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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Poopsy and Fluffy in Nice

“That wasn’t too bad of a boat ride. I took a long nap and I didn’t felt sick once. How about you, Mac?” Ian stretched one paw at a time, spreading each toe wide apart to pop the claw out.

“Can’t complain. This is a nice place. It’s odd that there’s no sand on the beach, just pebbly stuff, and look at the crowd. There are thousands of people here. I wonder where we are.” Mac raised his arms high above his head and reached for the sun. “That was a nice stretch. Ah. I feel better now after being cramped under that tarp. Have I ever told you your breath smells horrible?”

Before they moved a step, several seagulls swooped down and attacked them with their talons. “Shoo! We’re not food. Shoo! Shoo!” Ian swung his arms around, swatting the gray and white feathered birds away, but not before one nipped him on the neck. “Ouch! Get away from me you annoying bird.” He touched the sore spot and felt something sticky. “Mac, am I bleeding? Did it take a chunk of me?”

“You’re fine, Ian. There’s only a drop of blood. You’ll…”

“What have we here? Oh, you poor little dogs. Did those mean old seagulls attack you? Disgraceful, naughty birds.” An elderly lady reached for Ian and stroked his back. “You’re bleeding, you poor dog. I’ll take you both home with me and fix you up and feed you. Would you like that?” She grinned, showing a mouthful of perfectly white teeth.

Mac looked at Ian, his face scrunched up. Ian glanced back. “Did she say she’d feed us?” Mac nodded. “How bad could that be? I say we let her take us.” Ian whispered and Mac agreed.

“Come home with Monique. I’ll take good care of you.” The lady picked up Ian and Mac and put them into her very large bag. As she walked down the beach, Ian and Mac stuck their heads out and watched everything as they passed by. Monique pushed the door to her apartment complex open and climbed a flight of stairs. When she reached her flat, she put the bag down and let Ian and Mac run out.

“This isn’t too bad, is it, Mac? Nice carpet, good view of the beach, a bakery right next door; what more could we ask for.”

A pair of wrinkled hands lifted Ian. “Now, what should I call you? Did you know dogs in Nice are treated like royalty?” Monique rubbed Ian’s head. “You’re an odd looking dog. You’ve got a mask, like a bandit and a striped tail. P.U. You smell. I think you two need a bath.”

“Did she say a bath?” Mac, who was sitting on the couch, gulped. He looked up at Ian and frowned.

Ian shrugged his shoulders and let Monique take him into the bathroom. Mac heard the water running and made his way towards his friend. “She’s using bubble bath. We’ll smell like girls.” Mac said, backing up one step at a time. “This isn’t going to do.” When Monique put Ian in the tub, he started giggling and splashing. “What is he doing? He acts like he’s enjoying it.” Mac’s eyes widened. Ian spotted Mac and waved for him to join him.

“Come on, little one. Get in with your brother. There’s nothing a dog likes more than a hot bubble bath.”

Monique picked Mac up, dropped him in the water, and left the room to get some towels.

“Ian, are you mad? You’re enjoying this?” Mac folded his arms in stubbornness. When he lifted his leg, water dripped from the soggy fur.

“I think it’s great fun. I can blow bubbles, splash, pretend I’m a submarine and the water is warm. It’s nice to have the water be warm instead of ice cold like the stream.” Ian scooped up some bubbles and blew them into the air. They popped on his nose, making him laugh.

“Why is she calling us dogs? Can’t she figure out we’re raccoons? And we’re not brothers.”

“Who cares, Mac.? Let her think we’re dogs. She’ll treat us well. Where did she say we were?”

“Nice. It’s in southern France. Rich people come here on holidays.”

Monique returned with two fluffy towels. She lifted Ian from the water and swaddled him in bright orange terry cloth. “There now. You’re clean, you smell nice and doesn’t this towel feel so soft and cuddly?” She rubbed him dry, put a small bandage on his wound, and slipped a lemon yellow collar around his neck. “I’ve been keeping these two collars for special dogs, like you. I’m going to call you Fluffy. How do you like that name?”

Ian stuck out his tongue and mumbled to himself. “Fluffy? I’m not a Fluffy. I’m Ian.” He turned to see Mac chuckling.

When he was totally dry, Monique put Ian on the ground. “Run along into the kitchen, Fluffy. There’s a plate of fresh fish and some leftover stew for you.” Ian didn’t hesitate. Monique turned to Mac. “Now then, what shall we do with you? You don’t have a drop of water on you.” She kneeled by the tub and used the washcloth to wipe him clean. Before he could object, she dunked him completely under the water. “There now. You’re as clean as Fluffy.” She wrapped him in a towel and dried him off, slipping a lime green collar around his neck. “I’m going to call you Poopsy, yes I am. You’re such a cute little doggie. Monique loves you. Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.”

