The town had a large park at the center. It featured a large lawn with playing fields, a wooded area with benches and a winding path. At the center of the woods, there was a large pond with a historic home on the shore.
Tours of the home were available on weekday afternoons and weekend mornings. Some early settler of the town lived there once. He founded the bank and governed the town, and the windows of the house were shipped in from far away.
Charlie, Isaac and Marianne toured the old house again one Saturday morning because Charlie said he didn’t remember it at all. He heard about it at school and wanted to see the player piano and the old cast iron stove. They were as impressive as he imagined them.
After the tour, they stood by the pond, feeding the ducks. Marianne had enough change for several handfuls of duck food pellets from the dispensers at the edge of the pond. Charlie insisted on tossing one tiny pellet at a time. Isaac was a little worried that the ducks would stage a revolt soon and take the food all at once.
A few more ducks waddled up anxiously. Isaac looked around. Why were there so many ducks here? Surely there weren’t enough people buying duck food pellets to support a colony of this size.
One of the new arrivals started pecking Isaac’s shoe laces. He stepped away, and ducks crowded into his spot. A duck pecked at his ankle. “I think the ducks are upset I don’t have any food,” Isaac said. “Maybe I should get out of the way?”
“You can go sit on the bench,” Marianne said. “This may take a while.” She sighed and looked down at her cupped hands, still full of duck food pellets.
Charlie took another pellet and tossed it to the flock of ducks. “Look, the mean duck didn’t get there in time. He looks mad. I’m going to toss one to the other side now and see who gets it. I hope that little duck does.”
Isaac walked slowly to the bench, side-stepping the ducks chasing the latest tossed pellet. He sat and looked across the pond. A few fall leaves fluttered to the surface of the water, drifting on the breeze like little birds then gliding in to a gentle landing.
A paper boat made from a folded sheet of lined notebook paper sailed near the shore a short distance away. Something was written on the paper, but Isaac was too far away to read it. Suddenly curious, he stood up and walked along the shore until he was close enough to pluck the little boat from the water.
He read the word aloud. “Daro.” Immediately, the paper grew hot in his hand, and he dropped it in surprise. It burst into flames.
The flames were spreading, jumping higher and higher, and Isaac stepped forward, ready to try to stomp on the blaze or kick dirt on it or kick the paper into the pond or something. But, nothing was burning. The flames seemed to be forming into a shape with defined edges.
It was taller than Isaac, and wider. It had large wings and a tail. Isaac looked up just as the flames disappeared. He was staring into the yellow eyes of a large red dragon.
“Thank you for helping me,” the dragon said in a whispery voice.
Isaac stepped closer so that he could hear. “Were you the boat?”
“Yes, one of my students will be in a lot of trouble when I return. You know how students can be! I imagine it would have taken the other teachers days to find me,” the dragon said.
“Did you know that you’re a dragon?” Isaac asked cautiously.
The dragon laughed. “I am always a dragon.”
“Just checking.” Isaac looked back at Charlie and Marianne. They were still surrounded by hungry ducks and hadn’t even looked in his direction. He sighed. “I imagine you will need to go back to your school now. Are they all dragons there?”
“Of course not, we take all magicals in. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, drop by, and I’ll give you a tour.”
Isaac smiled. “Thank you.”
The dragon wrapped itself in its wings and vanished. A wisp of black smoke floated away on the breeze. Isaac realized that he had no idea where the dragon’s school was. Perhaps he’d manage to stumble across it someday all the same.
Charlie was still feeding the ducks one pellet at a time. Isaac sat back on the bench with a sigh. This was going to take quite a while. He watched the leaves drift down to the surface of the water.