Sidney Wascomb liked to walk through the town junk yard on his way home from school. Every afternoon he would nose around in heaps of trash, digging and tugging, shifting and piling, looking for anything unusual and useful. One day, at the bottom of an exceptionally large mound of rubbish, Sidney came upon the find of a lifetime. There, laid out as if on purpose, gleaming in the sunlight which filtered through refrigerator hinges, TV consoles and rusty bed springs, was a perfectly preserved suit of shining armor.
“Wow!” exclaimed Sidney, grabbing up his prize. “A real knight outfit! It’s even got a sword and shield! Boy, Oh Boy! Now I can be a Knight!”
Sidney climbed quickly out of the junk heap and jumped into the suit of armor. It fit him exactly, and he stood tall and proud. Looking at his reflection in a puddle of dirty rainwater, he drew his sword, tapped himself on both shoulders and said, in a deep and powerful voice, “I christen thee, Sir Sidney the Brave!” With that, Sidney went off to be a knight.
The first person he encountered in the guise of his new identity was Cynthia Wilson. “Hello, Sidney,” she said. “Where did you find the knight suit?”
“It’s Sir Sidney to you, Peasant!” said Sidney. “Out of my way! Can’t you see I have important matters to attend.”
“Excuse me!” said Cynthia. “I was just trying to be nice.”
“Well, you weren’t trying hard enough!” said Sidney. “You should show respect to your superiors. This suit is proof that I am a Knight in Shinning Armor—Fearless, Bold, Noble and Brave.”
“And Snotty,” said Cynthia. “Don’t forget Snotty.”
“You’ll sing a different tune if you’re ever in distress,” said Sidney.
“I’m in distress right now,” said Cynthia. “What has come over you?”
“I have no time for such chatter,” said Sidney, striding boldly by.
It didn’t take long for Sir Sidney to become the talk of the beauty shops and coffee spots in town. The people had never had their very own Knight before, and everyone was taken by the idea. “A Knight will be good for the whole community,” they said. “He will present a fine example to the children,” they said. “And guard against all manner of vices and foes,” they said. “And be the model of high moral standards,” they said. “And protect us from dragons,” they said. “Hail to Sir Sidney,” they said; “Hail to Sir Sidney the Brave!”
Sidney enjoyed his place of honor in the hamlet that was home. He kept his armor polished and his sword sharpened. He collected many books about the art of knightmanship, but reading bored him. He felt as though putting on the armor and clanking around town was all the work a Knight need do. So, he fell into the easy routine of being loved and admired. Until the unthinkable occurred.
A dragon came calling. It was a big dragon. A Very Big Dragon. He shook the whole region when he walked. When he thrashed his tail, he knocked down trees, and barns, and anything else that happened to be in the way. When he fired up his burners and roared, the flames would light up the sky for miles around, even if the sun were shinning. He was the biggest, meanest dragon anyone could remember hearing about.
When the dragon came upon Sidney’s town, he spent the first day smiling to himself and dreaming of the fun he was about to have. Then he walked around the outskirts of the village—looking it over, sizing it up. “Doesn’t look big enough to have a Knight,” he thought. “Ought to be easy. I’ll play by the rules.” (The rules said that before a dragon could ravage a village he had to give the villagers a chance to defend themselves on the field of battle.)
So, the dragon sauntered up to the gates of the town and called out, “Hello in there! I know you can hear me, so don’t pretend that you don’t know I’m out here! If you haven’t sent out your champion to meet me by noon tomorrow, I’m going to tear this little place apart and barbecue you all!” With that, the dragon roared a teeny, tiny, itsy bitsy little roar and burned the city gates to cinders.
“Sir Sidney! Sir Sidney!” cried the Mayor and the City Officials as they pounded on the door of Sidney’s home. “Sir Sidney! You must come save us from the dragon!”
“What’s that you say?” asked Sidney. “Dragon? Did you say something about a dragon?”
“But surely you’ve heard the dragon!” said the Mayor. “He’s been tromping around the town for days!”
“Oh, that dragon,” said Sidney. “I thought you might have meant some other dragon.”
“You’re our Champion, our Knight in Shinning Armor,” said the Mayor, “and you have to slay the dragon.”
“Yes!” shouted the City Officials.
“Yes!” shouted the townspeople who had gathered around Sidney’s house.
