The Untimely Death of Commander Fluffy
A True Story
When my brother and I were younger, our toy budget was not very big. We were forced to make toys out of whatever was handy. One of the luxuries afforded to us was a small army of stuffed animals, which we collectively dubbed “huggies.” Where this term originated from is lost on me at this point in my life, but the important thing is that they represented our personal reflection on life as we saw it in the real world and especially in entertainment. From our two armadas of huggies, Merrick and I each chose an elite task force comprised of the smaller, pocket-sized animals.
My selection was called Hogan’s Heroes, a five-animal team consisting of a skunk (Hogan), a moose (Morgy), a blue bunny (Hippity-Hoppity), a crocheted pig (Truffles), and a toucan (Seafird). This team of commandos would invariably be pitted against diverse threats, from the common house cat to select rubber monsters from my airline carry-on bag of doom. Occasionally, Hogan’s Heroes clashed swords with Happy Harry’s Assault Team, a task force named after Merrick’s favoured stuffed lion. These commandos were outfitted with the latest in technological warfare…tiny cap guns and rifle-shaped pens that were perfectly to scale with their miniature stature, including satellite-guided boomerangs and a tiny set of handcuffs (a human might consider it a key chain). Hogan’s Heroes’ base of operations was adapted from a small set of shelves, complete with supercomputer and elevator. I recall the best office chairs were made from old styrofoam Big Mac containers–the kind they no longer make.
When we played at an even smaller scale, there was a whole new set of heroes. The playthings were tiny pom-poms with googly eyes affixed to them, and sometimes balls of lint that we fished out after a good load of laundry. When they dried, they would fluff out to become the protagonists in epic adventures of danger and intrigue.
One such hero was Commander Fluffy. This was Merrick’s most cherished tiny toy. Although Commander Fluffy was nothing more than a ball of animal fur, not exceeding an inch in diameter when dry, he himself had his own base of operations and even had his own space ship. The ship was a rather odd orange, bullet-shaped pill container that Merrick had painted up with some kind of star command logo…the cap did bear some resemblance to a thruster from a star destroyer. Commander Fluffy and his buddies went on many celebrated odysseys, and he was even the star of Merrick’s only childhood comic strip, called Space Wars and co-starring a snowman-like race of creatures called the “boing-boings”, who were united in defending the universe against the evil “blithens.”
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Merrick would once in the while let me play with Commander Fluffy and company (or, more likely, I would take without asking). One of the many challenges of working with Commander Fluffy was his size and malleability. As nothing more than fur, Commander Fluffy could be compacted into a very small area. Indeed, this was how he fit into his pill-ship. Once C. Fluffy was stuffed inside the ship, it would take no small amount of dexterity to fish him out. Usually this involved jamming a pen, cotton swab, or some other long utensil into the ship, but if those weren’t available, there was another method–sucking him out. This was a relatively simple process that involved putting your bared teeth up to the open pill-container and sucking till Commander Fluffy was forced against your teeth. Then you could simply grab the exposed fur and pull him out to fight crime and injustice in a cold, unforgiving universe. As I was to learn, this method was not foolproof.
One day, while Merrick was in fact nearby, I was using the sucking method to coax Commander Fluffy from his usual hiding place. (That sounds incredibly suggestive, but let’s continue.) On this specific occasion, I had forgotten to keep my teeth together, and I sucked him not only out of his ship, but into my throat as well. The look on my face was no doubt priceless as I realized that Commander Fluffy was halfway into my trachea, and by anyone’s standards, that was simply not right. Here I was, choking on one of our household’s greatest heroes, but my only thought was for my own survival. In a split second the involuntary reaction had been made, and Commander Fluffy was coughed from my trachea to my esophagus, and down into the warm wet hell that is my stomach. It didn’t take long for Merrick to realize what it was I was choking on, with Commander Fluffy’s ship still in hand, and it soon became painfully apparent that the danger I faced choking on Commander Fluffy was negligible compared to the wrath of my older brother at the loss of his champion.
It is a good thing that our mother was on hand to restrain Merrick, or I might not be typing this story today. How ironic that what the blithens had failed to do over the course of decades (in comic book time), I had managed to do quite by accident in a moment of carelessness. My own titanic breath had led to Commander Fluffy’s untimely demise, but even to this day I will never forget his poignant eulogy, as my brother put it so eloquently at the time of Fluffy’s passing: “Tory, you’re searching through your poo with a q-tip until you find Commander Fluffy!”