Dragons date back to the time when people were small and unweaponly enough to be terrified by birds, snakes, and fire, but didn't have the proper words to distinguish them. Aside from "AHHHHHHHH!" Somewhere along the line we gave them a pile of gold and Scottish accents, but the original dragon isn't so much an actual or mythical beast as it is an amorphous pile of vestigial dread that finds its latent expression in pewter sculpture and Chinese placemats.
I am what anthropologists generally refer to as a pussy, so I know from fear in all its flavors. I have had a knife slowly dragged across the back of my neck and felt my entire body go into a crisp, adrenaline-soaked involuntary gymnastics routine. I have had my mother walk into the bedroom seconds after a Nagasaki-sized cloud of potsmoke issued from my mouth and felt that tingling, groiny paralysis climb my spine to the stem of my newly stoned brain. I been dumped and seen it coming. But I have never felt the fear of dragons until this morning, when I watched a stork eat a charred rat while perched atop a smoldering dumpster.
Look at this thing. Who let this happen? A vulture scrotum poking out of a mantle of filthy feathers affixed to a two-foot-long pair of rusted old scissors? That's what plunged into the garbage (the burning garbage) and came out with a black, rubbery rat, then struggled to gulp it all the way back like a slave in one of those Toni Morrison masks. That's what God decided it was cool for me to look at this morning.
I guess there's a distinction to be acknowledged between the pleasantly white storks of America and their Skeksi-like African cousins, though frankly that seems racist, and it wasn't really the parts of this winged abortion that flooded my bowels with shuddering, primeval horror. Those just made me wonder if I should have eaten breakfast at the adjacent restaurant. What set my ass to pinhole was the way it moved when it was done choking down its cartoon trash meal. Which was toward me and like a dinosaur.
At some point in my reaction to this profoundly unsettling stalk, a local guy walked over and asked me why I thought Ugandan birds were so funny. I answered his question with one of my own ("Why does your country have pterodactyls?"), then explained that I wasn't psychotically laughing because the bird was amusing, I was laughing because something ancient in my genes told me the bird was the devil. I thought in my regressive superstitious state we might share a moment of root-level human communion—which is, again, possibly racist—but he just placed his hand on my forehead in a gesture that may have been more patronizing if he wasn't eight feet taller than me and completely unfazed by the waist-high garbage dragon lurching toward us. Then again, East Africans also do that thing where you shake their hand and they just hold it for the length of the conversation, so who knows? Anyway, I'm getting away from my point, which is storks, which are filth-encrusted Lovecraftian nightmare birds.
These are what bring us our babies? These things should not be bringing anyone babies. Especially Africans. I mean, after all they've already been through? Christ.