The Canal Faeries
Riding a dog is a lot like riding a bike. Except, a dog doesn’t have wheels, handlebars or brakes. And a bike doesn’t have teeth.
This dog’s teeth were doing their best to bite the head off the little faery who was holding tight to its fur. Fanta’s bright orange hair flew in the wind as she held on. She only needed to last a little longer, just until the dog reached its favourite patch of grass beside the towpath. Without warning, the dog stopped and squatted. It immediately forgot about the faery on its back, it was busy with its own business.
The dog scampered off leaving Fanta alone with her prize. For a couple of moments, she leaned against the tree pulling fur from her hair and picking her nails with a tiny knife. Then, through the trees, there came a heavy panting noise. It got louder and louder and closer and closer until, suddenly, a very tiny, very sweaty man appeared. He was pulling a rickety old cart which seemed to be made of shopping trolly wheels and soggy cardboard.
“Mac!” Fanta beamed at him, “Where’ve you been? The prize is getting cold.”
“It’s” the tiny sweaty man took a few gulps of breath, “BIG” and then another raspy breath, “Mac”.
“Oh… I am sorry. I always forget.” She grinned down at the little man who was at least a head shorter than her. “Where’ve you been… BIG Mac?”
He hefted the cart around and squeakily wheeled it towards the steaming brown pile.
“Ach, just get on with it,” muttered the very short BIG Mac.
With a flourish, Fanta pulled a gleaming shovel from her backpack. In a single movement, she scooped the entire brown pile onto the back of Mac’s cart.
“We’re the first to see any muck all week. And you wouldn’t have found it without my dog riding skills.” Fanta smirked, “Aren’t you glad you got paired with me, Big Mac?”
“Ah, hold yer weesht! We ain’t done yet.” For the first time since he arrived, a wide toothy (and slightly evil) smile spread across Big Mac’s dirty face. “We still gotta deliver the cargo.”
Together, they hauled the squeaky cart back to the tow path. They hid themselves in a big patch of nettles just below a large poster saying,
No Dog Fouling
Maximum fine: £1000
By order of the official Community Dog Poo Warden: Mr Cooper (the Pooper Scooper)
Fanta and Mac ignored the poster. Mostly because they couldn’t read. But even if they could, they still would have ignored it.
“Jogger coming up from the north,” Big Mac wheezed viciously, “Brand new white trainers. And he ain’t lookin where he’s puttin’ his feet.”
“We gotta kid. Looks like a finger-poker to me.” Big Mac could barely keep his voice to a whisper as a little boy toddled past. The boy was holding a twig which was, at that moment, rummaging deep inside his left nostril.
“Not him either…” Fanta was scanning up and down the path, “THERE!”
Big Mac’s eyes followed the direction Fanta was pointing and his smile grew suddenly even wider and even toothier. A tall man with a beard and long hair was walking slowly towards them. He was wearing sandals.
“A toe-squelcher!” Mac cackled, “A real toe-squelcher! I ain’t done one of ‘em for years.”
The little man chuckled evilly to himself as he carefully lined up the cart.
“Come on!” Fanta hissed, “He’s almost past!”
“Just a little to the left…”
“Just a little more and… NOW!”
Fanta pulled down hard on the handles of the cart and the little brown pile launched into the air. It flew gracefully out of the nettle patch. And with a tiny plop, it landed right on the spot where a big, sandled, left foot was about to step down.
In the gloomy light of dusk, Fanta could just make out the far side of the canal. She hauled her little rat-skin canoe out of its hiding place and leapt in, without even rippling the water. Mac followed and caused a small tidal wave to swamp the tiny boat.
“Blasted scum water,” he growled angrily pulling off his grimey little shoe and wringing out his sodden sock.
“Oh Mac, your poor soggy toes,” Fanta’s smile was suspiciously sweet for someone who’d just been soaked with canal water herself, “Don’t worry. I’ll paddle us across.”
Mac was far too old and far too grumpy to fall for Fanta’s kindness. But he was also already standing on one foot on a tiny boat in the middle of the canal.
With a magnificent heave of her paddle, Fanta sent the boat speeding forward. Mac toppled backwards into the murky depths.
