Okay, as some of you may know, I somehow managed to score well enough in the first two rounds of the NYCmidnight Flash Fiction Challenge to make it to round #3. The first two rounds are always tough enough, but the third round, essentially the semi-finals, is a pain in the butt. The competition is always a lot more fierce and, (let’s face it), I have a tendency to choke at this point.
I really tried hard not to choke on this one. So… We’ll see how it goes.
Location: An Obedience School
Object: A Piece of Cheesecake
The Infamous Ferret Invasion
The battle rages between the obedience school’s top two types of clients. It’s size versus ferocity in a battle for love.
Jack trundled out of the small door at the back of the school. Inside, he had been learning everything the humans thought he needed to know, but out here in the yard he learned the truth. The humans called this ‘Free Time’, but Jack knew what it really was. It was war.
The others had already gathered in the back and Jack lumbered toward them. He was the youngest, but as a Saint Bernard, he was already the biggest. He didn’t have the speed of Charlie the Australian shepherd or the self-restraint of Winston the bulldog, but sometimes size counted.
He slid to a stop near their leader, the battle-scarred Scottish terrier named Starbuck. He’d been in this fight longest.
Starbuck glared at him through his one good eye. “We got troubles, Jack.”
Jack whipped his head around, looking for their fifth member. “Is Princess Puggles okay?”
Starbuck favored him with sniffing laugh and a quick wag. “Your crush is fine, but she may not be for long.”
Jack curled his lip to show he was serious. “Is it the ferrets again, sir?”
“Aye,” Starbuck snarled. “Its those damnable snake-squirrels again. This time they’ve stolen from us. I fear he might be back.”
“You don’t mean…?”
“I do. Lord Ninja has come back to class.”
“Are you sure?” Jack whined.
“I’d know the smell of that fuzzing cage-weasel anywhere. It’s time to take action.”
Lord Ninja was the Alpha ferret. The biggest and meanest. His hissing war dance had even made humans back away in fear. Jack bounded toward where Charlie and Winston were nosing at the now-empty toy box. The ground reeked of ferret.
“Gosh dang Snake-Squirrels!” Jack growled, using the strongest language he knew.
Winston huffed and lapped at his nose with his tongue. “There’s no call for that kind of language. Princess Puggles is already on the scent.”
Jack’s mouth filled with drool, the way it always did when he was excited. Even Lord Ninja couldn’t stop his tongue from lolling out of the side of his mouth as he gazed toward the back fence.
The princess’ soft curly tail was barely visible through the blanket of fallen leaves, but just the sight of it was enough to send Jack’s tail slamming into the ground. He loved the way she wore her pretty pink collar with the pastel blue bow. She was the prettiest dog Jack knew. She was also the smallest of them. Her flat face and short legs let her go everywhere the bigger dogs couldn’t. Because of that, she and Starbuck were their scouts and often the first into trouble.
Charlie and Winston shared a chuffing laugh at Jack’s obvious excitement. “Easy mate,” Charlie said. “We’re gonna need you for more than just following your tail wagger.”
Jack tore his eyes away from the pug and turned slowly, sniffing at the ground for clues. It was unlikely he’d find anything the others had missed, but it was his duty to look.
Starbuck approached the trio and sat stiffly. “I’m afraid this is it, boys,” he said, looking at the fence that separated dog and ferret territory. “We may have to go over there.”
The dog-soldiers gathered around their bedraggled leader, waiting for orders. He opened his mouth again, but instead the air was filled with hissing. Jack’s head snapped toward the sound in time to see an army of slithering fur climbing the fence.
“AMBUSH!” Starbuck roared a second too late.
Lord Ninja, the red-tailed leader of the ferret army scampered along the top of the fence, racing for the far end of the field. His minions swarmed over the fence, leaping to the ground and started their undulating war dances, their tails puffed to three times normal size.
The dogs charged. They had the advantage of size and strength, but the ferrets outnumbered them. Winston was the first to go down. The ferrets wrapped their slinky bodies around his stubby legs and brought him tumbling to the ground in cacophony of hissing and enraged barks. Starbuck and Charlie ran to his aid, but Jack had seen something terrible near the far end of the yard. Princess Puggles was in danger.
Lord Ninja led a pair of ferrets along the top of the fence, racing toward the startled pug. The princess barred her teeth, filling the air with her yapping war cry even as her tiny legs floundered in the deep leaves.
The ferrets attacked, diving off the fence. “PRINCESS PUGGLES!!!” Jack roared, diving through the air and shoving his heavy bulk into the space between the Princess and Lord Ninja.
Sharp teeth and grasping claws slammed into his fuzzy sides and bounced away. The ferrets scrambled to their feet, circling. Princess Puggles stumbled to Jack’s side, adding her growls to his.
The rear door of the school banged open and the humans ran shouting into the backyard. Many of them still holding slices of what they called cheese cake. The main trainer blew her ferret whistle again and again, while strong human hands ripped ferret and dog apart from each other. The cage-weasels finally ran, bolting back over the fence.
“I’m sorry, Mike,” the trainer said to Jack’s owner in human speech. “The ferrets must have figured out the lock on their hutch again.”
He smiled at her. “I’m just glad the dogs didn’t hurt them. Jack is a lot bigger than they are.”
Jack wanted to bark at his owner for his tenderness toward the slinky beasts, but something stopped him. It was the soft tender nose of the snuffling Princess Puggles. She nosed around his paw, wagging in delight. She looked up, extending her nose to his. Jack’s tail whipped madly behind him, thudding into his sides. He lowered his head toward hers and watched in horror as a river of drool slobbered out of his mouth and covered the tiny pug.
He yanked his tongue inside his mouth and slid to his belly with a whine. This was so embarrassing.