DAI, THE ANTI-SOCIAL DRAGON
Dai the Dragon sat in the entrance to his cave high up on the mountain. Tears welled up in his sad, green eyes, splashed and sizzled down his long red nose, and vanished in clouds of steam. He sighed a huge sigh and, before he could stop it, a flame shot out of his nostrils, and set fire to the bracken and the bushes in his front garden.
He rushed out at once, stamped about with his great feet, lashed at the bushes with his heavy horned tail, and said,
"Bother ! Oh, bother, bother, bother ! I‘m tired of setting fire to things, and getting blisters stamping them out ! And I‘m so tired of having no friends ‘cos everybody says I‘m anti-social !"
He wiped his eyes on his pocket-handkerchief and limped away to bathe his poor feet by the waterfall, where his neighbour, Mrs Jones, was doing her washing in the pool. Mrs Jones, it was, who said that Dai was anti-social.
"Disgrace to the valley he is, look you ! With his great clumsy feet and his nasty smelly breath. Covered my sheets with soot he did, only last Monday !"
Megan Jones danced across the grass, caught the billowing sheets and pegged them fast to the clothes-line. "Oh, Mam, be fair ! Dai did boil up the water in the pool so we could wash them again !"
Her mother sniffed. Then she coughed loudly and fanned away the smoke with a wet towel. "Fair, you say ? Fair ? Evans the Poacher didn‘t think it was fair when he had to have boiled trout for his supper, look you ! When we all know he likes it grilled !"
Dai turned away, his heart and his tread heavier than ever, his head hanging down to his knees, and leaving behind him little clouds of steam where his scalding tears fell on the cold, stony path.
In the village he stopped outside the supermarket. Just inside the doorway, above the wire baskets and the trolleys, so that everyone could see it, he noticed a new sign that said,
NO DRAGONS !
He began to sigh, and caught himself just in time. Well, not quite in time, for he singed the paint on the supermarket door. The Manager came out and was very cross indeed.
"You‘re a fire hazard outside the shop, Dai, let alone inside ! And just look at that ! You‘ve smoked up all my lovely clean windows ! Disgusting habit, smoking ! Why can‘t you give it up, mun ?"
But Dai was too busy holding his breath to answer. He backed away, and knocked Thomas the Post off his bicycle with his tail.
"Dai, you‘re a menace, boyo !" said Thomas, gathering up his scattered mail. "No ! No !" he shrieked, as Dai bent to help him. ‘Leave it ! For Heaven‘s sake, mun, don‘t touch it ! Against the law it is, to set fire to the Royal mail !‘
Then he looked up into Dai‘s unhappy eyes, and his own eyes softened.
‘Oh, we know you can‘t help it, Dai bach ! In the nature of dragons it is. But, oh dear, it is so annoying to other people, you know !‘
He climbed back on his bicycle and rode off down the street, and Dai turned away. Suddenly he became aware of something in the air, coming from the direction of the Llewellyn the Bread‘s shop halfway down the street. The most delicious of smells wafting their way towards him –––~ –new bread, spiced buns, fruit cake, all very very mouth-watering. And, when Dai‘s mouth watered, what happened was clouds of steam all round him like a thousand kettles on the hob.
He poked his head in at the bakery window, took in at a glance the sight of so many forbidden delights, and sighed a deep sigh. At once all the sliced loaves on the counter were turned into toast. He drew back quickly in alarm and hurried off down the street before anyone noticed.
In the middle of the village green a small crowd had gathered, to complain, it seemed, about Dai and his anti-social habits. Williams the Police - who was really quite fond of Dai, and often dropped in at his cave for a warm and a chat on winter nights - was doing his best to calm the people down.
"He‘s not a bad chap really, you know ! If only we could find some use for all that heat and energy, mun ! Sinful to waste it all, it is !"
The minister looked doubtful.
"I suppose we might consider central heating for the chapel, look you ?"
But Morgan the Pheasants, Sir George‘s gamekeeper, shouted him down in his usual rude manner.
"No, no ! Too late for that ! Sir George said only yesterday it was time he took matters into his own hands !"
