Friday, May 24, 2013

Follow the Dragon: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 2

A real dragon? Surely not. Really?!? thought Lem as he ran over to the group of boys. Joining the group, he had to stand on his toes and crane his neck to see through the crowd. Sure enough, it was a dragon. Well, a komodo dragon. At least, Lem assumed it was a komodo dragon. What other kind could it be, really? But it didn’t look exactly like he thought komodo dragons were supposed to look. Its neck was longer and more serpentine looking. Its legs were longer, too. It seemed to be injured, though. It had a deep gash on one of its back legs.

He stared at it in fascination. Suddenly, one of the boys yelled, “kill it.” Shocked, Lem blurted out, “Why!?!” before he could stop himself. No one had heard him though. The yells from the group drowned him out. Frustrated, he didn’t know what to do. This was it. His first impression. He could go along with them and make friends, or he could try to stop them and doom himself instantly.

Nothing stupid, he thought.  He watched as someone grabbed a large rock and threw it at the poor dragon. The rock hit its leg with a loud crack, and the dragon hissed and drew back. The circle of boys around the dragon widened a little as they stepped back in fear. Dragons were dangerous. Some of the boys ran around picking up the rocks that lay littered about. Lem didn’t understand. Why did they want to kill it? He was fascinated by it. A real dragon. Another rock hit the poor creature. It looked really mad now. The circle widened even more as it lunged forward in anger, but the boys stood firm and held up their rocks in defense. They weren’t going to let this fun escape.

His head felt like it would burst with questions. Were there more dragons? Where did it come from? Why did it look different from the pictures he had seen? Why had it come so near the school? He wanted to stop them. He wanted them to let it go, so he could follow it and see where it went. He looked around at the boys nervously. He couldn’t say anything. He had to make a good first impression. Didn’t he?

The dragon made another pitiful cry of pain. He looked down at the poor creature. It looked like one of its legs was broken, and it had several wounds that bled profusely. That’s when he decided. This wasn’t about scientific curiosity anymore. This was about doing the right thing.

“Stop!” he yelled out loudly. The cries of the excited boys made it impossible for them to hear him. He started pushing his way between the two standing in front of him. In the middle of the circle, he stood between the dragon and the boy who seemed to be the leader of the group (allowing a lot of room between him and the angry dragon).

“Stop!” he yelled again.
“Who are you?” the boy asked harshly.
“I’m Lem Xandiver. I’m new here.” Actually, his full name was Rupert Lemuel Xandiver, but he didn’t feel like they needed to know that.
“And just why should we stop, Lem Xandiver? Are you a dragon lover or something?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Lem replied a little unsure. “I’ve never seen a dragon before today, but I’ll not let you torture this poor thing. It’s not right.”
“It’s not right, is it?” the boy said with a rough laugh. He looked around at all the other boys, and they laughed too. The big boy had a rock in his hand, and he stood there throwing it up and catching it, looking menacingly at Lem. He looked like he was going to throw the rock at him. Lem really got scared when his laugh took on a sinister quality. When the other boys in the group began imitating their leader, Lem thought he was really in for it.

Suddenly, one of the teachers came out of the school door and rang the bell for class to begin. The boy threw his rock down on the ground viciously and snarled, “saved by the bell, Lem. At least, this time.” He pointed at him threateningly. “I’m going to be watching you.”

The other boys threw down their rocks with varying attempts to emulate their leader’s nasty look as they followed him into the building. Lem watched them leave and noticed one of the natives standing alone by the tree staring at him. Lem couldn’t tell what he was thinking behind his expressionless face, and it made him feel even more nervous. He forgot everything, though, at a sound from on the ground. The dragon was limping back into the woods. Lem took one quick look at the school building. The teacher had gone back inside, and there were only a few students (not counting the native by the tree) still in sight meandering toward the building. He knew he would get in trouble if he didn’t follow. He didn’t have any doubt that the boys he’d just met would make sure his teacher noticed his absence. But he couldn’t resist. This could be his only chance to ever see a dragon. He had to follow it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Don't Do Anything Stupid!: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 1

It was his first day in a new school. Most people would be nervous but not Lem. He was excited. He hadn’t had too many friends in his old school, you see, and this was his chance to start over.