“Go forth, Sir Sidney! Go forth and slay the dragon!”
There was no way out for Sidney. The people of the town carried him to the smoldering city gates and thrust him out into the field beyond. “Hail to Sir Sidney!” they cried, “Hail to Sir Sidney The Brave!”
“But I’m no Knight!” shouted Sidney. “I just happen to be wearing a Knight’s suit, that’s all!” But no one heard his protest. They had all fled to their bedrooms and cellars, where they hid under whatever was available. Sidney was all alone. Except, of course, for the dragon.
“Weeellllll,” said the dragon. “I see they do have a little Knight after all. I’m sooooo glaaadddd. Now I can have a little fun before I get down to business. Come here, little Knight, come let me roast you alive.”
But Sidney was in no mood to be roasted. “Please, Mr. Dragon, Sir,” he begged. “Please don’t roast me. There has been a terrible mistake! I’m no Knight! Not a Real Knight! I’m only dressed like one!”
“Not a Real Knight?” asked the dragon. “Only dressed like one? Well you deserve worse than roasting! Anyone who would pretend to be something he’s not is a scoundrel and a goob! It’s better to be a genuine person with a limp and a wheeze than to be a fake in a suit of armor!”
“I know,” said Sidney. “And I’m ashamed of myself. I’ve learned my lesson. If you let me go, I’ll never again pretend to be anything I’m not.”
“Let you gooooooo?” said the dragon. “Why, you deserve to be fried on the spot! You wanted to be a Knight and now you’re going to have to receive what any Knight would get from me!” And with that, the dragon belched, smoking Sidney’s armor and turning him lobster ed.
“Wait a minute Dragon,” said a voice that Sidney almost recognized. “You can’t fry my friend—even though that’s exactly what he deserves. Even so, he’s my friend and I want you to leave him and the entire land alone right now.” Sidney looked over his shoulder and saw Cynthia Wilson.
“Who are you, Little Lady,” asked the dragon. “Have you come to rescue a Knight in distress?”
“That I have,” said Cynthia. “So, just turn around and trot off and we’ll forget that you ever bothered us.”
“What a laugh!” said the dragon. “I’m going to eat you and the tin man here, and then make a bonfire of that dump you call a town.”
“You’re making a mistake,” said Cynthia. “But I gave you a chance just like the rules say (The rules said that a champion must always give the dragon an opportunity to change his mind before slaying him). If you are determined to go through with this, you might start with these.” And Cynthia threw a huge sack of gum drops in front of the dragon.
“Oh Booooyyyyy! Gum drops!” said the dragon. “My very favorite food in all the world, even including stupid Knights in armor plating.” In a flash the dragon jumped upon the gumdrops, scooped them into his mouth and began chewing away. Of course, the candy stuck his teeth together and made it impossible for him to do anything more than mumble and blow smoke through his nose. Cynthia grabbed Sidney’s sword and waved it in front of the dragon.
“See this, Dragon?” she said. “I could cut off your head right now and you couldn’t do a thing to stop me. I have the power of life and death over you. You are utterly helpless. I choose to give you life, Dragon. Not because you deserve it, but because I don’t want this town, or any of the others, to ever be bothered by a dragon again. So, you go tell all your friends to keep to themselves and leave human beings alone forever. Understand?”
The dragon nodded his head. Cynthia gave him three whacks across the rump with the flat side of the sword and sent him running.
“That takes care of that,” she said as the dragon disappeared in the distance.
“Wow!” said Sidney. “I didn’t know dragons liked gum drops.”
“I know you didn’t,” said Cynthia. “You never read any of the books on being a Knight. But I read them all. It helps to know what you’re doing. There are some things you just can’t fake your way through, Sidney. And being a Knight is certainly one of them.”
“You’re right,” said Sidney. “I’m through with Knighthood forever.”
“Don’t be silly,” said Cynthia. “You’ve always wanted to be a Knight.”
“I know,” said Sidney, “but I wasn’t one. I was only dressed like one.”
“That’s how every Knight starts out,” said Cynthia. “It’s in all the books. Knights have to spend their whole life working to be who they say they are. The town needs a Knight, Sidney. It’s time you got to work.”
“Will you be my Fair Lady,” asked Sidney.
“Of course not,” said Cynthia, “there’s more to me than that. But I’ll be your coach.”
And, just like that, Sidney and Cynthia lived happily ever after.