Fiction Journal

growing up

“What’s the hardest part about getting old?” the wolf cub asked.

The dragon wrapped its long, scaly blue tail around the cub and lowered its massive head to rest upon its talons. It thought for some time, then breathed out a heavy sigh of white smoke from its nostrils.

“Someday, little one, you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve grown up.”

The cub distractedly scratched at an ear, sure it must have misunderstood. “But I want to grow up. I’m tired of always eating the food that the other wolves and dragons bring in, or that the mice leave scattered about. I want to hunt and howl and become the leader of the pack!”

The dragon chuckled, enjoying the wolf cub’s enthusiasm even as he felt the weight of his own years. He thought back to the kitten he had raised until, one day, it had grown into a cat and gone wandering off. And of the bulldog he had played with, but which had continued to pee in the cave until the dragon had been forced to send it away. “Growing up is perfectly normal… it can just be lonely if you outlive your friends.”

“Then it’s a good think that you’re not going to outlive me!”

The dragon snorted, flicked its tail, and belched a little gout of flame. He could always depend on this particular wolf cub to be honest, even to a fault.

Just then the cub heard its pack howling in the distance. “I gotta go! Dad’s calling and I don’t want to be late for caribou tonight. See you tomorrow, Blue Buddy!”

The dragon watched with the contented grin that only a creature with seven-inch teeth can smile. As the cub scurried off to run with its family across the valley outside the dragon’s cave, a small mouse scurried out of its hiding place, threaded its way between the dragon’s spines, and perched atop its head.

“He’s an odd duck,” the mouse said.

“He’s a wolf,” the dragon replied.

“Obviously. I’m just glad he doesn’t pee in the cave.”

The dragon gave a low, throaty rumble that might have been a laugh, then settled down with his chin on a rock and his mouse friend perched atop his head as, together, they watched the wolves run and play in the valley.