13th of December: Melanie Drake

Melanie Drake is a systems developer for a statistical software company by day, but by night she weaves stories. As a child she has told stories to her younger brother, and never stopped. Recently, she has begun writing them down and sharing them with others. She currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys trips to the beaches and to the mountains.

Her website is still new but will eventually fill out. Visit her at: www.melaniejdrake.com/

Conserving Dragons

by Melanie Drake

High-pitched peeping pierced Anders’ ears as he searched in the sand and brush off the gravel road. About 20 yards from his truck, he spied something thrashing on the ground, behind a very large, flowering barrel cactus. “Well, hello, little fella, or gal.” He used a gentle voice to calm the baby dragon as he pulled on the heavy gauntlets.

A dragon! The caller had said a baby bird had fallen from its nest. The dragon’s cries got louder as he leaned down to it. “We’ll get you taken care of,” he soothed the shocking pink dragon. As he got a hold of the dragon’s feet, it thrashed its wings in fright, and its shrieks were like nails in his eardrums. Anders carefully tucked the delicate wings beneath his arm and continued to speak in soothing tones. He looked up and around for the dragon’s nest, but couldn’t find it. Not in the mesquite, not in the saguaros, nor in any of the other larger trees or bushes. He heard a loud clacking and saw the mother glaring and gnashing her beak at him from a tall mesquite. Another tree without a nest.

“Well, little gal, I don’t know what to do with you. Let me talk to the conservationist.” With the dragon squeaking piteously, Anders called the local conservation office on his cell phone. “Hi Juana, this is Anders, with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. I’ve got a baby dragon, looks like she—or he, I can’t tell—fell out of the nest. The mother is right here, watching me and clacking her beak at me, so that’s good. But I can’t find the nest. What’s the best way to get him back to Mama? Where should I look for a nest?”

“Hi Anders. I’d really like to check him out, make sure he’s not dehydrated, or sick, or injured. Bring him to the office—we’ll take good care of him.” Juana’s voice sounded excited. Dragons were pretty rare in the Sonora desert, though they were common pests further north, even as close as Flagstaff, with its dense pine forests.

Anders shook his head as he hung up. “I’m sorry. I wanted to return you, and I can tell you have a good mother.” He glanced sideways at the angry mother dragon. “But Juana’s right. We can’t take any chances with you.” He continued to speak gently to the baby dragon as he turned to return to his truck. “Still, it seems weird to treat you like a stray owl or something.” He’d brought a tiny elf owl to Juana a few weeks ago. That baby was now growing up with another owl, to be released back into the wild once it matured. The dragon on his wrist let out a loud cry, and at that, more peeping broke into his musing. He walked around the cactus, and found four more pink baby dragons on the ground several feet away, tucked under dried brush.

“Now I have five! And why are you all pink, anyway? Mama’s a nice olive color with gold spots that blends in.” The dragons in Flagstaff were pine green or dark brown. Like chameleons, dragons changed color to match their general surroundings, though over weeks or months rather than minutes. Everything here was dusty beige, dusty green, dusty brown, dusty yellow.

These new babies were smaller than the one Anders already held, and their peeps were weaker, their flapping less purposeful. Anders knelt on the ground by them. Juana would have more baby dragons at one time then she’d ever seen. He flinched at Mama’s screech—she’d come closer, crouching over him at the top of the tallest mesquite tree. Her eyes whirled redly, and Anders wondered if she would breathe fire on him with her babies right there. “If you’d show me your nest, I’d return them.” His words did not placate mama dragon, nor did she point out her nest to him.

While kneeling, and then looking up, Anders’ arm that pinned the dragon’s wings had loosened, and it broke free, clutching the gauntlet. It mantled, hissing. Before Anders could move, it beat its wings, and rose. Its flight was very wobbly, but it landed somehow on top of the large barrel cactus. Of course—the flowers were pink! Well, Juana called the color coral, but it was just pink to him. And the small dragons were a very close match to the flowers.

He stood up on his toes as close to the barrel as he could without sticking himself on the long spines, and studied the big clump of flowers. He realized the spines in the center had been neatly trimmed away. He glimpsed a hole in the cactus and grinned. This was the nest, all right. He’d never have spotted it without the baby dragon’s hints.

He tried to ignore the mama dragon’s screeching, and picked up each of the other babies, placing each at the entrance to the nest inside the cactus, away from the sharp spines. Each one disappeared into the hole, while the first dragon remained perched on top, peeping softly with approval.

As Anders stepped backwards in the direction of his truck, the mother stopped her shrieks and agitated movements. Once he was at least 50 feet away, she glided over to her nest, and Anders smiled. “That’s right, tuck them in again.” She ignored him.

He chuckled, thinking of the clever baby dragon as he got back into his truck.


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If you like this story, watch out for Melanie's upcoming publications.


© Melanie Drake, 2019ff