The teacher pointed at a scaly claw the size of a small car.
“It is vital to clean under the nails and not just around them,” he said. “Too many people overlook that at first and in a few months their poor beast can barely skewer a hare, with all the gristle trapped under those nails.”
He held the claw up to show the groove under it.
“Too many people neglect grooming their dragon.”
It’s ok. I don’t expect your thanks.
I will continue setting the cobwebs and sprinkling dust on the bookshelves. I’ll make sure your favorite volumes smell like sweet decay. I’ll leave dirt in your window frames and grime around your faucets.
But don’t thank me. I hear your curses, your muttering, your clean-smelling rage.
But when I’m gone, trust you’ll miss me.
On my first day on the job as a professional park sitter, I spent eight hours reading. On my second day, I took a break during my lunch hour and hung out in an office building. The cubicle was so close and gray and quiet. A welcome break from the constant swirl and hush of fresh air.
“Come here often?”
It took me a moment to locate my tongue. I knew I looked strange in my shorts and T-shirt. “Oh, no. Actually, it’s my second day. I work in one of the parks down the road.”
He frowned a little. He must have been in the business a while. “They’re all the same. I’ve worked in three or four now. Same park politics no matter where you go or how green it seems at first. Like it so far?”
I shrugged. “It’s work.”
I lined my fries up in rows of four. There were 23 of them, though, so I had to break one of the particularly long fries in half in order to make 24.
I arranged them like a clock and ate one each hour.
I lined them up in two rows of 12 and ate one each month for two years.
I pushed them all together and pounded them into mash until there was not 23 or 24 or 12 but one. One giant potato mush ball. I flopped face-first into the fry ball.
He walked on his hands to the restaurant, wearing his best suit. He could see little but the sidewalk under his hands, but felt confident she’d be impressed when she saw him arrive.
He waved a foot. “You must be Sophie.”
She shook his foot. “Nice to meet you.”
He flipped smoothly to standing on his feet.
Poetry edition, what?
We made a castle out of sand
Just to try our hands
At building something frail and meek
A thing that could not last
The wave that came
Perhaps too tame
Could not destroy the walls
The wind that blew
Tip toed through
And left turrets intact
Then on we molded yet more homes
More farmsteads, mills and stone
We made a kingdom out of naught
To live in what we’ve wrought
She stepped into the revolving door. As she pushed, the hum and pulse of the city hushed. The light dimmed. The air cleared of muggy heat. The stink of cars and trash dissipated.
A world grew in the space between doorways, a gap in which she stood encased entirely in the glass. Beyond the glass on every side, she saw waterfalls tumbling down misty mountains with dragons perched on their peeks. Unicorns galloped by ridden by elves with flowing cloaks made of leaves.
She pushed the door farther and a gust of air conditioned office air blew away the world within the glass. Beyond the opening in the door, she saw a bored security guard, a television playing the news, a bank of elevators.
She turned around, returning to the world in the glass.