The Nursing Home
A thin drab youth with brown lanky hair slipped into a dark room leaving the door partially open. Someone slept noisily on the full-sized bed. He coughed lightly.
“Boom boom, boom boom,” came a muttering from under the faded quilt. “Boomboom, that’s what it sounds like. Listen, boy, you can hear it if you listen.”
The boy turned his head to one side and listened. There was quiet.
“I don’t hear anything, grandpa.”
“Then you’re not hearing well. I can hear it, like a man with limp or a wooden leg. Boom boom, boom boom,” the voice snarled. “I don’t even need to open my eyes to tell he’s coming for another attempt at my treasure. Listen. Boom boom, boom boom.”
“Grandpa, I think that’s your heart. Remember mom told you not to listen to your heart?”
“Boy, if you start listening to that woman you’ll never be a proper dragon. You’re still a sapling, an odd body, not fully grown and your breath smells like that nurse here. Listen.”
“Grandpa, I come every day, even when it rains and we never see a man here.”
“I showed you my watch, boy child. Gold it is, gold like the tears in my eyes when you deny your heritage. You are descended from dragons, from me and my ancestors. Your mother doesn’t count. She’s a frightening woman, not a proper dragon woman. Shh, someone’s coming. Hide on this side of the bed.”
The boy scurried to the window sill side of the room. He stood quietly watching the door. He wasn’t afraid of his grandfather, but the nurse was another thing all together. With a scratching sound of over starched cotton, the door was thrown over and the light turned on.
“Woman, turn that light off. You know it bothers my eyes. Have you no respect for age?”
“Now, now, dear, how are we after your nap? Oh look, our little friend is here to see us again. I do hope he’s being good. Do you want the red gelatin today or the green?”
“I don’t want any gelatin. It’s nothing but sugar. Grandson, did you know that they used to make gelatin from old horse’s hoofs?”
“Now dear, that was during World War II, during the bombardment. We learned about that in school back when we were a mere slip of a lass.” She drew a needle and vial from her apron and proceeded to the edge of the bed. “Just put our arm on this side of the blanket, dear, and let us take your blood sample for the doctor.”
“You were never a mere slip of anything, Nurse. I’m not putting any of “OUR” anything near you. The doctor has his own blood, let him sample it. See, I told you boy, he’ll come. Listen for it. Boom boom, boom boom. He’ll take the treasure with him and I’ll have nothing to give you.”
“Oh, don’t be a silly old silly, we’ll scare our grandson. I know he’s not supposed to visit us without his mommy but we don’t have the heart to throw him out of the building. It wouldn’t be good for our health. We need our young ones.”
Grandpa pulled the blanket down below his eyes. He kept his nose under the covers.
“We had the sniffles last week, young man. We’ve been keeping a kindly eye on us so we recover in a timely fashion.” Nurse Peal blinked at Grandpa.
“Darn it, Nurse Peal. Don’t scare the boy, he hasn’t molted to his true character yet.”
“And what are we turning into this week? Are we still a dragon?”
“Boy, don’t get old. I forbid it. You’ll end up in a place like this with your teeth falling out and your bald head shining and scaleless. Run along, Nurse, we need our quality time. Just run along.”
The nurse took grandpa’s wrist and listened to his pulse. Jabbing his arm, she took a large sample and put it in her pocket.”The tea trolly will be along shortly. We always like to have tea with us. You could join us if you like. Wouldn’t you like that, young man? Now, dear, we’ve pulled the blanket out from the bottom of the bed. Let us make you all nice and snuggly. We’ll just let you know when the tea is ready.”
The boy nodded quietly and followed the nurse to the door. She shut it behind her with a sweet smile.
The boy turned to the bed and whispered, “Grandpa, you are going to get us in trouble. I thought you said that the fact we were dragons was a secret. She’ll tell on you and that doctor will want more blood samples. She’ll hide the tea trolly from you. Mom said I should make you behave and if you don’t she’ll make you leave this place and SHE’LL take charge of you.”
“Are you still afraid of your mother, boy?”
“Well, no, but sometimes she’s not very nice to others. I don’t want her to be mean to you.”
“Is she still making you eat oatmeal every single day? Making you go to school? I had an old friend who was a teacher in a middle school. He had a great job, teaching literature and scaring the head lice off of student’s heads. Just placed the tip of his claw on their head and they ran off screaming. Screaming lice, what a hobby. I forgot his name, but this bookstore owner called him The Black Dragon. She was all about trolleys with tea in the afternoon. It seems to be a woman thing.”
“Did you know any other dragons, Grandpa?”
