|Conversations with an Insufferable Dragon.
I am standing at a bus stop. Unsure of where I am going, but sure I must stand on the gray concrete. I stand next to an azure mailbox, its edges chipped and scratched. Inside comes a curious noise, like scales clicking and sliding.
“Hey” it says to me, a deep voice with an accent. I snap straight like a soldier, focusing on the bus I am sure is coming.
“Hey, I’m talking to you,” comes the voice, it sounds strangled, annoyed and dangerous. The slot lid creaks down, two green eyes peering at me from the darkness. “Mailboxes do not talk.” I stare forward, hard enough to blur my vision. “And dragons shouldn’t exist,” a long pink tongue licks the side of the box. I shiver. A spluttering cough, sparks flying out and dying in the wind. I take a step closer, it looks closer at me, eyes expectant. “Are you really a dragon?” To answer my question, it grins, white fangs gleaming and tongue curling. I take one step back.
“Why are you in a mailbox?”
“To mail me back to where I belong.”
“Where do you belong?”
“In the Orient.”
“Oh. Okay.” I stand firmly on my spot, staring straight ahead.
“You’re very boring.”
“No, I just refuse to talk to a mailbox.”
“What about a dragon in a mailbox. That’s quite different.” The dragon smirks. I do not like it. I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. His green scales shine different colors, vibrant against the dark blue from what I can see. He sticks his tongue out at me.
“Hmph.” I turn my head away.
“What? This isn’t a game!”
“On the contrary. It is. I declared it so. And currently you are losing.”
“I’m not going to stand here and argue with a dragon. Which shouldn’t even exist.”
“Oh. Now you’ve hurt my feelings.” He, I’m quite sure it is a he from his deep voice, though I can’t be sure, starts to make sobbing noises, the mailbox quietly, but dejectedly shivering.
“Does that mean I’ve won since you’re crying?”
“Oh you are a horrid girl. You’re not easy to trick.”
“Crocodile tears. Girls use them all the time.” I say, educating him on the reality of high school life, filled with mean girls and awkward moments.
“Very true.” A few moments of silence pass. I am glad for it; now I can concentrate on why I am here. There is a deep fog. I can’t see past twenty feet in either direction. I only see the bus stop sign, the mailbox and the concrete under my feet, snaking under the curtain of the fog. The dragon starts whistling. A catchy little jingle that make my feet start to jig. I stomp them firmly on the ground. The dragon grins again.
“Catchy, isn’t it? I picked it up in Ireland.”
“You were in Ireland?”
“Aye.” The dragon winks at me. I feel as if he is lying. So again, I ignore him.
“In Dublin's fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, ‘Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!’” I sarcastically applaud.
“Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here till the Mail Truck comes to pick me up.”
“Oh, now a singing dragon with puns.”
“I know! Such a wonderful sight! I became famous in Timbuktu because of it.” The dragon smirks, he waits for me to ask, his eyes shining iridescently. I sigh.
“ You were in Timbuktu?”
“Oh yes! Oh yes! I was captured by traders going there. I was being quite foolish, I must admit, I was having a whistling contest with the Western Wind. That fellow blows a great tune. I’ll have to re-challenge him next time I’m in that region.”
“How nice.” I say, my legs are growing tired and my knees aching from being locked and standing. I sit down on the mysterious curb, rubbing patterns on the road with my knuckles.
“So what more would you like to hear?” I can tell he is getting excited, the mailbox is glowing red, I assume from being heated by his breath because he is speaking so much.
“I don’t know. How you ended up in a mailbox, I guess.” I feel that this would be good due to the fact he will have to admit his humiliation in ending up contained in a small metal box.
“Oh, that’s a very interesting and long story, I must say.” The dragon says.
“I’ve got time.”
“How funny, because no one does.” He says cryptically, looking out the corner of his eye.
“You are the most impertinent thing I’ve ever seen,” I say, sigh and looking up at the sky. It is overcast. How typical.
“Oh, impertinent, vocabulary point!” He chortles. “I would say the Sphinx beats me in that category. Especially in the last century or so, dementia finally setting in, you know. She never says what she means.”
“If I say I don’t care, would that shut you up?” I snap, I can deal with dragons but sphinxes are something I’d rather not hear of for there are probably more things I’d rather not know exist. I get silence in return.
A few minutes pass.
“Oh, fine. Start talking.” I say. Silence, “I’m sorry that I was mean.” Still nothing. I walk up to the mailbox and jimmy the flap. It pops open and he is smiling. I don’t know if I should be afraid or not.
“What?” I take a few cautionary steps back.
“Admit to it. You like to hear me talk.” He is still grinning.
“No! It’s just that I wouldn’t want to add hurting a dragon’s feelings to my long list of reasons why I’m stuck here!” I shout throwing up my arms.
“This must be Limbo right? I must have done something to end up here. This can’t be a dream since I should have woken up by now. Oh…Oh don’t tell me! I’m in Hell! Oh, I can’t be here! Spending an eternity talking to a dragon stuck in a mailbox! That’s a new one!” I rant. I kick the mailbox in anger because I can’t have ended up here for something bad. I mean, I recycle…most of the time and I turn in my library books in early, I try to tell the truth and I remember to send my grandmother a birthday card every year! How evil could I be?
