The Part-Time Dragon and the Challenge of the Trolls

(A Children's Story)

Bubba is a little boy with a thick, long, beautiful braid. It hangs past his shoulders and down his back. Dad also has a braid. He tells Bubba: "Our ancestors are strong men and women with long, beautiful braids. When they walked this land, they honored it, its wildness, and all of its creatures. We wear our hair in braids to remember them, and to honor their strength and wisdom that continue on in us." He tells Bubba this as he combs the tangles out of Bubba's hair and rebraids it every morning.

Grace is Bubba's sister now. She is several years older and much bigger than Bubba. She doesn't always braid her hair because her ancestors are different from Bubba's. She celebrates their strength and wisdom in other ways, such as when she goes to temple with Poppa.

Most days, Grace watches Bubba after school, until Dad or Poppa comes home from work. Bubba likes to crawl into Grace's big, soft lap for stories. He says he likes her stories about magic and monsters best of all, but not when they are too mean.

"Tell me a magic monster story! A magic monster story!" he begs her at least once each day.

Grace's stories often fill Bubba with so much wildness and joy, he must become a dragon. He runs around roaring and trying to fly. But dragons are noisy, and don't belong in the apartment because Gramps, Poppa's father, is sick and needs lots of rest. Every day after school Bubba and Grace go to Gramps and kiss him on his wrinkly cheek. Then Gramps smiles and goes back to sleep.

When Bubba grows too wild to sit quietly for stories, even new stories about magic and monsters, Grace leads him outside to the strip of grass between the sidewalk and their apartment building. She sits down on the bench there, and watches him play.

Once outside, Bubba likes to shout, "Look at me! I'm Dragon! Rrrrrooooaaaarrr!" Then he stretches his wings to fly.

He has been a dragon for Grace many, many times. Lately she doesn't seem interested. Sometimes she pretends not to hear him at all, instead watching people as they pass by on the street. They walk by with their dogs, or ride by on their bicycles or skateboards. Most of the time, they drive or ride the bus. When Grace won't play with him, Bubba shouts "Look at me!" at anyone else who might listen.

One day, three boys Grace's age came walking by without bikes or skateboards or dogs. They looked bored.

Bubba knew how to fix this. He shouted to the boys: "Look at me!" Then he gave his very best dragon roar. "RRRRRrrrrrooooaaaar!!!"

One of the passing kids did look at Bubba. "What is it?" he asked his friends. "It can't be a boy. It has girly hair." And then he pointed at Bubba and laughed.

Another boy also laughed. He had a cut on his left cheek and was at least a foot taller than Bubba. "Are you talking about the fat ugly one, or the little dumb one?"

Now the sidewalk was full of laughter, but not the happy kind. Bubba looked over at Grace. She was pretending to watch a stray dog on the other side of the street. The dog was sniffing around at the dirt and the parked cars, which glinted in the sunlight.

But was she really interested in the dog? She'd heard the boys make fun of the way she looked. Bubba didn't like that, and he didn't like being called "dumb," either. He wished Grace would stand up for them both. She was bigger than any of them. And Bubba knew she was strong and wise, like their ancestors.

So he gave another roar. "Rrrrrrrooooooaaaar!" The boys were still laughing, but Bubba pressed on. "I'm Dragon! This is Fairy Queen! Who do you think you are?" And then, because it was the obvious thing to do, he spread out his wings and flew around and around in the tightest circles he could.

His braid caught on the wind behind him and stretched back like a long, powerful tail. His feet might have left the ground, but when he felt the patch of grass still beneath them, he settled for running, instead.

"Rrrrooooaaaarrr! Rrrrr rrrrooooaaaarrrrrr!!!!" he growled some more. The grass and buildings and trees all whizzed by him, faster and faster, and faster, until finally he was so dizzy he could only fall down. Laying there in the cool grass, he pinched his eyes shut, and gasped for breath between roars: "Rrroar!" Gasp. "Roar!" Gasp. "Rrrorrr" Gasp.

Keeping his eyes shut helped the dizziness pass. It also helped him to listen more closely. He heard something. Maybe it was laughter. So he said: "Dragon is tired! Fairy Queen, use your magic on these trolls!"

He waited for a too-long moment. Finally, he heard her stand from her bench, and raise her voice.

"Yes, Dragon! I shall cast a spell. I shall cast a spell of..."

And Bubba opened his eyes in time to see Grace wildly waving her arms about.

"...KINDNESS!" And she flung the spell at the boys and then ran over to the dragon, who was still on the ground.

Dragons are very ticklish.

Bubba lost himself to giggling for quite some time. When he collected himself, he looked up and saw Grace smiling.

"They left?" Bubba asked her.

"They left," Grace said. She helped him to his feet.

"You used magic?" he asked.

She looked at him and smiled.

"We both did," she said.

Bubba smiled too.

Now THAT was a story to tell.

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