it to you tomorrow."

"If you’re lying you’re doomed."

Nolan and his friends walked around the seventh graders and headed for their buses.

"Are you really going to pay him tomorrow?" Tanner asked.

"No way."

Nolan and Tanner got off at their bus stop. After the bus pulled away, Lucas, Jesse, and George came from around the corner and stopped them.

Lucas unzipped Nolan’s backpack. "You still got that lizard in your backpack. I would’ve tossed him out the bus window. He’s too ugly to carry around." Jesse and George both laughed. Nolan was sure he heard a quiet growl coming from his backpack.

Then Lucas got really serious. "Where’s my money?"

"I said, we’d bring it tomorrow," Nolan said, trying not to sound as scared as he felt.

"I said I wanted it today, not tomorrow." He stepped behind Nolan and yanked Victor out of Nolan’s backpack. Victor squeaked, but it was like Lucas didn’t hear him.

Nolan heard him, though. He was sure that Lucas was hurting Victor and that made him mad. "Hey, give him back," Nolan said. But, he knew Lucas wasn’t going to give Victor back no matter what he said or did.

"I’ll tell you what. I’ll make this ugly thing my hostage. Bring me our money tomorrow and I’ll give him back. Otherwise, I’ll throw him into the dumpster where he belongs."

Suddenly, Victor opened his mouth and a little line of flame shot out, hitting Lucas on his arm. Lucas screamed and dropped Victor, who spread his wings and fluttered to the ground. Jesse grabbed Nolan from behind and George grabbed Tanner, but Victor rose from the ground, flew behind Jesse, and hit him in the back with a shot of flame. Then he hit George on the shoulder. Jesse let go of Nolan and George let go of Tanner.

"That’s no lizard, that’s a drone," Lucas shouted. "Where did you get a drone that shoots fire?"

Victor landed on Nolan’s shoulder. Nolan thought it sounded like Victor was purring. "He’s not a drone, he’s a dragon."

"That’s stupid. There’s no such thing as dragons." Lucas shook his hand which still burned. He took two steps toward Nolan, but when Victor stared at him, Lucas backed off.

"Come on guys, let’s go," Lucas said. He glared at Nolan. "We’re not done with you guys. You can’t have that stupid drone around all the time." Then Lucas, Jesse, and George started away. When they looked up and saw Victor flying over them, they started to run off to George’s house.

"I never knew a drone could flap its wings," Jesse said. Victor turned around and flew back to Nolan.

"I don’t know what just happened," Tanner said, "But that was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen." Nolan put Victor back into his backpack, but left the zipper open. Tanner walked over and touched Victor. "He’s really alive, isn’t he?"

"Yeah, I think he is. I never knew it until a couple of weeks ago," Nolan said.

"But how?"

"I don’t know. But I know that chocolate chip cookies have something to do with it."

"For real? Chocolate chip cookies?" Tanner asked as they got to his house.

"Yep, for real."

When he got home, Nolan said hi to his mom and grabbed three chocolate chip cookies. He went upstairs and took off his backpack. Victor fluttered over to the desk and eyed the cookies.

"Two of them are yours," Nolan told the dragon.

Victor surprised Nolan by shooting out a little bit of flame on the cookies to warm them up.

For the next two weeks, Lucas and his friends didn’t bother Nolan and his friends. They didn’t hang around the sixth-grade hall, they didn’t ask for money, and they didn’t show up at Nolan’s bus stop. They were all afraid of Nolan’s "drone".

Victor was getting stronger and a little bigger as he ate his diet of chocolate chip cookies. More and more when Nolan got home, he noticed Victor sitting on the window sill looking out of the window. The window faced south, and Nolan knew that Mexico was south.

On Saturday he sat on his bed with Victor. "Do you have a family, Victor?"

Victor fluttered his wings. Nolan thought he meant yes, but he decided to make sure. "I mean, do you have a family other than me and mom and dad?" This time Victor spread his wings and looked sad. The look on Victor’s face made Nolan feel sad, too.

Nolan gently picked Victor up and carried him downstairs and onto the back deck. He sat in a chair and placed Victor on his lap. "I love you, Victor, but if you want to fly home, I won’t stop you. I mean, you’ve been away from your family for a long time. It’s almost like you were dragonapped by us."