Nothing stupid, nothing stupid, nothing stupid, he kept repeating to himself as he walked up the sidewalk toward the large impressive building at the end of the street. It looked more like a British manor house than a school, but that made it all the more exciting for Lem. He loved anything out of the ordinary.

Lem also had a very curious mind. That curiosity is just what seemed to be the root of all of his trouble at his old school. He was always going where he shouldn’t go, and he was always asking “why?” whenever anything struck him as odd or interesting. He drove his mom and dad absolutely crazy with his questions. Many of his teachers at his old school hadn’t liked it either. Don’t get me wrong, they encouraged his questions at first. They all commented on what a bright boy he was. In the beginning. But sometimes, he would ask questions that they couldn’t answer or questions that weren’t exactly politically correct. This began to make some of his teachers, and other adults in the community a little nervous. No longer was he a “bright boy.” He began to be more often referred to as a smart aleck.

Teachers began to give him fewer opportunities to ask questions in class. Parents started not wanting their kids to hang around him. It didn’t take long for him to become a social pariah. His classmates just avoided him at first, then they started whispering behind his back, then whispering about him when he was in earshot. Finally, some of them started just being mean. A few of the teachers understood and tried to help him out, but this tended to only make things worse. Let’s just say, he was quite excited the day his dad come home and announced that his company was moving them to Button Island. His dad was going to be in charge of setting up a windmill power system there, so they would probably be staying for a while.

Now, here he was with a new island, a new town, a new school, and a new opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t ask too many questions. Just blend in.

 As he got closer to the building, he could see the schoolyard full of people sitting and talking, waiting for the bell to ring. Glancing around, his eyes stopped on three boys over to the left sitting cross legged under a tree. Their clothes didn’t stand out as any different from what everyone else had on, but that was where the similarity ended. Long black hair framed their bronzed faces, and their stern expressions and intense stares unnerved him a little. They seemed to be looking at nothing and at everything all at the same time. They must be island natives. He had been warned about them. In fact, one of the sailors on the ship that brought his family to the island had told him to watch out for them.

“It’s best if ye avoid them wholly,” he said, “but if ye have to do dealing with them, ye should be doing it quickly.”
“Why?” Lem had asked.
“Because they be a mean and vicious people. They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”
“I guess it be cause we’s came in and crowded them outta mosta their island. I spose they’s do have a reason for being angry,” the old sailor admitted grudgingly. “But that be many years go. Tain’t good to hang onna grudge so long. Sides, twasn’t none of us who done it. But I spose they’s still angry.”
“Well, they still got a rough time of it, seeing as they’s stuck on the far side of the island now, but they’s got a good village there. Sides, I don’t reckon they’d even want to live in town with alla us.”

The man’s voice rose with each sentence, and his face had begun to turn red. Lem saw the signs of impatience. He knew them well, but he just couldn’t stop himself. He really wanted to know.

“Why?” he asked. But that was just too much. The sailor threw up his hands in exasperation.

“I don’t know!” he yelled. “Go below and stop your jabbering.  Why? Why? Why? Ye’s worsen old Ben Tillley’s parrot.” He walked away grumbling and avoided Lem for the rest of the voyage. Lem gritted his teeth and gave himself a stern talking to.

No questions! No pestering people! Nothing stupid! A good first impression, that’s what I have to concentrate on.

Seeing the natives now, though, he wished he had found out more about them. These three certainly looked intimidating. He couldn’t help but remember what the sailor had said.
“They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”

Now, Lem was a smart boy, and he knew about prejudices, so he didn’t completely believe that, but looking at those still, expressionless faces, he decided that he wouldn’t risk it. He forced his feet to keep moving into the schoolyard and looked away from the intimidating sight under the tree.

That’s when a yell from one of the other boys caught his attention. It had come from a group clustered at the right of the school building over by the woods. They seemed to all be looking at something on the ground. Curious as always, Lem found his feet moving toward them. Another boy came running up to the group and yelled, “Whatcha got, Burt?”

One of the boys, Burt, apparently, turned and hollered back, “It’s a dragon.”

A Dragon? thought Lem excitedly as he ran over to see.