DRAGON LADY • by Simon Barker

My fellow employees kept telling me, “Oh, she’s a real dragon.” I thought that meant bad, like a temper, or nasty. I pictured some hag with pointy spectacles and avoided going up to Accounts Payable so as not to get my head bit off. I even threw in five bucks when they bought a sack of coal for her birthday.

But then we did fire safety warden class together and she turned out not like that at all. She was a scream. We sat at the back and she kept wafting little puffs of smoke up to set off the alarm. Hank, the trainer, didn’t get it.

“Man, this’s never happened before.”

We were sniggering like crazy. She had such a wicked sense of humour. In the end even Hank chuckled.

“Lady, I should be letting you run this class.”

She scorched his pants and he still smiled. He must have been impressed because he took the class to a bar. What are those drinks, you know, with the little blue flames on the top? The bartender brought them and bar patrons blew them out. Then she’d pucker up when no one was looking. They’d turn round and say, “It’s alight again!”

As we got drunker it was hysterical. The bartender was serving drinks that don’t even combust. A glass of Chardonnay, a beer even. Have you seen a beer in flames? She did that, just with a little puff. Hilarious.

We ended up in Chinatown, eating Szechwan at midnight.

“Oh! Oh! My mouth is on fire,” she screamed, pretending it was burning her tongue, and spurting smoke out her ears. The kitchen staff trooped out with their cleavers to stare. For a minute they were fooled. Then they bowed and hailed her, “Honourable Madam Dragon!”

Anyway, after that night we started seeing each other and I was sorry I hadn’t hooked up before. People say, “Oh, but the scales — aren’t the scales really weird in bed?” Actually, they aren’t. When people hear “scales” they think of dead fish. No! They’re nothing like. Have you ever touched a snake? Try it some time. They actually feel nice. Well-groomed scales are silky and soft and lovely to stroke. Or a lizard. Have you ever felt a baby lizard? They’re really soft. And of course she’s not cold blooded. The opposite. “Oooh, don’t get me too hot,” she coos, wiggling those scales. “Bad things might happen!”

So, to people who knock scales and the other stuff, I just say you give it a go, you’ll find out. And, naturally, she can cook. Not just barbeque, either. Besides, if you’ve been a smoker like me then you get used to the burning pretty quick. It’s nothing.

Simon Barker is an Australian living in Sydney although for a number of years he lived in the Bay Area of California. Last year his work appeared in Green Briar Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, Literally Fiction, Fiction On the Web, London Journal of Fiction and Tincture Journal.

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