Fluffikins would not describe himself as a thrill-seeker. He would rather avoid adventure than eat sausages.
That said, he would not let his best friend Florence fall headfirst and alone into a dog-dish. What if something happened to her? What if he was not there to save her?
Unlike Florence, Fluffikins had never been to swimming lessons. He did once slip a little when getting into the bath, which is the most adventure he’d had at sea.
So when he dive-bombed into the dog dish, he screamed like a blocked-up vacuum cleaner.
Florence held out an arm-leg and hauled him into the slipper.
“See how nice it is, bobbing about in a boat?” she said.
Fluffikins took off the coat and gave a wibbly shake. He hated that Florence was making him act like a dog, and no one had prepared a towel.
“Just… take us to the sausages.”
“We both have to paddle with our paw-hands,” Florence said, “otherwise we’ll go round and round in circles.”
After a few minutes of yelling at each other they worked out how to row to shore in a reasonably straight line.
They got caught in zero rips and did not see a single shark.
On shore, a herd of bovine types played beach volleyball.
A drove of piggy people were setting up for a round of cricket.
On top of the dunes, a family of chicken-y types crouched on picnic rugs. The rooster wore a plastic apron and sipped on wheat beer.
Florence and Fluffikins jumped out of the slipper and waded in to shore. They dragged the slipper onto the sand.
A few creatures glanced in their direction. They might have looked longer except it’s rude to stare. Fluffikins tried not to stare back. Not Florence. Florence always stares at things that smell interesting. She stares with her eyes AND with her nostrils.
EVERYONE here was part human, part animal. Until now Florence and Fluffikins had always been alone in their part-humanness.
Florence tugged at the damp sleeve of Fluffy’s coat. (We might as well start calling it “Fluffy’s coat” now, because let’s face it, Mr Mutt will never get it back.)
“Here comes trouble,” said Florence, pointing down the beach.
Fluffikins doesn’t want this recorded, but he let out another
little gentlemanly scream. A three-headed creature was gallomphing towards them!
The multi-headed monster wasn’t making good progress, mainly owing to his THREE HEADS and also the way his Roman sandals were sinking into soft sand. Still, Florence and Fluffikins knew they’d better start running soon if they didn’t want to become three medium-sized bites of very average sushi.
“Now is no time for riddles, Florence! Make haste! Make haste!”
“Three headed… this is the sort of word you think you’ll never need, then you find yourself stuck on a crossword. Not triplets. No, triplets have separate bodies as well as separate h—”
Fluffikins yanked Florence by the tail.
“Oi! Watch the wagger! Also, we might as well relax. The three-headed monster is here now. He — or they — stand before us. OMINOUSLY.”
The three-headed monster was on all fours, panting slightly. The cloud of sand settled in his wake.
“I’m… no… monster.” he panted. “I’m a… Bactrian camel-person. Important addendum: I am not three-headed. I possess but one lonely head. Meet my two fatty humps, Horace and Howard.”
The humps said nothing.
“They’re shy around strangers,” whispered the camel. “But at least they have each other.”
Florence and Fluffikins said a solemn hello to the hairy, fatty humps.
Smart-Aleck though she was, Florence had never seen anyone with closable nostrils before. Those would come in handy when sprinting along a touristy beach on a breezy evening.
When he calmed down, Fluffikins wondered if the camel’s lashes were stick-ons. (He wasn’t rude enough to ask, so we’ll never know.)
“Welcome to Slipper Island,” said the camel-person getting down to business. “Passports, please.”
“Passports?” Fluffikins looked up and down the beach for a port. There was no port. No port to pass. Ergo, no need for passports.
“Pass-ports,” repeated the camel, reaching for a clipboard from under his pelt of woolly hair. At that very moment, a hole opened up in the sand.
A podium appeared.
The camel-person stood behind it and cleared his throat. “Welcome to Port Slipper. I am Border Patrol. Show me your passports or I’ll send you back out to sea.”
Florence was horrified. Sausages had never seemed so close yet so far away.
“What about my sausages, CAMEL-MAN? TAKE ME TO THE TREATS!”
“We’ll be heading off, then,” said Fluffikins. He wasn’t sure about this place. Not sure at all. He’d never seen Slipper Island marked on maps. He hadn’t seen it mentioned in books. “Bye bye, beautiful camel! Lovely to meet you, Horace, Howard.”
Florence grabbed Fluffikins by the coat tail (which is only one step up from being grabbed by the ACTUAL tail).
“Passports, passports, passports,” she muttered to herself, salivating and licking her chops. She riffled through Fluffy’s coat pockets, wondering if Mr Mutt had by some slim chance left the travel documents in there from the last time they went on holiday.
I’ll tell you how much of a long shot. Fluffikins was not even the owner of a passport. He’d holidayed at the ‘dog hotel’. The view was poor but he did get to sleep in a proper bed. No passport needed.
Florence gave Fluffikins a thorough pat-down. She has terrible ticklers for paw-hands.
And Fluffikins is hopelessly ticklish.
Florence did find something! It was hidden in an inside pocket!
It was just a crumpled receipt.
“So this is what my parents get up to when they go on date night. They eat delicious foods in fancy restaurants, and all without me! I don’t even got me a doggy bag, not one single time!” Florence shot the camel a rancid look, like it was his fault.
“Meanwhile, I go on a date night with my best dog friend and don’t even score a sausage. Not one single MEASLY sausage. What kind of island restaurant even is this?”
Fluffikins felt a little bit glad. He was someone’s Best Friend! He had never had one of those before. That said, he wasn’t one to write, direct and market an entire DRAMATIC PRODUCTION over a SAUSAGE.
“I said let’s go, Florence! You did score a whole bag of Meaty Morsels this evening. You know, owing to Halloween?”
“Morsels, schmorsels. That was half an hour ago. That don’t count.”
“Is that where you’re from?” asked the camel, poising to scribble something onto his clipboard. “The Real World?”
“Give me a squint at that receipt,” said the camel.
He fondled the end of his pencil with distractingly agile lips.
“Mongolian On High Street. I know that joint. You DO hail from The Real World! This receipt serves as evidence.” He whipped a rubber stamp from his trouser pocket and slammed it onto the back of the receipt.
Then he stamped in the date.
“The first of nothing, no-thousand and zero. You forgot to set your stamp thing,” said Florence, handing it back.
The camel sighed. He heard this every day of the week. “That is not today’s date,” he sighed. “That zero-ness marks the first day of the rest of your lives.”