Category Archives: Fiction

Happy To Be Writing

(Not happy that my latest theme upgrade seems to have erased to cool header image on this page, but when I have time I’ll fix that).

My third NaNoWriMo has rolled around and — hallelujah! — I decided to check out one of my former NaNoNovels one more time before I decided I was doomed never to finish a novel properly or revise it and that I should just give up the whole idea.

And do you know what I found?

I found that I quite liked it.

It’s flawed and far from publishable but it might just make it there.

So I hesitated for about three seconds before deciding that yes, I would plunge back in this year and use all the stuff I have learned about writing (and myself) over the past couple of years to get another first draft written.

Between NaNoWriMo and the StoryADay challenge I started in 2010, I have made more of a concerted effort to improve my fiction writing than at any time since I first moved to PA in 1996 and before that, since I was at primary school, when I just assumed I would always (ALWAYS) bit sitting in a corner somewhere, scribbling in a jotter, giggling to myself, and then showing the stories to appreciative authority figures who would tell me what a great writer I wa

Well, thanks to my unflaggingly enthusiastic hubby and eldest son, I can still tap into that inner ten-year old and tell myself I am a good writer (the younger son is a bit too young yet to grok what this is really about). Thanks to my parents, I still have that ‘why not me?’ attitude.  Thanks to Carol and Beth I have people who fully expect me to get this  done. Thanks to Chris Baty, I have a deadline. Thanks to Terry Pratchett I have a map of  how this might be done (even if it’s not done perfectly at the start). Thanks to all my peeps at StoryADay.org, I have a crew of writers who need me to take this business seriously and be better than I think I am on a bad day. And thanks to the lovely writers at the Main Line Writters Group, I have face-to-face people to read my stories to, who laugh in all the right places (and some unexpected ones) and whose collective brain I pick every time I go to one of those meetings. And thanks to every writer I’ve ever loved for keeping that irritating little fire alive in my soul.

 

So I’m 2 days and 5082 words into a new novel. I’ll lose my way and I’ll curse it and I’ll wonnder if it is anything other than a pile of steaming fertilizer. And I’ll struggle to write on days when we’re travelling or visiting or when  the house is full of people (even my little people) but I will reach 50,000 words this month. And then I will bury it in peat for an unsppecified amount of time and one day recycle it as firelighters. Or I’ll turn it into a real novel.

 

But i’ll tell you this for free: writing makes me happy.

 

 

What makes you happy? Are you doing it?

The Ideal Man

I was making some writing notes this morning and reflecting on heroes and what qualities they should have. I’m not sure the two characters in this story are quite on the same page…

“I’ve found him at last: the perfect man.”
“What, him?”
“Absolutely! OK, he’s a little short, but what a body! And he looks really young for his age.”
“I’ll give him that.”
“He’s quiet, and I’ll bet he’s a great listener.”
“Just because he’s not talking, doesn’t mean he’s listening…”
“Oh, hark at you, old married woman. You’re just jealous. I mean, look at those muscles; the way his veins bulge out – that there is a man in peak physical condition. I’d love to run my hands over those biceps!”
“And how were you planning on getting close enough to do that?”
“I have my ways. Don’t give me that look, I do! And speaking of looks, look at those eyes. Such a penetrating gaze.”
“Looks kind of cold, to me. And not just his eyes, actually. Apparently it’s not true, what they say about big feet…”
“Tsk! You are so shallow!”
“Gail?”
“Yes?”
“You know you can never have him, right?”
“I know. But maybe I’ll find my hero for real one day, eh?”
“One that’s not made of marble?”
“Maybe. Oh well. Let’s go and see if they have any postcards of him in the gift shop. Arivaderci, my David!”

Michaelangelo's David

Angel Eyes

I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to save the soul of my friend Jill Brown. I’m just not sure how to do that.


With her average height and average build and, yes I’ll say it, average face, you might overlook my friend Jill but for three things:

  1. She’s 22 years old. You have to try pretty hard to look BAD at 22.
  2. Her smile. While her face, as I said, is quite average, Jill’s smile is something else. Easily earned, a full-on Jill-Brown-smile still makes you feel important, special, a little better than you suspect, deep down in the darkest corners of your heart, you actually are. And the best thing about her smile? Jill has no idea of the effect it has on people.
  3. Her voice. Even when she’s just speaking, her voice makes you think of words like “chocolatey”, “sensual” and “soothing”. She’s not doing it on purpose, but I know people who call Jill up when they’re down, just to hear her voice on the other end of the line. It’s like therapy. And when she sings? Well. Rooms fall silent; birds pause in mid-air. I’ve even seen crusty old jazz-men nod their heads and break into awed applause, and that is saying something, believe me.

