It’s a mite hard to remember that time. Me and Janie were cookin’ meth in this scheme to get capital and start one of them marijuana farms, and now that I come to think of it, that sounds like a purty bad idea. We were 26, though, so give us a lil’ slack.
So we was walkin’ down the road, enjoyin’ the summertime and poppin’ the jewelweed pods. I was probably shirtless, and Janie’s calloused feet were tough enough to go barefoot in the gravel. The Southern air filled my lungs with freshness and vigor, and the scent of an afternoon thunderstorm heavy on the horizon.
Janie lifted her head first and turned to look behind us. “Y’hear that?”
Spry, young, and manly, I listened close. The roar of a mighty diesel echoed up the holler. “That shouldn’t be travelin’ on this road. Too twisty turny for a big truck.” I craned my neck and tried to look around the trees that stood in my way, only to gather a little peek of the chrome shinin’ off the bumpers. “Goin’ awful fast, too.”
“Who you think it is?” Janie asked. Her bare feet squished through some of the mud in the ditch as she reached for a nice, juicy pod. It exploded at a touch, seeds flung ever’ which-a-way.
I shrugged. “They wreck, I ain’t helpin’ ’em. Their own stupid fault drivin’ like that.”
I got a little skeered that the truck was barrelin’ too fast down the road. I was only wearin’ a pair of flip flops and some socks with holes in ’em, though, so I followed Janie into the mushy ditch and waited. The truck was just a flyin’ – flyin,’ I tell ya – down that there road. My eyes nearly bugged outta my poor skull when I saw it in its full glory, black paint job dusty from the gravel, the grill like bared teeth ready to gobble us up. The driver honked the horn, not slowin’ despite us bein’ just off the edge of the road.
The truck was as wide as the entire road, so I grabbed Janie and pushed her into the jewelweed. It was soft, save for the briars and some of the ’luminum cans ’neath the weeds, but I layed atop her to protect her beautiful hide.
I heard the truck smooshin’ the gravel, felt a few of the rocks pelt my backside as it went by. The doors on the back of the truck rattled loose, openin’ and closin’ with every bump and pit in the road. Just as the gravel dust kicked up enough that I coughed and had to squint to see through it, something launched from the back of the trailer and rolled down the embankment on the other side of the road.
Janie spat up at me and pushed me ’way as she struggled to get up. “What the hell, Brett? That truck was gonna miss us, you didn’t -”
“Hey, lookit here. Right here.” I pointed to where the gravel had pelted me, a couple spots on my back where blood flowed out like a reg’lar fountain of bravery. “See that? I protected you real good, Janie. Real good.”
She swooned. Her eyes got all big and purty, starin’ at me with love and mushy feelings. “Oh, Brett, my strong and beautiful prince, I will never leave you nor forsake you. Love is like a red, red rose, you’re the best.”
She was skinnier ’n a rail at the time, so I swept her off her feet. “Never fear, dear Janie mine! One day, I’ll get you out of this holler, and we’ll have a real house. A real house with an actual foundation, and we’ll fill it with trophies – eight pointers, even! I certainly won’t get us abducted in the middle of the night and locked up in a desert facility in Massachussets!” I walked her into the road and gently placed her down.
The rumble of the truck’s engine died down in the distance. I half expected the fool driver to get himself – or herself, ahem, knowing you government types – kilt, but I ne’er heard ’bout no wreck later.
“Well, nothin’ for it,” I said to Janie. I held her hand tight and wandered over to the other side of the road. “I saw somethin’ come out the back of that truck. You think it coulda been valuable?”
Janie followed me willingly, then shrugged. “I dunno. Coulda been haulin’ trash.” She poked her head over the brush, helpin’ me look down in the holler.
The bank was already littered with tires and other junk people found worthwhile to toss out but were too lazy to get their butts over to the dump for. Nothin’ moved down in the little holler, save for the tiny creek that dribbled down the hill.
Janie, who’s good at spottin’ stuff, pointed to a wooden box. “That looks new. I ain’t seen a wood box that big afore, I don’t think. And lookit – there’s red paint on the sides.”