There was a shocked silence. Someone said that perhaps it was for the best, but old Mrs Evans Top Shop was heard to remark, "Mind you, he‘s not even fierce ! In all my days I‘ve never known Dai go on the rampage. And what sort of dragon is it that doesn‘t rampage, look you ?"
And everyone agreed that as a dragon Dai left a lot to be desired.
Dai hung his head, turned away, climbed back up the mountain to his lonely cave, sat down in the doorway, and wept as if his heart would break. The tears all turned to steam, and the steam turned into mist, until the whole mountain was covered in a blanket of cloud. He was so wrapped up in his misery and loneliness that he failed to catch the sound of Megan‘s dancing feet until she stood in the doorway.
"Dai ! Dai ! Come quickly ! You‘re wanted in the village !"
Dai stared at her, his eyes wide.
"Me ? Wanted ? How ?"
"Oh, come on, Dai ! Quickly ! Ivor the Bellows is proper poorly, and Dr Jenkins has ordered him to bed. So there‘s no one to keep the furnace going. And Lewis the Forge is up to his eyes in horses and ponies. They‘re all wanting new shoes for tomorrow‘s Show. You‘ll have to help us, Dai ! We need you !"
Dai looked at Megan for a long time. His eyes began to twinkle, and a smile spread slowly across his face. Then he threw back his head and roared with laughter, and flames shot from his nostrils and, like magic, the mist vanished.
Megan held out her hand. He took it gently in his huge paw, and together they hopped, skipped and jumped down the mountain-side to the village. In all his life, Dai had never felt so happy before.
The whole village was gathered outside the forge to greet them. Sir George was stamping about at the front of the queue with his own white stallion, and when he saw Dai he frowned, and his moustache bristled. Dai, who was terrified of Sir George, did his best to hide behind Megan.
Sir George slapped his riding crop loudly against his boot. "And what," he said, "d‘you think that good-for-nothing dragon can do to help?"
Poor Dai shied away from him at once, and tripped over his own tail. Sir George snorted in disgust.
"Stupid animal !"
Dai flushed a deep shade of green and hung his head again, but Megan stood on tiptoe and put an arm round his neck
"If you don‘t all be quiet at once I won‘t let him help you, so there ! And then where will you be, with the Show tomorrow ? Now, he‘s going to blow into the furnace and keep it roaring, so that Lewis can shoe the horses. That‘s what he‘s going to do ! And which of you could do it ? Come along, Dai ! You show them !"
And in no time at all the furnace was roaring as it had never roared before, Lewis was hammering away, and all the horses and ponies were whinnying with delight at having bright new shoes for the Show.
The word went round like lightning, and more people from the valley arrived with their horses. And now the villagers began to show off and to brag about having their very own, very useful dragon, so that even Sir George was impressed.
"Hrrmph ! Pity we can‘t put him to some trade !" he said to Mr Davies the Choir.
Mr Davies stroked his chin. "You know, Sir George, that‘s a very good idea ! In my opinion what he needs, look you, is breath control. Just simple breath control. Just teach him that, and there‘s any number of jobs he could do about the place !"
Sir George slapped Mr Davies on the back, making the poor man almost jump out of his skin. "Capital idea ! The very thing ! And you‘re the man to do it, what ?"
So, in no time at all, Dai was taking lessons from Davies the Choir. At first, Mr Davies suffered badly from singed eyebrows and a smoker‘s cough, but they both persevered and at last Dai got the hang of it and was ready for work.
He turned himself into a Limited Company, with the help of Prothero the Law, and designed for himself a neat poker-work sign to hang outside his cave. It read:
DAI DRAGON & CO. LTD.
ROAD-SURFACING CARRIED OUT
BONFIRE DAY CHESTNUT ROASTING
The villagers were terribly proud of their own special dragon, and Dai was never allowed to be lonely again. He was never short of work, either, and he was invited to all the village parties and weddings.
But he really came into his own at the most popular event of the year - the Annual Village Grand Barbecue Party. It was always held on St David‘s Day, and people came from all the valleys round, and had a wonderful time.
Every year Sir George made one of his splendid booming-out speeches, and toasted Dai in his own mulled wine, and all the villagers sang,
‘For he‘s a jolly good dragon
And then Dai took a deep, deep breath, let it out very, very carefully, and lit all the fireworks for the Grand Finale.