Nolan really did love Victor, especially since he became a live dragon. Nolan was sure that Victor loved him right back, just from the way Victor protected him from Lucas and his friends. "You can fly home whenever you want. Even today."

Victor looked down at the ground and shot a small flame onto the deck.

Nolan thought he knew what that was about. "Do you need some more energy first?" Victor fluttered his wings, which Nolan now knew meant yes. "Like lots of energy?" Flutter. "We’re out of chocolate chip cookies." Victor looked sad. "But, I can maybe buy some Bazoom giant chocolate chips at the Metro Market." The Metro Market baked big, thick chocolate chip cookies every day that they called Bazoom cookies. While they weren’t as good as his mom’s cookies, Nolan still liked them a lot. And they were gigantic.

"How many do you want?" Flutter, flutter, flutter, flutter. "Four?" Flutter.

Nolan set Victor down on the deck table. "I’m going to get some of my allowance money and buy you four Bazooms. You stay right here—don’t fly anywhere until I get back."

Nolan got some of his allowance, grabbed his helmet, and jumped on his bike. He rode off to the Metro Market. He noticed that Victor was flying above him. Even though the dragon had disobeyed his order, Nolan was happy beyond happy that his friend was going with him.

But, when he pulled into the Metro Market parking lot he almost ran into Lucas who was leaving on his bike. He stopped in front of Nolan making Nolan stop.

Lucas looked up in the air and didn’t see anything. "This so cool. You’re going to the Market and that means you’ve got money. I don’t see your stupid drone, which means you’re going to have to pay me the money you owe me. In fact, you can just give me all of your money since you owe me extra because you haven’t been paying."

Nolan wondered where Victor was. He was sure he’d seen him flying over his bicycle on the way to the Market. He wondered if Victor wasn’t going with him to the Metro Market but was really flying home.

Lucas got off his bike, letting it drop to the ground. He grabbed Nolan and said, "Pay up, wuss. Nothing is going to protect you now. You should have brung the stupid drone with you."

Lucas started to push Nolan to the ground when a narrow shot of flame hit him in the back. "Ouch," Lucas yelled, but he held on to Nolan. The next shot of flame that Victor shot was bigger and hotter and hit Lucas on his butt, burning a hole right through his pants. Lucas let go of Nolan and screamed. Victor landed on Nolan’s shoulder and stared at Lucas, who was rubbing his butt.

"You don’t fight fair," Lucas screamed. Victor shot a flame at his chest to shut him up. Lucas screamed in pain, then picked up his bike and rode off as fast as he could.

Nolan reached up and stroked the dragon’s green back, which had become a hard spine instead of thick cloth. Victor had flown low between the cars in the parking lot which is why Nolan hadn’t seen him.

"I don’t know where you were hiding, but you’re the best, Victor. Thanks for the rescue. I love you. Now, I gotta go get those cookies." The dragon remained perched on Nolan’s shoulder. "I don’t think they allow dragons into supermarkets," Nolan said as he stroked Victor’s head. The little dragon purred and took off flying in the direction of Nolan’s house.

When Nolan got home, Victor was perched on the table on the deck waiting for him. Nolan took one of the Bazoom cookies out of its bag and set it on the table. He didn’t notice his mother looking out of the window behind him. Victor warmed the cookie with a jet of flame and then Nolan fed it to him. They did the same thing with the second cookie. It was the first time he’d seen Victor actually eat.

"Will you ever come back?" Nolan asked the dragon. Flutter. "When?" Nothing. "Will you come when I need you?" Flutter. "How will you know?" Nothing. He fed Victor the third cookie and thought about how Victor would know he needed help.

Nolan took the last cookie out of the bag and set it on the table. "Will you know I need you if I set chocolate chip cookies on this table?" Flutter. "You’re my best friend in the world, Victor. I love you so much I can’t even say how much. But I love you totally and forever." Flutter, flutter, flutter, flutter, flutter.

Nolan was crying hard. He swore that he could see a couple of tears dropping down the scales of Victor’s cheeks as Victor warmed the last cookie. Nolan didn’t notice that his mom had walked out on the deck.

Victor finished his cookie and took off. Nolan was crying so hard he was shaking as he looked up at the dragon he had loved so much since he was a two-year-old. His mom stood behind him and put her arms around him but didn’t say anything.