Back at camp, Mac was peeling pond-weed from his hair and flicking it into the blazing fire whilst Fanta re-enacted his dip in the canal for the fourth time. The roaring laughter of the other faeries even drowned out the roaring fire.
“Ah hold yer weesht, you lot!” Growled the sodden old faery. “At least we pulled off a muck-fling today. Better ‘an any o’ yous ‘uns.”
The impish grins were suddenly replaced with grimaces. “Ain’t hardly seen a drop of muck all day.” Muttered one old faery by the fire.
“Nowt on our stretch.”
“Me and Snickers here, gave up on dog muck. We been pickin’ up squirrel muck all morning instead. And we barely found a toe’s worth to step in.”
“It’s a famine! The dogs have stopped doin’ their business.”
“Or maybe old Pooper Scooper Cooper’s been takin’ more than his fair share.”
At the mention of his name, every faery around the fire swore loudly and spat at the ground. Mr Cooper (the Pooper Scooper) was the most hated of all the big folk. Not only did he patrol up and down the tow path every morning picking up every scrap of dog muck he could find, he yelled at every dog owner he met until they promised their pet wouldn’t leave the house unless it wore a dog nappy.
“Remember that time…” a real old-timer faery creaked himself forward on his stool, “That time… Fanta, here, got him on both shoes at the same time. He didn’t know where to step. Just kept hoppin’ from one foot to the other!”
Hoots of laughter rolled around the camp fire as the faeries turned to their oldest and favourite game… mocking the Big Folk.
But Fanta just stared past the flames and across to the other side of the canal. That dog today was the first she’d seen in a week. Something was going on over there across the murky water. Something was wrong all along the canal.
She slipped away from the fire and went to stand by the water’s edge, as if she might be able to peer through the soupy darkness and see exactly what needed to be done.
“You won’t find no answers there.” A quiet papery voice surprised Fanta and she almost took her own tumble in the canal.
“Don’t go sneakin’ up on folk like that.” She spun round ready for a fight, “Oh… it’s you, Woolworth.”
An ancient, bent-backed figure shuffled beside her and cackled wheezily to himself.
“It’s not the muck that’s missing, you know.” Fanta whispered, “It’s the dogs.”
“Aye. You’re not wrong there, my dear.”
“But where are the dogs?”
“Well, you won’t find nowt, if you look for em where they ain’t.” Woolworth’s voice was just above a breath. “You come with me. I’ll show you.”
He walked so slowly, Fanta could barely stop herself getting ahead. But even still, he moved as silently as a swallow over water. Eventually, the tiny old man came to a halt at a pile of leaves which looked just like any other pile of old brown leaves below the scrubby trees all along the canal.
“You sweep them aside for me, my dear. My back don’t like bendin’ like it used to.”
Fanta started grabbing fistfuls of leaves and tossing them aside. Deeper and deeper she dug until suddenly, her fist grabbed nothing but darkness. Head-first she tumbled down. For a few desperate moments, she scrabbled blindly in the empty blackness.
Then a flame suddenly burst into light right in front of her. Woolworth was holding a little oil lamp. Its flickering flame illuminated a long tunnel. Old rickety wooden shelves filled every inch of wall. And the shelves were filled with piles and piles of… litter. Rusty old coke cans and half-rotten newspapers and endless plastic shopping bags.
“The library of the Faeries!” Fanta gasped, “I’ve never seen it!”
“Normally, only those of us who got the eye for readin’ is allowed in. But, tonight, some rules need breakin’.”
Fanta’s gaze swept across the ancient treasures of the library until they found a dirty old plastic bottle in the corner. Its label was peeling and faded but 5 letters could still be made out.
“F… A…N… T…. A…. That’s,” she whispered, “That’s me. That’s Fanta. Isn’t it?”
“Aye. Every faery born is named by the words we finds on the canal. I remember when your old dad found that there word and I knew straight away the name would be yours.”
She took a step closer peering at the mysterious words and symbols which covered the label.
“But that ain’t whats I brought you here for,” whispered the old man more urgently, “Come and have a look at these words here.”