Jill loves all that “Stormy Weather”, “It Had To Be You”, Harry Connick, Frank Sinatra stuff. And that’s where I come in.

I’m Annie, the good-looking friend. I’m the one who tags along and looks after Jill while she’s tracking all over the dodgiest parts of the city, searching for a jazz session. She doesn’t care if people look at her sideways as she wanders through their neighborhood. She doesn’t care about groups of guys huddled on the corner. She doesn’t even care, when we get to some hole-in-the-wall bar or other, if she gets to sing. She just wants to hang with the jazzmen and listen. She’s got this big corporate career starting up, but she’s here in a dive at 1 AM, listening to mean old men play ancient music.

The old jazz guys, crusty and cynical as can be, love her. And why not? She’s into them. She’s the youngest woman in 40 years to say anything to them other than “Want me to warm up your coffee, hun?”

It cracks me up, it really does. Anywhere else in the known universe and I’m the one the guys are swarming over. The smarter ones, of course, catch a few rays of the Jill-Brown smile and drift into her orbit, but I’m usually the big star. But not in those jazz clubs. There, I’m invisible. It’s all about the music and really, I can take it or leave it. I’m more about something electronic, with a crazy heart-beat pounding beneath it, and the guys in the jazz clubs? They can see it on my face: I’m just there to remember descriptions for the police report, if need be.

Luckily with all my years behind a bar, I’m good at picking out the trouble makers and I already keep jazz club hours, not like those drones at Jill’s fancy big pharma company. Oh, did I mention Jill’s smart? Always has been, ever since I was copying her answers in First Grade maths tests. And that’s where the trouble started.

All the way through school they brought in ‘successful’ and famous people to talk to us about how lucky we were, about how we could do anything with our lives. But what they meant by ‘anything’ was “this thing”: work hard, study hard, go to college, meet a suitable spouse, get a well-paid job – who cares what – buy a big house on a piece of land that used to be a farm, employ the farmer’s daughter to clean your big house, have two children and raise them in a day-care, join the country club, join the Kiwanis, do acts of charity so you think you won’t go to hell. Be wealthy. Be fabulous. But don’t do anything less.

As her friend I’m sad to report that Jill swallowed it all. She worked hard, she went to college, she even got the ‘suitable’ boyfriend who looks like a politician. (How does a guy manage to look like a politician at 23 years old?)

I, on the other hand, worked in bars while she worked on her schoolwork. She went off to college, I went off on a bus, worked to earn my fare, traveled, slept on train station benches, worked some more, traveled further, attended the mighty School of Life, learned to be the person I’m supposed to be and eventually found my way back here, where I discovered Jill again. She thinks she’s done everything right. She thinks she’s On Her Way. She’s going to have a productive, worthwhile life, she thinks, by discovering a drug, saving a few lives, settling down, raising some kids, doing Good Works.

For a smart girl, she sure can be dumb.

I tell her she’s kidding herself. I tell her there’s more than one way to save a life. I tell her…but who am I? Just the irresponsible friend — the only one of her friends, you’ll note, who will stay up past 9 PM and come to the seedy section of town to help keep her safe while she secretly feeds her soul with music and the ‘low’ life. Yup, they’ve brainwashed her, but good.

Tonight, though? Tonight I’m feeling good. Tonight I’m willing to bet, is going to be one of those, what do you call it? Pivot-points. Tonight I’m betting, is the night when my friend Jill starts to understand her place in this universe.

Because tonight the good Lord has listened to my prayers and sent an angel into this basement bar to lead Jill Brown to glory (hallelujah!). And if she won’t listen to me, I have to believe she’ll listen to an angel.

Especially one who’s six feet tall with a slow, shy, brilliant smile of his own.

Especially one who plays the piano like that.

Pardon me, but I’ve got to run….I think Jill’s going to find her way home just fine, without me, tonight.


Learning To Fly

Sonia hunched her shoulders against the bitter sea wind. She looked around. This place was grey above and grey below, with only hints of yellow from the crumbling sandstone walls. No greens, no browns even, and certainly nothing from the red family unless you counted the stones that capped the high perimeter wall. No-one looked out and no-one looked in.

