Saturday, 24 April 2010

Catch the Pigeon!

In the Asylum for Cartoon Heroes, an old Dick Dastardly sits on a wooden chair against a side wall. Two lamps in the corners of the wall shine away, leaving him in a dim obscurity. The other heroes try to avoid him, finding other things to do, gathering in bunches and doing what is generically termed as "old people stuff". Dastardly is not mad, nor has he ever caused any trouble. He will answer you if you talk to him, but he is regarded as just too grumpy to be around. All will tell you that there is something on his mind, something that they just don't want to find out what it is.

There are exceptions, like our little anonymous villain that nobody can remember seeing in an actual cartoon and, thus, ignore him as well. We'll just call him Squirt. He is new to the asylum, just three weeks, and hasn't quite gotten in with the crowd. Dick Dastardly has been his idol ever since he began his career, so you can imagine his excitement when seeing him here. However, he hasn't had the guts to approach him until the ignorance of his fellow heroes had left him kind of lonely.

Dastardly didn't even notice Squirt when he first talked to him. Staring somewhere far into the room, he only moved his eyes from side to side, as though he had heard an unknown sound from somewhere. Squirt called out louder: "Excuse me, Mister Dastardly!" The veteran turned his head slowly and lowered it to where he had heard the sound. "Hmmmm?" he muttered, with an expression that, if you had known him well, you would instantly recognise as showing that he was very surprised.

"Hello, Mr. Dick Dastardly... sorry to bother you... I only wanted to...." He was interrupted by a cough. "Oh... sorry... it seems you don't want to be bothered right now."

"No, do go one, hehehe... I was just so surprised that someone would come up to me. It took me unprepared. Heheheeheheee."

Recognising Dastardly's characteristic laugh, Squirt felt more confident. "I'm a really big fan of yours and...."

"And you want my autograph. Very well."

"No, no. I just wanted to ask you a few things. It is an honour for me to talk with you."

"Aha, I see. But... who are you?"

"Oh, it doesn't matter. You've probably never heard of me."

"Very well then. What is it you wanted to talk about? Iheeheehee."

"Hahaha", Squirt laughed heartily. "That laugh may have toned down with the age, but it sure still does have that devilish ring to it." A short pause ensued as he waited for a reaction which never came. "Please tell me. You were in the races at first. But when it was going so well for you, you disappeared. What happened?"

"I won."

"....Oh....", Squirt acknowledged with a dumb look on his face for not thinking of the obvious short answer.

"Yes, I finally won. And after that it all felt so pointless. What was the meaning to cheating any more when I had proven it works? The thrill of racing was gone. There is nowhere to go from first place. I had reached the top, and the only way to go next is out. If you don't want to go back down that is, eeeheeeheeeheee."

"You are right! So then you joined the Vulture Squadron."

"Precisely. The best team I ever had and the best job, too. I could do it for days on end. And I did."

"Until you retired that is."

"Yes, yes, until I retired and came here. I have done other miscellaneous things during that period, but those were just hobbies of mine. See this medal?" He pointed to the shiny metal on his chest. "That is what symbolises my life's accomplishments and shows that I did not live with nothing to show for it." Indeed, despite being a veteran, the old man did not look run-down at all, except for the obvious wrinkles and grey moustache. The spotlessly kept uniform and the brightly polished medal, and, of course, the hearty laugh, gave the appearance of a man in almost all his powers.

"Speaking of medals... where's Muttley?"

Dastardly's eyes opened up, grew big and stared down the hall. He quickly recovered form the surprise of hearing that name after so long. "He... he..." his voice stuttered. "He died." If his eyes hadn't been dried by the sands of time, you could probably see a salty tear run down that crusty cheek. Then he continued, looking straight at a random spot on the floor. "Of old age. Dogs don't live as much as us. We buried him along with his medals. How he loved those medals! Hehehehe. He was a lovely mutt!"

"Uhm..." Realising his mistake and not wanting to stir deeper into the memories, Squirt changed the subject. "But did you ever catch that Pigeon?"

Dastardly's eyes switched to him, looking sharply through him. They blinked fast three times, then a pause, and another blink. "Er, no." he answered, with no show of emotion whatsoever.

"No?!" Squirt jumped intrigued.

"No. You can't. It's impossible."

"But... The achievements, the medal... I thought you...."

"You can't catch the Pigeon!" Dastardly pronounced categorically. "It flies high above in the sky. It has wings. It blends in with everything around it. It is part of the sky and it is the sky, in all its entirety. You can't catch the sky. Therefore you can't catch the Pigeon."

Squirt was starting to feel like he should have left his courage at home this morning and that he should have just tried to blend in with the rest of the crowd. The captain was obviously cuckoo.

"The Pigeon has wings, while we have to build these blasted machines. We can never get them right. However good we build them we can never achieve the perfection of the wings. It's like I always told Klunk: I hope this dumb invention is better than your last dumb invention. I think he finally got it."

Squirt was totally lost and had absolutely no idea what to say next. If only he could just turn around and be gone.

The window on the right wall, as Dastardly was looking, opened up and a bright light shone in. Seven trumpets blew and a splendid white bird flew in. Its feathers were impeccable, the wings sparkled as they fluttered in mid-air, delivering a delightful sound to Dastardly's ears. The flapping almost slowed down time to a halt, capturing each moment in a frame, before the Pigeon flew out the opposing window, carrying away its forever unknown message.

Dick Dastardly leaned back, exclaiming just one word: "Beautiful!", before closing his eyes and his mouth into a smile.

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