From some hidden nook, he pulled out a sheaf of torn and wrinkled papers. One by one, he placed them on the bare earth in front of her. Each paper had a picture of a different dog with big bold words above and below.
“What do they say?”
“They says… Have you seen this dog? And Please help us find our dog and MISSING,”
“So… the dogs are going missing.”
“No, my dear,” wheezed the old man, “The dogs are getting stolen!”
“What am I doing here?” grumbled the shadowy figure who was unhappily paddling the little boat across the pitch black canal.
“Mac!” Even in the gloom, Fanta couldn’t hide her grin, “You’re the bravest, strongest and most handsome faery around. You’re vital to this mission.”
Even if you’re a grumpy old faery and you know they’re just saying it to make you do something…. Flattery always works.
“Alright,” mumbled the bravest, strongest and most handsome faery around, “So what are you doin’ here.”
“Me?” Her grin shone even brighter in the darkness, “Well… We needed someone with half a brain.”
For a long while, the only sound was the gentle splashes of the wooden paddles. Then, from the dark, forgotten space deep inside Mac’s head, there was a tiny click… “Hey!!!! I DO have half a brain…. AT LEAST!”
Mac continued his grumbling as Fanta tied up the little boat and hid it under an empty packet of cheese and onion crisps.
“This way,” she whispered.
The two faeries trotted along the tow path keeping the extra deep blackness of the canal on their right. There was no need to hide from the Big Folk at this time of night but when you’re only 6 inches tall, there are plenty of other creatures to avoid. Creatures who swoop out of the sky. Creatures who pounce from the shadowy bushes. Even creatures who slither out of the black water.
Mac’s panting breath was growing heavier and faster as he plodded along trying to keep up with Fanta. With every tiny crackle of leaves or breath of wind or ripple of water, he spun around and imagined creatures of the night pouncing and swooping and slithering at him.
Suddenly, from the bushes, there was a rustling noise. Mac would have shrieked but he had no air in his lungs. The rustling edged closer and closer. Both faeries froze. A stick snapped. Mac backed away. A shape appeared amongst the shadowy leaves. Mac stepped back again. Something slipped out of the bushes. Mac’s shaking foot reached backwards and found… nothing but empty air. Finally, his lungs found enough air to scream as he fell, for the second time that day, into the murky waters of the canal.
“There was nae need to sneak around like that,” Mac was (again) furiously peeling pondweed from his hair.
“Of course there were a need!” cackled Woolworth pitilessly, “If I hadn’t been sneakin’, you wouldn’t have fallen in the canal!!”
Fanta echoed Woolworth’s laughter in the half-hearted sort of way of someone who would have ended up in the canal herself if she’d taken one more step backwards.
“Well, anyway…” she said, “Is this the place?”
“Sure is, my dear.” The old faery pointed up at a wooden sign nailed to the fence.
“What’s it say?” Mac whispered, his curiosity overcoming his burning desire for revenge.
“Beware of the Dog!”
“But I thought they’d all been stolen”
“Not this one.” smiled Fanta slyly, “No thief in the world could steal… Mr Pickles!”
“M… m… Mr” Stuttered Mac, “Not Mr Pickles. Not THE Mr Pickles”
Mr Pickles was a dog so feared by the faeries that no-one, not even Fanta, dared go muck hunting whilst he was having his walkies. Even dogs twice his size would flee home whimpering like puppies if he was spotted on the towpath. He was a ball of furious energy constantly howling and biting and chasing in every direction at once. It was as if three half-starved wild dogs had been sewn inside the flea-bitten fur of one tiny terrier. At any single moment, he seemed to have at least two tails and far, far too many teeth.
And the sole purpose in the life of Mr Pickles was to protect his dear owner from danger. Whatever the time of day or night, whether the enemy was a foolhardy cat, a stick looking in the wrong direction or his own tail, Mr Pickles would bark and bite with the fury of a thousand hounds. He’d keep it up until whatever had dared to threaten poor old blind Mrs Langustine, was either dead or a long, long way away.
“I’m not goin nowhere.” Mac proclaimed as Fanta and Woolworth slipped through a tiny hole in the fence.
