The land keeps many secrets. If you look closely and wait patiently, the earth begins to reveal the treasure it has kept hidden for thousands of years. I am not talking about jewels or pirate chests filled with gold. No, I mean something far more precious. I am talking about fossils, the keys to times gone by. You can find such a hoard of wonders in the Royal Tyrell Museum in Midland Provincial Park, where the striped hills resemble a gigantic plateful of Nanaimo bars. Here, Parker and Nate, two brothers from Calgary, spent a hot, July day in their favourite place. Having gone around all the exhibitions at least twice in the morning, their weary parents took them outside to a park bench, where they all hungrily devoured their picnic lunch.
“Mom, Dad, can we go and play now?” Parker pleaded, tugging his mum’s sleeve.
“Go on then but be careful. Don’t go too far and stay on the trail, where we can see you.”
“O-kay!” the boys replied in stereo. With that, Parker and Nate ran down the trail, kicking up the dust with their feet. Nate skipped ahead and yelled.
“Hey Parker, let’s slip under the rail and go and find some dinosaur bones!”
“Yeah, I want to find a T-Rex. Roar!”
The two brothers scooted under the handrail and raced along the rocky ridge. Huffing and puffing in the heat, they soon skidded to a halt to catch their breath.
“Hey, you!”, a disembodied voice floated up from the dust.
“Was that you Nate?”, Parker said.
“Nope, I didn’t say anything, you’re hearing things.”, Nate sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Ahem. Hey you, up there! Excuse me sir, you are standing on my tail!”, the voice chipped in, indignantly.
Parker jumped and looked down. He couldn’t make out what it was at first. He squinted and realised he was staring into a pair of big, bright, unblinking green eyes.
“Excuse me, could you please um move um your”, a spindly talon waved vaguely in the direction of Parker’s right foot.
“Oh, I’m so sorry Mr. Lizard”, Parker uttered, blushing and stepped gingerly to the left. A spiky, sandy-coloured tail sprang upright, while a pink, forked tongue gave it a good lick.
“I’m not a lizard, I’m a dragon”, the creature retorted, in a strange, lilting accent.
“You’re not a dragon. You’re too small”, giggled Nate.
“I say, there’s no need to be rude! I kindly ask you not to be size-ist. I’ll have you know dragons come in all shapes and sizes. And I might be vertically challenged but I am as fierce as the best of ’em!”, the reptile insisted.
“You don’t look fierce”, Nate replied, suppressing a snicker.
“What’s your name?”, Parker asked politely, avoiding an argument.
“My name’s Dewi”, the animal responded with a low bow.
“Well, Dewi I’ve never heard of that name before. I’m Parker and this is my brother Nate”.
Dewi looked from one to the other and said “I’m pleased to meet you both. Dewi is Welsh for David, by the way.”
“Oh, so you must be from Wales then?” Parker surmised.
“Well, not exactly. My great grandfather was. He was born in Swansea, you see. But I was born just down the road in Drumheller”, the dragon smiled revealing a set of sharp, glistening teeth.
“So, what are you doing here then?” piped up Nate.
“I’m on garbage duty. Check this out”. The dragon took a deep breath and blew, bright, orange flames at a discarded Tim’s coffee cup on the ground. Puff. The cup disintegrated into a whisp of black ash.
“Whoa! You really are a dragon. Can you fly too?” Nate exclaimed, wide-eyed.
“My dear boy, of course I can fly!” Dewi stretched out his skinny, scaly arms to reveal a pair of magnificent teal-blue wings that shimmered in the sunlight. Flap, flap and he hovered above the ground.
“Wow, you’ve a cool set of wings. But I thought dragons only existed in legends, I never knew they were for real” Parker confessed.
“Well my boy, dragons have been around since the beginning of time. We are the oldest, surviving members of the animal kingdom on the planet unlike our distant cousins, the dinosaurs, so very sad” Dewi sighed and landed softly.
“We love dinosaurs! That’s why we’re here. We saw the Borealopelta in the museum just now. It’s armour-plated and looks just like a transformer!” Nate waved his arms excitedly.