There was the blue of the uniforms, she supposed, but even that seemed to melt into the gravel and tarmac underfoot an the grey-upon-grey of the clouds. Before she had come to this place, she hadn’t even known you could watch different layers of cloud race by each other. She had thought of “clouds scudding by” as something that happened in blue skies.

Everything was wrong here. The way they talked, the jokes they made. Even the games. Everything, calculated to make her feel like an outsider forever.

Sonia leaned against a drainpipe until she was barged aside by some kid flying “home”. Drainpipes! She’d had trees as home-base, climbing frames, grass underfoot, before. What kind of a place was this to send kids? Drainpipes and dreariness. It made some kind of sense.

Sonia trudged around the corner, out of the building’s measure of shelter, and staggered. The seagulls were heading inland in great coasting circles and the stormy blast almost picked Sonia up off her feet.

“C’mon Sonia!”

Sonia’s scowl slipped a little when she saw Paula beaming at her. Paula had been “assigned” to he on her first day. Not, perhaps, who Sonia would have chosen for a best friend but there as no denying she was a good choice to look after a new girl: unfailingly kind and sweet.

“Were’ve you been? C’mon, let’s be kites!”

“Kites?”

“Uh-huh. Kites!”

The girls at this school were full of new games that left Sonia clumsy and frustrated: skipping rhymes, hand-clapping, elastics, kick the can, hares and hounds.

“What’s kites,” she shouted into the wind, dreading the answer.

Paula grinned.

“It’s magic!” The words raced past Sonia on a gust of salty air and were gone.

Paula grinned again and reached each hand down to grasp the front corners of her blue woolen blazer. With a deft move, as if throwing a skipping rope forward over her head, she pulled her jacket up, behind her and stretch her arms up high. The upside-down coat-back caught the air, ballooned out and pulled the giggling girl backwards. Paula leaned forward at an impossible angle, letting her ‘sail’ hold her up, defying gravity.

“Come ON, Sonia. Its brilliant, so it is!”

Fumbling, Sonia struggled with her own blazer. She wriggled the bottom hem up towards her neck, her head. She gasped as icy fingers of wind wrapped themselves around her shirt-clad middle, but she kept pulling at her coat until her arms were straight overhead.

Sonia staggered backwards as a huge gust of wind caught her kite-coat. She fought it and took a step forward.

“Lean into it!”

She thought she had caught all of Paula’s words as they tumbled past.

She leaned.

She strained into the wind.

She knew she ought to be falling but the very air of this place was holding her up.

And she was laughing; wild, silent laughter, erupting from her frozen belly, escaping through her wide-open mouth, sound snatched away by the wind-friend who was letting her fly.


The Piano Man

Piano

They found him, dinner suit dripping, by the river.

He was not able to tell them his name — or perhaps it was there, amongst the screams and panic.

Back at the station they brought in linguists and translators who narrowed it down to some Russian dialect. Mira Dobleyskia, who spoke 12 languages, picked out,

“I don’t know who I am!”

They moved him from a cell to a ward.

In the day room he found the piano. He clung to it like driftwood, pouring out Rachmaninov’s heartaches as if they were his own.

The nurses began to call him “Billy”.

Broken Toys – A Story

[audio:http://www.julieduffy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/BrokenToys.mp3|titles=Broken Toys – A Story by Julie Duffy]

This is today’s StoryADay story. I enjoyed it so much I recorded it too. You can play it above, or right-click here to save the mp3 file.

Image: emmajane

See John.

See John laugh.

See John laugh and smile.

See John laugh and smile and touch his wife Jane on the elbow.

See John laugh and smile and touch Jane on the elbow and look into Jane’s eyes.

See Jane smile.

See John walk.

See John walk around the party.

See John mingle.

There is Alice.

Alice is watching John.

See Alice frown.

Here comes Mary.

Mary walks to the bedroom.

See John watch Mary.

John and Alice look at Jane.

See Jane talk.

See Jane laugh.

Jane does not see John or Alice or Mary.

See John walk to the bedroom.

Walk John, walk.

See Alice refill her glass.

Drink Alice, drink.

Where is John?

Where is Mary?

Drink Alice, drink.

Alice sees Jane.

Alice walks to Jane.

See Alice speak.

Jane frowns.

See Jane shake her head.

See Alice lean too close.

