The thing about being a teenage boy is that you fall in a teenage-boy-version of love approximately every four minutes. Hot girl leaning against the wall of the school smoking, not worried at all about whether or not she would get caught? Love. Girl who sits down beside you to help you with your trig homework? Love. And, yeah, when my parents got me my own pet dragon for my sixteenth birthday, regardless of the fact that it was entirely deranged and would only answer to the name Muffins, that was another version of love.
Trying to surprise someone with a pet dragon, my parents found out, is next to impossible. First of all, dragons are noisy creatures. They stomp if they walk, and if they fly there’s a WHOOSH sound as they flap their wings up and down. Second, dragons are HUGE. Basically, if I were to look out any window of the back side of my house, I would have seen the beast.
This led to my walking out the back door of my house that day and saying, “Um, why is there a dragon back here?” and then my parents saying, “Uh, surprise?”
“What’s this?” I ask, cautiously approaching them and the dragon.
“This is your own pet dragon,” my father says. “It answers to Muffins.”
“Muffins?” I say, hiding the fact that this is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me.
“Yeah, we didn’t name it,” my mom says. “Happy birthday!”
“Well, thanks, guys.”
When my parents go inside, I step closer to the dragon, remembering the advice my dad had given me before going in: introduce yourself to her. Make a good first impression. She needs to know that you won’t hurt her. She looks at me, lowering her head, curious. “Hi there, Muffins,” I say. She lowers her head more, allowing me to reach out and touch her salmon-colored nose. Breathing in quickly, she shies away from my touch before moving closer and lowering her belly to the ground. That’s when I understand what she wants: she wants me to mount her back.
“Uh, hold on there, Muffins,” I say. The creature nudges me with her nose. “Okay. Okay.” I walk over to the stake and grasp one of the huge chain links that is connected to her metal collar. “Stay still now, girl.” I put my foot in the bottom chain link and begin to climb as if it is a ladder. It takes a moment, and I almost fall as the chain twists to the side once, but I make it to the top and sit on the upper part of her back, just at the bottom of her neck. The flapping of wings is something that it will take time to get used to. There’s a moment where it just feels like everything’s shaking, and then we rise up off the ground and are in the air. But when we get a good twenty feet up, a sudden jolt knocks me back. Even though I was holding on to the metal collar to hold on to Muffins, I hadn’t remembered to unlatch her chain. I catch myself on her tail, narrowly escaping death by falling to the ground, but Muffins just keeps flying in frantic circles, tail whipping back and forth, threatening to throw me off. She must think that something has her caught.
“Muffins!” I yell. “Calm down!”
I try frantically to pull myself up as I slide further down her tail. As luck would have it, her tail whips around just the right way, and I take my chance. I jump. Fall in what seems like slow motion. And—
My arms feel as if they are going to be ripped out of their sockets, but I catch onto the collar at just the right time. “Yes!” I yell, but I’m still just hanging over the side of Muffins, trying to hold on. I decide that the best thing to do now is to try and stop my dragon’s panicking, so I hold on for dear life with my right hand while reaching around the side of the collar with my left, grabbing the latch. Suddenly, we’re flying higher than before and the chain is falling to the ground with a thud. I use all of my remaining strength to pull myself up onto her back. Once atop her, I don’t have to do much except hold on as she does a lap around the city.
Seeing a dragon with a rider atop it is not an uncommon thing since the Return of the Dragons, which happened when I was eight years old and a man who had been breeding dragons in the mountains in Colorado was killed when he was struck by lightning as he opened the gate of the massive cage he had built to feed his dragons and at least two-hundred dragons were set free, but it seems odd to be the one on the dragon. For my first time riding, I feel as if I’m doing a great job. But all of my built up confidence dies whenever I see another rider flying even higher than me. I recognize him instantly. He goes to my school and always ties his dragon in the field that used to be used for some popular sport before the Return, where all the dragons are tied during school hours. His name is Vincent, and he is, for lack of better words, the school’s resident douchebag. Which is why it freaks me out whenever he starts flying over here, his dragon’s nostrils spitting out short streams of fire. “Magnus! Halt!” he commands his dragon, which lands in flies over to a nearby park, startling a few children.
“Muffins, halt!” I command mine, a bit quieter so as not to be heard by Vincent calling my dragon Muffins, and we land near Vincent and Magnus in the park.
“Fagboy got a dragon?” he asks me, snorting. I want to ask him if his vocabulary is simply limited to insults such as fagboy, or if he really just thinks that being gay would be such a huge insult, but I hold my tongue because I remember how stupid my dragon is and how his is still spewing flames out of its nose.
“No, Connor got a dragon,” I correct him.
“What’s its name, fagboy?” he asks me, ignoring my previous statement.
“Um,” I say, trying to think of a name I could give it that might sound at least a little intimidating. “Viper? Right, Viper?” Muffins sits on its back legs, swiping at a bird she found flying around with her front legs.
“That’s not really its name, is it?” Vincent says, smiling. I feel so small, like I’ve been caught in a lie. “C’mon, fagboy. What’s your dragon’s real name?”
“Muffins,” I say under my breath.
“Muffins,” I say a little louder, still ashamed.
“I shouldn’t be surprised, really. Muffins sounds like a gay name, which is really fitting for you.”
“God, do you seriously have no other insults than to call me gay? You know that being gay isn’t a bad thing, right?”
“That sounds like exactly the response a gay guy would give.”
“I’m just going to ignore that, because I know that I am straight, and also that your lonesome brain cell is simply lashing out at me out of jealousy for my many brain cells.”
“You know what, fagboy? I’ve listened to about enough of this.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“You. Me. On our dragons. Now. May the best man win.”
Within moments our dragons are flapping their wings and rushing into the sky, preparing to face off against each other. Muffins takes an oval-shaped curve around the park as Magnus holds his place in the air by flapping its wings up and down. Muffins flies a little bit too near Magnus, who sends a stream of fire out of his nose. My dragon squeals and flies down a nearby street. Magnus follows, Vincent now standing on his dragon’s back. Magnus surprises both me and a family in a minivan by picking up the van with his back legs. The dark blue dragon twirls in the air to throw the vehicle at us, but Muffins heroically catches the van right in her mouth. She sets it down, having taken the entire roof off, and chews the bit of metal before gulping it down. As Magnus flies in front of us, the roof of the minivan hits Muffin’s stomach and she belches. A stream of fire flies from her nostrils, surprising her a bit. The family in the minivan gasps as the fire hits Magnus and Vincent. As the smoke clears, I see that Vincent is nothing but ash, while Magnus is burnt, but not badly. Magnus takes off flying again, forgetting about her rider just like that.
Thus, my teenage-boy-sort-of-love for my stupid dragon was affirmed.