Muddy Prints

(Written for my friend Amy B. The character names are her irl children and dogs. She asked me to write a fun story including her dogs and this is the fun result. – K)

“Lash is out,” Ralph whispered, giving his sister, Charlotte a poke. “Wake up Char, c’mon.”

The sky outside the window was silvery gray. Morning was still a long way off and Lash was out. The Siberian husky had a habit of getting into trouble if Gomez, their golden wasn’t there to watch him. Ralph shook his sister again. This time she grumbled a bit before opening her eyes.

“S’morning?” she asked, rubbing at her eyes.

“No, Lash is out,” Ralph repeated. “C’mon. We gotta go get him.”

Charlotte tossed her covers off and slipped into her trainers. Ralph was in PJs, so she didn’t bother with clothes except for her jacket and her tiara. It was sparkly with a pink boa around it and she was convinced it was lucky. Besides, a princess would never be caught out of bed without hers. She pulled the covers farther back to reveal Gomez.

“Wake up, Gomez. We have to go out,” Charlotte told the dog.

Gomez got up and beat both children out of the room. Ralph stuffed a tiny Charmander into his pocket for luck and followed his royal sister. The house was silent except for children and dog out of bed but still, they kept quiet. It would go better for everyone if they caught Lash themselves and got everyone back into bed before breakfast.

Slipping out the back door, they stood and stared at the thick mist creeping up over everything. The trees seemed haunted, the slide seemed even more haunted and worse, there was no sign of Lash. Ralph whistled. Gomez’s floppy ears perked up but there was no answer from the husky.

“C’mon Char, he can’t have got far,” he whispered.

Charlotte adjusted her tiara to give herself a moment to think. “Wait Ralph, Gomez can find Lash. He’s a good tracker. Right?”

Gomez sneezed.

“See? He says he can,” Charlotte insisted.

Ralph started walking. “We don’t have time to mess around.”

Charlotte knelt down next to Gomez. “You are a big, good dog and you can find Lash, can’t you?”

Gomez huffed in her direction. Charlotte pet his head. Ralph rolled his eyes as the big dog sat down. Charlotte gently took hold of Gomez’s ears to get his attention. “There’s a treat in it for you.”

Gomez didn’t budge.

“Okay, two but that’s all I’ve got in my pockets,” Charlotte said, standing up.

Gomez sniffed the air before taking off down the road. The look Charlotte gave Ralph was very annoying. But he followed his sister as she took off running after Gomez. The air smelled wet like rain was coming but Ralph thought it felt too still. He couldn’t hear a single thing rustling. All the animals were asleep still, or gone. He put on a burst of speed to keep up. There was no way he wanted to get left behind when everything was so eerie.

Gomez didn’t stop at the edge of their property but dove headlong into the trees. Charlotte had grabbed his tail to keep him from getting too far ahead. The dog took this with a limited amount of dignity, occasionally stopping to give the human puppy an annoyed eye roll. Charlotte would roll her eyes back and he would be off again.

“We can’t go too far,” Ralph said.

“Can too, if Gomez says so,” Charlotte replied. “We’re already in trouble.”

“What’s a little more?” Ralph replied, snorting as his sister shrugged.

Gomez stopped. He stood stock still and the twilight bleached the yellow out of his coat, making him look for an instant like a stone statue. He stood before a circle of mushrooms, tail low and straight. Ralph pulled Charlotte back before she entered the ring. In the center of it were two large pawprints. Ralph pulled Charlotte back to see where the pawprints entered the circle.

“Lash went that way,” Charlotte said, pointing to the opposite side of the ring.

Ralph shook his head. “No Char, Lash went in this way, but he didn’t come out the other side. There’d be more prints.”

“Dogs don’t just disappear Ralph,” she said and moved forward.

Gomez growled and Charlotte turned to comfort the big dog. Ralph examined the ring from all angles. It was wide enough for a bunch of people to have a picnic inside. It smelled like mushrooms and wet grass. Gomez growled when he touched a mushroom, warning him away.

“Lash is in there,” he told his sister and dog. “It’s a fairy ring.”

Fairies are nice,” Charlotte said. “Like Tinkerbell.”

“Right, are you sure?” Ralph asked Char because he wasn’t convinced.

“Mm-hmm,” she said, bobbing her head. “‘Sides, I’m a princess. They especially like princesses.”

Ralph didn’t know anything about fairies. He liked nice normal things like numbers and video games. Charlotte was good with animals and fairies were a sort of animal. Plus, he trusted Charlotte.  “Okay, but we go together. Hold hands.”