“There was The Reluctant Dragon. You could never get him to commit to doing anything. He wouldn’t fight, He read books and filled his head with philosophy. Nice chap, but he was a vegetarian. Not a proper diet for a dragon. He and St. George wandered off into the forest after staging a badly acted drama. The critics were harsh. Then there was the Blue Dragon. Oh, she was a looker that one. Your head was never safe with her after…well, you don’t need to know that at your age. Most dragons were called by their colors or their location. They kept their magic names to themselves so people couldn’t have power over them. They had names like Strong Heart, Pestilence, Snort, Long Tooth, most of them boring names. My name, however, was a magnificent name. Did I ever tell you what it was?” There was a pause. “Speak up, boy, speak up.”
“No, grandpa, you didn’t.”
“Ah, I must remedy that. I was known as the Red Dragon of Dreadful Temper Tantrums.
My mother hid away from me when I learned to fly because I would fly into a fit demanding gold, diamonds, dwarves, swords and jewels. I loved the depth of color in my jewels. Once I was given and item I put it in the corner. Then I would sing to it.”
He cleared his voice. “Ahem, ahem. Do, Re, Do, Sol, Mi, Sol, Ti, Sol. Gimme, gimme, jewels for my soul.” His voice rang out as large bells ringing and clanging together. “See, boy, singing to jewels made my soul happy.”
“What about your eggs?”
“I’m a male dragon. I don’t have much to do with eggs and you will find out about that much later.”
The door squeaked open. Nurse Peal’s face peered into the room. “Are we alright in here then?”
“Of course, woman, now go and leave us alone.”
She pulled her head out of the room with a heavy sigh. “Don’t let the old fool give you a hard time, boy. Tea trolly should be here soon.
“Now, boy, let’s make you a dragon name. What do you fancy? Your egg was yellow, you know. It looked like the sun rising in the East. Your mother kept it well polished and warm. Warm eggs mostly grow up to be large dragons. What should we call you?”
“Grandpa, I’ve been thinking about that. How about the Rising Son of the Eastern Dawn?”
Grandpa looked startled. “Why I like that name. My grandson, the Rising Son of the Eastern Dawn. It suits you, boy, it suits you.”
“How will I know when I start to grow my wings?”
“You’ll start to growl, grow and argue with your teachers about how to swing a shield to protect yourself from a sword.”
“One of the girls in my class has a sword made of plastic. She runs around smacking us boys when we try to play cricket or soccer. I don’t like her very much.”
“A girl dragon or a girl knight? Girl dragons are dangerous, but girl knights are worse. They try to make you do what they say when all you want to do is stand around the corner looking after your wealth. They’ll take your coins if you look away. Sneaky creatures, girls.”
“Did you have a girl dragon as a friend?”
“Well, not exactly. I had a wife dragon, a suitable dragon, a pink and lovely dragon.”
“Didn’t you have a maiden to tie up like in my book?”
Grandpa chuckled. “I had two tied up. Both wore princess outfits and screamed such a lovely screams. But I never ate them. Those knights would sneak up on me.They’d steal the princesses away. Boom boom, boom boom. Did you hear that?”
“Grandpa, you are being silly. That’s your heart carrying on. Don’t tell anyone your heart is carrying on or they won’t let me come visit anymore.”
“If they don’t let you come visit me, I shall eat them alive. No, raw meat isn’t good for us. We like our meat nicely cooked on an open fire. What do knights call that, a B something.”
“A barbecue is what Daddy calls it. He says that he isn’t a dragon though. He says dragons only eat raw meat and if I argue he’ll send me to bed without a cooked supper.”
“I’ll have a growl with him and show him better. You tell him when you get home tonight. I’m sure I can bring him round. He’s the reason your mother won’t show her dragon wings, you know. I think he’s a tall dwarf, or a politician. Sometimes they are both. So, what did you learn about today in that school your mother forces upon you? Did you learn about war or spears or something fierce?”
“Nope, today we learned about the teddy bear. He looks like Winnie the Pooh, but a president got him in a crate from some firefighters that were putting a fire out in the United States. He was all singed and burned and they put lotion on his fur to make the burns better. Children saw him in the zoo and their moms bought them soft bears to keep them company in the dark. I have a bear, but his name is Arnold.” “Well, that is a very good name for a bear, I think. You must guard his well. I think he must be one of your treasures.”
Their heads were close together, by this time, and secret words passed between the two.
Nurse Peal and mother stood outside the door, watching and listening.
“I don’t know what we will do without my father in our future. How’s he really doing, Nurse? I know you keep track of what the doctor says.”
“Don’t worry, dear. I drive him crazy using we all the time and he’s really a lovely old goat when you go home. He does love his grandson so. They like to change what he’s going to be when he becomes old. He told the boy, last time, that when he could escape from here he was going to live in the sky and be a star.”
The two women looked at each other and tears formed in their eyes.
“GRRRRR,” called the boy in a loud voice.
“GRRRRR,” the old dragon answered.