March 23, 2018

B is for Beechnut

         The dragon had begun to pace back and forth across the clearing in front of the small hole in the hillside that was the gate of the fairy realm.
        Sam groaned, “How are we supposed to get past a fire-breathing dragon?  We’re not made of asbestos!”
        Bluebell said, “Is there any way to extinguish his fire?  Surely he can’t have infinite fire.  He must run out of it eventually.”
        “That gives me an idea,” cried Beechnut, “But we don’t have time to discuss it.  Stand back, everyone!  Way back!”  Then the little squirrel scampered up a tree and in five swift leaps was at the point on the edge of the clearing nearest the dragon’s path.  He waited a moment until the dragon passed directly beneath his branch and then, before the beast had realized what was happening, the squirrel dropped down right on the dragon’s scaly snout, with his fluffy tail dangling across the monster’s nose.
        The yellow dragon shook his head, but Beechnut held on tight.  The dragon shook harder, his nostrils wrinkling and his eyes watering as the fluff began to tickle his nose.  He reached up a clawed foot to wipe the irritation right off – but by that time it was too late.  His entire body convulsed in an enormous sneeze.  A white-hot fireball spurted from his nostrils and jaws, making a sound like a cannon and filling the clearing with flames and smoke.
        “Gerroff!” the dragon roared, swatting at his nose, but Beechnut, his own eyes scrunched shut, was clinging tight to the dragon’s snout with all four paws, and still tickling with his now singed tail.  Again the dragon sneezed, and again, completely helpless while he gasped for breath between the bursts of involuntary flame.  The trees all around were blackened by now, and Beechnut’s companions huddled out of range of the roaring fireballs, staring in terror, wondering whether the squirrel would still be alive after each tremendous sneeze.  His poor tail was getting burned with each burst of fire, the fluffy fur getting shorter and shorter.
        “How much longer can he keep it up?” wondered Sam anxiously.  “When his fur is gone, the tickling will stop, and when the tickling stops the sneezing will stop, and when the sneezing stops, the dragon will be able to knock him off his nose!”
        And yet, even as Beechnut’s tail grew smaller, so did the fireballs that the dragon sneezed forth.  The flames were cooling from white to yellow to orange.  And finally, there was a sputtering red burst, and then a few falling sparks, and then the dragon sneezed nothing but black smoke.  Beechnut opened his eyes, waited for his moment, and then leapt back into the branches.  The dragon reared up after him, swiping with his vicious claws.  If the squirrel’s poor tail had not been burnt so short, the dragon might have caught him yet.  Instead, the claws swished by only an inch from the stubby bit that remained of Beechnut’s tail, and the squirrel dashed away through the trees to safety with the others.
        “You poor thing!” cried Kate, petting him tenderly, “Do you need a bandage or anything?”
        “What I’d really like is some ice,” replied the squirrel, turning to stare at his tail ruefully, “But until we can get that, I guess I’ll be fine.  It isn’t as bad as it looks, you know.  Mostly all I lost was fur.”  Still, he moved as if he were rather sore.

        Beechnut (and a bonus B, Bluebell) from Kate and Sam to the Rescue, a read-aloud fantasy for ages 4-9 and their adults (excerpt from Chapter 8: Sunday).  More information here, or “Look inside” at Amazon.
[Picture: Beechnut clung to the dragon’s snout, illustration by Peter Nydam, 2008.]

A-Z Challenge - all posts for the letter B.


DMS said...

Thanks for sharing the excerpt. I haven't heard of this book before. Great to see the A-Z Challenge has started. I always enjoy visiting people and learning about a wide range of topics. :)

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Heh, technically the A-Z Challenge hasn't started yet. It begins April 1, but I'm just starting a little early so I can spread out my posts and be a bit more leisurely! So you'll see everyone else's posts beginning in a week! But thanks for stopping by!

Stuart Nager said...

I'm always a sucker for Dragon stories. Thanks for the share: didn't know this one.

Tale Spinning

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

If you like dragons, be sure to come back for O! =)

Kristin said...

A hero squirrel! I love the illustration, it reminds me of my grandsons dragons from years ago.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Yep, the illustration was done by my son when he was 6!