Gomez disagreed. Rumbling, he wouldn’t move, going so far as to sit flat, facing home. Charlotte took Ralph’s hand and led them into the center of the ring. At first, they just stood in the center of the grass but the air shimmered and Lash appeared. Lash barked and crashed into them, knocking them to the grass.

“Down boy!” Charlotte exclaimed while high voices giggled around them.

Ralph got Lash to sit and spotted a boy with dragonfly wings sitting around the dog’s neck. The boy has pointed ears, bright green eyes and wore a pair of jeans and a Minecraft Tee. He also had a tiny gold crown on his head. In the air around them, more fairies were fluttering around the circle. They were all colors and wore normal people clothes.

Charlotte was mesmerized. “Wow!”

“Dance! Play,” a girl fairy commanded.

The circle expanded and they couldn’t see poor Gomez in the grass anymore. Instead, they spotted a square for dancing next to a horseshoe pit. Beyond the pit was a fire where several strange creatures with hooves for feet were roasting marshmallows on sticks. Ralph saw groups of fairies carrying large hoops and dipping them into soap to create giant bubbles.

“Look! That’s why Lash ran in here! Silly dog can’t resist bubbles!” Charlotte squealed as Lash jumped and popped bubbles.

Gales of laughter escaped the fairies. Charlotte jumped and popped a few herself as Ralph watched nervously. This was cool but if they couldn’t see the ring any longer, how could they get back to Gomez? How would they get back home?

“All dance and play to honor the king!” the girl fairy commanded.

A ball landed in his arms. It was small but the right size for kicking, so he kicked it back to a group of tiny gnomes in red or green hats. They beckoned him over. Not wanting to be rude and seeing the girl fairy still hovering, he joined the game.

They played for hours. Charlotte found herself and Lash draped in flower crowns while Ralph was shown how to play ten pins. Fairies were good fun and had loads of sweets on offer. Charlotte ate a fluffy frosted purple cake. Ralph stuck to the weird sour hard candies and Lash ate whatever no one else wanted.

Breathing heavy after another round of horseshoes, the kids sat on the grass and grinned at each other. Fairies started curling up in balls around them. Some snored softly while others quietly talked to one another while drinking dandelion tea. It was clear that the party was coming to an end.

The boy in the crown bowed low before Charlotte. “Your majesty,” he said, “you have honored me. But the party has ended.” He winked. “I love a princess at my parties.”

“Your majesty,” Charlotte said and bowed low. She kicked Ralph in the shins until he bowed too.

The king grinned and disappeared.

The girl fairy who had commanded them to play appeared. Her long pink hair floated in the breeze her glittery dragonfly wings made as she hovered near them. She smiled brightly. With a bow, she waved a wand around the circle. They blinked and spotted Gomez, still sulking in the tall grass.

Lash barked. Gomez flicked an ear. Lash barked again. Gomez hopped up and spun to see the two children and the Siberian Husky. He huffed very disapprovingly at them. Lash licked his ear and set off toward home, not worried at all about the trouble he had caused.

Gomez, with a dignified sniff, herded the children back down the path where the mist was lifting. Charlotte looked at the sky. “How long were we gone, Ralph?”

“Hours,” he replied.

“Still dark,” Charlotte whispered back.

They reached the house and the lights weren’t on. Lash was by the back door, waiting with bright, knowing eyes.

“Could be the next day?” Ralph wondered.

“Mom would have called the police,” Charlotte argued.

“Yeah,” Ralph agreed. “Should we tell them?”

Charlotte grinned at her brother. “No.” To Lash, she said, “Thanks for letting us meet your friends.”

With an eye roll, Lash went inside. Gomez did not follow. He did block the kids way back inside. Charlotte tried to go around the dog but he wouldn’t budge.

“Move! We can’t get in trouble now!” Charlotte growled.

Gomez growled back and nosed her pockets.

“You owe him two treats,” Ralph reminded her.

“He’s going to get us in trouble,” Charlotte replied.

“Not if you feed him,” Ralph said.

“Oh, alright,” Charlotte agreed. “I did promise.”

She handed the dog the treats and he inhaled them before Lash could turn up. Dropping his jaw in a doggy smile, he let the human puppies return to their beds. He joined Charlotte under the covers.

In the morning, they got grounded. Muddy footprints had given them away and parents don’t believe in fairies.

The End.

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