By Dave Hughes
"Fact of the matter is, your rooster is actually a dragon," said Dr. Horace. His lips were tight and his brow was chiseled in place, and he stood a mere foot from Mrs. Stanislaus's nose.
She wondered for a second if this was some new way of saying "you've got a nice be-hind at 35, wanna cheat on your husband?" Which Dr. Horace had said before, but this time, thankfully, he was sober. His gaze turned from Mrs. Stanislaus to Ernesto, the portentous black-bodied red-crowned rooster in the three-foot cage below, a high source of income and blue ribbons for the Stanislaus family.
"Oh," said Mrs. S, taking a step back, "thank you. Ernesto appreciates the compliment. Don't you, big guy?" she snuck a finger into her prize-winning cock's cage and Ernesto pecked at it in either curiosity or suppressed rage at being owned.
Dr. Horace sighed and slicked back his brown toupée. "I'm serious, Mrs. Stan. I've talked it over with my colleagues at the school."
"I don't follow."
"Yes you do, it's not hard."
Mrs. S scoffed. Dr. H had overstayed his welcome fifteen minutes ago, and the amount of grace annoyances had been whittled away to almost nothing. "Sorry, it's just, why is he a dragon? He looks like a rooster to me."
"You see, Miss Stan, we've been looking all over for a dragon. That's just the sort of thing cryptozoologists do. And were there any dragons?"
"Komodo dragons, maybe."
"Yes-- but they're not nearly awesome enough. Nothing like a fire-breathing reptilian monstrosity with wings that St. George would fight. We haven't been able to find anything of the sort. But I realized just the other day, while looking at porn for scholarly reasons-- we've never seen a dragon. It could look like a chicken for all we know. So," he pointed to the black rooster picking at the lock of his cage, "we hypothesized that maybe Ernesto and other roosters like him were dragons all along. Such fine black plumage, great size at such a young age, a look in his eyes that means business-- and chickens are closely related to reptiles."
"Don't be ridiculous, Mr. Horace. Ernesto doesn't breathe fire."
It was then that Mr. H had that sort of grin that made actual dragons cower. "I'm a scientist," he said. "I test these things."
The blue flames of the stove came on and a waft of heat spurted at Ernesto's face. Mrs. S. held him like a rifle.
"Now all we need him to do is exhale with all his might to see if his breath can catch fire," said Mr. H.
"This is asinine," said Mrs. S., as she stroked the nervous chicken's back, despite holding his twitching face inches away from an open fire. It was at times like this that she wondered why she said "yes" to so many things that involved her prize roosters and Dr. Horace.
"Yes, and if it's true, it'll make us asininely rich," said Dr. H.
Relaxing her hold on Ernesto, Mrs. S. glared in surprise at the scientist. "Us?"
"Well, yes, us."
"But it's my rooster. My husband's as well."
"And I discovered it. I'll get money on my own accord."
"All right, Dr. Horace, I believe this has gone way out of hand."
Horace smelled something resembling sub-par coq au vin, looked down, and pointed in horror. "Certainly has. The dragon's on fire."
Mrs. S. looked down and saw that maybe loosening her grip was a poor idea over an open flame.
She shrieked and dropped the also-shrieking bird as its crest ignited, then the plumage around its head, and within only a few seconds Ernesto the rooster had become a cheap knockoff phoenix that doesn't come back to life. It howled a flaming-rooster howl as it sped across the kitchen floor to the back room to find a better place to die. He left a trail of shag carpet behind him as Mrs. S. ran after the poor bird with a wet towel.
Finally, the blazing rooster found a suitable place to lie down and die- next to a propane tank for the outdoor grill.
As firemen doused the last fires of what was left of the Stanislaus residence, Mrs. S. and Dr. H. sat on a bench outside.
"This is all your fault," said Mrs. S. with a sigh.
"Me?" Dr. H. pointed at himself in indignation. "You should have seen it coming, Mrs. Stan. You were the one with a pet dragon."
- - -
I'm a college student with a love of Finnish metal and Winnie-the-Pooh.
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