Author's note: I wrote this in about 1997 and it's only been put up because I find it amusing.
Stamel and Wilana Holdraas drove their wagon through peaceful Fogwood Forest. Wilana was at the reins when she heard the wailing of a child. Stopping the horse, she climbed down to the road. "What are you doing?" her husband snarled.
Wilana didn't look back. She followed the sound until she found a small bundle lying in the middle of the road. She picked it up and looked inside, uttering a small gasp of surprise at what she saw. An almost newborn baby gazed up at her from within the folds of the blanket.
Stamel walked up to her and grabbed her roughly. "Leave the worm to die on the road."
Wilana pulled away. "It's just a babe. I won't leave it to die."
Stamel sneered. "Play nursemaid then," he said, storming away. "I won't help you take care of the worm."
Wilana sighed sadly. "May his innards rot in his filthy carcass," she muttered. "Why did I marry him?"
"Hey, Jack!" a brown haired boy said, tapping someone on the shoulder. "Ya better get up."
The brown haired boy sighed in exasperation. "Jack, yer on the floor! If ya don't get up now, then—"
All of the sudden, a boy fell off his bunk, right on top of Jack. He snapped his head up and howled, "Mush! Get off me, you gorilla!"
The brown haired boy laughed and leaned back against the bedpost, exposing a crutch and his crippled right leg.
"You shoulda said somethin' about him, Crutchy. Why didn'tcha?" Jack said as Mush got off him.
"I did," Crutchy replied. "Ya said it was too early."
"I lied. Don't ever listen to me if I tell you that again."
Crutchy nodded. After a moment he said, "Jack? Does this look real?"
"What?" Jack asked absently, pulling up his pants.
"When I walk. I can tell a lot of people think I'm a fake crip."
Jack patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Crutchy. There's plenty of people that know you ain't fakin' it."
"Yeah, I guess so."
Twenty minutes later the newsies had bought their papers and were ready to sell them, when suddenly...
For Crutchy it felt like that first winter he had spent on the streets. He had been so young, and it had been so cold... And before he knew it, he was in the middle of a forest, facing a woman with an arrow pointed straight at him. "Uh, 'scuse me," he began nervously, "but, uh, why are you pointin' that arrow at me? I didn't do nothin' to you."
The woman just stared at him,
not lowering her bow. Now that Crutchy took a closer look, he
realized that 'woman' wasn't a very good word for her. She was
only about his age, maybe a year older. And she was pretty, Crutchy
noticed, eyeing her. "Uh," he tried again, "got a name?"
For the first time the girl spoke. "Maybe," she said, her dark eyes revealing nothing. However, she lowered her bow and pushed a few strands of her dark brown hair out of her face. She was about Crutchy's height, which was pretty tall. "Do you?"
"Yeah, but I asked first."
The girl smiled and extended her
hand. "I'm Gardrania Holdraas. And you are?"
"Crutchy," he said, shaking her slim hand with his bony one.
"Crutchy," she murmured thoughtfully. "Is that why?" she asked, pointing to his crutch.
He nodded. "Gardrania. I ain't heard that—" he stopped, as, for the first time, he noticed a little winged lizard about the size of a small dog. "What's that?"
Gardrania smiled tenderly. "This is a desert lizard. Her name's Ista."
"Yeah, you know, a dragon." She paused for a moment. "Or maybe you didn't know," she added scornfully.
Crutchy decided he'd had enough of this strange girl and her weird little lizard. "Sure. Now, if ya don't mind, I gotta get back to New York. I don't know how I got here, but I gotta get back."
Gardrania paled. You asked for someone to talk to this about, Ista informed her. I got you someone.
"You what?" she exploded. "How could you do that without my consent? You have no right to drag this boy from his own time and home just because of something I said! I was probably asleep!"
No, you were awake, Ista corrected. Anyway, I think he was a good choice. He seems to like you, she added smugly.
Gardrania lifted her head to find Crutchy staring at her. She flushed and turned around. "C'mon, then. I'd better explain what this is all about."
"See," Gardrania began, "I've always liked dragons, and dragons have always been—attracted to me. Wherever my family went, dragons just sort of—appeared around our wagon. We're traders," she added. "My father was getting tired of it, and he was going to kill any dragon that came around. So, I ran away. I brought Ista with me, and I must have told her I needed someone to tell about this—"
I wasn't good enough for her, Ista added.
Crutchy looked at the little dragon with surprise written all over his narrow face. "That thing just—said somethin'?"
"Ista," Gardrania corrected dryly. "And yes, she has a telepathic ability that allows her to—"
"Crutchy!" a new voice said incredulously, interrupting her. She looked at the speaker. He was a boy of average height, although he was shorter than her. He was also probably older than he looked. He wore a hat over his dark brown hair, just like Crutchy did. She looked back to the crippled newsy. "Ista brought you here."
Crutchy motioned for the newcomer to stand by him. "Gardrania, this is Racetrack—"
"You can call me Race, though," he interrupted.
"Um, hello………Race," she said, glancing at Ista.
Something bad is going to happen, Ista said, her tone colored with worry. You're going to need all the help you can get.
Not from a bunch of boys who have no idea what's going on, Gardrania replied testily.
Ista shrugged. Suit yourself.
Race had been staring at Gardrania, when all of the sudden he smacked himself in the face.
"What?" Crutchy asked.
"She ain't half as pretty as Medda," he muttered.
"Why thank you, Race," a woman said, pushing her red hair out of her face.
"Medda!" Race choked. "I, uh—"
Medda smiled flirtatiously at him and Crutchy bit back a laugh. For as long as he could remember his friend had been in love with Medda Larkson, a friend of Jack's who was a vaudeville singer. It didn't matter to him that she was three years his senior. She flirted with Race from time to time, but Crutchy didn't know if she had any serious thoughts about him. He doubted it.
Does it matter to you? Ista's voice asked, cutting through his thoughts.
He glanced at Gardrania. She was staring at Race wide-eyed. She turned her head to look at Crutchy and smiled. "Maybe," he told her dragon.
Ista nodded approvingly. I like him, she told Gardrania.
So do I, she replied. Out loud, she said, "Crutchy, if we're going to be friends, you might as well call me what my friends call me."
She'll get mad if you call her anything else, Ista put in.
I'm just warning him.
Gardrania glared at her dragon, then asked Crutchy, "So, where are you from? When, too."
"Uh, New York City, in 1899. What year is it now?"
Crutchy's eyes widened in surprise. He walked over to Race, who was mesmerized by Medda. "Race. Race!" He dragged him to where Medda couldn't hear what he had to say. "Race. Guess what year it is? 1497! We ain't even in the United States!"
Race very suddenly came out of his trance. "What?"
"Yeah, ya heard me right. An' I'd prefer if you and Medda wait until I ain't here to—"
Just then Medda walked up to them. "Did I hear you say my name, Crutchy?" she said sweetly. Her eyes showed that she'd heard every word he'd said.
"Seductress," he muttered.
Medda caught Race's eyes. Crutchy groaned inwardly. They were getting googely eyed! The worst part was, Crutchy thought dismally, she actually looked like she meant it. I'm actually gonna have to live with this. Poor me.