Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Flavored flames

“I’ll take two carcass dogs.”


“Jesus, its noon an you ain’t got no carcass dogs yet? You run a piss-poor hot dog cart.”

“No dragons, no carcass dogs. You want a regular hot dog.”

“You see this guy? This is my brother from Wisconsin, and 10 years I been tellin’ him to come to Denver for carcass dogs. He can get a hot dog in Wisconsin. You need to get us a carcass dog.”

“Until a dragon decides to fly in, I got nothing and nothin’ I can do. Unless you got a friggin’ magic duck-call that will bring them in, I only got hot dogs.”

“Well for Christ's sake, they are always here by now.”

“Maybe they got clouded in up there,” he jerked his thumb at the hazy mountains. “Or wherever they come from.”

“So what’s the difference?” The brother from Wisconsin says.

“First you have to understand,” his brother says, “This ain’t no Milwaukee or Chicago. This is Denver where we got mountains. And that means we got dragons like you got geese. Only dangerous.”

“Like what kind of dangerous.”

“Never mind that. Shut up and listen. Nobody knows why we got dragons, except we got mountains, that’s all you need to know…”

The sun flickered as a shadow swooped over the hot dog cart. They followed the shadow as it circled the plaza. The dragon flapped leathery wings, shaking the sun umbrellas that were randomly scattered across the mammoth brick lined patio. The occupants quickly gripping their coffee cups on the tables to keep the wind from blowing them over. The dragon cracked like broken glass as its scales slipped across each other as it flexed to land. Its claws clattering like drum beats as it skidded across the bricks.

Black and green at the same time depending on where the light reflected, it smelled of mountain air when it shook out its scales. But that was quickly replaced by the stink of burnt carcass, which may come from eating virgins and slow children. That may be a legend as no one has ever seen a dragon harm a child, or even sniff for virgins.

The hot dog cart man opened the bottom of his cart where the charcoal glowed red. Hot dogs grilled above on cast iron grates. He backed away, untied a burlap bag and put his hand inside. The dragon flicked its tongue in the air, snapped at a nearby pigeon. The pigeon slipped away easily. The hot dog man kicked at the open door of the cart and it clanged. The dragon spun at once toward the noise. He growled, low and coarse like gravel falling out of a truck. He stepped forward, his spiked tail trailed across the bricks, the points covered in old blood and hair of something impaled. The scales sang like a bucksaw as he walked, sawing back and forth with the motion of his legs. The eyes flicked with color, red then black, red then black. The people by the fountain dressed in flip flops and little tops got up and started forward. The business people in suits tucked their ties out of the way, or flipped them across their backs so as not to have mustard stains announce them when they returned to work. They too followed the dragon.

The dragon moved to the hot dog cart and put his nose inside. He inhaled and it echoed out of the cart. He inhaled again and then he opened that long mandible and flicked his tongue across his flint tooth. Flame crackled like a match slid on jeans and he blew flames intense as nuclear fire, and the drumbeat of a thousand cylinders banked off the tall glass buildings and thundered across the plaza. The charcoal turned green and the flames blue as old ice. He puffed and smoke replaced the flames emitting from the dragon.

The dragon backed up and turned his head toward the hot dog man. The hot dog man pulled a  pigeon from the bag, but it caught in the burlap. The dragon growled. The hot dog man unhooked the claw of the pigeon from the burlap and tossed it toward the dragon. The dragon snapped it out of the air. He flipped it up, up into the sky and the flint tooth sizzled and flame engulfed the pigeon as the breath of the dragon suspended it in air. The dragon puffed and the pigeon fell. His teeth caught it and he raised the leather wings, beat against the air and pumped skyward.  

The hot dog man closed the door of the cart; soot hung in the air. He took out a whole-wheat bun and loaded it with a slightly yellow hot dog from the grill. “Carcass dogs, Carcass dogs, get ‘um while they’re hot!”