See Jane push Alice.

Alice grabs Janes arm.

Jane and Alice walk to the bedroom.

Jane runs out of the house.

Run Jane, run.

See John run out of the house.

(Good luck, John.)

Alice is in the kitchen.

See Alice’s mascara run.

Listen! A car door slams.

A man says a bad word.

Hear the engine roar.

Mary walks to the back porch.

See Mary light a cigarette.

Smoke Mary, smoke.

Broken Toys

Image: emmajane

See John.

See John laugh.

See John laugh and smile.

See John laugh and smile and touch his wife Jane on the elbow.

See John laugh and smile and touch Jane on the elbow and look into Jane’s eyes.

See Jane smile.

See John walk.

See John walk around the party.

See John mingle.

There is Alice.

Alice is watching John.

See Alice frown.
Continue reading

Mrs Wyndham’s Meadow

There she is: Mrs Wyndham. Bent over her roses, pruning shears in one hand,s pray bottle in the other. Somewhere under the voluminous straw hat is her little quizzical smile, her eyes lined from squinting against the harsh sun. As far as anyone can tell, Mrs Wyndham lives for her flower garden. I probably know her better than most, and I would have to agree.

She never has a bad word to say, poor thing, though heaven knows she has reason. But dig, dig, dig, clip, hoe, weed, no matter what time of day you walk by. It’s a rare day when you don’t find Mrs Wyndham in her garden.

I met Mrs Wyndham five years ago, when I first moved to the neighbourhood. I walked by on a regular schedule, dragged behind my huge half-Irish-Wolfhound, half pure-mongrel, Sisyphus (I had named him after the never-ending task of talking him for walks). It suited me though. I love to be outdoors but I like to be on the move, especially in those days. If I hadn’t so urgently needed to move, I might have become a gardener sooner, myself. Perhaps that was why I admired Mrs Wyndham’s garden so much; why I always reined in the straining hound for long enough to talk to Mrs W.

“What’s new, Mrs Wyndham?” I shouted in early spring that first year, clinging on to Sis’s leash but keeping his big trampling paws away from what turned out to be her snowdrop shoots.

She raised her head and beamed at me from under a woolly hat.

“Hello, my dear,” she said, taking off a glove and brushing away a stray grey curl from her forehead. “Ah, you are just in time for the riot of spring.”

I must have looked dubious because she pointed at the brown, leaf-covered beds until I began to see yes, the snowdrops buds, the white-striped ribbons of green that would bear purple crocus flowers in a week or so, and the swordlike tips of the daffodils nosing up through the earth.

“It’s a quiet riot yet,” she said. “But just you wait.”

All through that spring Sis and I walked and walked. I was walking with a purpose — away from the misery of the past 18 months and just as importantly, away from the kitchen of my tiny cottage and the consoling pleasures of the icebox and the wine-cooler (I had insisted on keeping the wine-cooler). I had spent almost a year immobile on my tiny patio, only moving to shovel ice-cream into my mouth or lift a glass of cheap zin or, occasionally, to hurl something at a figment of my ex-husband in the overgrown shrubbery behind my tiny new home with all its unhappy, unpacked boxes.

When I had belatedly caught up with my doctor in worrying about my health, I had taken her advice and driven to the pound to pick up another lost soul, to care for. I chose the largest, most rambunctious dog my yard could contain and began to walk. I had walked through the fall and met Mrs Wyndham over her gloriously pompommed front flower beds. I had walked through snow and sleet and waved to her as she fussed with holly-and-evergreen window-boxes on her front porch. I had only ever seen Mr Wyndham once, in the fall, when he had been worshipping his championship lawn as suburban men do. I didn’t see him at all, that winter. With the lawn dormant, I guessed, there was no reason for him to be outside.

Daffodils were joined by tulips and along came the waxy greens of what would be shasta daisies, and the fuzzy circlets of strawberry leaves and still we walked.

Occasionally I was struck by the sunny strip of land down the side of the Wyndham house. Where the front of the house was a harmonious blend of deep curved flower beds and neatly trimmed lawn, the side garden always made me laugh. It looked to me like a battleground, staged and ready for the bugler’s signal. A line of shrubs and wildflowers faced off with a wide strip of manicured grass. It was early in the season yet, but even I could tell that, come high summer, Mr W would be fighting a rearguard action against creeping vines and stems gracefully drooping across his front lines.