“I hate to burst your bubble boys, but dinosaurs were very stupid. Take the Brontosaurus, for example, it had a small head on top of a big body. You can’t drive such a large body with a tiny brain. You are at an evolutionary disadvantage”, Dewi chuckled.
“But, but what about my favourite the Tyrannosaurus rex, king of the tyrant lizards?” Parker cried.
“Ha! King of the tyrant lizards my foot! Ever asked yourself why it had a huge tail?” Dewi challenged.
“Er,” Parker frowned with concentration, “so it could run fast?”
“Wro-ong! To balance its enormous head and stop it falling flat on its face ha ha”, Dewi doubled over with laughter. It was kind of strange watching a dragon laugh at his own joke.
“Oh man, that was funny” coughing, he wiped the tears from his bright green eyes. “I guess, I should stop smoking. Ha ha. I should stop smoking, get it?” now the dragon rolled in the dust, clutching his pot-bellied tummy.
“Uh, Dewi, where are the other dragons? You said dragons were the oldest, surviving animals on the planet. So, there’s more than one of you right? Where are they?”
Dewi recovered and fixing Parker in his gaze, he replied seriously “Well all of my family are here. Then, there is my second cousin, the Komodo dragon in Indonesia and the other cousins, the Blue Dragon Sea Slugs somewhere off the coast of South Africa and then there are the Ruby Seadragons.”
“Oh, we saw a sea dragon in the museum,” Parker interrupted, “It was called an Elasmosaurus and it lived 75 million years ago!”
“She’s still alive and kicking”, Dewi nodded vigorously.
“No, that can’t be true. They told me that the sea dragons died out millions of years ago”, Parker gestured to the museum behind them.
“Pah! What do they know? The last I heard, Elaine was hanging out in Loch Ness”.
“What? She’s the Loch Ness monster?”, Nate butted in.
“Who? Elaine a monster? No! She’s my great-great-aunt and the soppiest sea dragon alive. She even cried during Finding Nemo. Ah yes, what a family Christmas that was!” Dewi paused for a moment and looked wistful, “Right well, I’d best be off now. Promise me you won’t tell anyone about me?”
“For sure, we promise. But, why not?” the brothers said in unison.
“Parker, Nate, where are you?” The boys spun round. “Quick, it’s Mom, we’d better go!” Parker, whispered.
“Wait, I wanna say goodbye…” Nate, swivelled on his heels. “Where did Dewi go?”
“But he was just there a second ago” Parker, pointed to a small dust cloud that dwindled into nothingness beside a pile of rocks. “I guess he must have gone back to work.”
The two boys peered hard at the sandy earth. There was no sign of the diminutive dragon, anywhere.
“Paarr-kerr, Naa-aate! Where ARE you?”.
“Mo-om, we’re coming!” Parker, nudged Nate in the ribs and said “Now, remember, we can’t tell Mom and Dad about Dewi, we promised.”
Nate shrugged and murmured “Whatever.” The two boys jostled each other as they jogged back to their parents.
“Hey guys, we thought you had got lost! Did you have fun?”, their Dad laughed and wrapped them both in a bear hug. “Yeah, we met an awesome dragon…”, Nate blurted out.
“…Fly”, Parker interrupted, “He meant we saw a huge dragonfly.”
“Really? Out here? That’s unusual. Are you sure it wasn’t a cricket?”, their Mum asked.
“Nope, it was definitely a drago-OW”, Nate crumpled, feeling the sharp kick in the shin from his brother’s running shoe.
“Dragonfly, yep, it was definitely a large dragonfly, with wings as big as this!”, Parker stretched out his arms wide and smiled, ever so sweetly. Nate scowled, “Humpf”. Suddenly, a vivid flash of teal blue caught Parker’s eye and he turned to look over his shoulder. In the distance, he spotted Dewi, grinning toothily and waving. Parker gave a brief nod and with a flick of his spiky tail, the dragon was gone.
© Sarah Justine Packwood, November 2018
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