“You brought a toy to summer school?” growled Austin “Brutus” Loeb.
“It’s a model, stupid!” snapped Drew Kust. Peeking out from behind Drew’s right ear was a stuffed miniature dragon named Flamer. Made of shiny bronze material, his wire tail was wrapped around Drew’s neck and held him there.
“I ain’t stupid!” Brutus snarled, pushing up the sleeves of his T-shirt past bulging biceps.
Andrew!” bellowed Mr. Gjerde. “Recess is over! Back inside.” The teacher towered
over both boys, fists on his hips. “Save your energy for class. Austin, your snack is on my
desk. Eat it as soon as you get in.”
Brutus growled, “I hate having…”
“You want me to call your mother?” Mr. Gjerde said. Brutus went in, grumbling.
Drew said, “I could be home…”
“You chose to fail sixth grade,” Mr. Gjerde snapped. “Now you make it up.”
Drew grabbed the dragon’s tail. He hated Brutus and summer school. He held Flamer’s head and said, “I really wish you were alive.”
At the bus stop, after teasing Brutus all the way, Drew sprinted for his house. He was fast enough to leave Brutus behind. Almost home, he turned around, running backwards and shouted, “Too fat to catch me!”
Drew spun to run and suddenly there wasn’t any ground under his feet. Flying over the edge of the sidewalk, he fell into a ditch of yellow snapdragons.
Brutus laughed from the sidewalk, “That’ll teach you!”
“You…you…you,” Drew shouted. Flamer hung at a crazy angle around his neck. He fixed the dragon. He muttered, “I really, really wish you were real so you’d take care of Brutus.” Climbing from the ditch, he trudged home.
Cleaned up, he tossed his fat orange pillow on the living room floor. Picking up markers and paper, he lay down, hanging his head over the pillow, studying an upside down world.
A yellow snapdragon rolled over his nose. It looked like a dragon’s head. Squeezing the sides made the two parts spread like an opening mouth. “Cool.” He touched Flamer’s nose three times, saying, “I really, really, really wish you were real.” Studying the upside-down stereo that was off limits until he passed summer school, he fell asleep.
A squeaky said, “Wake up, ya lazy bum! We got people ta get even with!”
“What?” A tiny paw grabbed his chin and turned Drew’s head. Blazing green eyes in a bronze dragon’s body glared at him upside down. “Flamer?”
“You wished three timesss on a sssnapdragon, touched my nose. Poof! I’m real,” Flamer said.
“You’re real?” Drew said as he sat up.
Flamer clung to his shoulder and said, “You wished me to life. Everyone who wantsss to dessstroy Brutusss, sssay aye!”
“No, ‘aye’,” Flamer said, hooting. “You want me to bite hisss ankle?”
“I could hide in hisss underwear drawer. When he opensss it, I jump out!” Flamer hissed.
Drew didn’t know what to say.
Flamer nodded and said, “OK! That’sss the plan!”
“What are you talking about?”
Flamer tweaked his nose. “You’ve been wishing that I’d come to life ever sssince your mom made me! Now here I am. Ta da!” When Drew stared at him, Flamer said, “What? Isss that sssnapdragon ssstuck in my teeth?”
“I just want you to make Brutus stop being mean to me!”
“How am I sssupposed to do that?”
The doorbell rang. Drew ran and peeked through the side window. “It’s him!”
Flamer crawled up Drew’s leg, saying, “Don’t jussst ssstand there. Open the door.”
Drew opened it a crack and said, “What do you want?”
Brutus blinked and said, “What?” He was shivering and drops of sweat spotted his upper lip and forehead.
“What do you want?”
Drew whispered, “What should I do, Flamer?” The dragon was a model again. Drew opened the door wider. “You look sick.”
“I…am,” said Brutus.
“Did you tell your mom?”
“She’s, um…working,” he said slowly. “Can I get…” he shivered.
Flamer’s tail tightened around Drew’s neck. The dragon whispered, “Say: ‘What did Mr. Gjerde asssk you about?’”
Drew whispered, “No!” Flamer tweaked his ear. Drew yelped but said, “What did Mr. Gjerde asssk…uh…ask you about?”
Then Drew remembered, “That snack thing. Did you eat it?”
Flamer whispered, “Now’s your chance to get even!”
“What?” said Drew.
“Brutusss isss diabetic! If you don’t help him, he’ll passs out. Call the policccce and they’ll arressst him for tressspasssing!”
“You sssaid you hate Brutusss. Now’sss the time to get even with him!”
“I’d never do that!”
“Sure you would. You’re alwaysss mean to Brutusss.”
“He’sss…he’s mean to me!”
“Ssso, you’re mean to him. He’sss mean to you. Then you’re mean to him. Get the point, Drew?”
“Stop it,” said Drew, reaching out and shutting Flamer’s mouth. He opened the door all the way. “What should I get for you?”
“Orange juiccce,” hissed Flamer, tickling his ear.
“Orange juice?” asked Drew.
Drew ran to the kitchen, poured a glass of orange juice, added sugar and brought it back. Brutus was sitting. He took the glass and drank it all in one gulp. They waited
Finally Brutus swallowed hard and whispered, “Thanks. I’ll be OK. Can I use your cell?”
Drew handed it to him.
Brutus dialed. “Mom? Me. I got locked outta the house,” pause. “Nah. I’m at a…friend’s house,” pause. “Drew Kust,” pause. “Nah, we’re friends now.” Flamer tightened his tail around Drew’s neck just a bit, but Drew nodded anyway. Brutus said, “Yeah. I’ll stay until you get home. Bye.” He handed the cell back and said, “Can I use your bathroom?”
“Sure. Over there.”
When Brutus was gone, Flamer butted Drew’s cheek and said, “Niccce job!”
Drew grinned, saying, “How long are you going to be alive?” Flamer didn’t say anything. Drew unwound his tail and held him out at arm’s length. “Flamer?” He shook the toy. He put the shiny bronze tail around his neck as Brutus came back.
Brutus said, “Can you watch TV?”
“Nah. I’m grounded from everything until I pass summer school.”
“Sure.” Brutus sniffed, “At least now we can hang out until we pass summer school. You, me and the dragon model.”
Drew smiled back, handed Brutus the sketch pad and said, “Sounds good…