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Stories by Laura Lagana
Timothy and Herkamer


Timothy shuffled through the thistle at the edge of the tree line, kicking dead leaves and rocks out of the way. He liked playing near the edge of the forest, scavenging for items that he found interesting. A cry drew his attention.

He stopped and tilted his head, listening for the direction of the noise. The sound came from behind a cluster of bushes a few feet away. Timothy tiptoed toward them, gently pulled away the branches and peeked through the green leaves. He gasped at what he saw.

“Wow.” He forced his way through the bushes. Squatting, Timothy eyed the bundle lying at his feet. He poked it with his finger. The dragon squealed.

“Are you really a dragon?” Timothy whispered to himself and patted the dragon on top of his scaly head. Looking around the forest, Timothy said, “Where’s your mother?”

The dragon nuzzled Timothy’s hand and purred like a cat. He climbed onto shaky feet and met Timothy’s gaze. The dragons pupils dilated, his nostrils flared.

“Well, since you don’t seem to have a mother, you can live with me and borrow mine.” Timothy lifted the dragon and cradled the creature in his arms the entire way home.

“Hey mom!” He flung the door open. “I found something.”

Mary finished scrubbing a pot in the kitchen sink. After setting the pot on to a drying rack, she turned toward Timothy and shrieked. “What is that you are carrying?”

“It’s a dragon. I found him in the woods and he doesn’t have a mother. I told him he could live with us.” He set the dragon on the floor and stated. “I said you could be his mother.”

“He’s purple!” Cringing, Mary brought a hand to her throat. “I don’t know Timothy. Where will he sleep? What will the neighbors think?”

“Aw mom, he’s got no place else to go. We can’t leave him in the forest without a mother. It would be…rude.”

She arched her brow at the comment and pulled out a chair to sit at the table. Mary leaned over and scratched behind the dragon’s ears. “If we’re going to keep him he’ll need to have a name.”

Timothy rubbed his chin. “Uh…how about Herkimer?” A grin spread from ear to ear. “I like that name. From now on, he’ll be known as Herkimer.”

As the weeks passed, Herkimer grew into a tall and round bellied dragon. Mary and Timothy were unable to keep the dragons presence a secret from the villagers any longer.

Herkimer liked wandering the streets during the day, sniffing the flowers growing in pots along the window ledges. At the end of each day while waiting for Timothy, Herkimer played with the other children of the village. That afternoon, Timothy left school early and met Herkimer in the streets. By now, the dragon towered over the boy.

“If you don’t quite growing, you’re going to end up sleeping outside.” Timothy patted his friend’s belly.

Herkimer groaned as they headed toward home. Along the way, he started choking and coughing. Curls of smoke billowed between his lips. He frantically waived the smoke away, trying to hide the change from Timothy.

“Are you all right?” Timothy tilted back his head and looked at the dragon.

Herkimer nodded, wiping the soot from his mouth.

“Well hurry up then. I’m sure mom has a snack waiting for us when we get home.”

A few minutes later, they sat around the kitchen table. Scones and lemon curd were piled onto a Wedgwood china plate.

“Are you hungry?” Mary eyed the two as they sat at the kitchen table. She placed glasses of cold milk in front of them. Herkimer reached for the glass, knocking it over and spilling the milk on the table top. Mary wiped up the mess, took one look at Herkimer and then at her precious china plate. She pulled a stoneware platter from the cupboard and transferred the scones and lemon curd to the sturdier plate, setting it in the middle of the table.

Timothy and Herkimer ate every one of the flaky scones in a matter of seconds.

#

Weeks went by and Herkimer grew as big as a horse. He walked to school with Timothy every morning and evening. Spring spread throughout the village as heather, bluebells and thistle bloomed in full force. Pollen floated in the air, tickling Herkimer’s nostrils.

Walking down the middle of the street, his eyes started watering. Herkimer rubbed at the itching, but nothing helped. His nose began to tingle. The dragon tried to shake it off, but the pressure building behind his eyes grew unbearable. He squinted, inhaled and sneezed. White-hot flames burst from his mouth and nostrils.

Timothy paused, his mouth hanging open. Farmer Mac Donald’s garden was on fire. Billowing black clouds of smoke rolled down the street.

“Oh no. Quick…run away!” Timothy grabbed Herkimer’s claw and led him down the street, careful to stick close to the buildings. As they passed a house filled with flower boxes of heather, Herkimer sneezed again. Miss. Hamilton’s roof went up in flames.

Timothy’s gaze widened. “Herkimer, what’s going on?” Not bothering to wait for an answer, he dragged Herkimer away from the site of destruction.

They ran past fields of bluebells in full bloom. Herkimer sneezed again; his whole body shook with the power of the blow. Orange flames licked at the blue flowers, burning them to a pile of gray ash in a matter of seconds.

Timothy smacked himself on the forehead. “I don’t believe this, you’re allergic to flowers.” He tugged at Herkimer. “We have to get out of here. Hurry, let’s run home and hide. No one will find us there.”

