Dorota Terakowska

Photo from the archives of the author.

Dorota Terakowska

Granny Bridget and her Crazy Cracow Tour

Read by Marta Meissner, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
English translation: Anna Chociej
“Oh, my!” I cried, filled with marvel and… dread. I couldn’t even tell which feeling was stronger. Right in front of us, there was a huge cavern, illuminated by a bright, red light. And the light was coming from a dragon, an honest-to-goodness dragon! The dragon was green, with a huge scaled torso and a long, thick tail. And three heads, to boot! It breathed fire from its mouth – or rather from its three mouths, alternately. That fire was what illuminated the cavern.
“Gra-gra-gran?” I stuttered, but she didn’t seem to pay any attention to me.
“Who’s my little Drakey?” She asked, and her voice was gentle and tender. “I knew you would be here.”
“Little Drakey, that’s a good one,” I thought to myself. “This here is a huge monster!”
“Is that really you, Bridget?” The dragon cried happily, sending echoes across the cavern. Thinking his voice was thunder, I jumped, startled. Still, the dragon continued to thunder.
“My darling Bridget, I knew that sooner or later you would come by, but I didn’t know when to expect you. Maybe in a thousand years, I thought, maybe in five hundred, maybe no sooner than in two thousand years? I was really looking forward to seeing you again.”
Grandma must have noticed my bewildered gaze, because she explained gently:
“My dear child, an average dragon lives for some five thousand years. This here is still a boy, a Drakey, you see. He is only five hundred years old. He is the son of the famous Dragon, the one– ”
“–the one who was fed poisonous mutton in the times of king Krak. Yuck!” Drakey cried. “And I haven’t eaten meat ever since! I never eat virgin flesh, though my daddy did, and keep away from any other kind of meat!”
Overcoming my fear, I asked:
“So what is it that you eat?”
“I’m a vegetarian. I only eat grass, clover being my favourite. Yum, yum!” He said, and smacked three pairs of lips.
Then he explained everything. Dragons indeed eat much, but they eat rarely. Not more often than once every year, Drakey left the cavern in the dead of night through a secret passageway, and stuffed himself full of grass growing on the banks of the Vistula river. He washed it down with water from the Vistula, but always in moderation...
“It’s really disgusting,” he complained. “Completely different than two centuries ago, when it still tasted like real water!”
Once he even ate and drank so much, he almost couldn’t fit back into the cavern!
“Bridget, do you still remember what all dragons good and true like the best?” Drakey asked with a charming smile, keeping a close eye on her bag.
“Of course I do,” she answered, extracting several plump bottles from her bag. Finally, I understood why she kept on carrying those huge bags around! You could fit at least a hundred bottles in each of them!
“What is it?” I asked, curious, as I noticed that Drakey was smacking his three pairs of lips again.
“Extract of malt,” grannie explained. “You wouldn’t know about it, because today we take our vitamins as colourful pills, but things were different when your parents were little. Every day every child had to take a large spoonful of extract of malt as a strengthening medicine. And because it was absolutely disgusting, mothers used to hold their children’s noses with one hand and feed them the medicine with the other…
“But that’s torture!” I cried in outrage.
“Dragons love it, though!” Drakey roared. “Nice dragons don’t have to have their noses held!”
I couldn’t imagine a single person agreeing to hold one of Drakey’s three noses, even though he was still a baby! I think even grandma wouldn’t have the courage!
“But how are you dragons doing? I mean in general?” Granny asked politely.
In the meantime, Drakey worked his way through the first bottle. With two mouths busy drinking two more bottles, he used the third to continue his conversation with grandma.
“I don’t know much about how life treats my brothers in Africa and Australia, but here, where I live, things are rather tough,” he sighted. “I’ve got plenty of enemies, enemies I have never seen in my life! They must have been born no more than couple of dozen years ago, almost yesterday! This is a completely different kind of dragons, and very fearsome too! I can’t see or hear them, but they keep on spewing this disgusting, stinking smoke from some hidey hole! Wherever I look and wherever I point my nose, there they are! They stink more than any decent dragon used to in the olden days! Honestly, those have to be some mighty monsters, I dread to even think about them. And I don’t go out for walks as often as I used to. Either way, they stink even worse in the night-time...
Granny gave me an attentive look:
“Are you sure you haven’t heard anything about any local dragons?”
“Nooo” I answered surprised, but something began to dawn on me. I worked out who Drakey’s mighty monsters were.
“Oh, I get it!” I cried triumphantly. “The dragons are steel mills and Silesian mines – there’s Janina, Piast, Ziemowit and Jaworzno power plant!”
“What strange names for dragons,” Drakey trembled, and the walls of the cavern trembled with him. “I’m sure they are as terrible as their names! Mines Silesian, the Dragon? Dragon Mill? Janina Dragon? Though Janina Dragon doesn’t sound too bad. Janina – is that a girl’s name, dear boy? Is she pretty? How many heads does she have, this Janina girl?”
“But those are factories! There are no dragons in the neighbourhood! You are the only one!” I explained.
Drakey cheered up and roared twice as loud:
“Oh, dear boy! You have no idea how happy you’ve made me! I was sure there was a new, dangerous kind of incendiary-ash-spitting dragons around! I breathe fire, but the smell is quite pleasant and doesn’t seem to bother anyone…”
“Those incendiary-ash-spitting dragons are, just as you say, quite dangerous, but they are also very helpful” I said. “They make steel for houses and cars and trains and trams and pots and tractors. For almost everything humans need. But they also produce a lot of ash and smoke. Even houses get ill from all that smoke, especially the old ones. People try different things to make them less stinky, but sometimes they don’t work out…
“Oh, thank you, my dear!” Drakey yelled. “Thanks to you, I’m no longer scared of unknown monsters! As a token of my gratitude, I am willing to offer you this here bottle of extract of malt. Or, maybe, let’s make it a half… Or maybe… exactly one quarter of a bottle. Or you know what… Hmm… I could give you a spoonful, a tiny one, just a drop…” he added, looking hungrily – and regretfully – at the bottles filled with the thick, disgusting substance.
“Thank you, but I’m good” I responded quickly.
English translation: Anna Chociej

Dorota Terakowska

(1938-2004) writer, journalist, author of novels for children, youngsters and adults.

She was connected with Krakow all her life. Expelled from the Józefa Joteyko lower secondary school for girls in Krakow, Podwale Street, she graduated in sociology at the Jagiellonian University. From the 1960s, she worked as a journalist in such newspapers and magazines as Gazeta Krakowska, Przekrój, Czas Krakowski.

In the 1980s, she started to publish novels for children and teenagers, including Lustro Pana Grymsa, Guma do życia or Babci Brygidy szalona podróż po Krakowie. She received the award of the Polish section of the IBBY — International Board on Books for Young People – three times. The novel Córka czarownic (The Daughter of Witches) was entered into the honorary list of this organisation. She wrote also novels for adults focusing on parenthood problems. The novel Ono (It) received the title of the Krakow Book of the Month in 2003.

She was wife to Maciej Szumowski, director and journalist, who died within a month after her death. In tribute to them, a park in Krakow Kliny was named Park Maćka i Doroty (The Park of Maciek and Dorota). (mj)

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