“Fine. Stay here. I’m sure the creatures of the night won’t find you, out here on your own.” Chuckled Fanta as she vanished through the gap.
After a couple of seconds alone in the silent dark, Mac scrambled through the hole after them.
Mrs Langustine’s (and Mr Pickles’s) garden was a wasteland of muddy holes and shredded balls. Not a single flower or bush or blade of grass had survived the fury of Mr Pickles. It could have been the surface of the moon if it hadn’t been for the small brown mounds dotted across the garden.
“This here’s a gold-mine!” whispered Mac, “We’d be famous if we collected all this muck!”
“Forget the muck,” hissed Fanta, “Stick to the plan.”
“What plan? You ain’t told me no plan!!”
“Well, when I say plan, I mean… do what I say when I make it up as I go.”
Fanta was about to skip ahead through the little brown mounds when a heavy hand came down on her shoulder.
“You ain’t even told me what we’re doin’ in MR PICKLES garden!”
“Oh did Fanta not tell you?” Woolworth’s voice appeared from the darkness, “To catch a thief, you must act like a thief.”
“And what does that mean??”
Fanta grinned at Mac and whispered, “We’re going to steal Mr Pickles!”
The three faeries were gathered around some scratchings in the bare dirt holding very well-chewed sticks. Fanta was holding the longest stick and pointing importantly.
“We’re here.” She pointed at three tiny stick figures beside the picture of the house.
“Which one am I?” asked Mac.
“This one here,” Woolworth pointed helpfully, “The one with the speech bubble saying… DUUUUHHHH”.
It was still too dark to see but Mac’s face had turned a deep shade of purple. “Well, what’s that there big brown thing on top of Fanta?”
“There isn’t any brown thing on top of…” but before she could finish her sentence, Mac had used his stick to flick a particularly old and crusty pile of dog muck right in the middle of the picture.
If they were Big Folk instead of faeries, at this point in the adventure, the old and wise character would have said something soothing and sensible to remind everyone that they all had a very important and very serious job to do. Unfortunately, Woolworth was most certainly not a Big Folk. With a lightning-fast flick of his stick, he sent a fresh pile of dog muck whizzing past Mac’s ear. Another brown mound looped through the air and landed inches from Fanta’s feet. Soon the muck-strewn garden was a war zone. There was no place to hide from the flying muck. And no place to hide from the vicious accuracy of Mac’s muck flicking.
Fanta and Woolworth were soon cornered against the frosted glass back door of the house. Their sticks were waving above their heads as they tried desperately to block the rain of muck. Then, for the briefest moment, the muck-flinging paused, just long enough for Fanta to see Mac lining up an ancient mound of rock-hard dog muck. She closed her eyes and dived to the side as the hurtling ball of muck whistled past her head and slammed into the glass back door. With an enormous crack, the glass shattered.
The shards of glass seemed to topple one by one from the shattered door. Each piece smacked onto the ground with a thunderous crash. The three faeries stayed frozen. Maybe Mr Pickles hadn’t heard. Maybe he was very deep sleeper. Maybe…
They heard him before they saw him. Mr Pickles was yapping and yelping and barking and whimpering and howling all at the same time and he was bounding straight towards them. In a single incredible leap, he jumped through the shattered door and past the smashed glass. Seeing the faeries, he tried to run in three different directions at the same time but only managed to perform a terrifying snapping backwards roll. His yellow teeth gnashed hungrily of their own will.
Through the corner of her mouth Fanta hissed, “Plan B!”
“What’s Plan B?” Mac whimpered, still rooted to the spot.
“RUNNNNN!!!” she screamed.
They sprinted, leaping over piles of muck, desperately aiming for the little hole in the fence at the end of the garden. Fanta reached it first with Mac just behind her. They glanced back but to their horror, Woolworth was still half-way down the garden hobbling as fast as he could hobble. Mr Pickles was zig-zagging wildly across the dirt snapping and biting between every yowl.
