“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.
“I really don’t know,” Liza said.
The clock ticked, slicing the silence into slivers.
“Yeah.” Crystal put her tumbler down on the glass coaster.
Its soft “clink” suddenly irritated Liza. Glass coasters! Stupid, round, pressed-“crystal” things that her Aunt Sue had given her as an engagement present!
What would happen if she picked up the whole stupid stack of the stupid things and sent them hurling into the plate glass of the picture window? One by one – Crash! Smash! Ker-chunk!
But she didn’t.
“Would you like -” No. She couldn’t chuck Aunt Sue’s stupid glass coasters into the front yard through the picture window, but damned if she was going to sit there, politely plying Crystal with iced tea while the woman dissected Liza’s pathetic existence.
“I should get going,” she said. “So if you don’t mind…”
Crystal gaped up at her for a moment, then shut her perfectly lip-sticked mouth with an audible snap.
“I thought you said you didn’t know…”
“Yes, well.” Liza picked up Crystal’s tumbler. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have things to do and places to go.”
She didn’t – but she wasn’t going to tell her cousin that.