Where There is Treasure
by H. L. Fullerton
Felix bumps into me and I drop my rock. An embarrassing sound caws from my stupid throat. Over a rock. But I can't help it. I need my rock. Mom calls it a worry stone. I have a bunch of them--different worries, different shapes. Different colors. The one Felix knocked from my grasp is gray with black spots: my Dalmatian rock. I use it to make me invisible to kids like Felix. Perhaps it worked too well. Felix kicks my rock down the hallway, sneers. Says, "Freak," and pushes past me. I chase after my treasure, wipe it clean on my jeans and tuck it in my pocket. By the time I reach English class, the rock is back in my palm, my fingers curled around its curves, my thumb rubbing soothing circles on its favorite facet. I zone out, forget about Felix, let the rock work its magic. My spell isn't a complete success. Mr. Hathaway wants to see me after class. It's about my Robert Louis Stevenson essay.
"There aren't any dragons in Treasure Island." Mr. Hathaway's eyes are confused: the right one is concerned; the left suspicious.
Where there is treasure, there are always dragons, but I don't tell Mr. Hathaway this. He will have to learn it himself. The dragon says that's the best way to learn--the hardest, but the best.
The dragon lives in a trailer park near the interstate. He says the zip of traffic reminds him of panning for gold. He used to live in California but says he grew tired of the smog. Came East for the maple syrup, stayed for the mountains. He says age makes you crave change as much as treasure.
I nod as if I understand. Because when a dragon speaks you ought to listen.
On my way home from school, I scan the ground for rocks. Mom thinks I'd have more confidence if I walked with my head up, but there aren't any stones in the sky. A better reason to stand tall, eyes forward is I'd have spotted Felix and his friends before they surrounded me. Lesson learned, and yeah, it was a hard one. I ask Mom to take me back to look for my Dalmatian rock--I dropped it again--but she takes me to the hospital instead. I grab one of my black-thoughts rocks to hold on the drive--it reminds me of the dragon and even though my fingers are broke and bruised I press the stone against my swelled flesh.
The dragon and I have something in common: We both hate bats. That's why he doesn't live in a cave anymore. He says there's little point since the advent of air conditioning and as long as he avoids Renaissance Fairs he's fine. The dragon says people see what they want to see and he's had enough guano and screeching to last him the rest of forever.