Mac turned his head away from her and struggled to get free, but to no avail. Giving up, she set him down and he ran to join Ian. “Ian. Ian. I am not staying here one more minute. She wants to call me Poopsy. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?”

“Shut up, Mac. Look at this. We’ve got all the food we could possibly want. She supplies us with a nice place to live, fresh sea air, food, food, and food. All we have to do is let her call us Fluffy and Poopsy. Is that too much to ask?” Ian devoured a piece of cod. “Eat, Mac. It’s delicious. It’s better than the fish and chip shop back home.” Mac gave up arguing and ate. When they were full they found a soft spot on the couch. “I think her husband is dead and she’s lonely. I saw a photo of her with a man.” With a sigh, Ian lay down for a nap.

Several hours later Monique shouted their names, waking them up. “Poopsy. Fluffy. We’re going out for a walk. I’m sure you two need to poo poo, so we’ll stop by the dog park on the way to the restaurant.”

Ian yawned and nudged Mac. In a whisper, he said, “I suppose we should wag our tails and try to act like dogs. She’s taking us to a restaurant. Oo la la.”

Mac shook his head, trying to wake himself up. He saw Ian wagging his striped tail and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “Wag my tail? Dogs in a restaurant? What sort of place is this? I’ve never heard of such things. Maggie McCoy hits us with a broom if we go near her café. And what’s all this about poo poo? I hope it’s not what I think it is.”

“Mac, stop complaining and start acting like a dog. Growl, bark and lift your leg whenever we go past a fire hydrant. That’s what dogs do.” Ian glanced at Monique. “Watch this.” He jumped off the couch and ran over to one of Monique’s potted plants.

Much to Monique’s horror, Ian lifted his leg and went all over the plant. “No! Don’t do that, Fluffy. Nice dogs don’t urinate on indoor potted plants. If you ever do that again, I shall have to put a doggie diaper on you.” She pointed her finger at him and bounced it up and down. “Never again. Do you understand me?” Mac fell off the couch laughing. Thoughts of Ian in a diaper brought hysterical howls. Ian acted like a punished child. He whimpered and rubbed Monique’s leg. “That’s better. I trust you learned your lesson with a simple scolding.” She opened a drawer and pulled out two sweaters. “Mommy made these for you. Fluffy, since you’re wearing a yellow collar, I’ll let you wear this lovely jumper.” Monique slipped the lemony-colored sweater over Ian’s head. “You look lovely, Fluffy. Do you like the sunflowers? I embroidered them myself. Give Mommy a kiss and say thanks.” Ian, who was into the dog mode one hundred percent, licked Monique’s face. When she turned to Mac, he backed up, bumping into the couch. “This one’s for you, Poopsy. I hope you like the roses. I made this jumper lime green to match your collar.” Before he could run away, she grabbed him and slid the sweater over his head. He fought and wiggled, but somehow she managed to put his paws through the sleeves. “Don’t you look so cute. That’s a nice Poopsy. Give Mommy a big wet kiss. Come on, Poopsy.” Mac refused to stick out his tongue. “Are we in a bad mood today, Poopsy. Very well, you can give me a kiss when we return home.” She left the room to grab her handbag.

“I am not going out in public wearing a lime green jumper with roses embroidered on it. I absolutely refuse to go along with this one more moment.” Mac tugged at the sweater, trying to get it off.

“I think you look rather nice, and I’m quite pleased with my own jumper. I’ve always been fond of sunflowers.” Ian patted his chest.

“All right, you two; are you ready to go? Come on then.” Monique hooked a leash to each of their collars and let Ian lead them down the stairs. “What a nice day. We’re going to the doggie park first.” With a smile on her face, she headed across the street and down the block.

Mac spotted a chain-link fence that formed a large square. The gate opened and Monique undid their leashes. Ian ran over to a corner and quickly relieved himself. Mac’s jaw dropped in shock. He rushed to Ian’s side. “How could you do that? Look at all these creatures…these dogs…”

“They’re not watching us. They’re about their own business.” Ian sighed with relief. “If you want to be miserable all day, then be that way.” Ian stuck his tongue out and pretended to pant. He trotted over to Monique and forced himself to make barking sounds.

Mac shook his head back and forth. He didn’t move as his gaze moved from one dog to another. From behind him he heard, “Poopsy. Oh, Poopsy. If you don’t have to poo poo then come over here.” He was aghast to see all the dogs staring at him. He knew they were laughing at him. Reluctantly he went over to Monique and allowed her to put the leash back on; anything to get out of that place.

Once seated in the restaurant, Mac relaxed a bit. All the people near him had well groomed dogs, sitting still and behaving with the utmost of manners. He felt a bit out of sorts. The waiter d’, Henri, sauntered to their table. “Bonjour, Madame Monique. Ah, I see you have brought some new friends. Would you care to introduce us?”