I teased Mrs W about it once and it was the only time I ever saw her perfectly proper demeanour crack. She rolled her eyes and said, almost bitterly,

“His beloved weed! Taking up that prime spot. Look at it, my dear, a beautiful, secluded spot. You can only see into it from this angle, no other, because of those sheds and shrubs. I had it earmarked as a reading garden, with a bench and rosebushes…but the Mighty Lawn must have its place. It is neat! It is tidy! It is orderly!”

I was a little taken aback, to say the least.

“You could still put in a bench,” I ventured.

“And sit on a green carpet and stare at a blank white wall?” Mrs Wyndham seemed to regain her good humour. “No, my dear, I should feel like I was already in the nursing home!”

The red maple by the sidewalk unfurled its purple, finger-like leaves. The cherry blossoms snowed down on us, and Sisyphus learned to slow down, even sit sometimes, as we passed Mrs Wyndham’s house.

One day, Mrs Wyndham led me over to aleafy plant on the border of the sidewalk, lifted a leaf and showed me a cluster of three crysalides. I was delighted. I thought I was starting to know how those bloated, formerly-caterpillars felt. The final paperwork was signed, I had taken back my name, and my walks with the bounding houdnling were transforming me inside and out. I was no butterfly yet, but I could at last imagine a day when I might be one.

It was around that time that I had to leave for one of my two-week stints at head office. I hated to leave Sis, but it was only two weeks and then we’d be back to our pretty sweet deal where I telecommuted and Sisyphus dragged me around the neighbourhood as often as he possibly could. I stopped by to see Mrs W befoer I left, and told her my plans. I hated to think of her worryign if we didn’t bound past at least twice a day. In the end, I had a bit of trouble making myself heard over the drone of Mr W’s lawnmower.

“First cut of spring,” Mrs Wyndham shouted. “Very important, apparently!”

I waved goodbye and left her bent over the returning asters, checking for damage inflicted by the neighbourhood’s ravenous rabbits.

My doctor, who had talked me into this canine caper in the first place and who was, surprise, surprise, a big-dog lover herself, had recommended a kennel that, she assured me, dogs didn’t want to come home from. But my Sisyphus was crazed with excitement to see me, and I don’t mind telling you it felt pretty good. As I drove him home, I really felt, for the first time, as if I was going home. As soon as I got there, I resolved, I would throw out all those unhappy boxes containing parts of my former life. I wouldn’t even open them. Yes, I would start as soon as I parked the car…or maybe after a little stroll. After all, I hadn’t seen Mrs W’s garden in over two weeks, and that’s a long time in late-spring in the garden.

As I rounded the corner of the block, hanging on to my ecstatic dog for dear life, I searched the garden for a sight of the familiar canvas hat bobbing about. There was none. I tightened my grip on Sis’s leash and quickened my pace. It was so odd not to see her out front on a day like this. We drew up close to the house and Sisyphus (good dog) slowed down and began to root around near the mailbox. Mrs Wyndham was definitely not there.

I stood, a little lost and a bit disappointed. The cherry tree had leafed out in my absence, the blossoms all gone, and the shade dappled the sidewalk in a soothing kind of way.

“Oh hello, dear,” sang out a familiar voice. “You’re back, then?”

I looked around. Where could she be?

“Over here!” There was a girlish giggle in her voice, pleased at having confounded me.

I took a stop back and peered down the side of the house, skeptically.

What devastatioN! The war of turf vs. roses had been waged during my trip, adn the flowers have won a decisive victory. There sat Mrs W, perched on a sturdy wooden bench, a curving path of pavers already winding a casual path through the turned-over soil. Not a blade of grass remained.

Mrs Wyndham stood up and almost skipped from stone to stone through her new domain, towards me. A couple of bare rose bushes and a scant few shrubs poked out of the glistening brown loam in a few places.

“It’s going to be a meadow!” she said, stepping through the side gate. “I’ve always wanted to try one, but He thought it would look too messy.”

“How did you manage it?” I asked. “What did Mr. Wyndham say?”

There was a pause. Mrs W’s face was a perfect mask.

“Mr Wyndham is gone, my dear. Ran away with some hussy from the office.”

I gaped, unsure what to say, but Mrs Wyndham rattled on, quite evenly.

“I expect I shall have to get a little part-time job to keep things together. I think one of the garden centers might take me on, don’ t you?”

