Misty Ice Dragon
Despite the blizzard and the multiple car pile-ups on the highway, the arena filled quickly. Few seats were left empty by the time it was 9:00 a.m.
The variety of music did not overpower the audience nor did it whisper to the young performers on the ice.
I watched as skater after young skater performed. You could tell some of them just loved to skate. Others loved the performing aspect; it didn’t matter whether they were skating or dancing or just being silly as long as they were centre stage; nothing else mattered.
A group of skaters came on the ice to warm up before their performances. While I watched them exercise elements, I looked up at the rafters. At first, I wondered why I was even looking up there; the skaters were definitely more interesting to watch. The sound of air coming out of a tire coming from there grew stronger. I scanned the pipes. There was nothing abnormal from what I could see.
I listened harder. The hissing stopped every once in a while and started over again. The hissing always lasted the same amount of time, as did the silence between hisses. It was all very rhythmic and calming, too, somehow. I looked past the pipes and scanned the rafters towards the other side of the rink.
On the third row of rafters, I noticed a thin cloud floating between the ceiling and the rafters. This cloud snaked between the steel beams. It hung down slightly and pulled up on the next row of rafters.
It moved like this between the steel beams and the rows of rafters from one end of the rink to the other. The hissing stopped every time the back end of the cloud coiled up onto a rafter. The whole cloud rested momentarily on a single steel beam without moving, without making a sound. Then the hissing started over again and the cloud snaked along the steel beams of that rafter.
I closed my eyes. I heard something in a cut time thump grow louder and louder. I had heard that sound before at other skating rinks. I had always believed it to be the air conditioner hard at work. But this time, I paid close attention to this thumping music. It did not come from the pipes above me. It did not come from the speakers. It came from the cloud.
I opened my eyes and looked up again. The cloud was just behind the pipe, one row of rafters beside me. This could not be possible. There shouldn’t be any clouds in the arena.
“Excuse me,” I said as I turned to the person next to me. “But do you see a cloud up there in the rafters?”
She looked up at the ceiling. She scanned the rafters and then looked back at me perplexed.
“No,” she said finally. “I don’t see any clouds. Maybe you should rub your eyes and drink some water. Zamboni fumes can do weird things to you. Look, the skaters are about to compete.”
I thanked her for her advice, rubbed my eyes, drank some water, and watched the young skaters in this event.
It was dark by the time I left the arena that day. There had been so many good skaters to watch. I brushed off my car, dug it out of the snow bank that had grown around it during the day, and started my car to warm it up. All the while, I thought about the cloud I saw inside the arena. I had seen it. I was certain of it. It was long and thin. It never got longer, shorter, fatter, or thinner. The hissing was consistent. The thumping grew louder every time I saw it near me. Yet I had been the only one to notice it. Had I breathed in too many fumes from the zamboni? Had I imagined the whole thing?
I put my shovel and snowbrush back into the trunk of my car. I climbed into my car, adjusted the mirrors, and set the dial to a radio station playing some good old-fashioned loud rock’n’roll before I buckled up. I took a deep breath. I was going to back out of the parking spot. I looked behind me and threw my car from reverse back to park.
Two dancing eyes and a toothy grin greeted me. I blinked. The face had the same consistency of the cloud in the arena.
“Pretty good skaters some of them,” the cloud said to me.
“Yes,” I agreed, dumb-founded at finding a cloud speaking to me. “You were there?”
“Yes. I believe you saw me up in the rafters.”
“Oh yes.” A cloud was talking to me? That just couldn’t be, but I figured if it were talking with me, I may as well be polite and talk with it. “Some of those youngsters show a lot of potential for the sport.”
“Did you see the girl in the bright red tin soldier jacket? She was my favourite.”
“Really? I much preferred the young boy dressed all in black with the hint of white around the collar,” I replied, forgetting I was speaking with what appeared to be a cloud.
“Your preferences must be based on the same ground as my preferences,” the cloud smiled.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The girl in the bright red tin soldier jacket is a little girl I have been following around for years. I’ve been keeping my eye out for her,” it explained.
“Like a fairy godmother?”
“Yes, like a fairy godmother. She was quite ill as a baby and it worried her father a lot. I guess at the time there weren’t any fairy godparents available and since her father was a strong believer in dragons, he still is actually, I was offered the position of keeping an eye on her and making sure she’d be okay.”
“That’s interesting. If you are keeping an eye out for that little girl, you must be an ice dragon then. I mean before you became a fairy godmother.”
“Actually, I am a mist dragon,” the cloud of a dragon laughed. “I happen to work as a fairy godmother and the little one happens to spend a lot of time on the ice. Ice dragons are much larger and don’t get watery eyes from hanging around the ice for so long.”
“So, if you are supposed to be keeping an eye on the little girl, what are you doing in my car?” I asked.
“Well, for one thing, warming up. For another: waiting to speak with you. But most importantly, letting you know you need to turn left and not right at the third traffic light.”
“Why?” This was starting to sound suspicious.
“Some of the fairy godparents, along with other dragons, called to let me know that there is going to be an unavoidable accident on the highway after the little girl’s competition.”
“And the little girl’s father, who happens to be single and looking for the love of his life, will be slightly flabbergasted.”
“And the little girl has been dreaming of the day her dad would start dating, find another love, and get married because she’d really like to have a mommy again.”
“But I thought it was the little girl who had been ill when she was a baby, not the mother.”
“Yes, she was ill. But that family has been struck with more tragedy than it should have been. The little girl has known only her father all these years.”
“So, I go there and offer him a ride or something?” I asked.
“I will tell you exactly how to get there. If we leave right now, we will be too late to be in this pile-up, but early enough to offer help and get the man’s attention. Are you ready?”
What could I do? I also had been looking for someone with whom I could share my life. That young boy dressed in black reminded me of my late husband. I guess that’s why I preferred him to the other skaters. Maybe by having watched him, maybe by speaking with this dragon, maybe by following the directions to this place on the highway, I would find love once more.
The mist dragon coiled itself up on the seat beside me. It told me where to go to avoid the worse bits of black ice and snowdrifts. It told when to pull off the highway to take side roads and when to get back on.
Within half an hour, I saw the pile-up. The police was there. Cars were being towed. A man with his daughter stood on the shoulder; they were holding each other.
I parked my car on the side road. The fence that separated the side road and the highway had fallen over with the weight of the snow that had fallen that day. I was able to walk right up to the highway, something I never had expected to have happen.
The little girl was crying. The man looked distraught as he tried to comfort her. He looked so much like the little boy dressed in black, even though he wore a jacket as bright red as Santa’s.
“Is there anything I can do to help you two out?” I asked him.
He turned towards me. After a minute, he smiled. “Yes, yes, please, my daughter won at her event today. I promised her a special meal tonight and I find myself unable even to get her home. Would you mind terribly if—”
And so, with the courage of the skating rink mist dragon still in my car, I took the man, his daughter, and their belongings to the finest meal at a restaurant nearby.
Witness: Pat Hielo