Tag was bored. For three days in a row he had been left on his own all day while David and Jenny went off together. They had shut him in his room early in the morning and not got back till nearly teatime.
It had been all right the first time – left undisturbed Tag had slept nearly all day. On the second day he lay on the bed listening to the noises in the house, running to the door whenever he heard movements, but he was disappointed every time – it was never David and the door never opened. The third day he spent the morning lounging around, then decided to rearrange David’s room. He lifted all the toys and ornaments from the shelves to the floor, added everything he could from the cupboards, then emptied out some of the drawers on top.
What a wonderful sight it had been, and how surprised David had been when he got home!
David hadn’t seemed so thrilled, though. After clearing up he had put a chair in front of the cupboard and closed all the drawers, and he hadn’t left nearly so many toys lying about. Tag thought that it wasn’t his fault that the aeroplane had come apart when it fell on the floor.
But today – today was different. After David had left, shutting the door firmly, Mum had come in with some clean clothes, then rushed out without closing it. Hearing the noises of people leaving the house, Tag decided to follow them.
As soon as he heard the slam of the front door he rushed down to the kitchen. He knew what to do. Boris had a cat flap in the back door, and it was plenty big enough for Tag. He waddled up to it and pushed with his nose. It didn’t move. He pushed harder. It stayed closed. Tag sat up and struck it hard with his front feet but it was no use – it was locked.
Defeated, Tag explored the house, looking for an open window, but he could find no way out. He went back and tried harder to open Boris’s door, but it still wouldn’t move. He sat down beside it, wondering what to do next, and dozed off.
Tag was awoken by the tickling of Boris’s tongue as the cat came over to say ‘good morning’. They played for a few minutes, then Boris remembered why he had come that way – he needed to go outside. As Boris came up to his door Tag heard a click, and he watched Boris push his way easily through the flap. Without wondering why the cat could open the door but he couldn’t, Tag leapt through while Boris’s tail was still holding the flap open.
But where were the children? It was ages since they had left the house and he had no idea where they had gone. He heard a voice nearby and jumped up on to the fence, but it was only the lady next door talking to the cat. He would have to search. Tag launched himself into the air. Soon he could see all the gardens in the road, but there were no children. He kept climbing. Now he could see right over the tops of the houses, into the street and beyond. As he rose higher and higher the sounds changed to match the view, from the twittering of birds and the rustling of trees in the gardens, to the roar of traffic from the street.
But what was this? He could also hear high-pitched voices in the distance. Tag looked towards the sound and saw a line of children going through the door of a large building. Quickly he flew towards them, but they were disappearing fast, and as he got near, the door closed. There was only one thing to do – he would look through all the windows in turn to see if he could find David or Jenny.
The first window was huge, and he gazed in at a big room with ropes hanging down and other interesting things, but there were no people there. The next window looked into a small office with two ladies sitting at desks. He flew to the next one. This was better! Here there were lots of children, some sitting at tables, others walking around. Tag hovered outside the window while he looked from face to face. Someone saw him and pointed, and through the window he heard the scraping of chairs as everybody leapt up and came running over. They tapped on the window and waved. But Tag wasn’t interested; there was no sign of David or Jenny, so he flew to the next classroom.
It was quite hard to see through the shiny glass, which reflected the pale sky and the tall green trees, together with a ghostly image of a red dragon with fluttering wings. Tag knew about mirrors and ignored his reflection, but it was hard to ignore the effect he had on the children. As soon as they saw him everybody started shouting; he could hear their voices faintly through the glass. As before, they stopped what they were doing and ran to the window. One of them climbed right up on to the sill, banged the window with his hands, and waved and shouted to Tag. Once again, Tag quickly saw that none of the children was David or Jenny, and he moved on.
In his classroom, David was working with a friend, seeing who could add up faster. As they sat there quietly they became aware of a great commotion in the distance. There were voices calling, chairs falling over, and the sound of running feet.
“What’s going on?” asked David’s friend in a puzzled voice. They listened more carefully. The noise was getting louder and nearer. Now it was coming from the classroom next door. David suddenly stopped, his heart in his mouth. Could the voices be calling “Dragon!”?
He made for the door, but a flash of red outside the window caught his eye. There was Tag, his claws scratching at the glass while he flapped his wings to keep his balance. Everybody looked round. Chairs went clattering to the floor as the whole class jumped up and scrambled over to the window.
The teacher stood there astounded. “Children, children, what are you doing?” he called. “Come back, sit down.” But the class were much too engrossed to listen to him. Everyone went running round, chattering, calling and waving to the dragon. The teacher joined them.
“What is it?” he asked, as he stared blankly out of the window. “It’s Tag,” they shouted. “Tag?” said the teacher. “David’s pet dragon,” they replied. “Dragon?” he echoed, and then tried to make sense of the babble as a chorus of voices tried to tell him about Tag.
While the teacher’s attention was diverted, David quietly opened a window and whistled for his pet. The dragon glided down and clambered in. He was very pleased to see David, and gave him a big cuddle. Everyone quickly gathered round, and some gently stroked Tag’s rough skin. He loved being the centre of attention, spreading out his wings for all to admire. David felt quite proud of his unusual pet. But the voice of the teacher finally had an effect, and the class reluctantly went back to their places. David hid Tag in his lap, out of sight, and gradually the hubbub died down.
For a while the lesson continued almost normally, apart from a few whispers, giggles and glances, but it wasn’t long before Tag got tired of sitting there and wriggled free. He waddled round the room, enjoying the secret rubs and scratches that the children gave him. Then he hopped up on to the display table to see the artwork the children had done. By now the whole class were chuckling and nudging each other. No one took the slightest notice of the teacher as he tried to get them to be quiet. But when Tag knocked over a pile of pots, which fell to the floor with a crash, David realised that this couldn’t carry on. He went across the room, grabbed Tag, and held him tightly. Despite his struggles, David didn’t let him get away again.
On the way home for lunch, David told his pet that it had been lovely to see him, but that he really mustn’t come to school again. Tag looked very crestfallen when he understood that he wasn’t wanted, and David realised that he had been unkind to lock the dragon in his room. Even Boris, who was only a cat, was able to explore and amuse himself all day. But he didn’t know what he could do to give Tag more freedom.
A couple of days later David found himself the target of a funny look from Dad, who was leafing through the local paper.
“There’s a headline here that reads: ‘Dragon sets off riot at school’” said Dad. “It seems that all the children started running round, calling that there was a dragon at the window. The newspaper quotes the head teacher: ‘I can’t think what got into them,’ he says. ‘There wasn’t even a bird in the playground. The teachers all agreed that there was nothing outside.’”
“I think it would be best if dragons didn’t go to school, don’t you?” said Dad. “But I have noticed,” he added, “that in the kitchen drawer we’ve got a spare cat collar with a little magnet on, just like the one that Boris has got for opening the cat flap.” And while David and Jenny stared at each other in amazement, Dad buried his face back in the newspaper.