La Dragoncita (Elbita)

"Roar, roar, roar." Mami Rocio began in her soft voice and each roar became even softer. The dragoncita Able wouldn't fall asleep as long as she was roaring. "Able is Elba backwards. And she roars backwards too." Elbita tossed her long braids behind her and snuggled into her mother. Mami stroked Elbi's long bangs and swept them from her eyes. "Que paso mi dragoncita?" Mami was speaking in the voice she gave to Baby Dragon Able's mommy dragon. "What is the matter?"
"Me volvio a pasar, Mami. It happened again." Baby Dragon Able cried and whispered and then she whisper roared again. Only a few doors down the hall in their big Casa de Huespedes Rocio, Dona Zoila was trying to sleep. "Really, really, really, Mami. I don't know how not to burn everything. Why was I born spitting fire from my mouth?"
"You are awaiting the day when you will master the fire. It's coming soon. You are getting better and better. Didn't you tell me this morning you were able, and that is why your name is Able, to almost finish your breakfast of delicious sea grape leaves without scorching very many?"
Little Elba rested her head on the soft hollow of Mami's shoulder. Mami's shoulders were round and soft. They were in the middle of the big bed where most of the time only the two of them slept. Elba thought about her Papi and thought about her name and wished that just by spelling it backwards she could really spit fire because her Papi was almost always away.
She roared. "Baby Dragon Able roared again. Why is Papi Dragon always away at his uprising?"
Mami sat up. "Where did you hear that word?"
Elbita said nothing. Did they really believe los ninos miran y no tocan, miran y no oyen? Truly did they think because they were always saying children look and don't touch that children also looked and didn't hear? She didn't say, "Because you grandes are always using it." She said nothing. She hoped that Mami Dragon would explain it someday in the story, or Dragoncita Able if she knew what it meant.
Mami thought Elba was asleep. Elba knew to slow her breathing down and soften her eye lids and keep them very still. She'd watched Mami sleeping. Mami got up very quietly. She had to finish washing all the dinner dishes of the three new huespedes who'd rented rooms in Casa Rocio this week, and the dishes of the regulars Abi and Dona Zoila who lived there all the time.
Elbita lay in the middle of the big double bed by herself. The wooden shutters of the door to the hallway were ajar and let in a fan of light. She liked how the light shone on the floor tiles and studied the twirly designs she imagined could be earrings she would wear when she grew up. Above the transom a rectangle of glass was tilted open and shone onto the ceiling. That was where Elbita liked to believe la Dragoncita Able lived and her flames were lighting up the ceiling, burning the dangerous goblins that lived between the beams.
She liked this moment late at night just before she fell asleep when she lay snug and safe in the middle of the bed. For those few minutes, with la Dragoncita looking down on her, she felt nothing bad could happen to her, or her Mami, or even her Papi at the uprising. She liked the clanging when Mami set down a dish she'd washed, or maybe Dona Zoila banged a clean, dry pot onto the shelf. She liked the murmur of their voices. Dona Zoila was de familia and always helped.
Just as she was sinking in the softest, most welcoming, most delicious cloud of sleep she heard a car door slam. In her sleep she heard a voice. A huge, green and purple dragon was speaking. This voice she always knew even when she hadn't heard it for many weeks. She sat up, jumped out of bed, ran to the front door. "Papi, Papi, Papi." He lifted her up into the air and clutched her against his long, black beard. She breathed the campfire smell of his beard. "Hueles a dragon, Papi." She kissed and kissed and kissed him. As he set her down Papi pressed a stone into her hand. "Una piedra magica del Pico. Te la manda el mandatario. The Comandante sent it just for you. He said to thank you for lending him your Papi."
Next morning when she woke up she still had the stone clutched in her hand. She put it in her treasure box where she kept the plastic ring with the red glass ruby Abi gave her, and the little bell she found under Dona Zoila's bed and she let her keep. She marched with her treasure box around the table where the grownups were talking and talking and drinking cafe con leche. She drummed on the box. She had her own parade, and drummed and drummed. Papi, and Able, and Dona Zoila and Mami Rocio talked softly, not even bothering about Elbita's breakfast yet.
She drummed and drummed. The bell and the stone jangled inside her box. Marching right beside her was la Dragoncita Able. Elba drummed and Able spit huge flames out of her mouth.