Monique beamed with pride. “This is Fluffy,” she said, stroking Ian’s head, “and this is Poopsy.”

“Poopsy? Ah, Madame, we get a lot of dogs named Poopsy dining in this restaurant. Such a common name here in Nice. Now, Madame, what can I get for Poopsy and Fluffy?”

“My dogs are anything but common, Henri. Don’t insult me with any more comments.” Monique scowled and then examined the menu. “I’ll have some Provencal Fish Soup with Saffron Rouille for Fluffy, to start, Henri, and then Fish en Papillote with Tomatoes and Olives. How does that sound, Fluffy?” Ian wagged his bushy striped tail.

“Madame Monique, pardon me for sounding rude, but what breed of dogs are these? I’ve never seen masked dogs with striped tails before.” Henri glared at the raccoons.

Mac gulped, hoping she would come up with some sort of answer. “Oui, Henri, they are indeed rare dogs. They come from, um, from, oh yes, Easter Island. They’re known as Rapa Nui dogs.” Monique was proud of herself. She’d only recently returned from visiting Easter Island and remembered the name the islanders used.

“Rapa Nui dogs. I’ve not heard of that breed before. Very unusual, Madame Monique.” The waiter eyed Mac suspiciously. “What can I get for Poopsy?” Mac didn’t like the way the waiter had emphasized his name.

“Poopsy will have Le Tian De Courgettes Aux Fruits De Mer and also the Le Carré D’Agneau au Safran, Échalotes Confites. He’s very fond of seafood and I hope he enjoys the lamb. For after-dinner sweets we’ll all have Les Trois Crèmes Brûlées Du Moment.”

“Would Madame care to order anything else?”

“No thank you, Henri. I’m not that hungry, however I am looking forward to tasting the Crème Brulees.”

“Very well, Madame Monique.” He took the menu from her and headed for the kitchen.

Neither Ian nor Mac knew what they were going to be eating shortly, but liked the sound of lamb and seafood. When the waiter returned with their food, both Ian and Mac drooled and gobbled everything up, licking the plates afterwards. The three of them enjoyed their crème Brulees. When they’d finished, Monique paid the bill and they headed out of the restaurant, both raccoon’s bellies bulged, causing them to waddle.

“We have one more stop. I’m having special jumpers made for the two of you and new name tags for your collars. That way everyone will know your names.” Monique grinned, her red lips puckering with joy.

“Ian,” Mac whispered, “we’ve had a few good meals, but now it’s my turn. I am not wearing a tag that says Poopsy on it. I’ve had enough. I’ve been patient and gone along with this, but enough is enough. I want to get out of here.”

“I suppose you’re right. Too much of a good thing, I suppose. I am rather fed up trying to wag my tail and pant like a dog.”

“That’s right, Ian. We’re not dogs. We’re raccoons and we’re on an around the world adventure. This is too soft for us. After all, we’re Highland raccoons. Our ancestors roamed the woods in the days of Kenneth McAlpin and King Malcolm. We’re not French dogs. We’re Scottish and proud of it.”

Ian’s heart swelled with pride. “Aye, Mac, we are Scottish.” He pulled off his bright yellow jumper, untied his collar and let it fall to the ground. Mac did the same. With the leashes no longer tied to them, they ran.

Monique squealed. “Catch my dogs! Runaway dogs! Help me! My dogs are loose!”

“Over here, Ian. It’s not the first time we’ve had to make a dash for it. Up this hill. Come on. Hurry. Hide in here.” Mac pulled Ian by the arm. “Come on. I don’t want Madame Monique to find us,” he said with a tone of sarcasm.

“Not so fast, Mac. I’m rather full, you know.” Ian glanced around. What is this place? What is that smell?”

“Bubble bath? Perfume? Soap? I’m not sure, but it’s too girly smelling for me.” Mac pulled the door open and they rushed out of the perfume factory. “Down here.” Mac spotted a line of tour boats at the docks, readying to leave. They blasted their way through the bushes, stones and trees, not stopping until they had reached the docks. “In here.” Mac yanked Ian into the small boat. “Under this tarp.”

“What’s with you and boats? What if the owner lifts it up this tarp and sees us? He’ll toss us into the sea. Oh, never mind.” Ian turned around and around until he had made himself comfortable. “At least she’s not after us and she won’t find us here, but I do think she’ll miss us. She was awful nice to us. I don’t think she had any children to take care of. That’s why she likes dogs.”

“Well put, Ian. I have to agree with you. She was a nice lady, but we’re Scottish, remember? Just lay still. We don’t need any food for a while. We’ll go on this little tour boat and wherever it stops we’ll get off.” Mac listened to people clambering over boxes and tackle to find a place to sit for the voyage. Ian had already fallen asleep, so Mac curled up next to him and joined him, his heart beat slowing down after the long chase.

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