The green dragon stopped and hovered above the porch. He looked down at Nolan. He opened his mouth and shot a small bit of flame about three inches, but a warm breath of air came all the way down to Nolan and kissed him on his right cheek.

Nolan Carter sat on the deck chair with his mother standing behind him. She felt the warm breath from Victor when it touched Nolan. She knew that it was a kiss of love. They both watched as the dragon turned around, flapped his wings hard, blew a three-foot-long breath of flame out in front of him. They watched as he began his journey south and shrank to a small dot.

"You know what mom?"

"What’s that son?"

"I thought Santa was real, and then I found out he wasn’t real. And I thought that the Tooth Fairy was real, and then I find out she wasn’t real. And I thought that the Easter Bunny was real and then I found out that he wasn’t real either." Nolan stopped and wiped his tears. "And the whole time I thought no way dragons are real, and then I found out that…that…that the dragon I loved since I was little is…is…" He tried to hold back his tears.

"Shh, it’s okay to cry." His mom took a deep breath and spoke quietly to Nolan. "I was sure that what the vendor who sold Victor said was that you would make him real with your love someday, but I thought I heard it wrong. Well, I wasn’t—that is what he really said. You are such a special boy. You made him real my sweet Nolan, you made him real with your love."

"And with your chocolate chip cookies," Nolan sniffled. "Love and chocolate chip cookies made Victor a real dragon." Nolan’s mother smiled as she suddenly realized she now knew why he had wanted those extra chocolate chip cookies.

The dot was really tiny now, but Nolan could still see Victor flying south to his family. Then the dot vanished. Victor, the green dragon, was gone from view, but was still in the heart of the boy who loved him.

THE END


Thanks for reading my story. I hoped you liked it. After I finished writing my story I gave it to my dads to read. Pop was crying when he finished it and gave it back to me. He told me it was my best story ever.

Dad liked it a lot, too. It takes more to get dad to cry than to get pop to cry, but I think he wiped away a couple of tears.

"Horace liked it," I told my dads. Horace is my stuffed donkey.

"How do you know he liked it," Dad asked.

"Because he was smiling."

"But he’s always smiling."

"This time he was smiling even more." I think in a way I wished Horace was alive just like Victor was.

After that my dads helped me by correcting my spelling and grammar and giving me suggestions for different words. I used their words in most of the places because they’re smarter than me. I mean they’ve graduated from college. Plus, pop is teacher, even if he teaches math instead of English.

Pop had a comment about one thing I wrote near the end of the story. It was where I wrote about Nolan saying that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny weren’t real, I finished it saying, "…and then I found out that…that…that the dragon I loved since I was little is…is…." Pop wrote in "real?" at the end.

I asked him why and he said, "I just wanted to find out if you left the word out on purpose or by accident."

"I left it out on purpose," I told him.

"That’s some mighty fine writing, son."

"It’s like that book about creative writing Mrs. Riley told me I should read said. You gotta make the reader think sometimes. So, instead of me telling the reader that Victor is real, the reader has to figure it out."

"Exactly. Keep the reader involved."

"Yep. I mean he can figure it out like right away but he still has to figure it out. I like stories where sometimes I have to think about what I’m reading."

I asked my dads if they thought I should get an A. They said if the grade was about good grammar and spelling I’d get an A. If it was about good writing like leaving the word "real" out, I should get an A. "But, if it’s about exactly following your teacher’s directions, then maybe not," Pop said.

"Well, I don’t care if I get an A on it. You said it was my best story, and I think it’s a good story, so I think it’s an A story," I told them.

When I went to bed I said what I was grateful for, just like my Big Bro Marty taught me. I said I was grateful for having the greatest dads in the world, who let me write my stories the way I want to write them and as long as I work hard and do the best I can they are happy. Then I thought about the best stories I read by real authors. They have things that are just a little different that catches my attention. So writing something special was what I try to do.

Mrs. Riley would have noticed me leaving out the word real and she would have known why I did it. I wonder if Mr. Lawrence will figure it out.

It’s called thinking. Dad says thinking gives him headaches. It does for me too, sometimes. But thinking makes me smarter and makes me write better.

THE REAL END