Written by Stuart B Baum, Illustrations
by Vic Tito
For Becca and Bill.
And the two wizards who conjured them.
It was early Sunday
morning. Rebecca, called "Becca", and Bill, her younger brother,
were bored. Mother was singing at Church and would not be back
until after lunch. Father was upstairs working on the computer,
and was not to be disturbed. But the two children bothered him,
"We're bored!" exclaimed Becca.
"Play a game," said Father, not looking away from the computer
"We played them all," said Becca.
"Read your brother a book," said Father.
"I read him one," said Becca.
"Then go outside."
"I don't wanna go outside," said Bill. "I want you to play
"I wish I could, but I'm working," said Father. Then, looking
up from the screen for the first time, Father said, "How about
if I make you someone to play with?"
"Yay!" cheered the two children. Father walked across the
room and opened up the cabinet where he kept all his magic powders
and potions. "Now go get my cauldron," said Father to Becca,
who ran downstairs in a flash. "And you," said Father to Bill,
"can go get my hat." In seconds, Becca appeared dragging a big,
black pot and Bill ran in carrying Father's floppy wizard's
hat. They were ready.
"What do you want me to make?" asked Father.
"Someone to play with us," said Bill.
"A dragon!" said Becca.
"A friendly dragon," Bill added quickly.
"Who will let us ride on his back," Becca said.
"And tell us stories," said Bill.
"Is that all?" asked Father with a smile. The two children
nodded. "A dragon, a friendly, story-telling
dragon it is," said Father. "With soft green scales so
you won't get scratched while you ride on his back and bright
purple eyes, so you can tell he's friendly."
"Yay!", screamed the two children again.
The children watched
as Father filled the cauldron with potions and powders and chanted
magic words. Soon, the mixture in the cauldron was green and
blue and made soft popping sounds and low, growly gurgling noises.
First it smelled a little too sweet like cotton candy. Next
it smelled a little too sour like a fresh lemon. Then it had
no smell at all.
The children helped add some of the powders, being careful
to get all the powder into the pot and none on their fingers,
and once, for a short while, Father let Becca stir.
"Oh no!" said Father all of a sudden.
"What?" said both children.
"I'm missing something," said Father searching through the
cabinet where he kept his magic. "Becca, I need you to go to
the Old Wizard's Shop. But listen carefully," said Father, "it's
very important that you get exactly the right thing."
Becca tried to listen carefully. "I need a magic, sparkly, purple
Becca ran out of the room so fast that she didn't hear her
Father when he said, "Make sure you get the right color!"
Becca ran all the way to the Old Wizard's Shop and was out
of breath when she got there.
"Father needs (pant), a magic (pant), sparkly (pant) gem,"
she told the Old Wizard.
The Old Wizard was no taller than you are, but much, much
older, and he was wearing a wizard's hat with yellow and silver
stars and moons all over it. And his beard was so long it touched
the floor and so grey it seemed as if it were made out of metal.
The Old Wizard opened a drawer and took out a fairly large-sized
box marked 'Sparkly Gems.'
In his scratchy sing-songy voice, the Old Wizard told Becca,
"I have so many sparkly gems, you have to tell me what color
Becca tried to remember, but could not. "Let me see them
all," she said, "and then I will remember what color Father
The Old Wizard let Becca look into the box and she saw more
sparkly gems than she had ever seen before in her whole life.
Blue, red, yellow, green, orange, purple, brown, black, white,
turquoise, olive, magenta, and dozens of colors she could not
even name. And they all sparkled so!
"Pink," said Becca, sounding more certain than she was. "He
asked for a magic, sparkly, pink gem."
"Are you sure?" asked the Old Wizard. "It will make a big
Becca was not sure, but she nodded anyway. So, the Old Wizard
plucked out a pink gem, wrapped it in tissue paper, put it into
a small velvet pouch, and gave it to Becca. Becca ran all the
Father took the velvet pouch from Becca, removed the gem
and, without even unwrapping it from the tissue paper, dropped
it into the cauldron. There was a loud 'Pweeeerrrrrr-op!' as
the gem hit the mixture. Father looked at Becca curiously for
an instant, then continued stirring and adding other potions
After a short while, Father once again said, "Oh no!" Becca
Bill looked up at his Father and asked, "What's wrong?"
"I'm missing one more ingredient," answered Father to Becca's
relief. "Bill," said Father, "it's your turn to go to the Old
Wizard's Shop. Please listen carefully." Bill put his ear right
next to Father's mouth. Father spoke very slowly, emphasizing
every word carefully, "I need some fine, blue and green magic
flakes. Did you hear that?" asked Father.
Bill nodded. Then Bill ran to the Old Wizard's Shop.
The Old Wizard smiled as Bill entered and asked in his sing-songy
voice, "What do you need little boy?"
Bill, who was a little frightened of the tiny Old Wizard,
said quietly, "Father needs some blue and green magic flakes."
The Old Wizard nodded, straightened his hat, and pulled out
a drawer that was filled with piles of flakes. All of them were
blue and green. "What kind of blue and green flakes did he want?"
asked the Old Wizard. "I have a number of different kinds and
they all do very different things."
Bill said nothing.
The Old Wizard pointed to each pile of flakes as he spoke,
"I have quick blue and green flakes, slow
blue and green flakes, hard blue and green flakes,
soft blue and green flakes, fine blue and
green flakes, and clumpy blue and green flakes.
