L.A. Times Stories

"Lady In Distress"

"Wit and Wisdom"

"The Errand"

More Short Stories


The Queen bee flew back and forth before the Council of High Wizards, her wings fluttering in agitation. “Mr. Dragon is very naughty, very naughty indeed. He says the buzzing from my worker bees is keeping him awake and he won’t allow anyone near the flower bushes outside his cave.” She crossed her wings and stamped her foot. “It’s very important that my worker bees pollinate the flowers otherwise it will upset the balance of nature. I would ask that you speak to him as soon as possible.”

“We understand how you feel, your Majesty,” consoled the Supreme High Wizard. “You’re not the first one to complain about Dudley P. Dragon. That's why we’ve decided to call him before the Committee and scold him for upsetting so many of you good folk.”

When the Queen had taken her leave the Supreme High Wizard sighed. “It seems our young dragon is quite out of control these days.”

“And liberal with his fire as well,” another Wizard growled. “Minerva Duck said she found all her sheets scorched the other day after she’d hung them out to dry. Dudley Dragon yelled at her that the flapping in the wind annoyed him.”

The Supreme High Wizard frowned. “I think the sooner we speak to Mr. Dragon, the better.”

A short time later the Council of Wizards trudged up the hill to the dragon’s cave. A large sign with the words ‘DUDLEY P. DRAGON’, ESQ., hung outside.

“Are you in there, Mr. Dragon?” the Supreme High Wizard called.

There was no answer.

“He must be sleeping,” said one of the Wizards.

“Then he’d better wake up,” declared the Supreme High Wizard. “It’s important we clear this matter up immediately.”

At that moment Dudley P. Dragon appeared around the corner munching noisily on some green trailing vines. “And what matter is that?” he snapped.

“Your behavior is upsetting the villagers,” the Supreme High Wizard said sternly. We are here to remind you of the importance of sharing with others, and keeping harmony––”

Dudley Dragon threw back his head back and laughed. (Keep in mind, it’s not easy for a dragon to throw his head back and laugh at the same time. Not easy at all). He belched a long tongue of flame at them and shouted.

“Harmony you say! Does anyone care about harmony when I’m trying to get some sleep and all kinds of noises are going on around me? Nooo, not no-one cares about that, do they?” (Did I mention Dudley is not good at his English? Unfortunately he checked himself out of school one day and never went back.) But let's get on with our story.

The dragon’s tail swished around in a wide circle forcing the Supreme High Wizard to jump out of the way so it wouldn’t knock him down the hill.

"Now let’s get something straight," the dragon continued. He placed his hands on his hips (or as close to hips as dragons can get) and shouted at the Wizards disrespectfully. "If you’re talking about these flower bushes here, well it just so happens I like honeysuckle nectar and I’m not about to share that with anyone.”

He tossed his head (not an easy thing for a dragon to do either), then turned and stormed back into his dark cave. A few moments later he bellowed back at the Wizards. “And you tell that buzzing bee lady if she doesn’t keep her drones away, I’ll singe their wing tips together!”

The Supreme High Wizard said nothing more. He turned and silently led the other Wizards back down the hill. When they returned to the Council Chambers he dismissed them saying they would meet the following day and he would have a decision regarding the out-of-control dragon.

Word spread quickly through the village about what had happened and early the next morning everyone gathered to hear the Supreme High Wizard’s decision. At 9:00 a.m. sharp he entered the Council Chambers dressed in his official cape and pointed wizard hat. In his hands he carried an ancient black leather-covered book of magic.

“Good members of the Council and village, I’ve given this matter a great deal of thought, and––” the High Wizard paused to give the chipmunk twins time to seat themself. “As dragons go, Dudley is not such a bad fellow, but he seems to have forgotten his manners and the importance of sharing. Because he likes the flower bushes outside his cave so much, I have decided that that's the way we’ll go.”

The other Wizards smiled and nodded in agreement. (Of course they had no idea what the Supreme High Wizard was talking about, but they thought it made them look quite scholarly and wise to nod as if they did.)

“Definitely the best way to go,” whispered Mrs. Minerva Duck.

"Superb idea," agreed the bushy-tailed squirrel.

“Perfect solution,” warbled the bluebird.

But the house mouse simply shook his head and said he didn't understand.

“Of course you don't,” Mrs. Duck leaned over to explain. “Only the Supreme High Wizard understands, that's why he's called the Supreme High Wizard.”

And with that, the Wizards left the Council Chambers and set off toward the top of the hill followed by the curious villagers. When they reached the entrance to the cave, the Supreme High Wizard called out in a stern voice.

“Dudley P. Dragon, Esq., your presence is requested.” The Supreme High Wizard sounded very official. He had studied the book of magic all night so he could say just the right words. Suddenly, a powerful roar came from deep inside the cave. “Who dares wake me? It better not be those pesky bees buzzing around my flowers!”

The bleary-eyed dragon appeared at the cave entrance. “You’ve got to be kidding!” he said when he saw the Wizards all dressed up in their Special Occasion wizard outfits. (They were wearing pointed hats and dark blue capes with stars and crescent moons––the clothes they wear whenever they do extremely powerful magic.)

“What is it this time?” the dragon snapped, thumping his tail hard against the ground.

The Supreme High Wizard shook open the scroll and began to read. “By Order of the Court of the Council of High Wizards, it has been decreed that you, Dudley P. Dragon, Esq., must learn the importance of good manners and proper behavior toward others––”

Dudley interrupted him with another monstrous roar. “All right, skip the details Whizzy, and get to the point!” he bellowed. “You don't want to make me any more bad-tempered than I already am!”

