“I really don’t like the smell of this hoam,” piped Fluffikins. “Mouldy walls and a clogged toilet. Roaches in the bath, weevils through the bikkies…”
Florence had never appreciated Fluffy’s snobbish tendencies. Why sure, the shack might need a coat of paint. A few rotting boards could be replaced. And the front yard? Florence saw potential.
“What’s wrong with it?” Florence asked.
“What’s wrong with it? That’s a skull and crossbones!”
“Maybe someone LIKES crossbones. Don’t judge others for the things they love.”
Fluffikins considered this. He himself was secretly partial to bones.
A gruff voice rang out from the second storey, disturbing the peace and quiet.
“Um, I don’t think this is us,” said Fluffikins. “Look at this letterbox. Number thirteen. Our house would be number eleven.”
Happily, the cute gabled house next door featured dormer windows and a manicured lawn. It also had a letterbox with two golden number ones bolted onto the front.
“Bone plus bone makes eleven,” said Florence. “This is our kennel, for sure.” She had dreamed of this place. She knocked with confidence on the door.
“Your actual house is green,” Fluffy piped. “This one is grey and dog-belly pink. And also, just saying, we’re still on the WRONG SIDE of the dog-dish.”
No one answered the door. Florence took this as a good sign. She had always known that one day she’d have her own kennel-house, and it would be painted a fetching grey and dog-belly pink.
“I do have a key, actually.” Florence reached into the pocket of her Halloween costume and opened her palm-pad to display…
“A paw key! Well, it worked for the flying slipper.”
But Florence’s finger-claws did not work as a door key.
So Florence sniffed about, as real dogs do. That’s how she found the flap in the door. “Too big for a cat, exactly right for medium-sized dogs! What you waiting for, Fluffy? I smell creamy cuppas waiting for us inside, and a squishy-squashy bed for day naps.”
Mention of naps made Fluffikins yawn.
Florence sucked in her haunches and squeezed herself through the flap.
Fluffikins didn’t want to break into someone else’s house. But then he noticed a very bossy door mat. He remembered his puppy obedience lessons. He’d better do as he was told.
“Okay. Fine, fine. Fluffy coming through!”
“How about this?” said Florence. “The vase is the same as the one at my parents’ house.”
“Before you accidentally smashed it. Yes. Now put it back, Florence. Easy does it.”
“And that tapestry, ain’t that the same too? Except these jokers can spell just as good as you, Fluffball.”
“Ugh.” Fluffikins noticed the water dish. “That’s one of your father’s work shoes in there. That’s unhygienic. What if someone needed a drink?”
Florence examined the shoe in the dog dish. Yes, this was the same sort of sensible lace-up favoured by Mr Mutt. The other sat neatly on the rack. The shoes on the rack were the same as those at home in The Real World, but shaped to fit the feet of dog people. “There’s something else in the water,” she said.
“Back away from the dog-dish, Florence.”
Come to think of it, this was the exact same coat rack in the very same entrance hall, only this was the back-to-front doggy version.
Fluffikins wandered into the kitchen, which he found on the right, not the left.
“This is testing my spatial reasoning,” he muttered, opening each cupboard in search of cups. He filled the kettle, switched it on and reached for a box of tea.
“Oooh,” he said. “Look at this vast selection! Florence!” he called, “What would you like? We’ve got dognip, fermented grass, smoked howling, oolong poodle… Florence?”
But Florence was exploring the rest of the house. She had already sniffed around the nooks and crannies on the first floor. Now she dashed upstairs.
She located her back-to-front bedroom. This is the room she’d always wished for! A comfy dog bed with plenty of extra space for jumping about. Dogs never have to make their beds in the morning. They get out of bed, give themselves a shake and they’re ready to face the day.
The walls of Florence’s back-to-front bedroom were painted a rich pooey brown with paw prints as accents. Come to think of it, these paw prints reminded her of the wall-walking lizard. Oh well. She might redecorate.
From her window, Florence had a great view of the back yard. A warm morning light streamed in. Then she spied something WONDERFUL. There it was, under a big tree…
An outhouse! For pooing outside, in nature! Florence’s dreams were really coming true.
Then she examined the bedroom and noticed her new dresser. It wasn’t like the one she had at home.
This back-to-front dresser was polished and gleaming, with no clutter. Just a single precious item on display. It was a photograph, framed in gold.
This must be a brand new frame, straight from the shops. Someone had forgotten to remove the stock photograph.
WAIT JUST A SOCKDARN SECOND.
This girl was sitting in FLORENCE’S back yard, at FLORENCE’S home! This was the swing set FLORENCE kept asking for!
This was no child model.
This was FLORENCE.
Dog-girl Florence grabbed the photo in both paw-hands and sniff-peered harder. In the background, sitting near the vegetable garden at home was a fluffy, grey-brindle dog, brushed to within an inch of his life.
The brushed dog looked lovingly at the Perfect Florence, but Perfect Florence didn’t care about the dog. She was looking good for the camera. She smiled her perfect smile with a perfect set of human choppers.
Doggy-Florence scampered downstairs.
“Fluffikins!” she yelled. “Fluffeeeeee! Prepare to be creeped out!”