Decommissioned & Refurbished: A Bedtime Story

by pjmcbride

The last post title, “Dragons and Roses,” may have led some people to believe that the post would be about my mythical police beast Nick, who is more like a dragon than he is like anything else. For those who were thus disappointed (Nick assures me it was disappointing, though I have reason to question his objectivity), I offer this update.

I had, I thought, no further responsibility for said beast once I retired. The department merely said he would be “decommissioned,” which sounded vaguely ominous, but surely it meant an honorable retirement with his owner, playing with his cubs, etc. Surely? So I was surprised to hear a splintering crash in my front yard, followed by my neighbor exclaiming, “What in the hell is that?”

I ran out, and was greeted with a sad tangle of wings and tail, spread out in my flower bed. Nick had knocked down the trellis and now had morning glories all over him. Luckily he had missed the oak tree.

“What is that thing?” my neighbor asked.

“A…co-worker of mine,” I replied.

“I thought you retired.”

“So did I.” Nick raised his head, but his eyes were tight shut. “I know that voice. I must be in the right place, then,” he murmured, as if talking to himself, and laid his head back down.

“Where have you been?”

He raised his head again, but his eyes were still shut. “I’m hungry. Do you have any cats I could eat?”

“No! I have the same two cats you can’t eat.” I could see Glamour in the window, staring at him with frank curiosity. I knew from previous experience that Esmerelda had darted behind my laundry basket as soon as she heard his voice.

“Could I eat these sunflower seeds, then?” Without waiting for an answer, and still without opening his eyes, he ate an entire sunflower, then began crunching the stalk.

“Stop that, it’ll make you sick,” I said, although I had no idea if it would in fact do so. He ignored me. “I asked you where you’ve been.”

“Hmm, am I still required to obey your orders?” he mused, until I shoved him with my foot, and longtime habit kicked in (so to speak).

“I–I’ve been on a journey. A Quest,” he corrected himself. “That’s more important than a journey, right?”

“You’ve never been on a Quest in your life.”

“I was on a Quest to avoid…to escape…” He took a deep breath, and suddenly words came rushing out. “When you retired, they said they were going to decommission me, and I thought it must mean that they…that they…” I touched his head gently, in spite of the terrible teeth. Understandably, he has never been able to utter the word “euthanize.”

“Did you think your owner would let them do that?” He laid his head down again, then went on (head still down). “I heard they were having a problem with clowns in Orlando, so I flew there to help out.”

“Did your owner know you were going?” He flipped his tail over his head, and said (voice muffled), “I’m trying to tell you a story.”

“Carry on.”

“Carry what on? Oh. OK, so I flew to Florida, and you wouldn’t believe it! Clowns everywhere, and giant mice wearing clothes, and dogs that talk–it was out of control. I pounced on them all.”

“Then what happened?”

“Well, they wouldn’t let me eat any of them. They wouldn’t even let me kill them. The laws must be different in Florida. You can’t handle a clown problem that way, you know,” he said, raising his head so his tail slipped off it.


“Well, I could tell they were dissatisfied with my performance, and I was afraid they were going to…decommission me if I stayed, so I took off to leave there. And you’ll never believe what I saw when I started to take off!”

“Probably not, but try me anyway.”

“Try you? Do you mean…for dinner? Wouldn’t I get decommissioned for that for sure? Oh, I get it. It’s a Figure of Speech,” which is what he calls anything I say that he can’t understand.

“So I crouched down to take off, and looked up, and…the sun was getting eaten up by something! I didn’t know that was possible! It looked kind of like PacMan.” I got the feeling he’d be frowning in puzzlement, if his armored scales would allow him to frown. “I knew I couldn’t let them destroy the sun–the sun is very important, you know–so I took off to save it. I flew and flew, but I never got there…and I finally went blind. Then I tried to get away—and I flew and flew, but then I couldn’t fly anymore, and then I smelled roses, so I knew this must be your house, and then I started falling…and here I am.” He nosed blindly at his side. “I think my wings are melted.”

“So you have been on a Quest after all.”

“But I couldn’t save the sun.”

“I don’t know about that–it’s still up there as usual.”

“It is? Wow!” He looked very proud of himself. Well, as proud as you can look with limp wings.

“I’ll call your owner to come get you.” He began to croon, sounding like a cross between a purring cat and a baby raccoon.

She arrived quickly, in the specially-equipped red pickup truck, which has chains in the bed to secure him. (Mostly for his safety, we tell him.) After hugging his neck as he wrapped his tail around her, she said, “Now jump in the truck.”

“I can’t! My wings are melted, and I can’t see!”

She rolled her eyes. “They are not melted, you’re just tired from flying, and your eyes are just sunburned.” She turned to me. “This happened once before. I told him not to look at the sun, so he insisted on staring at it for half an hour. He was fine again in three days.”

As he–well, I guess “clambered” is the best word to use–into the truck bed, and she secured him (he whimpered a bit when she touched a wing), she told him, “You might have something to do once you’ve been refurbished.”

“Does refurbishing hurt?”

“Usually not. Guess what–the U.S. Army has expressed an interest! Would you like to go fight a war?’

He put his tail over his head again. “Not right now. I just want to eat a clown and go to bed.”

Disclaimer: No clowns have been harmed in the making of this story. Although maybe they should have been.