Thursday, May 20, 2010

"The Dragon Down the Hall" by Greg Dybec

Silva was as dead as dragons. My son believed in dragons. He would say the summer wind was a dragon’s roar somewhere in the distance. Now there were no dragons. Only Silva’s long boot laces that were untied and curled toward the banister at the top of the stairs where he lay stiff and still.

My son shuffled into the hallway after hearing the dull thump from outside his bedroom. His eyes were still sleeping and his mind somewhere in the purgatory of whatever fantastic dream he had awakened from. He clenched onto his small stuffed dragon and raised it eye level at the sight of Silva on the floor. I glanced in his direction, catching a glimpse of his large brown eyes that took refuge behind spongy green scales. With a nod he understood the situation. He rustled up enough courage and walked in my direction as I stood over Silva. His eyes raked back and forth between the dark hallway and the body, as if it was going to spring up at any moment. He finally reached my side. “He went to save the princess now,” he mumbled behind his bright plush monster.

Silva was a leper. An old man leper riddled with diabetes. He was an old friend of my mother and moved in with my son and me only three months ago. At first my son was frightened and had difficulty being in Silva’s presence. I instructed him not to stare, though he shuddered quite obviously whenever Silva entered. He would run to my side or up to his room, shielding his eyes with his small bony fists.

One night in the kitchen Silva explained to me that he understood why my son was afraid. He advised me not to worry, and assured that he would change things. He crept out of the kitchen like an old dog and made his way up the stairs. I remember listening intently and hearing the door to my son’s bedroom creak open with a tender push.

Ever since that night my son was fixated on Silva’s every move. He studied his daily routine, regularly peeking into the small square room where he stayed, marveling at his coarse legions and reptilian skin. One morning, as he slurped over a messy bowl of cereal, my son told me the truth about Silva. “He’s not ugly daddy, he’s turning into a dragon,” he shouted with enthusiasm. “Is that right?” I asked. “Yes. And when his scales finish coming in and his wings grow he’ll leave here to go save a princess.” He jumped off his chair with a flurry of growls and his arms stretched to the heavens. He flew circles around the kitchen before darting upstairs. His feet stampeded down the hallway and Silva’s door was hurled open with an excited thud.
Now I pushed my son back down the hallway, away from the shaded body of his serpent friend. He staggered with every step as if contemplating a speedy turn around. I kept my hands securely on his shoulders as we shuffled like stones into his room. When we reached his doorway his feet planted firmly into the rug. “So he’s gone now?” I polished my hand gently over his head. “Yes,” I replied. “He’s far away now. Probably flying to a castle.” My son shoved my hand off of his head before speaking. “But he has no wings.”

I dragged his lean body the rest of the way and fell gently onto his bed. The sluggish summer wind panted softly against the window and we didn’t say another word.

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