Despite being a regressive and unhelpful stereotype, it was nevertheless accurate to say that dragons were aggressive, bloodthirsty brutes. Not George, though. He’s a self-professed ‘decent’ individual with a penchant for organic cookery, gardening, and making his own clothes. Oh, and he’s a vegan, you know!
George’s adventure begins when he decides he wants some hummus. However, as Dragonville definitely isn’t the sort of place to find chickpea-based snacks, he sets off towards People Town to visit his favourite place in the whole world, the glorious Farmer Fred’s feel-good, local, family, fair-trade, organic wholefoods store.
Follow George as he traverses Dragonville, desperately tolerating the idiots who wander into his path – before continuing on towards lovely, civilised People Town where unfortunately our heroic, massive, fire-breathing reptile encounters further unwarranted prejudice.
Will George get his delicious dip? Will he make any new friends? Will years of suppressing his true instincts make him have a terrifying and very-public nervous breakdown? Find out!
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I started out trying to be a children's author but soon became sick of non-swearing heroes and the crushing restraints of morality. Driven by the maverick lack of focus that has dominated my entire life, I started writing stuff for my own amusement – and now I have a book series for adults featuring a poncho-wearing, vegan dragon!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character started out as a child-friendly individual who just wanted to be accepted. Now he's an uptight sort who thinks very highly of himself – and is largely based upon a person I know who will remain nameless! I tend to choose characters from TV shows and mix and match their traits to form new characters. I'm a big fan of stereotypes and pretty much everyone in my books is awful in some way or other!
Excerpt – The Quest For The Holy Hummus (Ch1-3)
It had just turned 9 am and in Farmer Fred’s feel-good, local, family, fair-trade, organic wholefoods store, things were not going well. Leaning on his counter, Julian clutched his skull through his long and now damp hair, then looked towards the man with the clipboard who stood alongside. “Surely there’s a way around this?” His voice trembled around the dried pulse-crammed aisles of the deserted shop. “If you’ll just give me more time, I’m certain I can find the money—”
“Sorry, mate.” The man didn’t look up from his writing. “Not my decision. They just send me to record what you’ve got that’s worth anything. I don’t make the rules.”
Over the last few months, trade in People Town’s only health foods shop had been on the decline.
Notwithstanding an unhelpful lack of assistance from known-science surrounding the phenomenal benefits of organic, vegan produce, for almost a decade, Julian Pinkerton Smith had tried his best to convince the town’s badly-in-need-of-guidance population that premium-priced, painful-on-the-gums foods were the avenue to a healthier and happier colon.
Things had initially gone well – back in the beginning, Julian could barely keep up with the demand for expensive lentils and obscure spices sold in industrial-sized bags without any information as to their points of origin. Unfortunately, however, those halcyon days were gone.
Despite being a business that championed sustainability, the only thing Farmer Fred’s was currently sustaining was a stream of red letters and court summonses. Now at over fifty-thousand in the hole, the bank had decided to pull the plug.
With a purposeful scribble, the man finished his list, then clicked shut his pen. “Ok, Mr Pinkerton Smith.” He took a final glance around the shop to check he hadn’t missed anything of potential value. “You know the deal. You’ve got until noon to pay up or we’ll be back with the van to collect this lot.” He ripped off a top copy and slid it along the counter.
Pushing up his thin frame on his even thinner arms, Julian began to pace down the turmeric aisle, his sandals flapping noisily over the floor. Suddenly he turned and raced back over. He looked to the man appealingly. “Is… is there any way we could extend this for a little?” Nervously, he tugged at his wispy beard – not strictly regulation uniform in the organic food industry but in practice, as good as. “Just between me and you?”
A look of terror darted over the man’s face.
DING! Julian sent the till drawer flying outwards. “Perhaps the sum of… twenty-three… no, four… pounds and sixty… this is the money I had earmarked for the children’s home, by the way… seven pence?”
Relief visibly sweeping over him, the man shook his head. “No!” he laughed. “And in terms of bribes, that’s the worst one I’ve had this month.” He began to look up and down the ‘beetroot – perfect for realistic, guilt-free burgers’ display over by the veg wall. “To be honest, I think the bank’s doing you a favour – taking this place off you. You should be grateful I’m not a health inspector!” He pushed his pen towards the spelt flour shelf where a large dead beetle could just be seen poking out underneath. “By the looks of it, you’re lucky you haven’t killed anyone. In the storeroom, as well.” He flicked his head sideways. “The droppings?”
“Um… well…” Julian squirmed then folded his arms defensively. “…we’re a vegan establishment, aren’t we?” He began to sidle behind the revolving community leaflet rack in a bid to hide the sweat patches that had now started to manifest. “We can’t very well go around poisoning and decapitating living creatures in the furtherance of making a crust, can we?”
“Mmm,” replied the man, clearly unconvinced. “So what’s with that big mallet behind the bin out back? The one with all the little, black legs stuck to it? And the broken mouse traps and the… Oh yeah! Speaking of murdering stuff, isn’t this the place where…?” He put on a grotesque expression, then mimed taking a huge bite out of something. “A couple of weeks ago, wasn’t it? That bloke who owned the jewellers? Still no trace of him! That sort of thing can’t be doing you any favours – you veggies are famously fragile at the best of times.” Suddenly he looked over his shoulder and out of the window. “Actually, now I think about it, doesn’t it come here quite regular—”
“Look!” Julian grinned broadly. “Perhaps I was a little um… un-generous in my um… postponement-of-payment offering earlier.” He delved into his cargo shorts pocket and removed a fistful of change and a few old receipts.
The man frowned. “You’re wasting your time. And let’s face it, even if I did give you more time – which I can’t because well, the bank, but if I did – look at this place! Just gone nine – peak breakfast rush – and it’s deader than the things dried-onto your wooden hammer. And probably poor old what’s his name… Mr Winterbur—”
“Um, excuse me!” Julian hadn’t become the town’s premier and only ethical grocer by listening to the twisted logic of non-believers. If this person had no power or intention of being bribed then this charade of fawning and basic human decency could go right out of the window. Julian fixed him with a glare. “Not that I have to explain myself to the likes of you, Mr I-am-just-following-orders – and we all know what that leads to, don’t we? – but our target clientele don’t tend to have nine-to-fives; most of them seem to walk dogs for a living. So getting up… before about eleven isn’t a big thing for them. No, do you know why the business isn’t currently doing quite as well as it has done? Do you? No, of course you don’t!”
The man shrugged then lifted a bottle of Totally Harmless Cannabis-brand CBD hemp oil from the counter and looked at it. “Your prices?” he said. “Really, really expensive! I can get this in the big supermarket for fifty percent less, not mention a one-hundred percent less chance of being consumed by a gigantic, green monst—”
Julian snatched away the bottle and clanged it back amongst the others in the display basket. “Those are very fair sums for the quality being provided!” he stated. “It isn’t cheap to source organic, fair-trade products, you know. To provide the peasants of the Third World with a living wage and still make me a margin worth getting out of bed for. In the past, these things were flying – well, at least walking; we’re opposed to air travel, obviously – off the shelves.”
“So, what changed?” asked the man now making his way towards the door.
“Well, people of course!” snapped Julian. “Now they’re finding new ways to be virtuous!”
The man slowed slightly then turned. “Sorry, what?”
Julian scrunched up his eyes, incredulous that he was getting his stuff repossessed by someone who didn’t even understand basic health food psychology. “Back in the olden days,” he scoffed, “you had veganism, animal rights, and the greenhouse effect – simple, just the three. You can remember that, right? Save the whale and the ozone layer and all that other guff from school? Come on, you’re not that old. So, by shopping here you could pretty much score a hat trick with those. Tick, tick, tick. Job done. Pat on the back, fuzzy glow, all sorted!” He looked wistfully towards the ‘Quinoa (it’s pronounced keeeen waaaaahhh)’ sign on the end of the aisle nearest to him. “BUT!” He spun and fixed the man with a glare. “NOW! Now they’ve ruined everything! EVERYTHING!”
The man’s brow knitted. From the safety of his office, the hippy shop assignment with its spindly Son-of-God-resembling proprietor had seemed like a one-man-job – however, now things were getting out of hand. “Sorry, I’m… I’m not following. I… I just make the lists.”
Without warning, Julian took a step towards him – just like he had done to that security guard in the monkeys-with-highly-infectious-diseases lab back in his university days only this time it wasn’t quite as menacing as he didn’t have a balaclava and a crowbar and seven accomplices. “They ruined everything!” he hissed. “They… they saturated the market! Now there are just too many things!”
“They? Too many?”
“With causes!” Julian edged forward. “Causes to support! Things to be sanctimonious about! Not an ounce of business sense between the whole lot of them.”
The man swallowed hard and took a step away. “Ok. Well, as I said, we’ll be back at—”
Julian nodded at him. “That’s right,” he seethed, mistaking the man’s growing look of panic with their sharing of a moment. “Now they can signal their virtue with literally anything without even trying. Without even leaving the house or spending any money, for goodness sakes! From the comfort of their own computer!” He curled out his bottom lip then pretended to wipe away tears with both hands. “BOO HOO HOO!” he screamed.
The man dropped his clipboard with a clatter.
“I feel so bad about fat celebrities getting fat-shamed or war crimes or whatever!” Julian pretended to blow his nose on a People Town Alternative Basket Weavers leaflet plucked from the counter. “I’m SOOOOO sensitive! Look, I liked a picture – that’s my astounding level of non-financial, non-life-affecting commitment. I mean, seriously? How can anyone make a living out of the morality industry anymore?”
By now the man had turned squarely towards Julian and was reaching blindly behind to try to open the door.
Julian continued to twist up his face. “What about the foreign farmers who can’t afford sunblock or shoes?” he spat, now beginning to circle the man who had snagged a belt loop on a large plastic-lined wicker basket of reduced food-mile brazil nuts. “The poor wretches I selflessly bend over backwards to try to support with very, very modest gains – in recent times, at least – for myself? What about them? I’m practically a charity – without the tax breaks, obviously. He exhaled deeply, suddenly beginning to calm. “Veganism and food that doesn’t destroy the planet is old school,” he said. “And not in a cool way, either. Now you can be an attention-seeking snowflake whilst still having an enjoyable and balanced diet. It’s a tragedy.” He reached down and picked up the clipboard, causing the man to flinch. “Here. Oh, the handle is higher up; you’re nowhere near.”
“OK!” With a ding, the man ripped open the door. “We – m… me and some others, lots of others, b… big ones – will be back at 12.01,” he stammered. “Don’t do anything stupid like try to hide anything listed on that document. I know you will, but don’t, ok? Oh, and if that creature happens to come by and doesn’t look to be leaving, I’d appreciate it if you could call our office and… Look, this job is minimum wage and I’ve got kids; you understand?”
As the door closed, Julian slumped down onto his counter.
This was bad. He was out of options. At midday, he was going to lose the shop.
Far away over the hills in Dragonville, Beethoven’s 5th drifted from the open window of the small hut that sat on the outskirts. The tarmac road that ran from the town had tailed off into moss and lichens a few hundred metres back, leaving the place more or less completely cut off from the rest of dragon civilisation – exactly as its inhabitant wanted.
With a gentle clang, George slid a tray of pitta bread dough into the oven then promptly took a seat at the table. He glanced to the clock. It had just gone quarter-past and previous attempts had shown him his pockets of wholegrain deliciousness would be ready in around seven and a half minutes. Nine twenty… three, he noted. Wearily, he looked around the kitchen. What to do? There was, of course, the yeasty warzone in the sink to contend with, not to mention the collateral damage to the countertops. However, as his ankles now matched his knees in width, staying seated seemed sensible.
Grimacing slightly, George leaned over to the sideboard and smartly turned the volume dial on the record player all the way to ‘off’. He sighed deeply. A few moments of respite while he waited for the oven to beep. A violin-free period for nothing but quiet reflection and meaningful contemplation. An opportunity – perhaps – to try to get to grips with who he was and where he was going and ultimately, for what purpose had he been placed here, upon this huge, revolving planet…
Suddenly, he spotted something nestling beneath the avocado-laden fruit bowl – his bi-monthly periodical, Dragon’s Health Magazine. Still in the cellophane wrapper! “Aha!” he exclaimed. Reading about self-improvement – a most-productive use of his time!
George dragged free the magazine and began his betterment browsing. Ok, so perhaps he didn’t resemble the incredibly-toned dragons featured on the glossy pages, but he certainly shared their obvious body-confidence issues – it was just that he didn’t bother to do anything about his. It was fine, his muscles were underneath. Five tons and fat was fashionable right now. Casually, he flipped to the centre spread. ‘Fire-breathing: Double your eruption with the Pyro diet.’ He began to scan, glancing to the photograph of the huge-chested beast who was belching out an arc of flames about six-times its body length. Undeniably impressive.
A minute passed and now the smell that had started to drift from the oven was making George’s mouth water. Still poring over the images of scaly beefcakes doing their workouts, he slipped his green hands beneath the red and white tablecloth and began to vigorously rub them together. Possessing foot-long talons did make getting rid of all the leftover dough after a hard-core baking session rather a laborious task.
He carried on with his palm polishing, still trying to find his optimum rhythm. “Mmm!” He pouted as his claws began to feel smoother and smoother. “Wonderfully satisfying!” Momentarily, he brought a hand back up and turned the page. ‘Big buff thighs!’ he read. Goodness! Those things were massive! He would have silky-smooth fingers after all this. Perhaps rub a little faster? “Mmmmm! Oh yes!” The simple things in life!
Now the table was starting to rock.
George pressed on, trying not to think about the state of his floor tiles. Oh yes! Oh yes! He could feel the heat building up in his hands. And those pittas were beginning to smell divine! He was really salivating now. This was what making your own bread was all about! This was why you went through all that hassle! His forehead was starting to glisten. He bit his bottom lip. This dough-scale exfoliation felt sooo good! Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh ye—
CRASH! The whole house shook.
“Go! Go! Goooooo!”
George leapt from his seat, knocking it backwards, and then dashed to the window just in time to see an object whiz past and crunch loudly against the side of the potting shed. “My prize butternut!” he gasped. “In the garden? In broad daylight? The horrendous, filthy brutes!”
Striding towards to the door, George hastily undid his frilly floral apron and tossed it over the back of a chair. Quickly, he slid back the first bolt, then the second and third, and finally the chain, then creaked it open.
“Excuse me!” he called, raising his nose to peer above the greenery. “I say! The yooou-ths! The yooou-ths rrr-unning amok in the veg-e-table plot! Could you not…”
Now the garden was empty.
George scanned the undergrowth for signs of movement. Despicable, feral, little fuc—
“WOOOAH!” A pumpkin skimmed down past George’s cheek and exploded at his feet, splattering both him and the doorstep with its mushy insides.
Shocked, he looked back over his shoulder – just in time to see a girthy cucumber looming towards him. “No… no… AAAAARGH!”
The sound of scrambling came from above, followed by two slates smashing onto the patio in quick succession.
Stepping back across his perfectly-manicured lawn, George swiped the gooey mess from his cheek and nose, and flicked it across the path. “You!” He glared at his roof in disbelief. “You disgusting…ly disadvantaged individual! Come down! Come down at once!”
On the edge of the sagging eave balanced a young, thick-set female dragon with excessive daubings of lipstick plastered across her podgy, blue face. Eyes wide open, mouth agog and legs shaking, the dragon stared directly at George making him swallow hard. Slowly, she began to lift her arm and as she did, an object became visible in her hand.
“DON’T YOU DARE!” Arms now clutched over his head, George waddled away across the grass to make himself a harder target for whatever projectile was coming his way. “Incredibly anti-social conduct!” he scolded. “Get… get down here this second! Come on! I’m a sporting chap. Off my land on the count of three and we’ll attribute this the fault of society and say no more about it. One! Two—”
“Hello!” she grunted.
George blinked. “What?” Briefly, he dropped his claws to look over the top. ‘Hello’? Was that it? Dislodging his shingles and the grubby reprobate couldn’t even manage a ‘Hello, sir’?
The young dragon forced a smile and, accompanied by a sickening creaking of wood, began to tightrope along the edge holding a phone to her head. “Yeah, I’m on his roof!” she whispered. “Yep. Right here, watching me! He’s got the tablecloth stuck to his stomach.”
George cringed. What had she seen? No, don’t even go there. He fixed her with a steely look. “What on ruddy earth do you think you’re playing at, missie?” Actually, was it a ‘missie’? He squinted. Hmm, possibly? Probably safer to sit on the fence and not mention it again. Quickly, he folded his arms and put on his best extremely-cross-but-could-be-won-over-with-a-little-effort face. “I insist you remove yourself from my gutterage, forthwith! And incidentally, this is a sa-rrrong!”
The dragon, still on the phone, looked down and shook her head. “Not on your life, you big salad-tosser!”
George winced. Dietary-related discrimination. Ok. What to do? What to do? He looked around. There, propped up against the shed, was the ladder he used to trim his apple trees. That would do it. “Now come down this instant!” he demanded. Purposefully, he took a step over. “Or there’ll be some pretty serious trouble!”
“N… no way!” Hurriedly, she began to ascend towards the chimney stack.
George reached the shed and looked back to see the dragon still hadn’t taken heed of his request. “I mean it,” he called. “Don’t make me come up there.”
Now perching precariously on the cowl, the dragon looked down. “G… go back inside and I… I’ll come down by myself,” she called, clinging to his weather vane. “I um… doubt that thing’s even strong enough to hold your weight!”
George tutted quietly to himself. A size-based insult, coming from her?! She wasn’t doing herself any favours. As he hoisted the ladder from the floor, he began to feel adrenaline running through his veins. “There’ll be severe consequences,” he explained. Too right there would be; he was more than familiar with the law on dealing with trespassers. “This is your Last Warning! And for the avoidance of doubt, that’s a defined term as per section three of the Protection of Residential Property Act 1967, better known colloquially as ‘You’re My Bitch Now!’”
The dragon stared back and once again lifted the phone to her head while trying to hold on with only one arm.
For a few moments, George stood there watching her squirm. Home-security scholar that he was, he was well aware that he needed to wait at least four and three-quarter minutes between giving a Last Warning and administering any lethal hand-to-hand self-defence – not that it would go that far hopefully but it was always good to have carte blanche with these things. That said, waiting much longer also didn’t seem wise; the roof was already creaking badly and if it gave way, the fat criminal would probably sue him for loss of self-esteem. Plus, there were the pittas to think of.
A glob of teary trespasser snot landed silently on George’s head. Instantly, he felt his temperature rise. A broom handle! Yes, that would do it. There was precedent for that; the so-called ‘Just cleaning off the moss’ defence. He could go and grab the big sweeping brush and crack on with his annual maintenance, oblivious to the presence of anyone who ought not to be there in the first place. No. No. George quickly forced the utterly permissible idea from his mind. Given her position and the roof’s slope, she would likely barrel directly into his rockery, where he had spent nearly an hour planting bulbs only last week. Now, if he could coax her along a bit, on the other side it was just tarmac…
A rustling at the bottom of the garden dragged George from his legal loopholing fantasy.
“LOOK AT US!”
Five dragons leapt out of the bushes on the other side of the fence and blasted flames into the air.
“YEEE-HAAA!” called the dragon on the roof, jumping up and hurriedly swiping-dry her eyes. “Told you I’d do it! You all owe me a fish lump surprise from the Tapeworm Roulette sushi bar!” With a huge leap, she flung herself from the guttering and down into the carrot patch, leaving deep footprints in the mud, then raced down the garden and knocked the gate flat in her attempt to vault it.
Charging down the path, George reached the boundary just in time to see the pack stampeding into the distance. “Why, you… you… you beastly unfortunates!” he yelled. “You disgusting destitutes! You disgraceful dregs!”
From down the track, the roars increased as George’s rebuke fuelled their excitement.
“You just wait until I see your parents!” he continued, his anger suddenly spiking as he noticed the still-steaming insult that had been deposited next to the celeriac. “If I catch you in here again, I’ll… I’ll…” Electrify the fence? Bear-trap amongst the broccoli? Crossbow connected to a courgette? George stopped, took a deep breath, and silently counted to three.
Walking along the previously-spotless, now mud-splattered fence, he furrowed his brow at the carnage. With a groan, he picked up a set of vegetables that had been arranged into a distasteful reproductive image – although considering that dragons barely wore clothes and certain none below the waist, it was surprisingly inaccurate. Teeth gritted, he threw them onto the compost. “Such a waste,” he muttered. “Not even ripe yet.”
Wearily, George began to try to reattach the trampled runner beans to their scorched canes but soon gave up. Why? he asked himself. Why did they have to behave like this? Why couldn’t they just stay in their grotty concrete town and leave him alone in the nice green bit on the outskirts? With a heavy heart, he scooped up the remains of a politically-incorrect garden gnome, then set off back towards his hut.
George had lived alone on the furthermost edge of Dragonville for nearly as long as he could remember.
It wasn’t as though George had never tried to get on with the rest of his species, although it was fair to say he hadn’t tried very hard. During his early years, he had, of course, attended school – Dragonville High Comprehensive. George’s schooldays ought to have been a happy time, however, his inability to not really irritate everybody due to an out-of-principle sensitivity towards literally all mainstays of dragon society – even the less objectionable ones – had quickly meant that he became a target for victimisation.
Unfortunately for George, the years of name-calling and beatings did nothing to suppress his unorthodox opinions and he remained an oddball who would go through day-to-day life attracting abuse from all angles. However, Dragonville being Dragonville, it was only a matter of time before things escalated far beyond the point at which George could stand there and look about, po-faced. The final straw had come one fateful Monday lunchtime in an event that, to this day, remained vivid in his mind and still caused him to wake during the night, dripping in sweat.
The town hall clock had just clanged 1 pm as George entered Staphylokebabus, the newest and therefore, for the moment at least, the cleanest-looking takeaway on Dragonville High Street. Normally, George wouldn’t bother with these sorts of establishment; he knew they only sold deep-fried animal entrails and, as a recent convert to veganism, could never find anything appropriate to choose. However, this place was new so perhaps they were different? There was always hope.
Clad in a bright yellow, chunky-knit polo neck – his most-recent homemade creation – George joined the queue and began to scan the giant, illuminated menu boards out in front. ‘Dog eyes in chilli sauce. Cat intestines with garlic mayo. Barbecued badger ribs (hot).’ He continued down half the options before giving up. “Yuck!” The same old stuff. Apparently, he was going home to roast another cauliflower. He began to edge himself free. “Typical!” he groaned. “Absolutely ruddy typic—” Suddenly, something caught his eye. Squashed into the bottom right-hand corner of the menu were the words, ‘Deep-fried spicy fal’. It must be ‘falafel’! thought George, instantly brightening up. The single obligatory option for the non-meat-eater. They didn’t forget me!
George slipped back into the line and now stood patiently with his polo neck pulled right up over his nose in the hope that the ethically-sourced wool might counter the stench of the unethically-sauce-covered flesh that seemed to be everywhere. Did they use separate oil to fry the non-meat products? he wondered. Did they use different utensils to pick up different things? He glanced to the half donkey which was revolving on a spit on the other side of the counter, and then to the server dragon who had just given his bottom a very thorough scratch before delving claws-first into the shredded cabbage. George pulled his jumper up a bit higher. It probably didn’t make too much sense to think about what happened in the back, out of sight.
Over ten minutes of ignoring dubious food hygiene went by.
George stepped to the front.
The server dragon repositioned his paper hat and leaned forwards, leaving greasy claw prints on the surface. “What d’ya want? Lunchtime special?”
“No, thank you,” said George quickly. He had no idea what the special was but was one-hundred-percent confident he would not be interested. “I’ll have the deep-fried spicy falafel, please. Sorry, I’m assuming that dish is suitable for vegans; you couldn’t possibly confirm, could you?” The server looked confused so George began again, “The falafel,” he pointed towards the corner of the menu, “does it contain any animal products?”
Still looking directly at George, the server opened his huge mouth. “Dwayne!” he yelled. “Does the deep-fried spicy flamingo contain any animal products?”
“Fl… flamingo!” spluttered George. “You… you think I would eat flamingo?! That’s… that’s not even how you would start to spell flamingo!” That was a quarter of an hour of his life that he wasn’t getting back. “F-A-L is what you’ve written!” he snapped. “It’s obviously falafel. Fal… fal… falcon, maybe? I suppose I could have just about accepted that; it would have been slightly more predictab—”
“Fallow deer?” quipped the dragon who stood immediately behind in the queue. “Bit tenuous?”
George glared over his shoulder. “Not helpful!” Seriously hangry, he spun back to the server whose still-open trap was now really irking him. “You… you believe I, me! – a plant-based patriot of nearly two months – would ever, ever, ever put flesh – of any sort – inside my body?” Now his neck was starting to spasm. “That I would ever consent to such a barbaric act? I’m appalled at the mere suggestion! Literally—”
“Oi! George!” snarled a voice from behind. “How’s about you calm it down, hmm?”
“—literally, literally appalled!” George carried on. “You contemptible carnivores are once again questioning my beliefs! My heartfelt beliefs of virtually nine weeks! How… how dare you?! I mean, meat! MEAT! Meat is murder! You’re all m… murderers!”
“George! Leave it out!”
“Incredible!” he spluttered. “My lifestyle is being ridiculed by a bunch of appalling, murderous, murderous… you’re all an absolute disgrace! An absolute downright absolute disgrac—”
“George! I said, that’s enough!”
“Filth!” he hissed! “Every last one of you! Unfit-to-walk-this-earth murderous, murderous filth! Pure, stinking, filthy, dirty—”
“—filthy, dirty, filthy, dirty, filthy, dirty, filthy—”
“GEORGE! GEORGE, I MEAN IT!”
“—dirty, filthy, dirty, filthy, dirty, FILTHY, DIRTY, F—”
WHOOOOSH! A ball of fire sent the server diving for cover before spreading out around the walls and ceiling.
“Yowwwww!” Snapped back into reality by the sensation of being encased in fizzling lemon knitwear, George rolled frantically onto the floor, trying to extinguish himself. “Aaaaaaaargh! Aaaaaaaargh! Aaaaargh! Aargh! Ahhhh! Ahhhhhh! Ahhhhhhhhh!” FZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
“This is the last time!” came a voice. “Get the fat weirdo!”
“Hmm? What?” Still shrouded in smoke, George looked up just in time to see a tattooed, blue fist whizzing towards his nose. “Dylan! No—”
“Owww! Crikey! No!” George brought his claws to shield his head.
“Owwwww!” gasped George. “Sorry, Dylan – and your charming gang-related friends – there’s been—”
“You won’t do this again will you, Georgie Porgie!” Dylan glanced sideways at an incredibly muscular red dragon. “Tyler, put your back into it!”
“Still rubbish!” snapped Dylan. “My mum can kick harder!” He let out a deep, frustrated sigh. “We talked about this, didn’t we, Tyler? And we revisited your training, didn’t we, Tyler? Sorry, but we in The Dragonville Massive have standards to uphold. I’m afraid it’s gonna have to be a verbal warning!”
“Aw! What?! No way! For f—”
“Now do it again!” snarled Dylan. “Neutralise the weirdo – like we practised.”
“No, no, quite unnecessary!” gasped George, now unsure if the excrement in which he was rolling was his own or that of a third party. “Already most-agonising, certainly no skills-issue here, a good 8.5 on the pain scale—”
Cackling laughter rang out all around the shop, followed by more kicks and stamps. Slowly the lights faded and George’s moaning fell silent.
When he awoke a day later, at first George didn’t know where he was. In a dim room, surrounded by blood-splattered curtains and an unpleasant stench of stale urine. It seemed familiar but his head was still very fuzzy, plus there were lots of places like this in Dragonville. The library, possibly? Then, as his vision fully returned, the photographs of grinning doctors and nurses posing around his naked, unconscious body confirmed it. He was in the accident and emergency department. Again.
And that was it. There, handcuffed to a sodden bed with ringing in his ears, George made his decision. From now on, he would keep away from everyone in Dragonville. He would go as far away as he possibly could – right to the outskirts – and he would live all by himself. No more dragons.
Back in the kitchen, the smell of freshly-baked bread was comforting and as George hurriedly removed the tray, he smiled with relief. “Not a second too long. Impeccable!” You could do a lot in seven and a half minutes.
Doing his best to put the probable hate crime in the veg plot from his mind, George plated up four of the pittas and went to the refrigerator knowing exactly what he was looking for. The ultimate in comfort food. A delicious-yet-healthy spread that would complement his wholegrain baked goods perfectly. The life-blood of the happy vegan – organic hummus. However, as the fridge light illuminated his excited, chubby face, in an instant he remembered the previous evening. “Midnight snack!” he groaned, clutching his brow. “None left. I completely forgot!”
Irritated, George dug through the shelves, shoving bunches of celery out of the way and dropping radishes onto the floor. “Must be something suitable,” he muttered. Flavoured soy spread? No, he didn’t fancy it. Avocado dip? Meh. Tofu? Not even sure why he had bought that.
With a bang, George closed the door and then looked back to his heaped plate. Now the bread didn’t seem so golden and delicious; more dry and bland and desperately, desperately tasteless.
A nervous tingling had now begun in George’s palms.
It was hummus – and only hummus – that he wanted. But this wasn’t a foodstuff you could get in Dragonville – or at least not the ultra-virtuous version of it that George had in mind. This involved a far more masochistic and therefore worthy trip. He took a breath, drawing in a deep lungful of the intoxicating kitchen smell, then held it until his eyes glazed over. “FUUUCCCKKK!”
A perilous challenge now beckoned – a wholly unnecessary one brought about through a sheer determination to be awkward. An endeavour to make his life needlessly difficult. An escapable experience. An avoidable adventure. It was him all over. Classic George.
The siren song of the hallowed chickpea dip was calling to him – and that meant only one thing. It was time to travel to People Town – and more precisely, its ethical grocer. It was time to visit the glorious Farmer Fred’s feel-good, local, family, fair-trade, organic wholefoods store.
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