The monster stared her in the face.
“I’m going to eat you up!” it growled.
She wrinkled her forehead.
“Why would you want to do that?”
The monster blinked. It took a deep breath.
“I’m going to eat you up!!” it roared.
“Yes, you mentioned,” the girl said. “But you’re not answering my question: Why?”
The monster rapidly batted its eyelashes. They were quite long, thick, and silky, the girl noticed. It opened its mouth.
“Don’t!” the girl said, holding up her hand. “If you’re going to say you’ll eat me up, just don’t. I’m getting tired of it.”
The monster shut its mouth with a snap and looked bewildered.
She put her hands on her hips and faced it.
“So, come on, answer me. Why do you want to eat me up?”
The monster gaped a few times like a goldfish.
“Be–because…” it said finally, in a voice that sounded suspiciously like a squeak.
“Thought as much,” the girl said with satisfaction. “You’ve never thought of anything better to do, have you?”
Almost unwittingly, the monster shook its great scaly head.
“All right,” she said. “Let’s work with this.”
“No,” the dragon said, “it’s inadvisable. The rabble tends to get disturbed when I eat women.”
His face fell. “Are you sure? Not even a little nibble? I mean, I’m sure she’d be juicy and tender…”
The dragon licked his lips, then shook his head.
“Don’t tempt me. Also, she would probably be too sweet; not good for my blood sugar. My doctor has expressly forbidden middle-aged Mary Kay Consultants.”
“You have doctors?” he said with surprise.
“Of course,” the dragon replied.
“Sweetie!” trilled Marcia’s voice from outside the cave. “Where are you?”
Dragon and man both let out a sigh.
“I do not believe it,” the rabbit said, twitching his nose.
“Suit yourself then,” his wife replied, smacked her back legs against the ground and vanished into the burrow with a white flash of her tail.
“Do not believe what?” the prince asked politely.
“That there is a fo – fo-fo-fo-fo-fox!” the rabbit screeched, and after turning around in a few frantic circles, he too vanished down the burrow.
“Ah well,” the prince said, philosophically stroking his long whiskers with a forepaw. “There goes another lunch. One of these days, my manners are going to be the death of me.”
Words. Words, words, words.
Hamlet and everything.
They just wouldn’t come today, those words. Not the right ones, anyway.
Oh, there were words alright – lots of words. Jumbling together in her head; crashing together like bumper cars at the fair; bubbling up like a screen saver and then floating around, changing colour, gently tapping against each other, jiggling around, vanishing with a swipe of the mouse.
But not the right ones, not the words she needed.
“Never,” she said. She drummed her long, lacquered fingernails on the counter. “Never.”
He leaned his hands on the table and gave her a look.
“You’re being unreasonable.”
“Reason has nothing to do with it.”
“Reason has everything to do with it.” He picked up the bottle and thrust it at her.
She stubbornly shook her head.
“No,” she repeated emphatically. “I will not use artificial vanilla extract.”
Slowly, unnoticed at first, the kettle came to a boil. A soft simmering sound, then bubbling, a gentle blowing; then faster and faster, sharp and shrill, the whistle screamed its message into the air. “I’m seething, roiling, boiling! Get me off the heat! Do it nowwwwwww!”
I knew exactly how it felt.
I dropped my piece of toast, butter-side down.
“What the … ?” I stared. Blinked. Stared again.
But it was really there. Without a doubt. On my pantry shelf there sat an emerald-green dragon, all of four inches long from small smoke-spouting snout to lithe, whipping tail, its scales glittering in the light that fell through the doorway from the kitchen.
“Sssss!” it hissed at me.
“Sssss to you too!” I hissed back at it.
I should have known right there that I wasn’t quite in my right mind – having a hissing contest with a miniature dragon, rather than running screaming from the pantry or at least backing out slowly and carefully and then gently soaking my head in a sinkful of cold water until the hallucinations went away.
There was a knock on the front door.