05 What Florence Did At School


“Remember Florence, sit still like a statue for the VERY special school photo your parents are paying for.”
“Hey look, a birdy!”

When Florence turned six she was legally required to attend big school. So off she went. 

Florence had not been popular at preschool. Big school presented its own problems. 

“Florence Mutt! Stop that right now!” said the teacher.

“I do not answer to Florence. I answer to Big Madam Wolf Florence.”

Everyone laughed.

That’s how Florence Mutt discovered she loved to scare other children. The truth is, they loved to be scared. It was what you call a ‘mutual arrangement’. 

But the teacher — and their parents — did not know this.

One day Florence took things TOO FAR. 

Mr Teacher was trying to explain how to count by tens when he was RUDELY interrupted.

Do you know why Florence had caught fleas? Guess who she carried around in her backpack.

“Don’t be silly, class,” said the teacher. “Of course Florence does not have fleas. Only pets have fleas, and Florence is not a pet.”

“She does! She does got fleas!” said the children, whose eyes were closer to the floor. “There one goes right now, hopping across the carpet!”

“Perhaps Florence has head lice,” said the teacher in calm-voice. “Do you have an itchy head, Florence?”

Everyone laughed, which is why it felt great to have fleas. Everyone laughed EXCEPT the teacher, who was still trying to teach how to count in tens.

“Take yourself to the cloak room, Florence. I will finish my sentence without you here to distract everyone. Then I will check you for head lice, just to be sure. Also, we don’t talk about butts. ‘Butt’ is not a nice word.” 

“But—”

“Go, Florence!” snapped the teacher, who was normally more patient at this hour of the morning.

In the cloak room, everyone’s backpack hung on a hook. Each student had their own name label shaped like their favourite animal. Apart from Florence, lots of kindergarten kids had chosen a label in the shape of a dog. But (and there really was no escaping that word) she was the only kid in the whole entire school who also had a dog shaped like a BACK PACK. Or rather, a dog INSIDE her backpack, pushing against the canvas. 

Fluffikins didn’t mind it in there really.  Sure it was a little cramped, and the locker room smelled of peeled mandarins*, but with his super-canine hearing he could listen to the lessons coming through the wall. 

* Fluffikins does not like the smell of citrus in general.

By now Fluffikins could sing the alphabet as well as Florence could. He would soon be able to count all the way to sixteen (without even using his dew claws).

Florence wasn’t so good at listening in class. Each night, Fluffikins would fill in the gaps Florence had missed when she was acting the goat. Or rather, when she was acting the dog.

Back in the classroom, Mister Teacher finished what he was saying to the rest of the class. He told Florence (and Fluffikins’) classmates to choose a reading book from the rack. He then joined Florence in the locker room. 

“Let me see this mop of hair,” said Mister Teacher, rubbing his palms together in preparation for a big job. 

“No.”

“It’s not going to hurt, Florence. I will very carefully part your hair with my most gentle fingers.”

“I don’t GOT itchy hair,” Florence insisted. “I really do got a itchy b— ‘rump’.”

Mister nodded slowly and grimly. 

He clenched a little and stepped backwards.

“Worms. Sounds like intestinal worms. Nothing to panic about, though. Deep breath, deep breath.” Mister took a few deep breaths, to show Florence how breathing is done. “Go to the girls’ bathroom and wash both hands thoroughly with soap and water. Be sure to dig your fingernails into the soap, clean right under those nails.”

“I don’t got nails either,” said Florence. “I do got claws though.” She held out her paw-hands to prove her point, but the teacher wanted nowhere near them for some reason.

“Just go and clean yourself up, Florence. Then I’ll call a parent to tell them about your worms.”

“But I don’t GOT worms,” Florence hollered. “I got one single itchy BUTTOCK. Look!”

With that Florence edged down her double-kneed fleecy track pants just a little. 

The luxurious, fluffy tail POPPED OUT by accident.

Mister screamed, then fell backwards onto the backpacks.

“Ow!” Fluffikins could not hold in a small scream if a fully-grown teacher fell against him.  

Now Mister Teacher was screaming quite a lot himself. “What… or who is inside your back pack, Florence? Who!”

Seventeen faces appeared in the locker room doorway, in time to see Fluffikins pull himself out of Florence’s backpack, adjusting the nerd glasses he had just found flying through the air. 

Fortunately, no one noticed Florence’s tail, which she had stuffed back into her pants.

Naturally, Mrs Mutt received another dreaded phone call about all this. 

“Mrs Mutt, I need you both here at school to discuss your dog’s behaviour… What?… Oh dear. I am so sorry, I mean ‘daughter’. We need to discuss your daughter’s behaviour. And also the animal… The pet she has stuffed inside her back pack.”

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