Bonnie and Sylvie Fields finished most of their warm soy milk, and now they were snuggling under their blankets.
“How about a bedtime story?” asked their mum.
Bonnie and Sylvie nodded excitedly. They loved it when she made up stories.
“This is a story about Petunia,” began their mum. “Once upon a time, there was a big bicycle race, and Petunia was determined to win it. She told all her friends that she was going to get the trophy. But two things were going to make it difficult for Petunia to win. The first was that Petunia didn’t know how to ride a bike. The second was that Petunia was a goat.”
Bonnie and Sylvie couldn’t wait to hear what would happen next with Petunia. But before their mother could continue…
… her phone began to ring.
“Oh dear,” she said. “It’s someone from work. I’m afraid we’ll have to finish the story another time.”
Before the sisters could protest, their mum had already kissed them goodnight, turned out the light and left the bedroom to take the call.
“I can’t believe it!” Bonnie whispered to her sister. “How will we ever get to sleep now?”
But all Bonnie got for an answer was Sylvie’s gentle snoring.
“I wanted to hear the rest of the story too,” said Dumpling. The shaggy toy was lapping up the rest of Bonnie’s soy milk. “But we need to get to Fluffland before foof o’clock. The Llama sisters have chosen you.”
“Who are the Llama sisters?” asked Bonnie. “And chosen me for what?”
But Dumpling’s fur was already glowing, and before Bonnie could blink, she was flying with Dumpling through a wispy cloud in the bright Fluffland sky.
A furry white squid flew by, with five of her children riding on her several long legs.
“Good luck today!” the squid called out to Bonnie.
Two geese passed by.
“Don’t worry!” they said. “Even though you are the underdog!”
Bonnie turned to her shaggy sheep-friend, demanding an answer.
“Dumpling! Just where are you taking me to?”
“There!” said Dumpling, pointing to a large stadium below them.
Bonnie and Dumpling landed in the middle of the playing field, surrounded by thousands of Fluffins, who were cheering in their seats. They were met by Whistlecrisp, the leader of Fluffland. With him were two cream-white llamas and a human that Bonnie instantly recognised.
“Sylvie, you’re here, too?! What’s going on?”
In their flowing robe, Whistlecrisp gestured to the llamas.
“Bonnie and Sylvie, meet Gert and Gret. They played the Bridgegator Brothers in last year’s match. They played a wonderful game.”
“But we lost!” said Gert. “And the losers get to choose next year’s challengers.”
“The Bridgegator Brothers win every year,” said Gret. “But they’ve never played humans!”
“So they chose you two,” said Whistlecrisp to Bonnie and Sylvie.
“Oh dear,” said Bonnie. “Are we playing football? I’m afraid I’m not very good at football.”
Whistlecrisp shook their head. “You’re here to play the Fluffland national game – Pungle! It’s very popular. Surely you’ve played it before.”
Bonnie and Sylvie looked at each other nervously. Pungle? They’ve definitely never played Pungle before.
“I’m the referee,” said Whistlecrisp, “and this is the ball.” Whistlecrisp yanked a sheet, revealing a cube as white as snow, as soft as a pillow, and as big as an elephant. The eyes of Bonnie and Sylvie went wide.
“Is that… a marshmallow?” Bonnie asked.
Whistlecrisp nodded. “The biggest in the land!”
A rather old-looking goat with a long beard trotted onto the field.
“This is the mallowgoat,” said Whistlecrisp. “He pushes the giant marshmallow with his head. He’s the only one allowed to touch it. The object of the game is to lure the mallowgoat over to your side, so that he pushes the marshmallow into your goal.”
“That’s when the crowd yells ‘Pungle!’,” added Gert, “and you’ve won!”
The Bridgegator Brothers jogged onto the field. They shook hands with Bonnie and Sylvie.
“An honour to play ‘gainst the two of ya!” said one brother in a thick Bridgegator accent.
