Dragon sat in a corner of the paddock watching the other rough stock dragons soar overhead, perfecting the bucks and plunges that made them famous across the Territories. Once he’d hunted buffalo across the grassy plains where he’d been hatched. Now he lived on ground-up chicken bones, no better than a born-to-buck.
His stomach rumbled.
On the other side of the fence, Corriente nibbled a piece of hay. A full belly and good manners kept most of the rough stock on the up-and-up, but Corriente knew a hungry dragon when he saw one.
“Breakfast was abysmal,” muttered Dragon from his corner. His green scales glittered in the sun. And his silver horns were the finest Corriente had ever seen.
“It must be a fine thing to be a dragon bronco,” Corriente said, a bit wistfully.
Dragon glided over to the fence and looked Corriente in the eye.
“I suppose you’ve never had the pleasure of bucking a roughie off your back,” he said. “Is it true you simply race from the chute only to be hog-tied and humiliated?”
“Well, just twice a day,” Corriente said, blushing.
“You know,” said the dragon, his eyes narrowing to cold, dark slits, “my roughie will try his luck again this morning. If I swallow you whole, you could feel what it’s like to be me. Every buck and roll.”
Corriente smiled. “I’d surely like to take you up on your offer,” he said. “Only how will I get back out?”
“That’s easy enough,” said Dragon. “I’ll just belch.” And with that, he slithered through the fence, opened his jaws wide, and swallowed Corriente whole.
“Of course,” added Dragon, “I have perfect digestion. I never belch.”
When the flag dropped, Dragon bolted out of the gate with a roughie on his back and a belly full of Corriente. With one strong beat of his wings he was aloft, where he bucked and rolled and twisted and plunged.
Inside Dragon, Corriente decided to make himself at home. He kicked out both legs until his hooves slipped into Dragon’s four clawed feet. He arched his back until he could touch Dragon’s two wings. He lifted his head until he could feel the smooth knobs of Dragon’s horns tickle him right between his ears.
Then Corriente discovered he could twitch Dragon’s tail as if it were his own. He gave a little shrug and found he could beat Dragon’s wings to soar higher and higher. Finally, he bucked. The roughie flew off his back and bounced into the dragon net that circled the arena.
Dragon was annoyed. He tried his best to belch. But he hadn’t been lying about his perfect digestion. “Do you plan to stay in there all day?” he asked, crossly.
“At least until we find something more tasty than chicken bones,” said Corriente. With a fierce rumbling in his stomach, he cocked the tip of his wing and canted west, heading to the open plains and the smell of bison carried by the wind.
Copyright Bonnie Burns, 2019. All rights reserved.
This story first appeared in Indie Authors’ Advent Calendar 2019.