It seems obvious now that my propensity for eating whatever crossed my path and jaculating fire would set me on the road to demolishing major metropolitan areas. In truth, it was not what I had in mind for myself. Personally, I would have liked to hang the stars.
My father hung the stars and, some nights, when he finished early, he would kneel down from the vault of heaven and slip his cool hand over my shoulder. “My son,” he would say, “please put the elephants out.”
Reluctantly, but dutifully (I loved my father), I would roll the herd of elephants into a wallow. We’d watch their gray hides smolder in the twilight, and then inhale the crisp aroma of wrinkled, seared elephant snout. Then my father would sigh and hand me a miracle and I would play with it while he spoke, trying to fit my claws into it so that its puzzle would reveal itself to me. My father was a wonder at making puzzles, but I never opened a single one.
“Son,” he’d say, “I do wish you’d stop breathing fire on the creatures that are smaller than you.”
“But I am hungry, father,” I would say.
“I know, my son. But if you gobble everything you see, you will grow up thinking everything is here for you to eat.”
“I have not eaten any of your miracles, father.”
“My miracles are too big to fit in your mouth, my son.”
My father was very perceptive.
Taking a charred elephant from the wallow, he would turn it over in his hands, play for a moment with the loose flap of its ear, and set it back in the bubbling herd. I swished my tail, thinking I’d come near to solving the puzzle, or thinking maybe that he had seen how I’d burned my initials into its skin, but neither hope was rewarded with the slightest affirmation from my father. He put his hand upon my shoulder again, nodded, as if in long distance reply to something I may have said before or might say hence, and smiled. “Son, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be like you, father,” I would say.
“Son, I don’t think you’d be very good at being me. Perhaps you should try being bad.”
My juvenile forays into mischief were hardly more than mild entertainments. But the smell of burnt elephant and the stubborn miracle in my paws was the adumbration of a long career in the city-smashing business – a successful one. I destroy much better than my contemporaries and my career has been storied and exquisite.
Still, it would have been nice to hang the stars.