They ran to the house and raced through the door. Herkimer had to squeeze through the entryway since his middle had so grown round.

“Mom, we need to hide Herkimer. He’s allergic to flowers and when he sneezed, he lit the town on fire.”

Mary tossed her dust rag aside. Peeking through the window, she spied the villagers gathered into a mob and heading toward the croft. “Hide him in your room.”

Herkimer led the way and Timothy followed, hiding under the bed. The dragon was too big and the back half of his body stuck out from underneath.

Mary opened the front door and leaned against the frame. “Hello. It’s nice to see all of you, but you didn’t need to visit all at once.”

The town Mayor waived a cane in the air. “Where is the dragon Mary? He caused quite a lot of damage today and we’ve come to run him out of town.”

She stepped away from the doorway and crossed her arms over her chest. “Now why would we be doing that?”

Miss Hamilton shook her fist. “He lit my roof on fire. I hope it doesn’t rain before I have it fixed or else my precious Nottingham lace collection will be quite ruined.”

The Mayor tapped the end of his cane on the tip of his shoe. “There are no bluebells anymore. What will we do about the spring festival? The tourists were coming this weekend for the viewing of the fields, but there are no flowers.”

A voice called out from the back. “Yeah, no flowers.”

“Drive him out of town,” cried Mr. Abernethy the village baker, swinging a dishtowel in the air. “Or else we’ll burn your house down.”

Timothy cowered in his room, listening to the mob shout at his mother. Anger raced through his veins upon hearing the town threaten his home. He raced to his mother’s defense, shoving past her to stand on the front porch. Wind blew through the trees, ruffling his reddish-blonde bangs. “You can’t burn down my house. Where would we live?”

“What about us?” The mayor waived at the crowd. “It will take weeks to rebuild what he burned down. As it is, there is no hope for the bluebells and the festival will have to be cancelled this year.”

Timothy hung his head. “If I ask him to leave town, will you not hurt my friend?”

The Mayor turned to the mob, seeing their eager nods of approval. “It’s settled then, the dragon leaves.”

Mary pulled Timothy into her embrace. “Come love. We’ll see him off.” She slammed the door on the crowd and led her son into the kitchen.

“I’ll make Herkimer some sandwiches and you help him pack.”

Mary pulled a thick loaf of bread from the cupboard and a wheel of yellow cheese from the icebox.

Timothy met Herkimer in the bedroom. “You heard?”

The dragon sat on his haunches and nodded.

“Mom’s making you sandwiches for the trip. Mom said it would be best to live in the old ruins. No one goes there anyway.” He hung his head. “I’ll visit you everyday.”

Herkimer patted Timothy on his head, offering a small measure of comfort.

He handed Herkimer the wool blanket that was draped across the end of his bed. “Here, use this to keep you warm at night.” Timothy hesitated for a small moment and then folded the blanket, handing it to Herkimer.

They left the bedroom, dragging their feet toward the kitchen.

Mary saw the dejection on her sons face as he and Herkimer walked through the door.

“I’ve packed some cheese and butter sandwiches. I’ve wrapped them in a cloth to help keep them fresh for your journey.” She handed the bundle to Herkimer.

“Are you ready?” Timothy opened the back door to the croft.

Herkimer nodded and wiped the tears pooling up in his eyes.

“I guess you better be going then.” Timothy choked on the words.

Mary rushed to Herkimer, drawing him into her embrace. “Don’t be a stranger. Sneak back on the weekends for a visit and I’ll have some food ready for you.” She wiped away the tear trailing down Herkimer’s cheek.

Timothy and his mother stood at the back door as they watched Herkimer disappear from view.

“He’ll be back for a visit…right?” Timothy looked at his mom, the words closing his throat.

Mary brushed the bangs back from Timothy’s forehead. “I hope so.”

Later that night, the children of the village waited outside Timothy’s bedroom window. It was a moonless night and not a cloud marred the sky. Duncan, the Mayors son, picked up a pebble and tossed it at the pane of glass.

Timothy’s face popped into view and he slowly lifted the window, careful to keep from waking his mother. “What do you want Duncan?”

He whispered back. “We’ve come to help you find Herkimer and return him. Our parents never asked us if it was okay to banish the Dragon from our village and we mean to change that.” With the tip of his shoe, Duncan kicked at a loose pebble on the ground. “Besides, it’s really cool to have a dragon about. I don’t know of any other village that has one.”

Timothy pushed back from the window and whispered. “Just give me a minute and I’ll be out shortly.” He disappeared and crawled out of the window a few minutes later.

“Well, that was fast.” Duncan eyed Timothy’s pajama top and denim pants. “Are you ready to help us find Herkimer?”

Timothy waived the children aside. “Yes, now follow me.”

“Then let’s go,” called out Sarah, Mr. Abernethy’s daughter.

All the children of the village followed Timothy and Duncan into the darkness if night.

