As I made my way to the Everglades--flying high enough that the casual observer would mistake me for an odd-looking eagle or a bat with insomnia--I filed all the annoyances of the weekend: Gozon and his mysterious speech, Galendor's coincidentally timed appearance, Brunhilda the vamping Valkyrie, Coyote--there was an annoyance I wished I could file away permanently. I savored the irony of the brownies making a mess of people's things while trying to clean them--only in Mundane--and, God forgive me, I savored the thought of Grace getting into a magical cat fight with "Terpie." I really wish I'd have been there to see it.
I found the national park with no trouble and selected a nice secluded spot for my nap. It was a little damp for my tastes, but in the heat of the afternoon, the tepid water felt refreshing, and after scaring off anything stupid enough to get in my way, I settled down among the reeds for a snooze. I did devote part of my attention to keeping tabs on my environment, however. Mundane fauna didn't recognize dragons as a natural predator. My size might deter most of them, but I didn't want to take a chance on some alligator or puma with delusions of grandeur thinking I'd make a nice lunch.
Of course that also meant that half an hour into a very nice nap, I became aware of humans talking. Two of them had mouths so foul that if they'd been on television, the conversation would have sounded like this:
"Whoa! What the (bleep) is that?"
"(Bleep) if I know. (bleep) (bleep). Let's (bleeping) stay the (bleep) away from the (bleeping) thing. (bleep!)"
"Like (bleep). I want a closer look."
"(Bleep) that. It looks (bleeping) dangerous. I'm staying (bleeping) far away, (bleep/personal insult)."
"You (bleeping) coward. I'm the one who's gonna get (bleeping) close to the (bleeping) thing. You just keep the (bleeping) camera rolling."
Obviously not a tourist group; maybe some natives out for thrills. I stayed still and feigned sleep. I was going to give them the thrill of their lives.
I almost blew it, though, then someone said, "Action!" and PottyMouth screeched out, "Sheeeew-Dang! Can you see that big ol' snout hidin' in them thar bushes? I'm tellin' you, chile, I ain't nevah seen no gator that size or color a'fore."
Big snout? Me? Now he was asking for it.
"Look at them teeth. I sweahr, they's the size of my bowie, they is. Jes look." I heard something snap and a friction sound like a large knife against a plastic case. I waited for him to try to lay his knife near my canines, but he didn't approach, and I guessed the camera was doing a close-up. At least this time they'd get my better side. I wondered who these jokers were.
I heard him put the knife back in its sheath and say, "Yessir! This here critter ain't like nuthin' I ever seen. We may've jes found us a new species. You know the Everglades is home to twenty threatened species and fifteen endangered species, including the Day-Lee-own sable sparrow and the south Florida American speckle-headed turtle. She-oot, we ain't got no turtle here, do we? Let's see if'n we can get ourselves a closer look."
I waited while he snuck up close, muttering reassurances and facts to me and the camera audience. Then as I heard the tendons in his knees creak as he knelt, I opened my eyes and said, "Shee-ooot! That thar accent is thicker than cold pea soup!"
Some days, it's gratifying to hear the screams.
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(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg