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On our way home, Ricardo and I decided to get off the bus a couple of stops sooner. Then we could get to the field Buddy was staying in faster. We jumped off the bus and started running down the street. I could tell Ricardo was holding back his speed as he often did for me. I thought about getting out my speed shoes, but we were almost there anyway.
As we ran, something caught my eye from across the street. It was the same girl on a bike I saw the other day. She had stopped and stared at us as we ran.
Ricardo had noticed her too. “What’s her problem?” he said.
“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve seen her at school.”
We approached the trees that led to the field and ran past them. “I see the cave,” I said. I ran into the cave, hoping to find Buddy there. “Buddy! Buddy?”
I ran back out to Ricardo. “He’s not in there!” We checked the rest of the field and the trees surrounding it, but Buddy was nowhere.
“He’s not here. Where could he be?” I stared into the cave.
“Maybe,” Ricardo said, “maybe he’s gone.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean maybe these things you draw don’t last forever.”
“Yeah, it’s possible. As much as I would love Buddy as a pet, it would probably be best if he could stay imaginary. I mean, if he’s still around then he’s probably scaring a lot of people or worse.”
“Come on, Drake. Let’s go home,” Ricardo suggested.
We took our time walking back home. On the way, Ricardo perked up. “On the bright side, Rachel’s birthday party is tomorrow. You haven’t forgotten, have you?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know if I should go. I never know what to do at parties.”
“C’mon, it will be fun,” Ricardo said. “Besides, she’s your friend. You want to be a good friend, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Ricardo’s mom dropped us off at Rachel’s the next afternoon. When we walked in there were already several people lounging on her couch. A couple of kids were playing a dance video game on the TV.
“Hey, guys!” Rachel said. “I’m so glad you could come.”
“Our pleasure,” Ricardo said as he handed her a present.
I handed her my present. “Happy Birthday, Rachel.” That morning, my mom took me to the department store to pick out Rachel’s present. I had no idea what to get her. We walked around the store as my mom would point and say things like, “Oh that’s cute, she’d love that.” We landed on a 3-pack of “cute” pattern socks. One pair had avocados, another llamas, and another sloths. We also picked some fancy caramel chocolates because my mom said the socks weren’t enough.
“Oh thank you so much for the gifts! Come in, guys. We’ll start the activities soon.”
I stood by the couch and watched the two kids on the video game. One of Rachel’s friends, Stacey, saw me and came over. “Drake, hi! I saw the drawing you did for Rachel. So cool. Could you draw something for me?”
“Sure, okay,” I said hesitantly. With my newfound drawing power, I was nervous about drawing for anyone else but myself. Then Rachel walked up. “Yeah, Drake, you should totally draw Stacy something. And speaking of drawing it’s time for our first game.”
Rachel turned off the video game and announced, “Okay everyone, our first game is ‘guess the drawing.’” She pointed to a giant pad of paper standing on an easel. “Half of you are on one team and half of you are on another.” The group split into two.
Rachel continued. “This bowl has words of things in it. The first person will pull a word and start drawing it. Whichever team guesses the drawing first wins the round.”
My stomach dropped to the floor. How was I going to play this game? I could pull out “plane” or “skyscraper” from the bowl. I looked over at Ricardo. He looked just as sick as I did. I snuck to the back and stood behind my team.
The other team went first and pulled out the word “roller coaster”. I’m glad that wasn’t me, I thought. After that team guessed it right, my team was next. “Drake, go up there. You’re our best artist!” Jackson Jenkins shouted.
“Yeah!” another cheered.
I stayed put. “Come on. Drake, don’t be shy now,” said Rachel.
I stepped up to the bowl of words Rachel held in her hands. “No peeking,” she said and covered my eyes with her hand.
I reached into the bowl and grabbed a strip of paper. I turned to the drawing pad and looked down, afraid to unfold the paper to see the word.
“Come on, Drake!” my team shouted.
I unfolded the paper. Written in Rachel’s perfect handwriting was the word “frog.” It could be worse, I thought. Maybe the frog will appear outside in the yard.
I picked up a marker and began to draw. I started with an outline of a frog head, then down its back, the hind legs and belly. Then, I drew the front legs and up its neck. No one was guessing. I’d seen this before. When I draw, people don’t say much. They only watch.
“Come on, guys,” I said. I thought, if they guess before I’m done, the drawing won’t come alive.
I continued with the eyes, mouth, and then warts. Surely, warts would give it away.
“A frog,” Oliver from the opposing team said.
