The weather had been . . . Well, iffy was the best way to put it. My sister thought I was crazy to go to the cabin when the weather might change at any moment.
"You're too old to go kiting off on some getaway," she had said, her finger almost touching my nose as she waved it back and forth. Apparently she'd forgotten the incident when I was four and I'd simply bitten the offending finger. I could still see the marks. "You just don't --"
"I pretty much do whatever I please," I said, calm and smiling because that always annoyed her -- and reminded her that I still had very good teeth. She drew the offending hand back again.
"So you are going up there by yourself to commune with the trees --"
"I'm not going alone." She looked at me, shocked. "I'm taking Red."
Those words were the last straw. She threw her hands up in the air -- I pulled back in haste when she almost hit me -- and she left my apartment, grumbling something that sounded less than polite.
Red came running from the bedroom as soon Margie left. The cat was very wise and always stayed out of sight when my sister visited. Margie never tired of pointing out that by my age she was already married with four kids, as though that was the pinnacle of human ambition. She took my reluctance to leap into the gene pool as an affront to her choices.
As it happened, I liked her little rugrats. I still wasn't certain I needed any of my own. And Margie did tend not to mention her divorce.
"You ready for the trip, guy?" I asked. "Get out of the city for awhile, check out the cabin Uncle Lee left to me? That's what really annoys her, you know. He only left her a small fortune. He gave me the place he loved."
"Right. Let's go."
I'd been to the cabin several times through the years, both with and without Uncle Lee. I would miss the old guy and the tales he told around the fireplace on the cold mountain nights. He'd had an imagination and even as I grew older, I still loved his tales of magical places.
"The cabin is close to the line," he'd told me the last time we'd been there together. He'd been intense; if he hadn't died in a car accident, I would have thought he'd somehow known I would be here alone soon. "The veil between here and the world of magic isn't far away. If you're lucky, you'll get to see something from the other side. If you're really lucky, you'll make friends with some of the others. As long as you treat the land well, Michael, they'll like you."
He'd been so serious that I almost believed.
Yes, I would miss his special magic.
We reached the cabin late at night, but I knew the way and we'd had no trouble getting there. I carried Red in and started the fire before it got any later. A cold breeze blew down from the higher peaks and I feared Margie might have been right about my timing. Not that I would ever admit it to her, though.
We had a rollickingly good storm that night. Red slept under the blankets, and I admit I pulled the covers over my head as well. Lightning flashed almost continuously for an hour, some of it with odd hues, lighting the little bedroom with blue and purple glows that seemed to hold on a little longer than normal.
Then the storm passed and I slept until dawn. Red made his way out of bed when I did. The place was cold, the fire gone low, so I dressed hurriedly and started working on getting the embers stirred up.
"Merp, merp -- MEEP!"
Red charged across the outer room and threw himself at the window.
"It's just a bird, you silly cat. Just like in town --"
Not like in town.
Not a bird.
Lizard. Really, just a lizard . . . Lost in the woods, clear up in the cold mountains where there should never be any lizards. . . .
Flapping his little wings.
Red hit the window a couple times with his paw and then turned to me. "Merp, merp, merp!"
"Merp," I agreed.
The little lizard looked like he was trembling. I stared. He stared. Red merped a few more times.
I went out the door and walked around to the window. The little guy turned and leapt at me. I thought he was going for my throat. Actually, he was trying to burrow into my shirt.
I took him inside. He and Red curled up on the hearth, nose-to-nose, and slept.
I had a tiny dragon sleeping on my hearth.
I started trying to remember all of Uncle Lee's stories, frantically jotting things down in the notebook I'd brought. I yelped when someone knocked at the door and crossed quickly to pull it open a little, afraid to let anyone in and see the dragon --
She had long blue and green hair, pointed ears, almond-shaped green eyes and a very nice smile.
"You must be Michael. I am so sorry about Uncle Lee. He'll be missed. Is Rex here?"
I pulled the door open, still trying to sort things out. She crossed to the hearth and knelt.
"I told you not to go out in that storm! But I see you made a new friend. This must be Red. Uncle Lee always talked about what a smart cat he was."
"Tea?" I asked. My brain was still trying to sort through everything. "Would you like tea?"
"That would be lovely."
So I finally met the neighbors. Uncle Lee was right -- I was very lucky. By the time I left a few days later, I started thinking about bringing Margie's kids up here . . . and the magical tales I would be telling them.
I had a legacy to pass on.
http://fridayflash.org for more fantastic quick reads