Wouldn't you know it, Fred Naylor thought,
I gotta be driving the wife's Subaru when I hit
"Oh Jesus," he said as the body thumped under his
fender, and stifled, just in time, a reflexive
glance over his shoulder to make sure Lilly hadn't
somehow managed to appear in the backseat and
overhear him taking the good Lord's name in vain.
She hadn't. She was sure going to pitch a fit if
he'd crumpled the front end, though. The station
wagon was a few years from new, but Lilly vacuumed
the seats every second weekend and made him knock
his boots off before he got in. He shouldn't have
taken it out to Willie's, should have just done the
tranny work on the truck days ago, but with a week
to go until Lilly got back from her mother's, it
was the Devil's own temptation to drive her car.
I'm fixing the truck tomorrow, he promised
Fred set the parking brake and got the deer rifle
from the backseat before he went around front—just
in case the dragon wasn't dead and he had to put it
down. The dragon's body was a dark lump in the
car's headlights, a low ridge like a fireplace log,
with the swell of its chest and hips tapering down
to a long tail. It wasn't very big. Probably five,
six feet not counting the tail.
Except for the size, it looked just like the
pictures in little Freddie's book of fairy tales.
Fred leaned across its body, resting the rifle on
his shoulder, and ran his fingers along the bumper.
It had a few scratches, probably from the scales,
but nothing that couldn't be buffed out. The paint
and headlights looked fine.
Fred poked at the dragon's head with his foot. It
didn't move. He bent down and saw that its jaws
were open, a double row of crooked teeth gleaming
dully under the headlights. The one eye he could
see was staring blindly into the sky, a yellow
half-moon of iris around its dilated pupil.
He poked it again a couple of times, and then
straightened up and looked around.
The Murphy place wasn't far, around the corner and
down the long hill, a few miles before the sparse
woods opened up into farm country. This part of the
road was wild, lonely and dark. He could drive on
to the Murphys' and call Fish & Game. Or was the
DOT supposed to dispose of wild animals? He
Fred looked around again. Nobody had seen him. He
could easily drag the thing into the bushes.
Probably a coyote would get it.
Fred stared thoughtfully at the dragon. Deer season
hadn't closed yet, but three days of tramping
around in the woods with Willie had got him nothing
but aching knees and a worrisome cough. Pete Murphy
had bagged a twelve-point buck on opening day, and
Dave Bentley brought down a, what, nine-pointer
just a few days later. Maybe this was God's way of
evening the score. Sure, it wasn't a deer, but it
might look all right on the wall.
Not to mention he'd had a few beers at Willie's
place, not a lot, mind you, and over several hours,
and it was pretty cheap stuff and not at all likely
that it had thrown his reflexes off at all, but it
was still better not to have the troopers poking
He laid the rifle against the side of the car and
slid both hands under the dragon. It was lighter
than it looked, and he could lift it easily,
although the rough scales cut his hands. He
strapped it to the rack on top of the Subaru. It
was bleeding some from the mouth, but he wiped that
with a shop towel from the backseat, to keep the
paint job clean.
Willie Metz came by the next day to return Fred's
mitre saw and noticed the dragon hanging by the
tail in the garage, dripping occasionally on the
old bikes and Lilly's cracked flowerpots. "What the
"Something I hit on the road." They were drinking
brewskis on the porch of Fred's old
turn-of-the-century farmhouse, and he felt
expansive, ready to talk.
"What do you reckon it is? Alligator or
"Somethin', for sure," Fred said.
"You got a permit for that thing?"
Fred bristled. "Hey, Dave Bentley got a permit for
that white horse or moose or whatever it was, the
thing with the horn, the one he ran over last fall?
He's sure as hell got it on his wall, and it did a
number on his Ford, too. What about Red Jones and
that big funny-looking gray dog what went rabid in
his yard and tried to attack the kids at the full
moon? Red's got it on his wall, don't he?"
"Yeah, but Fred--"
"Junior likes it," Fred said. "Don't you, kid? Hey,
Freddie Junior was tying Bobbie Metz to an anthill
in the yard. "What now, Pop?"
"You know that critter in the garage...?"
"'S a dragon, Pop . . . Sheez, get it straight,
man. Hol' still, you bum, you're screwin' up my
"You think that'd look good in the living room,
son?" Fred Naylor called across the yard, through
the firefly-filled dusk.
"Whatever, Pop. It ain't as cool as that wolf
Jonesy's dad's got, though . . . Darn it, Bobbie,
if you don't hold still I swear I'll cap you
The adults turned back to their conversation,
enjoying the cheerful cries of the playing
children, a pleasant and heartwarming sound since
they were too far away to make out any words. "See,
I can't disappoint the boy. And I'll be damned if
I'll let Red Jones get the jump on me. Not Fred
"You think Lilly's gonna go for it?"
"She let me put a 42-inch pike over the dining room
table, didn't she?"
"Yeah, I've been wondering for years how you swung
that one. I was lucky enough to get Peggy to let me
have the bass in the TV room."
Fred tapped his forehead with one finger. "Secrets
of the married life, William. Give her something
she wants, too. Something with ruffles on it,
"Well, I just hope you got the cash for a brand new
station wagon with ruffles on it, then, because I
think you're going to be paying for this one for
years, my friend. Bobbie, get your father another
beer, there's a good boy."
"Jus' a minute, Dad," came Bobbie Metz's slightly
"I tell you," Fred said, gesturing with his
half-empty beer. "If Red Jones has got a dog on his
wall, by God, then I'm putting up a lizard on mine,
and Lilly can say whatever she wants about it."
Lilly had plenty to say about it, starting with,
"Fred, what is that thing in the garage?"
"It's a trophy, dear."
"Fred, it looks like it's endangered or something.
It wasn't on state property or anything, was it?"
"Of course not. I don't poach, woman. What are you
"I have no idea, Fred. I don't understand why you'd
want to take a living, feeling creature and put a
bullet through its head in the first place."
"Damn it, woman, this is a man thing. There's no
way you could possibly understand. Shooting it in
the head ruins the trophy."
Eventually he won the argument by promising Lilly
that yes, they'd finish the upstairs bathroom by
next spring, and put in the twin full-length
mirrors just like she wanted. And the dragon went
in the living room next to the black bear and the
eight-point buck from last fall.
Willie Metz brought over a few boys to see it, and
it was the talk of Winston Holler until the next
fall, when Red Jones shot some critter with three
heads (goat, snake and a chicken of all things)
while hunting elk on the flats out back of town.
But fame is fleeting and everybody gets his fifteen
minutes . . . even Fred Naylor.
x x x
This Fred puts me in mind of another Fred who
was always scheming and, usually, outsmarted
himself. I speak, of course, of Fred
Flintstone—star of Hannah-Barberra’s greatest
creation. (To all you Scooby Doo afficianados,
nyahhhhh!!) Anyway, I liked this amusing little
fantasy with its subtle moral lessons. How about