I have an unwelcome guest who will not leave. I’ve spoken to him nicely, tried eviction notices, everything. No success. It wouldn’t be so bad if – he wasn’t a dragon. No, no, stay with me. This isn’t a fairy-tale, it’s a true story. It’s happening right here, right now. This noxious beast has taken up residence in a nice, warm, cosy cave. My stomach. I haven’t seen him, but I know he’s there, lurking in his den. I know because, every now and then, he lets out a ball of fire which burns me from the inside. What else could it be, I ask you?
He’s particularly annoying at night, as he likes his cave to be perfectly level. I guess he doesn’t like to spill his nice cup of tea, or perhaps it disrupts some other activity. I imagine him like Smaug, counting coins and having to start all over when I toss and turn and they slide about in all directions. He growls and grumbles. I can hear him clearly. Heck, even poor Richard can hear him! Intermittently, he spits out a roar of flames. Sometimes they go up my chest, often they leave the back of my mouth with a acrid sting and even make my tongue numb. It’s excruciating. I prop myself up on numerous pillows, but nothing’s good enough for his exacting standards. Perhaps he has a spirit level down there? Is there no end to his incessant demands?
A few nights ago, I thought I had perfected my sleeping arrangements. There was a veritable ski-ramp of blankets and pillows to keep me upright all night and Mr. Dragon comfortable. Alas, it was not to be. After a promising start, I woke up constantly, finding myself in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the ramp. It was all too depressingly reminiscent of the ski-lessons of my German childhood in a field down the road from our house. I never did get the hang of that, either. I’ve persisted with the pillow ski-ramp, though, because the alternative is a corner of the sofa. It works better but who wants to be exiled to the lounge-room, far from the familiar soft snore of the one you love? It’s just too lonesome, so I put up with waking with a sizzled throat, slumped in odd positions.
The days are not without their challenges, either. Unthinkingly, I bend down to pick something off the floor. Aaarrggh! Angry fireballs flame right to my throat, instantly scorching me. I almost have some sympathy, as it must be really annoying to have your abode turned suddenly turned upside down and find yourself on the ceiling, surrounded by various heavy, carved sideboards, sofas and chests of treasure. Poor Mr. Dragon. He really should find somewhere else to live, but that doesn’t seem to be on his agenda.
I decide to get some professional advice and consult several people famous for their dragon-taming skills. I end up with an arsenal of chemical weapons which make my life vaguely more bearable, but don’t quite fix the problem. The trick, you see, is to find out Mr. Dragon’s real name. This is where this story does begin to resemble a fairy-tale. The one with that annoying, vindictive little imp who helps the girl and then demands her first-born child as payment, unless she can call him by his name. By sheer luck, she finds out he is Rumpelstilskin and he disappears in a puff of rage. That’s what I’m hoping my dragon will do when we discover his name and we can finally write him an eviction notice! In the meantime, the chemical weapons seem to stop him from growing more active, proving that his middle name is, indeed, Refluxius, but as soon as I have to stop using them even for a day for some test or other, he is back and very, very angry. Twice as angry as before. Boy, is he mad. He does not like to be tricked. And we don’t yet know his surname. Without that, we won’t get far.
Our first guess at his name was the rather posh sounding double-barreled Helicobacterius-Pylorius. The only way to find out whether this was right was a 10-day full-on, non-stop blast of high-powered chemical weapons. It was tough, but Mr. Dragon was tougher. While I was wilting, he was laughing his head off and seemed to be gaining power. Fire-power. Wrong guess, then. Try again.
Another expert suggested that his last name may be Fodmapus and I may be feeding him the wrong food. I should try excluding all sorts of things from my diet, in order to starve him into submission. I went home with a list as long as my arm and set to work. No more crusty German rye bread, apples, pears, cherries, blackberries, legumes, mushrooms, beetroot, snow peas, dairy products, onion, garlic, honey and so on and on and on. To be honest, there didn’t seem to be much left. Rice. Potatoes. Carrots. Meat. Those funny rice cakes that taste like you imagine styrofoam might. Some bread that I brought home, full of hope, only to find that it looked like the real thing but tasted of sawdust and cement. Back to the styrofoam. Sigh. The diet certainly had an effect, it starved someone into submission. Me. Several kilos lighter but still scorched, I admitted defeat. That dragon sure is adaptable!
Not only is he adaptable, he decided to do what we all do not long after moving into a new place. Renovate. Yes, he’s been watching too many of those TV shows (curse you, Kevin McCloud!). He decided he was over that 70’s orange-red swirly wallpaper and started to blow-torch it off the walls. Well, I’ve got news for you, Mr. Dragon. That’s not just any old daggy wallpaper, it’s special fire-resistant stuff. Burn it off with your super-high-power blowtorch and you won’t find any Georgian stone-work or even hand-made bricks. You’ll find a hole in the wall, with not much of a view behind. More chemical warfare needed….. special tablets the size and texture of a small piece of chalk and about as impossible to swallow, so I have to resort to grinding them up three times a day and swallowing them as an appetizing gritty slurry. Urrgghh. If I skip just the one, because I’m out and about and don’t have a mortar and pestle in my handbag, he’s back immediately with that darned blowtorch, determined to finish the job. It’s a full time occupation keeping him under some sort of control, never mind getting rid of him for good.
I haven’t given up yet, but I must admit to some despondent moments, because I really have had a gutful and I’m sick and tired of it. There are yet more chemical weapons and tests on the agenda. Surely, something has to work. Maybe he will just decide, all by himself, to move out one day? Here’s hoping. In the meantime, I’d better finish. Reading through the waffle above, I think you, dear reader, have been nearly as patient as poor Richard. I can see from what I’ve written that I’m in imminent danger of becoming completely self-absorbed! I promise my next piece of writing will be about something completely different. International politics, or my cat perhaps. Goodbye for now.