Astrid was right-that wasn’t Aunt Nutty. In fact, there were a whole bunch of Not Aunt Nutty’s filling the sky. The things that weren’t Aunt Nutty were these big-toothed, dog-like, freaky slobbering flying things. And they were swooping down at us like the birds in that creepy Hitchcock movie.
“Run, kid!” Mr. Pizarro yelled. I realized that he was at the driver’s door and Astrid was already climbing into the back seat. I dove for the front passenger seat and slammed the door.
It was like someone was tossing rocks at the roof of the car.
Then—smash!—one of those dog things crashed down onto the hood of the car right when—crash!—another one broke through the back window.
“Aaaaaaaaah! Get it off me!”
I whipped around and saw that a dog thing had its paws in Astrid’s hair. As Mr. Pizarro started the engine, I grabbed an umbrella off the floor board and started whacking the thing in the face.
“Hey!” Astrid yelled. “That hurts!”
“Sorry!” Apparently, I whacked her, too. But my whacking must have been good enough, because the thing let go, and I jammed it hard with the point of the umbrella and it fell out of the back of the car. At the same time, Mr. Pizarro accelerated and we got thrown backwards as he zoomed forward.
But it wasn’t over.
Dozens of dog things were suddenly all over the car, banging at the windows and trying to get in through the open back.
Astrid grabbed the umbrella and pounded at them, and I was beating at them with an empty water bottle and tossing bits of garbage I found on Mr. Pizarro’s floorboard. (Thanks Mr. Pizarro for never cleaning out your car. What a mess!)
But I was so busy tossing soda cans, that I didn’t see the dog thing that smashed through the front windshield and grabbed me by my belt before I could turn around.
All of a sudden, I felt my butt go up in the air. I clawed at the headrest, trying to stay in the car, but it was no use. I went out through the window, butt-first, with Pizarro yelling and driving fast to keep up with me and my doggie escort.
Up and up we went until we were probably as high as a two or three story house. And I figured I was a goner. The dog would either drop me or kidnap me. And no matter how good a driver Mr. Pizarro was, how could he follow a flying dog?
But we stopped.
I wasn’t sure why, then I saw that all the other dog things were leaving the car and spiraling up toward us. I guess I was their big prize.
Down below, the car stopped and I saw Astrid and Pizarro’s doors fly open. They both jumped out.
Then the weirdest thing happened: I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Pizarro told Astrid something. Astrid looked at him like he was crazy, picked up a handful of dirt, and threw it up in the air toward me.
Then Pizarro shouted, “Blow!” so loud that even I heard that. But I didn’t hear the rest. He told her something else, and Astrid picked up another handful of dust. This time, she blew it toward me.
And believe it or not—that’s how she saved me.
Ryan’s not exactly right. It wasn’t me who saved him. It was—
But wait. You should hear the whole story first. Herman agrees (and, yeah, you’ll find out who Herman is).
So there we were, standing by the car, when those dog things started dive-bombing us. And even though we got into the car, that wasn’t good enough. They managed to break out the glass and almost yanked me out. I screamed and screamed, and Ryan beat on them with an umbrella. He managed to save me, but one of those dog things got a hold of his pants, and out he went, up through the front windshield and into the air.
Let me tell you—that was weird and scary and all sorts of bad.
I screamed and screamed for Ryan—for him to come back, for the dog thing to drop him. But he just kept getting higher and higher. Then the other dog things stopped hammering on the car, and Mr. Pizarro yelled for me to get out.
“Out?” I shouted. “What if they’re still out there?”
“They might be! But we have to save your brother!”
“Save him? How are we supposed to save him?” Not that I was being negative, but Ryan was getting really high up there.
“Just get out of the car!”
So, I did.
“Now pick up some dirt and blow it at him.”
I gave him my best what look.
“Just do it.”
“Okay. Fine. Whatever.” He’d gotten us this far—even if what he wanted was really, really strange.
I bent over and snagged a handful of dirt from the ground. Then I hauled back and threw it as hard as I could toward Ryan.
Well, duh. I mean, what did I expect to happen?
“BLOW! I said blow, not throw!”
“Blow? Blow what?”
“The dirt, kid. The dirt.”
Okay, that was even weirder, but Ryan was getting higher, and I had to do something (even something as stupid and strange as blowing dirt). So, I scooped up another handful of dirt and then I took a deep breath and blew it as hard as I could up toward Ryan and his doggie captor.
At first, I thought that some crystals or something in the dirt were reflecting the moonlight, because they were sparkling. But then I realized that the sparkles were all different colors, like a tiny fireworks display.
As if that wasn’t odd enough, the fireworks started forming into a shape. We went to Disneyland one year on July 4, and they had fireworks in the shape of a box and a Mickey Mouse. These weren’t Mickey. They turned into a dragon. And that sparkly dragon swooped and dove and poked at the doggie creature. The dog growled and snarled, and Ryan squirmed and kicked.
I kept expecting the dragon to fade away, like fireworks do. And I also thought that the attack had to be my imagination—fireworks can’t attack, can they? Apparently this one could.
And after what seemed like forever—with the dragon attacking and the dog snarling—the dog finally let go. This was the good news.
The bad news was that Ryan felt face first into the park’s pond.
Mr. Pizarro and I raced to the edge of the water. No Ryan.
The pond wasn’t very big, but apparently it was deep, because we didn’t see him at all.
“Where is he?” I yelled. “Ryan! Ryan!” I’m a really good swimmer, so I started to wade in, but Mr. Pizarro got there ahead of me. He dove in, and then came up, shaking his head.
“I don’t see him. It’s too dark.”
Ever get that sick feeling in your stomach when you’ve lost something? That’s how I felt, only a thousand times worse. I’d lost my brother!
“We have to find him,” I said, and just as I was about to dive in, I heard a splash.
I looked toward center of the pond, but didn’t see anything. Then the water started to glow. And then—you guessed it—Ryan emerged. He was being lifted out by a tiny, colorful, sparkly dragon (who I guess was also really, really strong).
The dragon flew him over the water and dropped him on his butt on the grass.
I crouched beside him, with Mr. Pizarro on the other side. Mr. Pizarro shook him, and Ryan coughed up a bunch of water, and then opened his eyes.
“What happened?” he asked.
I looked over at the little dragon, who was flitting around Ryan’s head. The dragon wasn’t sparkly anymore. He was just a normal dragon (whatever that is) but tiny. Only about six inches from nose to tail. And incredibly cute.
He was spitting bits of fire and making a clicking noise and sounding very pleased with himself.
After a moment, he landed on my shoulder.
“I know you,” Mr. Pizarro said, peering at me.
“Of course you do,” I said. “I’m Astrid.”
“Not you. The dragon. He’s —” And then he rattled off some really long and complicated Chinese name.
Ryan and I looked at each other. “What’s its name?” Ryan asked.
“I think we should call it Herman,” I said. I reached up and offered Herman my hand. “What do you think?” I asked him. He climbed onto my hand, and nipped my thumb affectionately. “He likes me!”
Ryan and Pizarro laughed. “And I think he likes his name, too,” Pizarro said.
And that’s how Ryan got saved and how we got our new friend Herman.
Trust me. With everything that was about to happen to us, we really needed that new friend.