“Whoa, Max, whoa,” I screamed, trying to slow him down. El laughed. I think even Rudolph laughed. I didn’t. Max dove and spun. Climbed into the sky, then rolled in the air.
I was terrified.
“He’s not a horse, Joe, whoa will not work.” El flew alongside, sliding up to whisper in Max’s ear. He slowed down and leveled off, gliding through the air with just a slight jostle at each beat of his wings.
“Better?” she asked.
“No,” I yelled, my arms wrapped tight around Max’s neck. “I don’t want to die,”
“No one’s gonna die,” she grinned, “as long as you pay attention. Okay? Relax. Enjoy the ride. How many people do you know get a chance to ride a flying dragon?”
I sat up just a bit, looking around. The sky was a deep blue, I knew I should be cold this high up, but I wasn’t. I felt warm. El slid up alongside me.
“Ready to try a few things?”
“I think so.” I was scared, but I did my best to pretend.
Believe it or not, flying a dragon is kinda easy. Just a few commands to learn, a couple of touches with the hand to steer, and I was flying a dragon.
We’d practice every day, all day, until school started. Then, I had to sneak out the window at night to continue to practice. Once, my mom almost caught me. I had just climbed back in. Max was halfway in when my Mom knocked on the door.
“Can I come in?”
“Ah, well, can you wait a minute I’m just getting into my pajamas.”
“Joe, I’m your mother. Nothing I haven’t seen.” The door opened. I stood there still fully dressed.
“A new kind of pajamas I see,” Mom said.
“I, ah, I was just getting started.”
“Why is the window open? It’s cold in here.” She started toward the window. Max was half in and half out. His eyes grew wide as he tried to back out before….
Down came the window, right on Max’s hand.
“Why is this window stuck?” Mom said as she slammed it again.
Up until that point, I’d only heard Max speak in a quiet voice. He yanked his hand back and let out a roar like a jet plane.
Mom pushed hard on the window. “What was that?”
I shrugged, “probably a plane or something.” I stood next to her, watching Max clutching his hand and spinning in the air. His wings made the trees sway and the bushes shake.
“Let’s pull down the shades, shall we?” Mom said. “Why don’t you put on real pajamas and get to bed, it’s late.” She closed the blinds, kissed me on the head, and walked out. “Don’t stay up too late reading, early day tomorrow and it’s supposed to snow. Looks like a White Christmas this year.” She closed the door on the way out.
I waited a couple of minutes until I heard Mom and Dad talking downstairs, then opened the shade. Max’s face filled the window. He still clutched his hand to his chest. I opened the window as quietly as I could.
Max flew in, curling up into his spot, which was almost all of my room, and put his head on my bed. “If she wasn’t your mother I would–.”
“Max, mom can’t see you. It’s not her fault. Next time when I say time to go in don’t waste time. Just come in.”
Max gave a harrumph, closed his eyes, and ignored me. I yawned and fell fast asleep.
“Joe, wake up. Wake up.” A voice whispered in my ear, and someone shook my arm. I opened one eye. “It’s too early, Mom. I’m still sleeping.”
“Joe, it’s El. We have to go.”
I rubbed my eyes and sat up. Max was standing up, rocking back and forth. El stood at the end of my bed.
“Time for you to go to work, something’s happened at the North Pole.”
That got my attention. “What happened?” I looked around. “Where’ Rudy?”
“That’s the problem. Santa needs you and Max. Rudy and all the other reindeer are gone.”
TO BE CONTINUED