I agreed and let go of her hand. “I’mma go check it out.”
“I’mma go with you.”
Now, you gotta ’member this happened back before old man Potter got drunk and ran that school bus off the bank, so there weren’t no rails up yet. Janie and I weren’t high at all, hadn’t smoked even a lick of the wacky weed, so we carefully went down that holler. It was slippery on all them leaves, but we used some roots that stuck out of the hill to scramble down on hands and knees until we made it to the box.
It was a purty big box, but you prob’ly know. You prob’ly packed it. The red paint on the side said, “PROPURTY OF THE US GUVMENT,” and in smaller letters, “DON’T OPIN – TOP SEECRIT.” It coulda said other stuff, but I don’t ’member.
“Wanna open it?” Janie asked.
I was already ahead of her. I whipped out my Case knife from its sheath in my back pocket and started pryin’ some of the loose boards off from their nails. “Ain’t no cell service out here. We ort to make sure it ain’t a bomb gonna blow us all to hell, you know.”
“Would you know what to do if it were a bomb?”
I ripped the board away and tossed it to the side. “Yeah. Save it for when the South rises again or for the zombie apocalypse, whichever comes first.” With the locking board gone, it wasn’t hard to pry open the top of the crate. “Don’t be silly, Janie, you know we cain’t trust the Man. This’s gotta be checked.”
The box was filled with foam, so I slashed my knife right through it, careful not to swipe into wires or summat that’d cause it to get radioactive or explode or turn us into Muslims or release anthrax. After the foam I found a layer of hay, so I raised a brow.
Janie, though, she got interested at that. She bent down next to me and stuck her lil’ hand deep into the box, takin’ out the straw. “It’s fragile, that’s for sure,” she mentioned. Eventually her hand hit somethin’ solid, so she pulled the hay out from around the object in the center of the crate and eased it out.
Both of us stared at it, mouths agape, the purtiest thing you e’er did see. For a while we just turned it around, amazed at how beautiful it was. We weren’t high.
The egg was blue, robin’s egg blue, and hefty. It was a big ol’ egg about the size of a basketball, not egg-sized like… like those little diddle eggs you used to get in the store before they slaughtered all the chickens. Little dots of teal speckled the sides. Janie held it up to the sky, the light of the sun shinin’ just enough through the shell that we could see what was inside.
I near ’bout keeled over my heart beat so hard. I could see the shape of wings forming, each of the finger-like spikes that bat wings have curled up inside the little dragon’s egg. Its head curled onto its stomach, and I couldn’t see a tail, but certainly this was a dragon egg.
Janie spoke first. “It’s just like in the movies,” she said, “’Cept I ne’er thought I’d get to be a dragon tamer.”
I realized just how long we took to get to this point, so I stuck my hand in my back pocket and fished around for my lighter. I felt the giant hole in my pocket, so I gave up and reached into Janie’s pocket for her lighter instead. “You ain’t gonna be a dragon tamer if the Yanks find out what you did. Here – put that egg down, it ain’t gonna hatch for a while yet.”
I flicked the top off the lighter – gasoline and fuel hadn’t been banned yet, you know – and lit some of the hay on fire. It started off in a great conflagration, and the foam that had lined the box burned hotter ’n blue blazes.
Janie stood next to me, dragon’s egg still cradled in her arms, not a care in the world about destroyin’ the evidence. “We’re gonna keep it, right?”
“Damn straight,” I answered with a nod. I placed my brawny, thick arm over Janie’s slender, womanly shoulder. “Think about what the guv’ment could do with a dragon. It’d be a waste of our tax dollars to let this thing fall back in them Yanks’ grimy hands.”
“Yes, it would most def’nitely be a waste of the tax dollars that we have definitely paid and not skipped out on even once. We are so glad we’re not high right now,” Janie confirmed.
We watched the blaze until we realized it was getting out of control, then we scrambled up the hill with our dragon egg and went back home before the fire department could get called.