Without thinking, they sprinted back and grabbed the old faery by the arms dragging him towards safety. They roughly pushed him through the gap. Fanta dived through next. Mac scrambled through too. For a moment, he thought he was free and safe. Then, he was viciously jerked back. He spun round expecting to see a wall of yellow teeth but Mr Pickles had not reached him yet. His sodden trousers had snagged against a rusty nail in the fence. Fanta grabbed his arms to haul him through but he was trapped.
The yowling and scampering sounds on the other side of the fence got louder and closer as Mac desperately tried to pull free. The dog must have been right behind him.
Then, without warning, Mac started… giggling. Fanta and Woolworth were so surprised, they stopped pulling and just stared.
“He’s” Mac laughed breathlessly, “He’s lickin’ ma toes!”
A snout appeared through the gap in the fence and a huge pink tongue slurped up the slimy canal weed which was still tangled in Mac’s hair.
“It’s the canal slime! He likes the taste.” said Fanta as she dashed to the waterside to grab fistfuls of the slippery green stuff.
Whilst Fanta gingerly fed the enormous tongue pieces of the canal weed, Woolworth hammered at the rotten wood of the fence until Mac was freed. It was so old that the boards weren’t much stronger than sodden cardboard. The gap slowly widened until Mr Pickles’ whole head and then his shaggy body scraped through.
Bewildered and exhausted, the three faeries stared at their prize. He seemed a lot calmer whilst he licked the slime but occasionally he would still leap and growl and snap viciously at the empty night air.
“What now?” said Mac scratching his well-licked head.
Woolworth smiled wisely, “Now we catch the thief.”
The problem with getting Mr Pickles across the canal wasn’t the water. He could swim very well, a bit like a hairy piranha. The problem was the slime. Every time his paws would get tangled in a slimy green strand he would forget about swimming and lick furiously until he began to sink. After a couple of moments, he would burst above the surface again spluttering and yapping.
“We’ll never get across at this rate,” grumbled Mac.
“Don’t worry,” said Fanta, “I’ve got an idea.”
“Let me guess,” Mac glared at her, “One of us is goin’ for a dip.”
“And it should be the most experienced swimmer, the strongest, the bravest, the…”
But before she could finish, Mac shoved her over the side of the boat. “Your turn,” he smirked down at her. Fanta blew him an enormous raspberry (the kind that sprays canal water straight in your face) She grabbed a handful of green slime and hauled herself onto Mr Pickles back.
If any of the other faeries had been looking across the gloomy canal at that exact moment, they would have seen the most incredible sight. Fanta had perched herself at the tip of Mr Pickles nose holding a huge soggy tangle of green slime just out of his reach. The dog was furiously swimming forward trying to reach the delicious ball of weeds.
However, the sight that appeared moments later in the midst of the faery camp was one of horror and terror. A slime covered creature howling and slobbering leapt from the water. Twisting furiously, it tried to lick the back of its own head as it trampled the little wooden huts. Faeries ran screaming from the monster.
In the shattered remains of the camp, a large group of angry faeries surrounded Fanta, Mac, Woolworth and Mr Pickle (who was now peacefully licking an enormous mound of pond weed).
“Why,” demanded a small faery with a bandaged head, “Have you brought that BEAST across the water?”
“He’s no a beast! He’s… a good doggie” Mac scratched Mr Pickles’ droopy ear and the dog cheerfully leapt into the air, twisting and yipping and landing on one of the few remaining huts.
“He’s a monster!”
“Send him back!”
“Push him in the canal and…” This faery stopped what he was about to say when he saw Mr Pickles’ enormous yellow teeth glowering at him.
“You’re not wrong, my dears.” agreed Woolworth in his quiet wispy voice, “He is a bit of a beast, but he’s our only hope.”
“Someone over there is stealing the dogs,” Fanta pointed fiercely across the canal, “And with no dogs, there’s no dog muck!”
There was a quiet mumble of agreement so Fanta continued. “Those Big Folk think they can destroy our way of life. They think they can walk without looking where they put their feet. They think they can wear sandals without fear!!”
By now, the crowd was cheering.
“Let’s catch that thief! Free the dogs! Bring back muck.”
