THE DRAGON, THE GRANDMOTHER, AND
THE GOLDEN EGG
by SOPHIE ZHU (United States)
Issue 1.3 December 2019
The Red Dragon Café, located on the corner of Third and State Avenue, was the talk of New Orient City. A magazine article plastered on the back wall stated, “People come for the dragons but stay for Oma.” Oma, the ancient woman that ran the café, barely reached four foot eight. She had wrinkles under her eyes, thick glasses, and a tendency to drop an archaic proverb at least thrice a day.
Every dragon living at the café was a rescue. A few had been about to be sold on the black market. Others were almost released into hunting reserves so that, for a small price, men could shoot them for sport. Hoshi, the ruby dragon that perched on Oma’s shoulder, had nearly been dissected so her venom could be used as a drug.
In general, the dragons performed multiple tasks around the café, some of them heating pots of ginseng tea, whilst others lit the lanterns at night. There were even some who lazed around on bamboo mats as patrons fed them sushi.
Two old friends of Oma came in on the day of the first bloom, collapsing in the seats as she toddled over. Long ago, they had worked together to free a pair of amphitheres from a travelling circus.
“Mr. Mori! Mr. Han! Your usuals?”
“Plus a low carb egg tart please,” Han said. After a few seconds he spoke again. “Screw it, might as well make it a deluxe with extra custard.”
“We’ve had some trouble,” Mori explained as he pulled out a piece of parchment. “We were searching for a legendary golden egg and barely made it out alive.”
“A man’s greed is like a snake that wants to swallow an elephant,” Oma stated.
“It’s to save my grandfather’s house from being turned into a damned parking lot,” Han grumbled.
Hoshi scrambled onto the table, grabbing the parchment with her mouth. She lifted it so Oma could see.
Oma looked at the parchment. She waddled to the door, opened it, and left. Mori and Han were paralyzed by shock for a few minutes before jumping up and dashing through the door.
“Ms. Oma! What’re you doing?” Mori asked.
“Getting the egg,” Oma responded cheerily from the end of the block. Mori and Han looked at each other with stricken expressions.
“It’s too dangerous,” Han said.
Dozens of dragons flew out from the cafe and for a second, Mori and Han believed that the dragons would bring her back. It was to their extreme horror when the dragons lifted Oma up by her fleece coat and flew away. Han felt a bump against his leg and looked down to see a wyvern balancing an egg tart on its head.
The dragons deposited Oma at a misty spot deep in the mountains. She bowed to the dragons to thank them before turning around. A chilling voice spoke. “Who is it?”
“I am Oma,” she said. “And this is Hoshi.”
“No one has survived the Forbidden Pass. Banshees lurk at every corner. The moment you show fear, they will consume you alive.”
Oma nodded. She took her hearing aids and glasses off, tucking them into her pocket. Then, she started to toddle forward.
“Can’t you move any faster? You haven’t even entered the pass yet!” the voice bellowed.
“I’m sorry, dear. Mild arthritis,” Oma explained. The voice made an awkward, stuttering sound. As Oma walked, she could make out muted sounds and blurry shapes in her way. Some shapes got closer to her than she thought polite.
After what seemed like an eternity, Hoshi squeaked. Oma placed her glasses and hearing aids back on. “Well done,” the voice said begrudgingly.
“Have a good day!” Oma said as Hoshi breathed plumes of fire into the sky.
“Hoshi, do you think we should get a koi pond?” Oma asked as they continued. She paused as she saw the huge beast awaiting them. It was strangely majestic, with the body of a dragon, the head of a lion, and one pearlescent horn. However, its eyes demonstrated only fury.
Before Oma could do anything, Hoshi flew forward. She swung her tail and stung the beast. It swatted at its side and roared. Hoshi continued to attack the beast, swinging her tail at its hide. In no time, the beast teetered to the side and crumbled to the ground, snoring.
Hoshi flew to the pedestal that had been hidden behind the beast. She grabbed the golden egg with her paws and brought it back to Oma.
Oma bowed to Hoshi before taking the egg. “Will that poor beast be alright?”
Hoshi bobbed her head up and down. As Oma turned to leave, the egg started trembling. “It’s hatching,” Oma realized. She took off her glasses and cleaned them. Hoshi chittered excitedly.
A tiny crack spread like a spiderweb. A small catlike creature clawed itself out. It had a tiny ivory bump on its head and scales covering its body.
“Ah, I understand,” Oma said.
She picked up the creature and tottered over to the beast, who had one eye open but was still effectively drugged. Oma placed the creature on the beast’s paw.
“No child should have to live without their parent. But if it’s quite alright, I need the eggshells for a friend.”
Back at the cafe, Mori and Han were gesticulating frantically to a crowd of dragons. Han pulled at his sleeve whilst Mori motioned to the mountains in the distance. “Take us. To mountains,” Han said.
“Oma,” Mori said. The dragons perked up. “Yes! Take us to Oma!”
“Hello boys!” Oma said from behind them.
Mori and Han twirled around, and tides of relief hit them. “You’re okay!”
“If I can manage a café with wooden furniture and creatures that breathe fire, of course I can get a golden egg.”
Mori and Han stared at the golden shards in her hands.
“Now, come on. It’s tea time, and there’s a new crop of oolong I’d love to try.”
Sophie Zhu, 17, is a high school student from California who hopes to pursue her dream of writing in college. In "The Dragon, the Grandmother, and the Golden Egg," she seeks to shine some light on her culture and subvert the classic hero archetype.