“Hey! Watch the mailbox. Fragile packaging remember!” He chides, the mailbox slightly vibrates from my kick.
“No! I will not watch you, or your ridiculous mailbox! I am stuck is some other dimension with a dragon who is stuck in a piece of tin! You know, you’re not a dragon! A real dragon would be able to break out of a small mailbox! A real dragon would know how to keep his big yap from gargling on! A real dragon wouldn’t get stuck in a mailbox in the first place!” I’m yelling now, frustrated at this stupid situation. The ridiculousness of all this strikes me in the face and I stop. I sit on the pavement and sigh.
“Are you done now?” He asks. I kick the box once more and sit back down in response to his question. “Yes. I’m finished now.”
“Good, I was wondering if you were going to kick me constantly. I’m already in back pain, age catching up with me, I suppose.” He sighs.
“Are you going to tell me why I’m here?”
“Why do you think I know?”
“You seem to know everything else, Mr. Timbuktu, Irish jigs, knew the Sphinx, etc.”
“Maybe you know.” He says, peeping out of the mailbox.
“I’m going to start walking.” I get up, dusting my pants off, and saluting him goodbye.
“It’ll do you no good.” He shouts at my back. I wave it off.
It is foggy, making everything twenty or so feet off impossible to see. I follow the sidewalk which seems to go on endlessly. I am not scared, more annoyed. If I am in Limbo or whatever, and keep walking, at least I will lose that last pound, one of my many resolutions kept unfulfilled. I keep walking. It is quiet, so quiet in fact that I could hear my own heartbeat, in time with the scuffling of my feet against the pavement. I hear singing in the far off distance.
“Twenty-eight bottles of beer on the wall, twenty-eight bottles of beer, take one down pass it around, twenty-eight bottles of beer on the wall! Twenty-seven bottles of beer on the wall-oh look! You’re back!” It is the dragon, in his little mailbox, still peering out at me.
“What? I feel like I’ve just walked a marathon! Did I go in a circle?!”
“Technically. What? The fog and look of endlessness didn’t warn you? Wait, why are you on your knees?” He asks.
“Dear Mother, I’m sorry I stole that candy bar when I was four! I just really, really wanted that one! I’m sorry!” I pray. I feel like nothing else will work.
“Yes, because you would spend eternity in Limbo for stealing a candy-bar.”
“And yesterday I would have thought it impossible to be talking to a dragon stuck in a mailbox!”
“Good point. Put in a good word for me when you’re done.” He goes back to whistling.
“You know. You don’t seem at all worried to be stuck in a mailbox for eternity. Oh, not at all. You seem quite content with your little songs and quips.”
“The mail truck will come eventually.”
“Mail truck?” I ask. Of course there should be a mail truck if there’s a mailbox, “When is it coming?”
“No idea.” My hope dies at his response.
“Why am I even here? I must have fallen asleep watching TV again.” I sit back on the curb.
“Well this is a crossroads. So you could be lost.” He suggests.
“I’m not lost. I’m stuck here. There is a difference.” I say. For if I could leave I’d be certain I would be a hundred miles from this circular wanna-be-Twilight zone-limbo.
“Not particularly.” He cryptically responds.
“Excused. Being lost is defined as not knowing which direction you are going in or having no direction at all.”
“What are you? Webster?” I snap. I blame all my problems on this lizard stuck in a box.
“You can sit there all you like. But it’s not going to help at all.” He says. I stare at the blue metal, annoyed at its grime and the disgusting way it rusts at the feet, permanently frozen.
“Then how about you explain your situation. How you’re stuck in a mailbox, ‘Sit there all you like’, even if you do know the way, you can’t get anywhere.” He does not respond. I want to kick the mailbox again.
“Have I finally won this little dialogue we’ve been having?” I tap my foot. “Fine!” I rock back and forth. Where can I go? I walk and end up back here, I’m waiting at this little bus stop but nothing’s coming. No coming, no going. Nothing. Just like my life.
“You could let me out of this mailbox.” His scaly voice says, echoing against the metal.
“Don’t be silly. You can’t mess with the mail. It’s a federal offense.”
“I see. I thought you would be able to help me. But it seems I am wrong.”
“Why can’t you just wait for the mail man?” I suggest.
“And how do you think he will react?”
“Not as pleasantly as I have,” I say.
“He’ll send me back.” He says
“Back? I thought you wanted to go home?”
“The Orient is not my home any longer.”
“But isn’t it a part of who you are? Festivals and things like that?” I don’t understand this dragon. He has a home where he comes from, where everyone seems to respect and adore him. I mean, they love dragons over there, don’t they?
“Where you come from is not always where you belong.” He says after a few seconds of silence.
“And where do you belong then? In that mailbox?” I tease. I am jealous of this dragon, I don’t know why, but I have that small aching feeling that’s right below my collarbone and right above my heart.
“I belong where ever I wish.” He says seriously. He says it with such emotion and confidence, I can’t respond at all.
