Paint Your Dragon
that might be the case,’ the dragon replied. ‘Which is precisely why I’m in plain clothes and looking for a job. You see, I have things to do in the here and now. Once they’re done, I’m off somewhere and when a bit less paranoid. While I’m here, though, I thought a job’d help pass the time and help me blend in.’
    â€˜Very wise. So,’ Mr Kortright went on, steepling his fingers, ‘where are we at? Ex-dragon. Ex-dragon. Now then, let me see.’
    The dragon waited patiently while Mr Kortright played with his computer.
    â€˜Any luck?’
    Mr Kortright pursed his lips. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘like I say to all the kids just starting out in the business, when you’re trying to make your way, sometimes you’ve gotta do things you’d rather not. You sure about poltergeisting?’
    â€˜Shucks. Hey, what’s this?’ He peered at the screen. ‘I can get you six weeks’ volcanic activity in Hawaii, covering for the local fire-god while he takes his kids to Disneyland. All you gotta do is lie on your back and blow up through a small hole.’
    â€˜Sorry. Got to be in this country. Anyway, where’s Hawaii?’
    â€˜Please yourself. Gonna be difficult, though. How do you feel about hallucinations?’
    â€˜I beg your pardon?’
    â€˜Hallucinations. For health-conscious druggies. All the weird visions without actually taking the drug. Growth area, steady work.’
    â€˜Not really me, somehow. I’d feel self-conscious. Besides, don’t you have to be a pink elephant?’
    â€˜Boy, are you behind the times.’ Mr Kortright frowned, and tapped a few more keys. ‘Okay, okay, you’re gonna love this. This is really so you. Security guard.’
    â€˜Security guard?’
    â€˜It says here, traditional security guard needed for substantial art collection. Full board. The successful applicant will be at least fourteen feet long, green and covered in scales. No time wasters. There now, what can I say?’
    â€˜Okay,’ said the dragon. ‘When can I start?’
    George sailed through the air in a graceful arc and landed in a dustbin. Behind him came a voice, warmly recommending that he stay out. After a short pause for regrouping, he climbed out, brushed trash off his person and staggered away down the alley.
    Seems like old times, he said to himself, getting slung out of drinking establishments. Some things had changed, of course; for one thing, getting slung out was now a whole lot easier. Definitely a regrettable tendency to over-react.
    His mind drifted back to the bars of his youth. Pendle’s, the roughest saints’ bar in Albion. The Caerllyr Grill. The Grendel’s Torso. What the hell was wrong with this goddamn country?
    Half an hour’s slouching, lurching and bumping into things brought him back to Victoria Square, and he realised that he didn’t have anywhere to sleep for the night. He saw...
    â€˜Immediately,’ said Mr Kortright. ‘Here’s the address. Do well.’
    The dragon trotted down the stairs into the street and whistled. A moment later, a huge green shape, flying faster than the wind, descended on him and he vanished.
    ... An empty plinth. He thought of his nice warm statue; good, solid marble that didn’t wobble about all over the place like this blasted cheapskate flesh-and-blood outfit did. Climbing the plinth, he sighed, closed his eyes and was stone once more.
    â€˜I’m not saying,’ said Chubby Stevenson, his brain racing, ‘it’s impossible. Nothing’s impossible. All I’m saying is, it’s going to be tricky.’
    Fifteen impassive Japanese faces regarded him, until he began to feel like asking for his blindfold and last cigarette. These people, he realised, don’t want to hear this. Pity.
    â€˜It’s all to do,’ he continued, cramming charm

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