Summary: A tired little girl is told about the Man in the Moon and the dragon who eats him.
The mountains on the other side of the river were dark, with only the tops of the pine trees outlined against the night sky. The hum of the car tires on the metal bridge buzzed low, punctuated now and again by a small bump. Below the bridge, the water sparkled, catching the light of the full, bright moon overhead.
The buzz of the tires lulled the girl into a hypnotic, drowsy state. She wanted to turn the radio off; there were more hisses and pops than music, although her mother was insisting on singing along, anyway. Eyes half closed, the girl let the mountains, trees and river blur past. Once in a while, she saw a couple of small lights in the sky when the trees and telephone poles weren't in the way of her vision. The lights danced, up and down, zig-zagging around the dark sky and twinkling stars. When the dancing lights zigged up, she tried to find them again, but they were gone.
She turned her attention to the large, brilliant moon in the sky. In the shadows on his face, she could see the Old Man's eyes and chubby cheeks. She liked the Man in the Moon. He had a friendly face. Her grandpa was friendly, he always had chocolate for her when they visited at grandma and grandpa's house, but grandpa didn't have chubby cheeks.
The radio crackled again. "….on't forget, folks, the eclipse starts in 30 minutes!"
"What's a eclipse?" the girl asked her mother.
"It means the moon is going to disappear," her mother said.
Disappear? She looked out the window and up at the moon, troubled. How can the moon disappear? What was out there that was so big it could eat the moon? Was it going to eat the planet, too? What about the rest of the stars? She looked around for the lights that were dancing earlier, but they were still gone.
Was there a monster out in space? Was it a dragon?? She remembered seeing a picture of a dragon; they had scales like snakes and breathed fire and they flew! Was that what those lights were? Were they dragons flying in space and breathing their fire so that people could see them???
The girl slid down in the seat, hiding her face against the door. Her mother looked over, grateful that her daughter was finally going to sleep. It had been a long trip back from camp, and both kids were up far past their bedtimes. Her son had been asleep on the back seat since before leaving the small town at the bottom of the mountain.
Once in a while, the girl peeked up over her arms to look out the front window. The moon was still there. She still didn't see the dragon but the man on the radio kept talking about the moon disappearing. Why didn't he talk about whatever was going to eat the moon? How come he sounded so happy about it? The moon going away wasn't a happy thing! Didn't he like the moon?
She must have fallen asleep because she didn't remember her mother driving into their driveway.
"Come on, wake up," her mother said as she lifted the sleepy little boy into her arms. "Go on upstairs, get ready for bed."
The girl looked up at the moon as she stumbled from the car and across the driveway. The moon! The side looked funny! It looked…. Red! The dragon was breathing fire on it!! The girl ran up the stairs and into their house. She ran into her bedroom and grabbed her pillow.
"Come on, get your nightgown on, go to the bathroom, and get into bed," her mother said impatiently after putting her little brother to bed. The girl gulped, afraid to look out her window. Why wasn't her mother worried about the man in the moon? Everyone was ignoring the dragon eating the moon! As her mother pulled the window shade down, the girl caught a glimpse of the moon. It was half gone and the rest was getting redder!!
She turned away from it.
The girl screamed! It was a scream as she had never screamed before! The dragon was coming!! She fell to the floor, crying hysterically. Her mother came running into the bedroom.
"What's wrong!" she yelled. All the girl could do was point at the window; her throat was too tight to speak.
The back door flew open and their neighbors came rushing in.
"What happened?" they cried out. "We heard her scream! Is someone hurt?"
Her mother sighed and knelt on the floor, picked the girl up and put her into the bed. The sheets were pulled up and her back was rubbed as she sobbed into the pillow.
"She's fine," her mother said. "She's over-tired. The shade snapped up and it startled her."
But…. but the moon! The dragon!! Still no one was worried about the moon and the dragon! Darkness began to overtake her.
In the morning, she felt strange. Her head was muzzy. A careful look out the window showed the familiar, pale face still in the blue, morning sky. His face was no longer red, and he looked tired from his ordeal. Maybe he needed to sleep, too, because he was also overtired from his battle. He must have won his battle with the dragon, though, because his face was all there.