Bill knew that his father wanted blue and green flakes, but
couldn't remember which kind. But he did know that
the dragon's scales were going to be soft, so he asked for some
soft blue and green flakes.
"Are you sure?" sang the Old Wizard. "It will make a big
difference." Bill nodded, but was not at all sure. The Old Wizard
poured some flakes into a white envelope and put the envelope
into a velvet pouch and handed it to Bill, who ran home as fast
as he could.
Father took the pouch from Bill, removed the envelope and
threw the flakes, envelope and all, into the cauldron. This
time there was a very, very slow hissing sound like air being
carefully let out of a bicycle tire: 'Hhhhhhhissssss-isssss-isssssssssss."
Father looked curiously at Bill. Bill smiled, a little nervous.
Then Father added more magic powders and potions and kept stirring.
The mixture was getting thick and very gurgly. A bluish, sticky
smoke began filling the room.
After adding one final sprinkle of some green-colored something
or other, Father said, "Almost done."
"Yay!" the two children cheered, but not as loudly as earlier.
"All right," said Father, "I just have to say two magic words
and then we'll have the friendly, story-telling, ride-giving
dragon you requested."
Father waved his hand five times over the bubbling mixture
and said very softly, "Abara Cadabara."
The bluish smoke that filled the room became thicker and
thicker and stickier and stickier and began taking shape right
in front of Becca and Bill. The children watched, mouths open.
There was the green body! There were the scales! There were
the sparkly eyes! But they were pink instead of purple. How
would they know it was friendly? And where were the wings? And
the scales were sharp and pointed instead of soft.
Suddenly the smoke cleared. In the middle of the room, instead
of a friendly dragon, loomed a huge, hideous, menacing, hissing
snake. It had awful pink eyes and a long leathery tongue. And
before the two children could even breathe, it sprang at Father
and wrapped itself around him. Father reached up and grabbed
the snake by its head with both hands, keeping the snake's flickering
tongue just inches away from his face.
The two children screamed.
Father and the snake
fought and fought. Sometimes it looked like Father would win,
but the snake tightened its coils and Father gasped for air.
Sometimes it looked like the snake would win, but Father gritted
his teeth and held the snake away from his face.
"Hurry!" said Father as he wrestled the snake. "Go back to
the Old Wizard's Shop and, listen carefully, get me
some milky white, bad magic dissolving potion. Both of you.
Becca and Bill ran to the Old Magic Shop. When they arrived,
they were completely out of breath. "Father needs some (pant)
. . ." started Becca.
". . .white (pant) . . ." added Bill.
". . .bad magic (pant) . . ." added Becca.
". . .dissolving (pant) . . ." said Bill.
". . .potion," finished Becca. "And hurry!"
The Old Wizard seemed to take forever as he scratched his
chin, smoothed the entire length of his long grey beard, looked
around the whole Magic Shop and, finally, pulled out an old
cardboard box. Inside the box was another box. This one was
covered with embroidered dragons and snakes and lions and tigers
of all shapes and colors. The Old Wizard blew the dust from
the top of the box, untied the string that held the box top
on, and pulled out four glass bottles. Each bottle was filled
with a white potion.
"Now," said the Old Wizard, in a serious, not at all sing-songy
voice, "which kind of white, bad magic dissolving potion
does your Father need?"
The two children could not remember. Becca asked the Old
Wizard, "Why don't you show us all the kinds you have and maybe
we will remember which one Father needs?"
The Old Wizard named the different dissolving potions as
he pointed to them, "This one is hazy white. This one
is milky white. This one is sparkly white.
And this last one is pearly white.
"Sparkly," said Becca. "I think he wanted sparkly." Bill
"Are you sure?" asked the Old Wizard. "It will make a big
Becca thought about Father fighting with the snake and what
might happen if she were wrong. She shook her head. "No," she
admitted, "I am not sure." She started to cry. Bill, too, thought
about Father being eaten by the snake and also started to cry.
"Maybe I can help," said the Old Wizard with a knowing smile.
"What kind of bad magic did your Father make?"
"A snake!" both children yelled at once.
The Old Wizard smiled and nodded his head proudly at the
two children. Without saying a word and without stopping to
wrap the bottle or even put it into a velvet pouch, the Old
Wizard handed Becca a bottle of milky white, bad magic
The two children ran home.
When they got inside, Father was lying underneath the snake,
out of breath, his strength nearly gone, and just barely holding
the snake's leathery flickering tongue away from his face.
"Hurry! " said Father. "Open the bottle and pour it onto
the snake!" Becca pulled the small cork out of the bottle and
poured the milky white potion onto the snake's back.
At first, nothing happened. Then the snake turned from green
to milky white. Then there was a small *pop* and the snake disappeared.
Father got up off the floor, picked up his cauldron, and
walked upstairs. The two children, without moving or making
a sound, watched their Father leave the room. Soon Father returned.
He no longer held the cauldron and was no longer wearing his
floppy wizard's hat. Father sighed a long sigh. The two children
hung their heads, knowing that though they had gotten the right
dissolving potion in the end, they had each gotten something
wrong. They expected a spanking, a scolding, or at least a long
But Father simply reached up onto the shelf and got down
'Chutes and Ladders.' He said softly, tiredly, "Maybe we should
just play a game after all."
So the three of them played games until it was lunchtime.
And while the two children did not get to ride on a friendly,
story-telling dragon that day, they did have a nice time playing
with their Father.
©1997 Stuart B Baum, Illustrations by Vic Tito