Dragons have always been a great comfort to me. As a child, I had no use for Teddy bears, with their pliant limbs and expressionless faces. Toy cars lacked personality, and the trappings of sports only mocked my thin, weak frame. It was a small wooden dragon, with articulated wooden segments run through with string, which accompanied me everywhere.
The hand-painted, foot-long dragon was a gift from my father the day he left for the war. I was four years old, and my father knew of my distaste for the amusements upon which other boys my age wasted their time. Now, so many decades later, I can still draw upon the memory that I constructed from whole cloth of my father in the toy store, bypassing the tin soldiers and tops and croquet sets, his eyes alighting on the fearsome miniature dragon, and the thought that must have crossed his mind. Aha! he must have thought. This, right here, this is just the thing for my dear boy.
Like many boys of that time and place, I did not see my father again. In my young memory, he grew in stature and heroism, and somehow, in my young mind, the dragon and he became one.
As you no doubt know, dragons are not, historically, the hero of the story. St. George’s vanquish of the terrible beast is an allegory of the defeat of evil itself. When my two girls were small, they imagined themselves princesses, waiting for their knights in shining armor. I felt the pain exquisitely as each noble sword was driven home in their fairy stories, the dragon’s death a small price exacted for a love that left the royal pair living happily ever after. When my grown girls were swept away by their respective knights, a stock broker and a doctor, I wondered what wild and wondrous dragons had fallen in order for the mundane reality of lifelong love to take their place.
But these events, the ones that litter the roadsides of an old man’s life, are not the stories that you have come here in search of. No, you have come to hear not of metaphor and ancient memory, but of the real dragon. I only saw it once, but once was enough. It was the summer of 1968, the summer of my thirtieth year, and though it was nearly fifty years ago, every detail is still as clear as though it happened no more than a moment ago.
I see you make no attempt to hide your disbelief, and who could blame you? Children of this age, they demand proof, pictures, videos, DNA samples. I assure you, I have none of these. If hard evidence is your demand, you may as well leave now, as it is bound to go unmet.
But before you pack up and leave, I will tell you this: many a skeptic has walked through the doors of the house and left a believer. I cannot guarantee that the same will be true of you. But, perhaps you might sit awhile, if for no other reason than to give an old man some company, and we will see what transpires.
To be continued…