The Dragon

Ben Loory

Summer 2017

A family goes on a day trip to Chinatown, and the next morning, the little girl finds a dragon in their backyard.

Are you a dragon? the little girl says to the dragon.

Yes, says the dragon. I am.

The dragon is swaying a bit from side to side.

What are you doing here? says the girl.

I came to play, says the dragon. That is, unless you’d rather keep playing alone?

The little girl looks at the dragon and thinks, and then, finally, she shakes her head.

No, she says to the dragon, it’s okay.

And she and the dragon start to play.

That night, the little girl is getting ready for bed.

Did you see the dragon? she asks her mom.

The dragon? says her mother. You mean, in Chinatown?

Today! says the girl. In the yard!

Oh, says her mom, drawing the sheet back. No, I didn’t know it was there.

It was, says the girl. We played ring-around-the-rosy, and house. And hide-and-seek—twice.

And was the dragon a nice dragon? her mom says after a while.

A nice dragon? the little girl says.

He didn’t say anything frightening? says her mom.

Of course not, says the girl. He’s a dragon!

Well that’s good, her mom says. Okay, it’s time for bed. But first, you have to make me a promise.

A promise? says the girl.

Yes, says her mom. You have to promise me this: if the dragon ever says or does anything bad, anything mean, or that you think is wrong, you will come tell me—immediately. All right?

All right, says the little girl. I promise.

Good, says her mom.

And the girl gets in bed, and the two of them kiss each other goodnight. Then the mom stands up and leaves the room.

And everything is all right.

But later that night, as the girl lies in bed—thinking it over—she starts to frown. She can’t understand why her mom would say those things about the dragon.

I’ll have to ask him, she says.

Ben Loory is the author of the collections "Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day" and "Tales of Falling and Flying," as well as a picture book for children, "The Baseball Player and the Walrus." His fables and tales have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Gargoyle Magazine, and The Antioch Review, and been heard on This American Life and Selected Shorts.

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