I was at a loss. On the one hand, I knew how completely I had fallen apart when my husband had run off. On the other hand, Mrs W was a woman of a different generation, and one who had endured a long and apparently incompatible marriage. She certainly seemed to be taking things with equanimity.

“So,” I said, for want of anything better to say. “A meadow.”

‘Well yes, dear. The wonderful thing about a meadow is that, after the first year, Nature takes care of it all. In my changed circumstances that will be a plus, don’t you think? I shall be like the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and all that. Although I might have to learn how to operate that Weed Whacker thing come the fall, hmm?”

“But,” one thing still bothered me. “How did you manage all by yourself? All that grass?”

She looked up at me from under that wide canvas brim and smiled her little quizzical smile.

“Determination,” she said.

She looed at Sisyphus, nosing amongst her Phlox.

“Perhaps I shall get a cat,” she murmered.

It has been five years now, and nobody seems to know where Mr Wyndham went and he certainly hasn’t been in touch, not even to retrieve his car. Or his lawnmower. Poor Mrs W did have to get a job to support herself but, sure enough, Napoleon Gardens took her on and she seems to be thriving on it — her garden certainly is. All the lawn is but a distant memory now. The front yard is a network of plantings linked by paths of uneven pavers salvaged from the Napoleon Gardens reject pile, and put together in a beautiful crazy-paving web.

Sisyphus has grown up and mellowed to the point where we can stop and join Mrs W in her flourishing side meadow garden and my big silly dog will lie at my feet while we discuss seed saving or water management (oh yes, she’s sucked me in to this gardening thing. All the walking has left me quite trim enough and the bending and straining after weeds don’t bother me at all. I started a meadow garden of my own but I never could get it to take off the way Mrs W’s did. When I ask her for advice her eyes twinkle and I just know she’s hiding some secret from me.

And quite right too. She has become a bit of a native meadow expert these days, quite in demand. In fact, later this week another national magazine is coming out to shoot pictures in her garden and talk to her about her unconventional yard, especially that wonderful side meadow of hers.

When they inevitably ask her for her tricks she will, as she does with me, smile her quizzical smile and answer firmly,

“It’s amazing what you can do with determination and some really good fertilizer, my dear.”

And sometimes, but not often, I pause to wonder what Mr Wyndham would think of it all, where ever he is.

Gregor and The Dragon And The Storm

It was a wild and stormy night. (No, really it was!)

Gregor was in bed. He was curled up under the covers with his stuffed manatee (Matawee) and his toy dolphin. He wasn’t quite asleep but he was in that comfortable, warm and drowsy state where sleep is not far off.

And so, when he heard a sound at his window (snork, snurfle, skronk) he couldn’t be sure at first if he was asleep and dreaming it, or if he was awake and hearing it.

The noise continued. Snork, snork, snurfle, skronk, CLINK and then a definite thwonk against his windowpane.

Gregor knew then that this was no dream. He pulled off his covers, climbed down the ladder of his loft bed, and padded over to the window. He tweaked back the curtain and looked up in to the huge yellow eye of his very own dragon.

“Hello Dragon. What do you want now?” If he sounded a little cross it was only because he had been so very comfortable.

(And if you don’t know how a five-year-old boy could have a dragon for a friend, you must ask me to tell you some time and I’ll tell you how the whole thing started. It’s quite a tale).

The dragon snuffled a little more and then began to speak. His voice sounded like gravel being rolled around in the bottom of a drum, the roar of an airplane engine and, faintly, like the clinking of a heavy chain.

“The storm, Little One,” he said. “It has brought down power lines. I need your help to find them and restore them.”

“Me? How can I possibly help?”

“You must climb on my back and fly with me. In a storm such as this, I need an extra pair of eyes to help me find my way.”

Gregor chewed the collar of his pyjamas a little and then said,

“I can’t.”

“Why not?” asked the dragon.

“I’m…” Gregor screwed up his face and blurted out, “I’m scared of the storm.”

The dragon roared and Gregor clamped his hands over his ears.

“Don’t laugh at me!” Gregor’s lip trembled.

“I’m sorry, Little One,” the dragon said. “It’s just that, in a storm there is no safer place you can be, than on a dragon’s back.”

“Why?” Gregor was interested. His soggy collar fell out of his mouth.

“You’ll see if you come with me,” said the dragon.

[the rest of this story is in a very cute audio file that I’m too tired to transcribe just now. Or figure out how to get it out of iTunes and upload.]