Another writing exercise I favor is the ‘two-character mash up.’ I choose two characters at random (I have a huge list of all my characters, and a jar with numbers in it) and then either choose a word from the dictionary, or ask someone for a suggestion. Then I write a short drabble with both characters, and the word.
I find that I can learn a lot about my people (or dragons, in this case) by throwing them in odd situations with personalities they don’t normally encounter. And yeah, it’s also fun 😉 Let’s not forget that.
So this little piece is the sum of Zen + Rodney + ‘inflate’
The sound of tapping on the window finally wriggled its way inside Zen’s protective bubble of studious concentration. Reluctantly, he left the equations on his chalkboard and turned towards his office’s singular window.
Outside, there was a dragon.
This was, generally speaking, reasonable cause for excitement—dragons hadn’t been in this part of the country for decades—but Zen’s mind was so focused on the fractals and Mandelbrot sets behind him that he only managed an weak, “Hm,” as commentary for this event.
The dragon tapped a claw against the window again and smiled expectantly, revealing teeth small enough to mark him as a younger dragon.
Zen crossed to the window, and found it frustratingly difficult to open. It had, apparently, been quite some time since he let fresh air into his workspace. “Can I help you?” he asked his dragonian visitor.
“Hello, sir! My name’s Rodney,” the dragon said, which carried not even an attempt to answer Zen’s question.
“Nice to meet you,” Zen replied, and then circled back to, “Can I help you with something?”
“Yeah, actually. If you wouldn’t mind.” The dragon grinned broadly and then his head ducked out of view for a second. When he popped back up, he extended his front limb through the window. “I have these balloons.”
Zen had to look closer to see the deflated and wrinkled scraps of color held between the dragon’s claws. Again, Zen found that his question hadn’t been answered. “I see that,” he said.
“I was wondering if you could blow them up for me?” Rodney said. “I really like balloons, but they were definitely made with soft, tiny, human lips in mind.”
“Oh,” Zen blinked at the odd request, trying to discern why a dragon would want balloons in the first place when they could so easily pop them by accident. But whatever the motivation, he figured that as requests go, this wasn’t going to be a time consuming one. He retrieved the balloons. “Sure. All of them?” There were three.
“Yes, please!” Rodney said, settling himself outside the window to wait.
It had, admittedly, been rather a long time since Zen had reason to inflate balloons. His first attempt was a thrilling failure: he wasn’t holding it tightly enough and it left his mouth closely resembling a projectile watermelon seed. Zen cleared his throat and tried to salvage some dignity as he tried again, making his hold more secure this time.
It took him longer than a more party-savvy individual would have needed, but eventually Zen had tied off the green, yellow, and pink balloons and held them out the window, hoping none of his students was hiding somewhere with a camera phone.
“Wow, thanks!” Rodney said, and then turned and prepared to take flight.
“Wait, aren’t you… forgetting them?” Zen said, trying to be as inoffensive as possible.
“Nah, I don’t need them,” Rodney said. “The balloons are for you.”
“Why?” Zen asked.
“I dunno,” Rodney said, grinning. “I saw you working. You looked like you really needed some balloons.”