Whistlecrisp brought out a basket of things and instructed each of the four players to choose one item. The Bridgegators chose an unlit sparkler and a silver ball that tinkled when you shook it. Bonnie chose a delicious-looking biscuit with vanilla frosting, and Sylvie chose a plate of whipped cream.
Whistlecrisp blew a whistle - *TWEEEEEET!* - and the game began! One of the Bridgegators blew on the sparkler, and it immediately began fizzing and making bright-coloured sparks. This caught the notice of the mallowgoat. It pushed the giant marshmallow towards the Bridgegators to get a closer look at the sparkler.
“Oh no!” said Sylvie. “The mallowgoat is headed towards the Bridgegator’s goal! We have to distract it!”
Bonnie and Sylvie dashed towards the mallowgoat, pretending to eat.
“Mmm,” said Bonnie. “This biscuit is scrumptious. Wouldn’t you like to try a piece?” But the mallowgoat continued pushing the marshmallow towards the sparkler and the Bridgegator’s goal!
“It’s not working!” said Sylvie. “Let’s switch sides!”
Bonnie and Sylvie ran around the elephant-sized marshmallow. Unfortunately, both of them were looking over their shoulders at the Bridgegators.
They collided into each other and fell to the ground. They were unhurt, but…
“Oh no!” said Bonnie, wiping fluffy white dollops from her face. “All of your whipped cream has spilled!”
“And look at your biscuit!” said Sylvie, pointing to a lot of crumbs on the ground. “You’ve sat on it!”
“We have nothing now to lure the mallowgoat!” said Bonnie in despair.
Meanwhile, the Bridgegator’s sparkler had fizzled out. But the other Bridgegator was standing near the goal and making his silver ball tinkle. Pushing the marshmallow, the mallowgoat was getting closer and closer to the goal. Sylvie was so sad she wanted to cry. She plopped down on the ground.
“What a night. First, Mum didn’t finish our bedtime story, and now we’re going to lose at Pungle!”
Feeling bad for her sister, Bonnie said, “What if we finish the bedtime story on our own? Then the night won’t be a total loss.”
Sylvie sniffled. “You can do that?” she asked.
Bonnie said she’d give it a try.
“There once was a goat named Petunia,” began Bonnie. “And Petunia wanted to win a big bicycle race and get a trophy. But goats had never ridden bicycles before. What could Petunia do?”
Sylvie’s tears had already dried. She was caught up in the story. And she wasn’t the only one caught up in it. When the mallowgoat heard Bonnie begin telling a story about a goat, it stopped moving towards the tinkling ball and changed direction. It was pushing the giant marshmallow towards the sisters!
“Bonnie!” Sylvie whispered. “The goat likes the story. Keep going!”
As Bonnie and Sylvie strolled towards their own goal, Bonnie spun a tale about how Petunia built a bicycle with special pedals and handlebars to make it easier for her to ride.
Meanwhile, the Bridgegators were desperately shaking their tinkling ball. But the mallowgoat wasn’t interested in tinkling. It wanted to hear the end of the story. Would Petunia win the bicycle race?
Bonnie and Sylvie couldn’t end the story too soon because it was a long walk to their goal. So each of them took turns adding bits to the story. They added bits about Petunia’s bike going missing the night before the big race! And then Petunia finding the bike again! And then Petunia oversleeping and missing the beginning of the race! And then Petunia pedalling at top speed and catching up to the other racers!
By now, Bonnie and Sylvie were standing behind their goal. They waited until the mallowgoat nudged the marshmallow into the goal before finishing the story. Petunia won the race, of course. And the sisters had won the game.
“PUNGLE!” the crowd in the stadium shouted.
“You did it!” Dumpling said as he began to glow.
In an instant, Bonnie and Sylvie were back in their own beds. Sylvie was already asleep. Bonnie was happy and very drowsy. She knew she’d have no trouble falling asleep now. She had got her bedtime story after all.