I got my first pet when I was seven. Or, rather, he got me. It was summer and school was out. I’m sure I was driving my mother batty because she sent me outside to play until dinner.
I remember it was hot and thinking about how it was the perfect kind of day to go down to the creek. I wasn’t supposed to swim in the creek, Mom said it was dangerous. I think that’s what made it fun.
I don’t know what kind of childhood you had, but for me, the only way to swim in the creek was to skinny dip. Mom would know what I had been up to if I came back in with wet clothes.
I stripped and made a running start for my classic cannonball.
As I pushed off the bottom of the creekbed, I felt something smooth give way beneath my feet. I surfaced and dove back under. It took a minute, and I was worried I might run out of air, but I found what I kicked open. I carried it up to the muddy bank.
In the bright light there was no mistaking what I’d found. It was an egg, a little bigger than a regulation football.
I ran my fingers over the surface gently. I hadn’t broken all the way through, but whatever was inside was now awake and ready to come out.
I think I must have thought it was a dinosaur egg, but the creature that broke free after it’s great struggle was no ancient lizard.
It was a dragon.
Green scales and a toothy grin of hooked fangs looked up at me. He opened his eyes and gazed up at me, and a name popped into my head.
Percival, like the knight.
As I whispered the name, he squeezed his eyes shut in silent understanding and pushed his head against my knee.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. He bashed against me again, and I scrambled to my feet and tugged on my pants. I reached into the front pocket and pulled out the sandwich my mom made me for lunch.
I took one half for myself and tossed the other to my new baby dragon. Percival snatched it out of the air and swallowed it in one bite.
On my walk home, I tried to rehearse what I would say to my mother. “You said I could have a pet, well, I got one! Mom, meet Percival!”
I was sure my confidence would sway her, but when I came up the walk, she just said. “No.”
“But, Mom, you said I could have a pet.”
“I meant a dog, not a baby dragon.” She turned to go back into the house. “Put him back where you found him and wash up for dinner.”
I walked Percival back down to the creek, but he wouldn’t stay. He followed me back to the house. When my dad came home, he asked why there was a dragon in the yard, and my mom shot me a death glare.
“He’s my new pet!” I piped up with no concern for my own safety.
“Ah, well, as long as he stays in the yard, I suppose,” my father said.
It wasn’t long before autumn came and with it the first cold snap.
“Robin, go and get Percival and bring him inside tonight,” my mom said as I was doing my homework. “It’s too cold out there tonight.”
“Can he sleep in my bed?”
“Sure,” she said as she left the room.
Percival lived with us until I moved away. Something about my leaving triggered the wildness in him. I never saw him again, but I make a point of leaving half a sandwich by the creek bed whenever I visit my mom and dad.