a boy and his dragon

We're spending the weekend at the lake, at the tail end of my folks' annual Grandkids Week. I was only able to come out for the weekend due to work, but Spawn has been here the whole week.

There was a Harry Potter marathon on today, so peeling him away from the damn TV and out into the sunshine was a bit of a chore. At bed time, I insisted the box go off so he could sleep. Instead, we opened the draperies to his little balcony (it's an awesome beach house) and watched the moonlight on the lake water.

"Look how beautiful it is," I told him. "See the way the light moves on the water? It's kind of like rippled silk, the way it keeps changing."

"Stare at it a while without blinking," Spawn told me. "See?"

Sure enough, if you stare at the patterns of moonlight on lake water without blinking, soon you will see the most marvelous patterns, shifting scattered magic on dark water.

I was killing time with my boy in part because I was hopelessly blocked on the book. Why not write about this instead, I thought. "I should put a monster in the lake," I told him.

"No, that'll ruin it," he insisted. "Make it a good monster."

"You know, I'm supposed to write a story about a dragon," I told him.

"A boy and his dragon," he replied. "A boy named Mason."

"I was going to name him after you," I said.

"No way! You'll kill me!" he replied. Smartass.

We determined that Mason was an unhappy kid, maybe a kid with lousy parents or problems with bullies. The point is, Mason makes up imaginary friends, so no one believes him when he sees a chameleon dragon named Ang rise up out of the lake water while he's visiting for that one week a year.

Ang becomes Mason's best friend. And like the Chinese legends, Ang can control weather.

That's as far as we got. At some point I had to write and he had to sleep. But it amazes me, the quality of his imagination. Stephen King wrote most descriptively of it in IT, that imagination we possess as children and sadly lose as we grow up. Magic spells and moonlight patterns are replaced with credit card bills and brake repairs, and we lose something essential to the human experience.

Worse: we take it away from our children. We forget in their flights of fancy and energetic play that they are heirs to our unspoken stories. We tell them to grow up, act their age, sit down and be quiet. Or worse: we tell them nothing at all, letting the electronic babysitters dull their sharp edges and they exercise their thumbs instead of the twisted fairytales of dreams.

I wish he would write the story of Mason and his dragon. He's already moved on to the comic strip of bacon escaping our fridge and running about town wreaking havoc. Mason's fate is in my hands.

But first, I wanted to remember what it looked like, staring at the moonlight scattered on the water without blinking, my son leaning against my shoulder. Magic spells.