by students at Douglas Elementary School in collaboration with Susie Wilde, 2004
Once upon a time, far away, in a cave slimy with moss and grimy with dragon smoke, Fireball curled up with his two children. He spread his wings protectively around Monette and Little Fire and told a sad story. “The only thing your mother loved more than art was our family. She was working on a portrait of you when she coughed. Instantly, a flame burst from her mouth, flew through the air, and set her painting on fire. When I saw that fire I flew as quickly as my wings would carry me, but I was too late.”
Fireball looked straight at Monette and his voice became fierce, “You must stop loving art, Monette. I don’t want you to get hurt. Art is not for dragons!”
“How can I stop loving something that is a part of me and was part of my mother?” Monette yelled.
Little Fire spoke softly, “Monette can’t help loving art.” Their father only stormed out of the cave, his anger as hot as burning lava.
“I really want to go to the art museum,” Monette whined.
“Dad’s never going to let you go,” said Little Fire.
“Then I’ll sneak out! If you don’t tell him I’ll take you with me. We’ll fly away so quietly Dad won’t even know we’re gone,” promised Monette.
“That’s a bad idea,” said Little Fire, “but I’m going with you anyway.”
Monette and Little Fire zoomed off to the art museum. They flew for miles until they saw a gigantic gray-green building. “Finally, we’re here!” panted Monette as they landed. Her large wings folded in and out with excitement. Before them stood the National Draco Dormeans Museum. It was shaped like a dragon and was so realistic that each scale gleamed in the sunlight. Without pausing, Monette flew into the mouth-like entrance and Little Fire followed. On their left they saw a statue of a dragon painting two little dragons.
“That looks like it came right out of the story Dad told us!” Little Fire said in a loud voice. Monette stared at the big metal plate on the bottom of the statue. “What does it say?” asked Little Fire, poking Monette in the ribs.
Monette read aloud, “This museum is dedicated to Burning Rose, who loved art and her children.”
“That was Mom’s name, wasn’t it?” said Little Fire.
Monette nodded, but didn’t say a word.
They flew through the museum, marveling at its many paintings. “There’s a painting by our uncle, Dragasso. Look at all those shapes on the dragon’s face!” Monette exclaimed. “And there’s another one by Grandfather Fang Gogh!”
“I like all those thick painted swirls and swiggly, wiggly lines,” said Little Fire.
After an hour of viewing glorious artwork, Monette looked out a window and gasped. “Oh my gosh, it’s getting dark. We’d better get home!” Exhausted, Little Fire climbed onto Monette’s back and snuggled down between her large golden wings. Before he knew it, they were home and scrambling through a hole in the back of the cave.
“Hold it right there!” Fireball snarled, “Where have you been?”
“W-w-we were just getting something to eat,” said Monette. Fireball stomped his feet, “Little Fire can’t eat without making a mess, and he doesn’t have a speck of food on him. “I want the truth! Where have you been?”
Monette hung her head, “The art museum.”
“Didn’t I forbid you to go there? Art is not for dragons! Go to your rooms, immediately!”
Little Fire had crawled behind a rock to block his father’s loud voice. “You too!” Fireball yelled and Little Fire darted down the hall after his sister.
Monette threw herself on to her bed. “If I can’t go see art, then I’m going to make it!”
“Dad said you’re not allowed to paint, “ reminded Little Fire.
“I don’t care what Dad says. Tonight I’m sneaking out to the place Mother painted. Are you coming with me, or not?”
“That’s a bad idea,” said Little Fire, “but I’m going with you anyway.”
After Fireball was sound asleep, Monette woke Little Fire and they flew through the inky black night. Monette breathed fire, guiding their way to the forest clearing and the cave where her mother had once painted. They listened to the flapping bony wings and eerie screeches of bats.
“Let’s go in!” whispered Monette. As soon as her eyes adjusted to the dark, Monette saw where Burning Rose had painted. A slightly scorched stilllife of a palette and a jar full of brushes was perched on an easel worn with use. Monette gazed in wonder. “ That almost looks real. If only it was finished. Hey, I bet I can finish it!”
“That’s a bad idea. You don’t really know how to paint and you could burn yourself,” Little Fire said.
But Monette picked up a paintbrush and poked through the tubes of paint until she found some that hadn’t hardened. She sighed, “If only Dad could see me, he would understand.”
“I don’t think so,” Little Fire said.
Monette only laughed. For more than an hour she added layers of paint, dabbing color to cover the scorching. Finally, she stepped back to look at her work. What she saw made her so excited that she breathed hard, shooting out a small spark that sped through the darkness. In seconds the brushes caught fire and the flames quickly spread to the painting.
“Little Fire, go get help!” Monette bellowed before her brother even knew what was happening. The flames rose as Little Fire flew off.
Terrified, Little Fire raced for home. Then suddenly, he stopped, jerking his body in another direction.
“It will be faster if I go right to the hospital,” he told himself. The young dragon flapped furiously until he reached the hospital and raced in a side entrance. He dashed down the corridors, skidding on the polished floors, until he slid right into a doctor with purple scales and a blinding clean white robe.
“Whoa! Hold on there! I’m Dr. Flame. Who are you and what are you doing here?” she asked. Her voice was muffled by the turquoise mask doctors wore to keep from burning their patients.
“I’m Little Fire and you’ve got to help my sister. She was trying to paint and a fire started. She might be dead by now!” Little Fire blurted out.
“Follow me, let’s get the ambulance!” Dr. Flame flew until they reached a large bright red ambulance.
She and Little Fire jumped in. The ambulance sped through the night, its siren screeching.
That sound jolted Fireball from a deep sleep. He bolted out of bed, reaching the cave door just in time to see the tips of Monette’s wings stretching out of the ambulance windows.
“Those are Monette’s wings, I’d know them anywhere!” Fireball cried, and flew to the hospital so quickly he arrived just after the ambulance.
“Monette was burned, but she’s going to be fine,” Dr. Flame calmed the frantic Fireball.
“I told her something terrible would happen if she kept loving art…and now it has!” exclaimed Fireball.
Two days later, Monette was released from the hospital. Fireball and Little Fire carried her home tenderly, but as soon as they entered the cave, Fireball started yelling. “You should have listened to my warnings, Monette, now look at you. Art is not for dragons!”
“But I have this great idea,” Monette said. “When I was in the hospital, the doctors used masks so their fire wouldn’t hurt the patients. A mask would keep me safe while I painted.”
Little Fire broke in, “We should ask the doctors where we can get one.”
Fireball was about to argue when he hesitated and looked into the pleading eyes of his children. He cleared his throat. “We’ll see, but no promises,” he mumbled.
A week later, he came home from the Dragon Castle carrying a huge red package with a yellow ribbon. He handed it to Monette and said, “I’ve been thinking about your love of art all week. You were so determined to paint that you risked everything. There’s something important about a love that strong!”
Monette tore open the package. Inside were three turquoise masks. She put one on right away. “I love you even more than I love art,” she told her father.
“You’re exactly like your mother, Monette,” said Fireball as he hugged his children tightly, “She knew that art is for dragons. You and Little Fire know art is for dragons. And now I do too!”