It was his first day in a new school. Most people would be nervous but not Lem. He was excited. He hadn’t had too many friends in his old school, you see, and this was his chance to start over.
Nothing stupid, nothing stupid, nothing stupid, he kept repeating to himself as he walked up the sidewalk toward the large impressive building at the end of the street. It looked more like a British manor house than a school, but that made it all the more exciting for Lem. He loved anything out of the ordinary.
Lem also had a very curious mind. That curiosity is just what seemed to be the root of all of his trouble at his old school. He was always going where he shouldn’t go, and he was always asking “why?” whenever anything struck him as odd or interesting. He drove his mom and dad absolutely crazy with his questions. Many of his teachers at his old school hadn’t liked it either. Don’t get me wrong, they encouraged his questions at first. They all commented on what a bright boy he was. In the beginning. But sometimes, he would ask questions that they couldn’t answer or questions that weren’t exactly politically correct. This began to make some of his teachers, and other adults in the community a little nervous. No longer was he a “bright boy.” He began to be more often referred to as a smart aleck.
Teachers began to give him fewer opportunities to ask questions in class. Parents started not wanting their kids to hang around him. It didn’t take long for him to become a social pariah. His classmates just avoided him at first, then they started whispering behind his back, then whispering about him when he was in earshot. Finally, some of them started just being mean. A few of the teachers understood and tried to help him out, but this tended to only make things worse. Let’s just say, he was quite excited the day his dad come home and announced that his company was moving them to Button Island. His dad was going to be in charge of setting up a windmill power system there, so they would probably be staying for a while.
Now, here he was with a new island, a new town, a new school, and a new opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t ask too many questions. Just blend in.
As he got closer to the building, he could see the schoolyard full of people sitting and talking, waiting for the bell to ring. Glancing around, his eyes stopped on three boys over to the left sitting cross legged under a tree. Their clothes didn’t stand out as any different from what everyone else had on, but that was where the similarity ended. Long black hair framed their bronzed faces, and their stern expressions and intense stares unnerved him a little. They seemed to be looking at nothing and at everything all at the same time. They must be island natives. He had been warned about them. In fact, one of the sailors on the ship that brought his family to the island had told him to watch out for them.
“It’s best if ye avoid them wholly,” he said, “but if ye have to do dealing with them, ye should be doing it quickly.”
“Why?” Lem had asked.
“Because they be a mean and vicious people. They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”
“I guess it be cause we’s came in and crowded them outta mosta their island. I spose they’s do have a reason for being angry,” the old sailor admitted grudgingly. “But that be many years go. Tain’t good to hang onna grudge so long. Sides, twasn’t none of us who done it. But I spose they’s still angry.”
“Well, they still got a rough time of it, seeing as they’s stuck on the far side of the island now, but they’s got a good village there. Sides, I don’t reckon they’d even want to live in town with alla us.”
The man’s voice rose with each sentence, and his face had begun to turn red. Lem saw the signs of impatience. He knew them well, but he just couldn’t stop himself. He really wanted to know.
“Why?” he asked. But that was just too much. The sailor threw up his hands in exasperation.
“I don’t know!” he yelled. “Go below and stop your jabbering. Why? Why? Why? Ye’s worsen old Ben Tillley’s parrot.” He walked away grumbling and avoided Lem for the rest of the voyage. Lem gritted his teeth and gave himself a stern talking to.
No questions! No pestering people! Nothing stupid! A good first impression, that’s what I have to concentrate on.
Seeing the natives now, though, he wished he had found out more about them. These three certainly looked intimidating. He couldn’t help but remember what the sailor had said.
“They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”
Now, Lem was a smart boy, and he knew about prejudices, so he didn’t completely believe that, but looking at those still, expressionless faces, he decided that he wouldn’t risk it. He forced his feet to keep moving into the schoolyard and looked away from the intimidating sight under the tree.
That’s when a yell from one of the other boys caught his attention. It had come from a group clustered at the right of the school building over by the woods. They seemed to all be looking at something on the ground. Curious as always, Lem found his feet moving toward them. Another boy came running up to the group and yelled, “Whatcha got, Burt?”
One of the boys, Burt, apparently, turned and hollered back, “It’s a dragon.”
A Dragon? thought Lem excitedly as he ran over to see.