“Bring Back Muck! Bring Back Muck!” Mac started the chant and the crowd joined in. “BRING BACK MUCK! BRING BACK MUCK!”
Fanta was hoisted into the air by a sea of hands and the faery with the bandaged head had scrambled onto Mr Pickles’ back as if he was about to ride him into battle. The whole faery village was marching down to the canal. Rat-skin drums had appeared from somewhere and the chanting was getting louder. Even Mr Pickles seemed to be joining in, yipping and howling to the beat.
“WAAAIIITTT!” Mac looked very disappointed to have to stop the party, “Don’t we need a plan or somethin’”
“Don’t worry Mac!” beamed Fanta, “We’ve got Plan A!”
“Ain’t that the one where you make it up as you go along.”
“Exactly!” She turned to the crowd of faeries, “And what I think is… We need every muck wagon in the village. And we need them before dawn!”
The faeries swarmed across Mr Pickles’ garden. Teams of two or three were flicking the muck onto wagons as the strongest faeries hauled huge mounds back and forth.
Mac had clambered on the shoulders of a particularly ugly garden gnome and was shouting orders to the wagon teams.
“Come on you lazy muck rats! We ain’t got all night. MOOOOOOVE it Snickers! You’re holding up the whole line.”
The rest of the faeries ignored him. They’d never seen so much muck in all their lives. And they worked like demons to collect every crumb before dawn.
“Mr Pickles don’t look so happy…” Woolworth peered up at the mound of slime and fur and teeth.
Mr Pickles was as sick as a… dog. Well, as sick as very sick dog anyway. He was slowly emerging from his slime coma but his belly was making horrible gurgling noises and green frothy bubbles were coming out the side of his mouth. Every time he tried to bark his whole body would shake with a mighty hiccup.
“Are you sure you’ve thought this plan through, my dear,” Woolworth peeled a long strand of slime off Mr Pickle’s back, “The thief might not even realise that he’s a dog.”
“What are you talking about!?” said Fanta defensively, “He just needs a good brush down.”
She patted his heaving belly.
This was a bad idea. Whatever chemical reaction was bubbling away inside his stomach suddenly burst into life. Mr Pickles rolled to the side, almost crushing Fanta. He whimpered and groaned. Turning to face Fanta with his jaw open wide… he let out an earth-shaking monster of a belch. Then he rolled over and lay still- right in the middle of the tow path.
“Is he dead?” Mac sauntered over and prodded Mr Pickles on the side.
“No…” Fanta said hopefully.
“Not yet” Woolworth added more truthfully. “But that would make it easier for the thief to catch him.”
Fanta peered at the sky. A tiny glimmer of light was peaking past the trees to the east. “It’s almost dawn! Everyone get ready. The thief could be here any moment!”
The last of the faeries scrambled into position amongst the high nettles by the tow path. For every wagon, there were too eager faeries ready to launch the muck skywards. They waited silently. The only sounds were the unhappy grumbles of Mr Pickles’ belly and the earliest birds starting their morning sing songs and a quiet scrape… scrape… scrape.
“Wait… what’s that scraping sound?” Mac glared down the path. In the distance, a Big Folk was shuffling towards them. Behind him, he was dragging a huge plastic shovel which scraped noisily along the tarmac. “Ach… that’s just Mr Cooper the Pooper Scooper out for his morning muck stealing!”
“I’ve got him lined up!” The furthest forward faery called, “Want me to send a squidgy one his way??“
“No! We need to save the muck for the real thief. And… “ Fanta suddenly gasped, “We need to move Mr Pickles! Old Pooper Scooper Cooper can’t be the one to find him.”
She rushed out of her hiding spot and started shoving Mr Pickles back towards the undergrowth. “Come on!!” She hissed, “Help me roll him.”
Thankfully, Mr Cooper’s eyes weren’t as sharp as they once were. Otherwise, at that moment, he would have seen dozens of faeries streaming out of the long grass towards the slimy pile of dog. Together, they heaved with all the strength in their tiny arms.
Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. The Pooper Scooper was getting louder.
“I can’t grab hold.” Mac panted heavily, “He’s too slippy!”
Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Cooper was squinting at the blurry blob lying across his path.