“Yep,” I said and then tore the paper off the pad, folded it up, and threw it in the corner—a last hopeful act to prevent the frog from being real. I went back to my place behind my team. Ricardo looked over at me with his eyes bulging.
“Okay,” said Rachel, “who’s up next?”
Then a screech from one of the girls on the couch filled the room. “Eeeek!”
Lacey jumped up and screamed again, “Aaaack!”
Then Lacey’s twin sister, Stacey, jumped up in fright and soon everyone was off the couch. They all looked down at the cushion. On the coach sat a fat, warty frog.
“Ribbit,” it croaked.
“Whose frog is that!” asked Lacey. Nobody owned up to it, of course.
Would somebody think it was from my drawing? I wasn’t going to let the others look at it long enough to figure it out. “It’s mine!” I said.
I walked over to the couch and scooped it up in my hands.
“Why did you bring a frog?” asked Rachel, looking almost disgusted and confused.
“I, ah, I’m frog-sitting for my friend. He must have escaped from my bag. I’ll take him outside. Sorry, everyone.”
I picked up my backpack by the front door and went outside. Outside, I put the frog in my bag and placed it on the ground. I found a spot under one of the trees in Rachel’s front yard, sat down, and let out a big sigh.
What a disaster, I thought. How am I ever going to draw in public again?
After a while when I thought the drawing game was over, I came back inside. Ricardo pulled me aside.
“Yikes, that was close,” he said.
“Yeah, now everyone thinks I’m the crazy frog-sitting kid.”
Rachel walked over. “Drake, is your friend’s frog okay?”
“Oh yeah, he’s fine. I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay. It’s so weird that you drew a frog for the game and then a second later a frog escaped from your bag. What a coincidence, huh?” Rachel said.
“Yeah, strange.” I tried not to dwell on it. “What’s next on the party agenda?”
Ricardo rode his bike to my house after the party. We arranged for him to sleep over. As usual, we played basketball in the driveway until it was time for dinner.
“Come inside and eat, boys!” my mom shouted from the screen door.
Ricardo threw one more shot of the basketball. The ball fell perfectly through the hoop and the net made a snapping noise.
I grabbed the ball and at that same moment we both noticed across the street was that girl with long black hair we had seen before. She stared at Ricardo and me. She sat on her bike and peddled slowly down the sidewalk.
“Weird,” Ricardo muttered.
“Who are you?” I yelled to the girl, but she just peddled away.
After dinner, Ricardo insisted that he help the family clean up. My dad went to the living room and turned on the news. As Ricardo and I finished drying the last of the dishes, we overheard something coming from the news report:
“In other news, what witnesses are calling a large lizard was spotted in downtown San Francisco earlier today…”
Ricardo and I looked at each other with curiosity. We went running to the living room entryway to watch.
“…The sighting has raised enough concern to involve animal control and the police and fire departments. Officials are encouraging anyone with information to call the number on your screen.”
“Let’s go to my room,” I whispered. We ran upstairs and I closed the door behind us.
“What are we going to do?” Ricardo asked.
“I guess he’s not totally gone after all.” I stared out the window. I turned around to Ricardo. “We got to go find him.”
“How we going to find a dragon that can fly anywhere?” Ricardo said.
“He’s big. He should be easy to spot, right?”
“What’ll the police do if they find him?”
“I don’t know. Probably nothing good. That’s why we need to find him first. But where do we start?”
“Well, he’s a dragon,” Ricardo noted. “Where do dragons hang out?”
“Not in caves apparently.”
“Castles?” Ricardo guessed. “But where’s the nearest castle?”
After a pause, we looked at each other with bulging eyes. We both shouted, “King’s Kastle!”
King’s Kastle is a family restaurant. I might have mentioned before, it’s my favorite restaurant. Inside and outside the whole building looks like a medieval castle. Aside from amazing cheeseburgers their fries are the best I’ve had.
“Okay, let’s start there,” I said. “We’ll leave first thing in the morning on our bikes. We’ll tell our parents we’re playing basketball at the park.”
“I don’t know, Drake,” Ricardo said. “I already made up a story to my parents about the neighbor’s bar-b-cue blowing up and knocking that hole in the fence.”
“Ric, we can’t tell them the giant lizard on the news is Buddy or that I have magical drawings. They wouldn’t believe us.”
The rest of the night Ricardo and I played video games in my basement. We switched the TV over to the News at Nine to see if there were any new developments in the Buddy story, but there was nothing that gave us a clue where to find him.