The next morning, Mary put a kettle of water on the stove to boil for her morning cup of tea. She reached into the icebox for some milk to add to her tea, but stopped short. A note written by Timothy was taped to the door, telling his mother what he and the other children had set out to do. As she was about to set the note onto the table, a knock on the door drew her attention. In a daze, Mary walked down the hall and opened the front door. The mob of villagers had gathered again in the front yard.

The Mayor stood at the front of the crowd. Worry marred his brow. “The children have all left. We think they went to find the dragon.”

“They did.” Mary handed him the note written by her son.

His face paled. “The children should have returned by now.”

Mary snorted and looked down her nose at him. “If you hadn’t sent Herkimer away, the children wouldn’t have gotten lost looking for him, now would they?”

“It’s too late for a lecture Mary. We need your help finding the children.

She shut the door behind her and joined the others, leading the group down the path that led to the forest. “I have an idea on how we can find the children.”

Mary and the villagers hiked toward the old ruins. “Herkimer should be living there by now. I told him that the old stones would provide shelter from bad weather.”

The Mayor wiped the sweat forming on his brow. “Do you have a plan?”

Nodding her head, she said, “Herkimer has an excellent sense of smell. He can sniff out the children.”

With doubt showing on his face, the Mayor curled the corner of his lip. “If you think it will work…”

Stiffening her spine, she said, “I do.”

Half an hour later, the crowd approached the ruins from the south side.

Herkimer poked his head around a pile of stones and stared at the unexpected visitors.

Mary lifted her hand and waived. “Hello Herkimer. We’ve come to ask for your help.” She stooped in front of the dragon and looked up. “The children left the village to come find you and return you to your home with us.” She glared at the others, daring them to say differently. “Unfortunately they got lost. Will you help us find them?”

Unsure of what to do, Herkimer took a step back.

The Mayor stood next to Mary. “We would like to apologize for casting you out of the village.” The dragon’s gaze met the Mayors as he continued with the apology. “We need your help finding the children. They came to look for you and to bring you back. They’ve been gone way too long.”

Herkimer held out his claw. The Mayor hesitated and then placed his hand in the dragons.

He looked into Herkimer’s eyes. “Will you help us…please?”

The dragon nodded. He stood still for a second and sniffed at the wind blowing through the mountains. Turning on his heels, he waddled toward the west side of the ruins and into the nearby woods. The villagers scrambled to keep up.

The search continued well into the night. Every time Herkimer thought he was close, he lost the scent of the children.

Miss Hamilton wrung her hands as she looked at the dark moonless sky. “What are we going to do? The children will be cold tonight.”

Mary placed her arm around the distraught woman’s shoulders. “Don’t worry. Herkimer will find them.”

Hope flashed in her eyes. “You really think so?”

“Of course I do. He’s searching for his best friends and wouldn’t let anything happen to Timothy.”

Several hours later they approached the village.

The Mayor grumbled. “We’re back where we started from.” He stabbed the pointed end of his cane into the ground at his feet. “This has been a waste of time.”

Herkimer shook his head.

“Oh yea, what other great plan do you have? Surely walking around aimlessly through the woods would have been perfect.” Sarcasm dripped from the Mayor’s words.

“Would you keep your comments to yourself? Herkimer knows what he’s doing.” Mary glared at the Mayor.

He coughed into his hand, trying to hide his discomfort.

The dragon found a small clearing next to one of the fields of bluebells and leaned back on his tail for support. Taking a deep breath, Herkimer blew scorching flames into the air. He repeated the process for over an hour. The darkness of the night was pushed back by Herkimer’s fire.

The cries of the children echoed through the forest, growing louder as they drew nearer to the village. Timothy led the way, the children following him like a lode stone. They ran through the village streets, meeting up with their parents who showered the children with hugs and tears.

Timothy ran to his mom and was smothered by her embrace. Herkimer reached for Timothy and pulled him close.

“We saw the flames lighting up the sky like daytime. It’s how we found our way home.” He paused and tilted his head, looking Herkimer over. “I guess we found a good use for your fire after all.”

The Mayor approached Herkimer from behind and tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. “We uh…would like for you to stay.”

Mary said, “What about his allergies?”

Timothy piped up a second later. “And the bluebell festival?”

Miss Hamilton approached with Sarah in tow. “I think we can fix that.”

#

A year later, Herkimer and Timothy walked past a field of wild strawberries. They waived to the other children as the headed toward the booths of villagers selling their trinkets to the tourist. Timothy reached out and grabbed a paper plate of scones smothered with strawberry jam from Miss Hamilton’s garden and handed a second one to Herkimer.

“I think I like Miss Hamilton’s idea better than that bluebell festival we used to have. It tastes much better at least.”

Herkimer shoved the scone into his mouth. With chunks of pastry and strawberry jam clinging to his lips, he grinned at Timothy.

Together they walked down the middle of the street and under the banner that said, ‘Strawberry Jam Festival…The Only One In Scotland With A Dragon!’.


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