“Back to the bushes!” Woolworth called out, “Retreat or be spotted!”
The faeries dived desperately back into the nettles. All except Fanta. She couldn’t give up her plan. It had to work. She heaved again.
Scrape. Scrape. Scrape.
With every scrap of strength in her little arms she pushed Mr Pickles. But he was too heavy. Her hands slid suddenly and she fell backwards, almost slipping back in the canal.
Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. “What on earth is…. “ Mr Cooper was peering down towards her with his Pooper Scooper at the ready.
Fanta jolted up and dived straight towards the only available hiding place… The murky black canal water.
“Must have been a rat.” Mr Cooper muttered to himself as he turned towards Mr Pickles. “But you are certainly no rat. And where I’ll be taking you, no-one will ever stand in your blasted muck again!”
In a sudden and surprising burst of speed, Mr Cooper scooped up the dog. Glancing around him, he hobbled back along the canal. Mr Pickles groaned quietly as he swung back and forth.
“He’s the thief!” Fanta shouted as she dragged herself from the water. “Launch the muck! Launch now!!”
But the faeries were still fumbling with the wagons lining up their shots.
“He’s the thief!” Fanta cried, “And he’s stealing the only dog that’s left!!”
He was out of range and speeding up. But somehow, Mr Pickles’ groaning was getting louder. The faeries could see his poor belly bubbling under his skin and then he began to hiss like an old-fashioned kettle. Pooper Scooper Cooper stopped and peered down at the dog.
This was a mistake.
At that moment, a volcano of dog vomit exploded out of Mr Pickles’ belly and sprayed green slime across everything nearby. Including Pooper Scooper Cooper. Especially Pooper Scooper Cooper. He stood frozen staring in shock at the rivers of green sludge which continued to ooze out of the dog’s gaping mouth.
“Mac!!” Fanta shouted, “Now! Now’s our only chance!”
With only a very small grumble to himself, Mac darted along the path pulling his muck wagon faster than it had ever gone before. Sprinting, Fanta caught up with him and grabbed a handle.
Cooper shook himself from his daze and dropped his Pooper Scooper. He grabbed Mr Pickles by the collar and began hobbling away again.
Without even pausing to think or aim, Fanta and Mac pulled down the wagon’s handles. Gracefully, majestically, beautifully, a small pile of muck was catapulted through the air. Impossibly, it seemed to speed up as it flew and arced over Cooper’s hunched shoulders. With a tiny plop, it landed. A moment later Pooper Scooper Cooper’s foot landed on the same spot.
“Everyone!” Fanta called back, “Prepare to…”
But they were already launching. Piles of muck looped through the air one after the other. Each was perfectly aimed. Each landed on the exact spot at the exact moment when Cooper’s foot stepped down.
As he stumbled forward, a trail of brown squidgy foot prints followed him.
“Keep going. Use every piece of muck.”
Mr Cooper’s boots were now thick with brown muck and slowing him down but somehow he kept trudging on. He was almost at his house. The faeries were almost out of muck. With trembling hands, he undid the padlock and flung open the back gate. He’d made it.
That’s when Mr Pickles woke up.
The faeries didn’t see what happened next. They couldn’t see through Cooper’s fence. But they could hear… the yelping and the gnashing and the tearing. After several furious minutes, Mr Pickles re-emerged through the gate dragging a huge strip of Pooper Scooper Cooper’s trousers in his teeth. And behind him came dog after dog. Greyhounds and dalmatians and rottweilers and poodles. And every single one of them was wearing a dog nappy!
“Let’s get out of here!” Fanta called, “Those dogs look hungry!”
By the time the faeries were half way back across the canal, the dog nappies were nothing but shreds of white fabric strewn across the towpath and all around Pooper Scooper Cooper’s back gate, little brown mounds lay across the ground.
Poor old Pooper Scooper Cooper was never the same after his run in with the faeries. He now only leaves his house wearing wellington boots and hasn't scooped a poop ever since. The faeries also continue their muck flinging ways so whenever you walk along the canal make sure to look where you put your feet and on the towpath you must never ever ever wear sandals.