It was the fourth of July - Independence Day, if you’re an American - and the garden was very quiet.
Florence, Dylan and Brian sat at the foot of a tree, dejected. Dougal had been missing for a whole month, and they were worried that he’d gone for good.
“My old shaggy pal” moaned Brian “Run into the ground by the Juneathon”
“He’s, like, gone to a better place, maybe” said Dylan. “Like, Bristol”
“I think it’s time to talk to Zebedee” said Florence. “Maybe he can magic him back”
Right on cue, Zebedee boinged into the garden, right next to where the trio were busy lamenting. “You called?” he said.
“Zebedee!” said Florence “You have to help us!”
“Do I?” said Zebedee. “With what?”
“We’ve, like, lost a Dougal, man” said Dylan “And it’s, like, de-shaggied the garden.” To prove this point, he then fell asleep.
“That was careless of you” said Zebedee, somewhat mischievously. “How did you manage that?”
“We were doing a Juneathon” squeaked Brian “And we think the silly clot got the rules wrong.”
“We think he just kept running” said Florence. “He could be anywhere”
“Ah” said Zebedee “So. If you were a dog with very short legs, no idea of what day it is, and a taste for sugarlumps, where would you be?”
Brian and Florence racked their brains, while Dylan snored serenely, though he did mutter something that sounded like “Abergavenny”. Mr Rusty wandered past in the background, carrying a spare sprocket. He paused, hearing the conversation.
“Well” piped up Brian, after a while. “Somewhere where lots of people would feed him sugarlumps all day long”
“Good start” said Zebedee. “And where would they do that?”
“A zoo?” said Florence.
“He’s not dangerous enough to be in a zoo” said Zebedee
“You’ve not seen him first thing in the morning” tittered Brian
“Blackpool” said Mr Rusty, quietly.
“A sugarlump factory, by the ‘seconds’ bin?” said Brian
“You’re stretching” said Zebedee
“Blackpool” said Mr Rusty again, a little more loudly.
“A W.I. canteen?” said Florence, carefully
“Still very cold” said Zebedee
“BLACKPOOL!” shouted Mr Rusty, waking Dylan and startling Florence and Brian
“Why do you keep shouting ‘Blackpool’?” squeaked Brian, from inside his shell.
“Well, there’s donkeys at Blackpool, that take you for a ride on the beach, and people feed them sugarlumps all the time. Seems sensible that he’d be there” said Mr Rusty, then with a sniff he turned and wandered off back towards the roundabout.
“Right on the money!” said Zebedee, and with a twitch of his magic moustache, there stood Dougal... Except...
Dougal hadn’t quite been ready to be magic’d back to the Garden. There was a stick tied to his ears, with a carrot dangling off the end, his hair was all bunched up in ribbons, and a small, slightly confused, child sat on a rug on his back.
“Hey! What’s all this for?! I was living like a king!” Dougal shouted, looking round wildly.
“Dougal!” shouted Florence, running up to give her old friend a big hug
“Shaggy breeks!” shouted Brian, staring fixedly at the carrot “You brought me a present, you shouldn’t have!”
With that, the small child started to cry. And he continued to, until Zebedee magic’d him back to Blackpool and his mother.
“So” demanded Dougal “I got to Blackpool via Crewe, Otley and Carlisle. How far did everyone else get? What did I win?”
“You great wally!” laughed Brian “You were supposed to come back here every night!”
“But then how would I have got to Blackpool?” snapped Dougal
“Slowly, I reckon” giggled Zebedee.
“Yes, Dougal, you win” laughed Florence. “Here’s your prize: A cup of tea and a sugarlump”
“Ah well” sighed Dougal, slurping his tea “Better a king for a day...”
“It’s a dog’s life, eh?” giggled Brian “Or should I say a donkey’s?”
“Watch it, mollusc.” said Dougal.
Florence giggled, Dylan sighed in his sleep, and Zebedee boinged gently on his spring, laughing, until evening fell on the Garden.
“Right” said Zebedee. “Time for bed.”
( The author would like to give his thanks and apologies to Serge Danot and Eric Thompson for the use of their characters. )