“It’s uncommonly good of you, Volkan, to share your beef ration with us,” Edmund said, as he carefully turned his skewer over the campfire. The bean poles from Alberta’s (former) Victory Garden were, with a little whittling from Lucy’s pocketknife, perfectly suited to roasting tidbits of meat.
The garden itself hadn’t fared so well. In a tussle between an 18 tonnes fire-breather of the Royal Air Force, and vegetables, the dragon would always be the winner. They were fortunate Harold and Alberta’s house was still standing. Volkan was making good on his promise to visit, every single day, until the Scrubbs signed the consent that would allow Eustace to join up with the RAF Dragon Corps.
Against his back, Eustace felt the telltale rumble in Volkan’s innards.
“Better clear out!”
He called out the warning to his cousins and scrambled away just as Volkan lifted his head from the gutted cow carcass and belched. The dragon burped mostly gas and only a little flame. At least there wasn't any garden or grass left to burn at this point.
“Volkan, that’s the third time you’ve burnt my skewer!” Lucy cried, holding up her now black and smoldering chunk of beef.
“But you like it cooked,” Volkan replied, running his long tongue over his bloodied muzzle.
“Cooked yes!” Lucy retorted. “Burnt to a crisp, no!”
“Shouldn’t let scarce beef go to waste,” Edmund scolded as they settled again around the fire.
“Oh, very well,” Volkan grumbled. “Pitch it this way even it will be too crunchy.”
Lucy flicked her bean pole skewer to the dragon who expertly caught it in his jaws and swallowed the charcoaled lump with a gulp.
Eating with dragons was a messy business, Eustace knew.
“Scrubb likes his meat practically raw,” Volkan said. “Just like a dragon, that one.” Volkan again buried his nose in the carcass of the hefty cow he’d dropped into the Scrubbs’ backyard for an al fresco supper. Another chomp, and his snout came back up. With a twist of his head, a lump of gooey organ meat, Eustace thought it was probably heart, was flung across the yard and landed with a squelch against the back stoop of Harold and Alberta's house.
The back door flew open. “Volkan! Stop that!” Captain Ramsey shouted at the dragon. “You are not helping the situation!”
“And your persuasion’s been so effective, eh?” Volkan replied.
Technically, Ramsey was Volkan’s Captain but the fire-breather had consented only to "management" by members of the Ramsey family for the last 100 years. The young Captain was made of stern stuff, though, and captaining Volkan had at least taught him how to be persistently firm with Harold and Alberta. He’d even brought in the Brigadier for the Dover covert to plead the case. Patriotism, though, would never move Harold and Alberta.
Flung cow bits and a ruined Victory Garden were another matter entirely. Volkan had the right of it, Eustace thought. Another day or two with the fire-breather in the yard and Harold and Alberta would pack his bag for him. Apart from the cow carcasses, flies, and burnt garden, Volkan had made himself at home, stretching his full length across the yard, over the smashed fence and into the street where lorries and buses had tried negotiating carefully around his tail. But, except for the gift of fresh beef – which horrified the vegetarian Harold and Alberta – they’d not had any deliveries in last three days since Volkan (carefully!) scorched the paint and wood panels from a milk cart that had accidentally nicked his tail. Eustace had seen to the minor injury himself and really thought he had a future as a dragon surgeon, if Harold and Alberta would just sign the blasted consent. He was, with his cousins, therefore encouraging the dragon at every opportunity even though Lucy and Edmund were both mad with envy. Dragons had lit a fire in Lucy's blood and Eustace didn't think his cousin would last another year in school.
“A little more flame, if you would, Volkan,” Edmund said, prodding their dying campfire with the tongs.
“But not what’s left of the hedge!” Lucy said, spearing another chunk of beef from the carcass onto her bean pole. “We really should not be bothering the fire brigade again over a simple domestic matter.”
Eustace looked up as the back door swung open again. Alberta was chasing Captain Ramsey out of the house with a broom. The hapless Captain had the consent papers clutched to his chest.
“You got want you wanted, you horrible murderers!” Alberta shrieked. “Get out and take that filthy beast with you!”
“You will be hearing from my solicitor!” Harold bellowed. “This is extortion!”
“Lot of good that will do,” Volkan snorted and black smoke billowed out of his nose straight at Harold and Alberta, who ran back into the house. “I ate a lawyer once. Didn’t go down well at all. And, Scrubb, remind me to show you which claw marks on the walls of the Old Bailey are mine.”