After a sausage dinner, the silvery moon disappeared behind a cloud of midnight.
Fluffikins took off his good coat. “Let’s clean up, Florence.”
“Goodbye!” said the chickens.
“Thank you for dinner!” called Fluffikins. Florence remembered manners after a swift nudge.
The chickens disappeared beyond the dunes. The volleyball cows also disappeared. The cricket-playing pigs pulled out their stumps and sloped off.
A chill breeze filled the air.
Fluffikins stopped in his tracks. “Where’s our slipper? Oh no! Where the fluffy kitten is our slipper dinghy? How will we row back to the dangling dog leash without our slipper? If we can’t row back to the leash, we will never get back home!”
“Hmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if a hole opened up in the sand and swallowed it down in one gulp,” said Florence, not at all urgently.
“Stop it!” cried Fluffikins. “I’ve had about enough of your fantastical stories!”
Just then a hole opened up in the sand, some ten or fifteen metres inland from the churning surf. The sand gobbled up one wet towel, twisted, lonely and abandoned by the family of sheep-people.
“They won’t see that towel again,” said Florence, as if she knew anything about anything. “What a waste of a good fluffy snout wiper.”
“You don’t know what goes on in this place!” Fluffikins shouted, his voice half muted by the rising wind.
“I do. It says right here on this pamphlet, about Slipper Island’s infamous geofrigid suckholes—”
But Fluffikins wasn’t listening to fun facts about suckholes. “You and your bonehead ideas, diving headlong into magical dog-dishes without a second thought! Why couldn’t you just drink out of a cup like a regular girl? Why do you pretend to be so… doggy? I’m over it!”
Even through the darkness, and through the downy fur sprouted across Florence’s cheeks, Fluffikins could see the colour drain from her face. Florence was usually a shouty sort of dog-person. She was also a run away and slam the door sort of dog-person. He had never seen her turn white before.
This time, Florence was not just mad.
She was gutted.
“I’m sorry, Florence,” Fluffikins said at once.
Florence turned her back and marched towards the line of palm trees looming dark and tall beyond the sand dunes.
“I didn’t mean any of that. I’m just scared! Wait for me!”
As Fluffikins caught up, Florence dropped down onto all fours to run faster.
She’d heard these accusations all her life — from her parents, from her teachers, from strangers at the mall. Why can’t you just be normal? She didn’t need to hear them from her very best friend. She needed space.
Behind them, discarded items disappeared one by one — a crushed can of lemonade, an empty packet of chewing gum, each sucked into the sand.
Florence and Fluffikins sprinted through a gap in the trees. They jumped over fallen logs, stomped through ferns, disturbed some parrot-people settling down to sleep.
Fluffikins stopped to apologise to the parrots but Florence sprinted ahead.
“Wait, Florence, wait!”
Fluffikins had lost sight of her now, and if he didn’t have Florence he had nothing at all (except for this dapper brown coat and a pair of spectacles).