As Delmon walked down the dusty gravel road toward the creek, he began the important task of planning his summer vacation, of which today was the first day. There would be the ordinary everyday things which would include a stroll to the drug store for candy and baseball cards, a game of war with the neighborhood kids and a flip through the latest Avengers comic. There would be the much anticipated trip to grandmama's house for the Fourth of July and fishing for mud puppies at the Blackmore's pond. Mama's apple pies and catch with Dad after work. Maybe even time for little sis. All of these ideas blossomed into a brilliant mosaic of anticipation in Delmon's mind.
The road began to bend in the direction of the aging farmhouses on the far end of town. Delmon skipped off the path to the right and started down the tangled bank of the creek. His target was a lengthy steel tube that spanned the distance from one bank to the other. This was the only spot to ford the creek for two miles in either direction. The duct extended about five feet above the crawl of the black water beneath. Delmon had observed the older boys negotiate the divide by foot, but he elected to manage by straddling the tube and scooting along on his backside.
As he settled himself on the pipe, a disturbance from below captured his attention. At first glance, the part of Delmon's brain that refused to believe that the things that go bump in the night were anything but ancient wood lamenting on time's callousness toward materials of decay, saw only a fallen tree, left behind by the ravages of an arduous winter storm. Nothing more than natures way of renewal. However, this thought was quickly replaced with the ghastly shock of comprehension at what lay below.
The creature had the shape of an alligator. Its scaly jacket glistened with the oily liquid that ambled it's way over and past, polluting everything downstream with the dross of the loathsome monster. The limbs were submersed in the water but, without a doubt, ended in razor sharp talons capable of dissecting with the certainty of a surgeon's scalpel. It's tail coiled into a tight sphere that appeared to lay on the surface of the water, quivering with the current. The savage head was that of a dragon. Two spiked horns rose from its crown flanked by many smaller spikes along both sides of the face. The hideous mouth was partially open revealing columns of bloodthirsty teeth. But by far, the most unsettling of the creature's grotesque appearance were the eyes. They were a deep shadow of red, sunken within the dragon's skull and seemed to convey the torment that undoubtedly followed the nightmare of this alien's wretched existence. These eyes were hungrily fixated on Delmon.
Delmon was unable to move, completely paralyzed by the vexing glare of the demon. It spoke.
"You realize that I am going to eat you?" the dragon seemed to breathe more than speak. Delmon remained silent. "See, I've been waiting for you all winter and I am very hungry."
Delmon, figuring that, if he is to escape and avoid the terrible wrath of the dragon, he will need to accommodate it with conversation. Accessing a courage he did not know he possessed, he replied in the best Avenger voice he could muster, "Surely there are bigger kids that will come by today and provide you with a larger meal."
The dragon seemed to ponder this for a few moments. Delmon took advantage of the beast's pause searching the alcove of his recollection for a similar situation wherein one of his comic book heros triumphantly slew the beast and saved the world.
The dragon spoke again, "Yes...yes, I agree that you are quite small and the warm weather likely will bring more boys and girls to the creek, but you see, I am very hungry and you look soooo appetizing." Delmon shivered. "I would be kicking myself if I let you pass and nothing came my way for several more days."
Delmon began to formalate a plot in his seven-year-old mind. His mother was always telling him that what one fears most, most of the time, does not even exist. If he could convince the dragon that it did not exist, maybe it would just disappear. Delmon said, "What if I told you that I don't think you're real, that you are just and old tree laying down there in the water?"
The dragon growled and replied, "You can clearly see that I exist and am on the verge of devouring you."
Delmon said, "No, I think you are an old tree, not a scary dragon. I'm going to count to three and you will be nothing but a dead tree. ONE, TWO..."
"Wait!" cried the dragon, "let's talk about this a little longer. Assuming you are correct, that I am just a figment of your imagination: what would a lowly dragon like myself have to do to maintain his existence?"
Delmon thought about this for a long time. On one hand, if he just wished the dragon away, that would be that. No more worries. But on the other hand, having your own personal dragon may have extraordinary benefits. Delmon resolved to ask, "Do you promise not to eat me when I pass over the pipe each day?"
The dragon responded, "Well, I may need to think..."
"ONE, TWO..." interrupted Delmon.
"Okay, okay, I won't eat you when you pass each day," blurted the dragon.
Confident that he had the monster right where he wanted him, Delmon began to scoot across the pipe. The dragon watched with those dangerous eyes, a costant discharge of drool poured from the beast's gape. When Delmon reached the other side of the creek, he turned to the dragon, closed his eyes and said, "THREE!" He opened his eyes and the dragon had turned into a fallen tree. Delmon muttered, "Just in case," and continued on his way, reminding himself to thank mom for the great advice.