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Mopsy Meets the Blood Dragon

July 3, 2012 1 comment

Meet Mopsy and Topsy

Ralph was 10 years old and the year was 1962; he enjoyed bb guns, firecrackers, comic books, but most of all, he enjoyed his pet rabbits, Mopsy and Topsy.  Ralph’s world was made for autumn, a time of harvests, carnivals, and backyard clubhouses. It was a time to shed summer’s oppressive heat, in exchange for the cool whiffs that hung in the long autumn shadows.

The cotton fields of Trumann, Arkansas were now bare. Only remnants of snowy white specks littered the brown furrows. During this time of year, the twilights were exotically scented with a hint of DDT and smoldering leaves.  Mournful wails of distant trains rang across the night’s sky.

Ralph lived about midway on a dead end, gravel road, that separated two small cotton farms. His home was originally built to shelter two families.  One chimney was shared between them.  The house had no plumbing and very few electrical outlets.  Each room had one central light bulb, switched with pull string. The only source of water was a hand-primed pump located in the back yard.  Its water always tasted of kerosene.

When Ralph wasn’t doing chores, he would enjoy taking long hikes in the fields that surrounded his house. These usually led to his favorite spot, a railroad trestle  shaded by Birch and Sassafras trees. He enjoyed climbing its quarztite dumps and perching against the oil-soaked timbers. The tracks smelled of creosote and tar covered limestone. Whenever Ralph walked down its rails, he was always reminded of uncle Harry.

Uncle Harry was not normal. He had no wife or children; he had no debts to pay; he had no steady job or permanent home. About twice a year, he would arrive in Trumann, courtesy of the local freight trains. You see, Harry was one of the last surviving tramps, probably left over from the great depression. He travelled by rail and slept in his Goodwill suit, always wearing his brownish gray, fedora hat, marked by a band of perspiration around its brim. Another signature of Harry was his strong odor of burnt matches and cheap wine. This odious cloud always preceded his entrance into a room and lingered long after he left.

Did I mention that Harry was not normal?  Harry would sometimes talk to his reflection in the shaving mirror.  Whenever he lost the argument, he proceeded to hit himself with blows to the head and face.  No one really knew why. Perhaps he was exorcising some unknown demon, a forgotten sin from a past or present life. Ralph knew that Harry was long overdue for a visit this fall.  Prophetically, he arrived that weekend.

Harry

Uncle Harry

Harry enjoyed cooking.  Most of his dishes were known for their diced onions and navy beans.  He loved to quote kitchen wisdom when he was at the stove.  His sayings weren’t like the usual platitudes of God blessing the kitchen or the Kitchen Prayer.  No, Harry had a peculiar logic known only to himself.  He was fond of saying, “the nose, knows.”  Ralph was not sure what that meant and was a little afraid to ask.  Such minor questions would often give rise to huge arguments, leading to strong language, slamming doors, and threats to leave town on the next freight.  The most memorable of Harry’s sayings was –  “if you’re gonna have beans, have beans.”  Even the mind of a 10 year old could gather enough clues to decode such a riddle. Harry didn’t believe that meals should have variety.  He religiously held that one course meals were cheapest, easiest, and most logical to prepare.  No doubt, this had some connections to the hobo’s famous Mulligan stew, a hodgepodge of improvised ingredients prepared in one old tin can, on one shared campfire. In such lifestyles, a balanced meal would be quite impractical.

The weekend proceeded without incident. There were no broken mirrors or slamming doors. Harry was having a good day and decided this was a good time to cook. Saturday’s meal would be fried rabbit, flavored with wild onions.   Without a doubt, he got the idea from the two handsome rabbits who lived in a wire mesh cage in the backyard. Yes, meet Mopsy and Topsy, two family pets mentioned at the beginning of the story.  They were indeed most suited to Harry’s culinary pursuits.  Of course, Harry didn’t share this with the family. Dinner would be a surprise.  “If you’re gonna have rabbits, have rabbits.”

As part of the preparation, Ralph had the job of gathering the onions from the backyard.  No, Ralph was not privy to the knowledge of Harry’s main course. Ralph only knew that the onions would make the meal delicious, no matter what it would be. The wild onions grew next to the storm cellar, ironically the same spot where the rabbit’s grassy meals were usually gathered. Like a surgeon preparing for a delicate procedure, Harry rolled up his sleeves and walked to the rabbit cage. Ralph wondered why Harry held an empty burlap sack in one hand, as he leaned over to unlatch the rabbit cage with the other.

At this point, I won’t bother to go into details.  Suffice it to say, the air was filled with shock and betrayal. Strangely enough, Ralph didn’t say much.  Instead, he was totally entranced by one indelible image, a picture that would foreshadow

See Mopsy, See Mopsy Run

many autumns yet to come.  I speak of the dragon which lived on Harry’s right arm. It was a large tattoo, running the length of his forearm. It wrapped his muscles with its scaly tail and tenuous serpentine body.  Harry’s large veins became the veins of the dragon.  They were all one and the same.

Harry reached into the rabbit’s cage and Topsy cowered in the corner, attempting to hide in a cushion of leaves and wood chips.  Mopsy was not so lucky; he was yanked by his ears.  Mopsy’s hind legs kicked rapidly, as Harry pulled him from the cage. Swinging by his ears, Mopsy’s claws slashed against  Harry’s forearm, like a blur of razors in full flight. A creature of timidity was transformed into a warrior, as he clawed with blinding ferocity at the enemy.  The dragon and Mopsy were locked in mortal combat.

That was the day the dragon bled great tears of blood.  Streams of crimson oozed down Uncle Harry’s arm.   That was the day Ralph knew what a bleeding dragon looked like.

Dinner was particularly good that night.