Rachel Evangeline Chiong

Short Story - DRAGONS

DRAGONS

(2016)

Garden dragons are the new garden gnomes. Sold by professional breeders, it has become a bursting, lively industry, taking the world by unprecedented storm. Ranging from the size of hamsters to Labradors, their interactive and yet decorative function are all the rage in horticultural circles. Christopher, however, was not in it for mainstream acclaim or to beautify his garden. He was in it to quench the lifelong void he had felt all his life. As the impending doom of meaningless kept him up all night, tossing in an ocean of Downy-scented sheets, his friends had recommended that he purchase a garden dragon.

So on a sticky June night, Christopher, arms bursting against tight plaid sleeves, huffed into his apartment, quaking at the unexpected weight of the package. Each step into his balcony fell deliberately, since there was barely any floor space left, being covered with pots and milk crates full of past botanical hobbies he had collected over the course of his life soul searching. Herbs, both medicinal and culinary, were in pots splayed randomly like mushrooms. Various low-maintenance vegetables, from tomatoes, peppers, peas, and kale, co-mingled with flowers, including but not limited to, pansies, hibiscuses, and roses. African violets, which had grown out of control after each leaf was cut and replanted, were wedged into every available cranny in an assortment of hand-painted pots. An obligatory corner was dedicated to succulents, and it was among those bulbous leaves that Christopher placed the dragon egg and set the thermostat it came with to ‘birth’.

They had advised him to give it three to ten days till it hatched, but to Christopher’s dismay, the following morning, he discovered that his egg had been an exception.

His eyes darted from the broken eggshells among the succulents to the rest of his garden. Seething from the injustice of being robbed of order once again, he bumbled onto the balcony. He rummaged between the ceramics trying to find where it could have gone without knocking anything over.

A gurgley 'croo’ directed his attention to the vegetable section where the dragon lounged. Like a little night-black lizard, it was wrapped around a ripe tomato, burying it’s head into the juicy flesh.

Christopher screamed. He had wanted organic salsa and chips for lunch.

Snatching a rubber glove from a bucket of gardening supplies, he reached over and peeled the dragon from the tomato. He held the dragon to his eyes, juice dripping down it’s sharpened jaws, nostrils flaring with excitement, and Christopher wondered if this would be another one of his terrible decisions.

As days progressed, he found himself more at odds with the creature than in the harmonious symbiotic relationship his friends had promised him. Christopher often tried to keep his plants from perishing at the hand of the dragon’s mistreatment rather than caring for the dragon, who had made itself perfectly self-sustaining. While dragons formed as a fetus, they were acclimated to stay within the confines of the garden, which was marked with a spray that Christopher had diligently limited to the four corners of his balcony. His dragon, however, found delight in swinging on his fragile spider plants, one moment inside the room another outside, until it launched itself from the pot just inches into his bedroom. It would wiggle in the air for a few seconds, spouting ash into Christopher’s carefully humidified air then turn and fly back into the garden.

One night, as Christopher struggled to shut the lid of his kitchen counter compost, which was constantly overflowing from the collateral damage of his new garden pet, he heard a tapping on his balcony window. The dragon was on the other side almost dwarfed by a giant hibiscus, pecking at the glass. He ignored it at first, but the taps began hammering in random morse code until he couldn’t filter it out. He stormed out of the kitchen to see what new item the ungodly creature had destroyed.

To his suspicion, nothing seemed to be overturned, and the dragon was hanging close to his legs, which it never did.

“Well,” he said, “what is it?”

It wasn’t until it cowered under the seam of his loose pajamas, did he notice the commotion below his apartment. The street lit up, as ambulances and police cars wailed past the apartment, racing to some nearby neighborhood.

He scoffed in disbelief at the tail whipping nervously against his foot. “Oh, don’t tell me you’re frightened! You’re a dragon for Chrissake, you should be used to panic and destruction, it’s in your blood.”

The sirens continued to cry into the night. The dragon didn’t respond. For a few moments, Christopher felt thoroughly annoyed. Not only did he have to be this dragon’s babysitter, but now he was expected to be it’s therapist. But as the seconds ticked away punctuated by car horns blaring from below, he felt his consciousness crack. “Oh, come on now,” he said. “It won’t harm you.”

He stepped out of the balcony and into his bedroom, the terrified dragon, unable to leave the bonds of the garden, scurried from under his pants and into the hibiscus plants. Christopher returned with a folding chair and removed several of the pots from the middle of his balcony before sliding into the chair and cupping the jittery dragon to place it on his lap.

“There now, I’m here with you. I won’t let anything hurt you.”

He didn’t know if dragons understood English, but he did know the night was much like the one when he had brought the dragon egg home: muggy, hot, and he mused as he grazed a finger against it’s scaly spine, hopeful.