How will I get him out? Obviously I can’t break it open. I can’t pick it open but… “Give me a scale.”
“Give me a scale!” I say, holding out my hand. The slot slams shut, his eyes disappearing, a small yelp then it pops back open, a small iridescent scale the size of a guitar pick popping out.
I hear a mechanical sound. The spinning of wheels. The scent of diesel fuel burning my nostrils. A bus has pulled up, its windows gray with black silhouettes sitting in chairs. Its windows irk the back of my soul, some where primitive. Its door opens up, a man inside, tired-looking and impatient, his posture slumped against the driver’s seat.
I sit there in front of the mailbox. What should I do? I can’t just leave the dragon there, can I? The bus driver looks incredibly impatient, looking at his watch which has no hands, or even a face. The dragon is peering at me from the open slot of the mailbox. Both their eyes are watching me. I raise my hand up. “I can’t believe I’m doing this” I say under my breath. “I’ll catch the next one.” The doors of the bus close and the wheels roll on, leaving me and the dragon stuck in the mailbox behind. The bus stop sign slowly fades away, as if made of nothing but air, into the surrounding fog. I do not focus on the fact that I have just blown possibly my only chance to get away from this place. I only concentrate on the scale and trying to pick the lock. After five minutes of shaking shoulders trying to hold my hopelessness in, the lock clicks open. I stand up, sure the little dragon is going to crawl out the door and eat me or some other thing dragons do.
“Thank you.” And with that, a burst of purple, blue and green light speeds past me and out into the fog.
He is gone. The mailbox’s door lays hanging down, leaving the mailbox strikingly naked and empty. There are scratches made by what looks like huge talons inside. It smells of animal. I lean against the mailbox, it is just me and the mailbox now, in this cloud of white. I stand like this for the better part of an hour. I am not cold, I always associated death with cold and dreams with warmth. I am neither, my sense of temperature is gone. No more worrying about heating then.
“In Dublin’s fayr city,” a voice sings from the white cotton of atmosphere. It can’t be.
“Whar the gurls are so pritty,” It’s coming closer. Can’t that dragon just leave me alone?
“I first set me ayes on swet Molly Malone!” I can see a figure slowly through the clouds.
“Now…whut was that next part?” The voice says, confused.
“She wheeled her wheel-barrow.” I finish. The figure is a man, a small little man clad in a crisp little blue suit. A mail-man suit, included with a little cap and a gray, nearly empty messenger bag.
“Oh, Thank-ya. I alwers ferg’t that part.” The little man says, his crooked nose, blue eyes and white hair sticking out from under his cap are somewhat amusing. His eyes looked past me down to the mailbox behind me, to the flap that lay open.
“Hay! Whut hap’en’d to tha mailbox? Whar’s tha mail? You know not to mess with tha mail, don’t ya?”
“It was like that when I got here.” I say, glancing about. The mailman inspects it closing, looking at the edges, the inside, the outside, everywhere.
“I’ll just report it as skuirrels. Damn creatures!” He says. I don’t know if he’s playing dumb or not, are there even squirrels here? I don’t question him.
“You hava any mail fer me?” He says, holding out his hand. I shake my head fiercely.
“You sure?” He asks again, looking at my hand. I open it and give the one scale to him.
“To the Western Wind.” I say definitively.
“Whut should I say to hem?”
“That the dragon wants a rematch, and will be able to now,” I say. The mailman pulls out a little blue sharpie and scribbles on the back of the scale, like a postcard. He sticks out his hand for a second, I am confused.
“Stamp?” I shake my head at that. He slaps one on for me and stuffs it in his bag.
“It’ll get thar soon.” He says and turns to walk off.
“Um, excuse me? But do you know when the next bus might be?” I ask, maybe there’s still hope. Maybe I can go with him.
“Can’t say I do. It’ll come soon, though, be sure o’ that, they alwers do.” He says, waving me goodbye over his shoulder. He sings Molly Malone again, his voice falling into the distance.
It feels like hours that I’m sitting there. I keep checking the spot where the bus stop sign was, hoping to find some trace. I only find a rust circle, the only proof that it was actually there. I think I am crazy. I look to the left; two headlights are steadily growing bigger. I ignore them. I have gone crazy, I must have, there’s no way a bus is here. The square, faint shape is still growing, coming towards me. It pulls up, the bus does not smell, it is a happy lime green, it purrs gently as the doors open. There is no one at the seat, no grumpy bus driver, no passengers. A little bow is tied to the wheel. I walk up the steps, and inspect further. I step outside again, careful to keep a hand on the bus to make sure it doesn’t disappear. On the window wiper, is a postage stamp, a note stuck under the little black rubber wiper. I pull it off and open it. It says: “From the West Wind, P.s. The dragon picked the color, not me.”
I am surprised. I do not have a driver’s license, but from the way things look out here, there’s nothing and no one to hit. I smile and get in and sit on the custom suede seat. I close the bus doors and grip the wheel.
I have my own bus. I have my own way.
I push down on the gas, rolling forward and leaving the mailbox behind.