The Supreme High Wizard narrowed his eyes and continued. “It has been decided that as you are so fond of your flower bushes, you shall become a flower until such time as your attitude toward others changes.”

“Become a flower?” Dudley spluttered. “What nonsense! Now I’m really mad––”

But before the dragon could say anything more, the Supreme High Wizard uttered some magic words and blew sparkling gold dust in Dudley’s face. The naughty dragon coughed and spluttered and then, with hardly more than the sound of a whoosh from an enchanted sorcerer’s wand, he disappeared.

A gasp went up from the crowd and they looked around. Where did he go? The Supreme High Wizard pointed to the flower bush. There, right in the middle of all the green leaves, was a small flower with Dudley P. Dragon’s angry little face glaring out of it.

The Supreme High Wizard spoke once more. “Because of your rude manners, you are to be named a ‘Snapdragon.’ When you decide to be nice and stop snapping at everyone then you’ll be allowed to become a regular dragon again.” And with that the Council of High Wizards set off down the hill followed by the relieved villagers.

Now if you’re wondering whether Dudley P. Dragon Esq., ever changed his attitude about sharing and getting along, well look closely at the flowers in your garden. If you see snapdragons growing there and Dudley’s cross little face is glaring out, then obviously he hasn’t learned his lesson yet. But he will change soon because as everyone knows, dragons are not happy about looking like flowers––no, not at all.

"The Queen with the Quack in Her Crown"

    The Queen marched into the Royal Courtroom wearing her favorite pink bear-clawed slippers. She was followed by her newly appointed Royal Page who carried the Royal Crown.

“I have a problem with my silver crown,” the Queen told the Wise Ministers. “Please fix it before the Royal Ball tomorrow night.” Then she swept from the room as quickly as she had entered.

The Ministers stared at the jewel-studded headpiece. “What is wrong with her Majesty’s crown?” they asked.

“It has a quack in it,” the Page said.

“A what?” the Ministers cried.

“A quack! A quack! Are your ears stuffed with jam tarts or something?”

The annoyed Page tossed his head and stomped from the room.

“How rude!” said the politest Minister. “I liked the old page better.”

The other Ministers didn’t answer. They were staring puzzled at the glittering crown.

“I believe this calls for a “Quack-Finding-Ministers-Meeting,” the wisest Minister finally said.

The other Ministers nodded in agreement. They marched one behind the other to the Royal Thinking Table and sat down.

After a long silence, the wisest Minister said, “I believe the first thing we should do is find the quack and ask it to leave.”

“Excellent idea!” cried the other Ministers.

They marched back one behind the other to the Royal Courtroom.

The shortest Minister peeked beneath the crown.

The tallest Minister peered above the crown.

The strongest Minister tapped its sides.

And the musical Minister quacked at it in C minor.

But the crown remained silent.

“The quack appears to be hiding,” the shrewdest Minister said.

The other Ministers nodded in agreement.

“Perhaps we should watch the Royal crown until the quack shows itself,” suggested the thoughtful Minister.

“Excellent idea!” cried the other Ministers.

They watched the crown all through the day. It did not quack once.

They watched the crown all through the night, but the only sound in the quiet castle was the echo of the drawbridge as the knight in rusty armor rode out for the Queen’s nightly tub of pumpkin ice cream.

The following morning the Court Ministers decided the problem had solved itself. They marched one behind the other through the castle corridors, past the Court jester, and up the spiral staircase to the Queen’s chambers.

“Your Majesty,” they said, bowing low. “The Royal Crown appears to be back to normal.”

“Well done,” said the Queen, and smiled at them in regal approval.

Later that same day, as the Court Ministers sat in the Royal Courtroom playing Tiddlywinks, the Page marched in carrying the ill-fated crown.

“Her majesty is most upset,” he snapped. “It still has a quack in it. Fix it this time or she’ll turn you all into moldy old cheese.” With a toss of his head––which the Page was wont to do––he plonked the crown down on the table and strutted from the room.

The wisest Court Minister sighed. “I believe it's time for us to consult the Royal Sorcerer.”

They marched one behind the other to the Royal Sorcerer’s cave. But, unfortunately, after studying his books on ancient magic, the sorcerer could find no potion for a crown that quacked.

Refusing to admit defeat, the Ministers rounded up all the ducks in the Royal barnyard to check for missing quacks. Each duck had its own quack, which they demonstrated by waddling through the castle corridors quacking loudly and impolitely.

Finally the wise Ministers sent for the Page.

“We are unable to fix her majesty’s headpiece for we cannot find the quack,” they said sadly, and handed the crown back to him.

“What do you mean you can’t find it? It’s here.” The Page pointed to the side of the crown.

“Great heavens!” the wisest Minister cried, drawing nearer. “He doesn’t mean a QUACK in the crown. He means a CRACK in the crown! He can’t pronounce his r’s.”

At this the Ministers chased the Page out the castle doors and down to the drawbridge. “You had no right to be so darn rude when it was all your fault,” they shouted, tossing the Page into the murky, brown moat.

The Ministers marched back to the castle to summon the Royal Silversmith to fix the crown in time for the Royal Ball.

At the feast later that evening, the Queen thanked the Ministers. “Because you did such an excellent job fixing the Royal Crown,” she said, “I have decided to give you each a Royal Bonus.”

The Ministers congratulated each other and beamed in pride for they were, after all, very wise men.

But as the Queen turned and waltzed away, she gave a playful grin.

“Now,” she whispered to the duck hidden inside her crown.

And to the wise Ministers’ horror, from the Queen’s silver headpiece came a very loud and very definite,