“Goodnight, Sweet Beans.”
“Goodnight, Mum,” Bonnie and Sylvie said together. Mum clicked off the light and closed the girls’ bedroom door almost all the way. It was dark, but the moon lit the room enough to see. Bonnie sat up in her bed and whispered to her younger sister, “You want to see something?”
“Of course,” Sylvie said.
Seven-year-old Bonnie Fields got her shaggy, white stuffed toy off the shelf.
“This toy has powers. He’s not a sheep or sheepdog. He’s a Fluffin called Dumpling. He takes you to Fluffland!”
“That sounds lovely,” Sylvie said in a yawn.
“There, everything is bright. The trees look like cauliflower. You’d love it.” Bonnie knelt and set Dumpling on Sylvie’s bed.
“C’mon, Dumpling. Do your thing.” Bonnie stroked the toy’s moppish fringe. “He glows and then you fly into Fluffland,” Bonnie said to Sylvie, whose eyelids grew heavier. “Show Sylvie, Dumpling.”
Sylvie yawned again.
“Now I remember,” said Bonnie. “He likes a bit of milk first.”
Bonnie tiptoed to her bedside table to retrieve a mug of lukewarm soymilk for Dumpling. But Sylvie’s eyes were shut and she was already asleep.
“Goodnight, Sylvie,” Bonnie sighed.
Bonnie set the toy and mug back on her bedside table , climbed into her own bed and pulled her blanket up to her chin.
“There is a Fluffland. I just know it. I once mopped Budgemallows there.”
“Oh, it’s real,” said Dumpling, standing on his small shaggy hind legs and lapping at the milk.
“Why didn’t you say ‘hello’ to Sylvie?” Bonnie blinked.
“I’m only your Fluffin. Come. They're waiting for you.”
Dumpling began to glow. So did the sky outside. Bonnie held Dumpling and they floated softly and swiftly out the bedroom window. Bonnie squinted from the brightness. Her purple nightgown fluttered as they flew.
“Smells of waffles today,” Bonnie said as they entered Fluffland. They passed through a cloud of silver butterflies that all sneezed at the same time.
“I’ve never heard one butterfly sneeze, let alone a whole kaleidoscope sneeze at once.”
“You know big words,” Dumpling said as he and Bonnie landed in Whistlecrisp’s front garden. Whistlecrisp was the deer-like Fluffin leader with flowing hair and silk scarves. The graceful creature stepped out of their meringue house. Bonnie’s feet squished on the squeaky sponge cake ground.
“Bonnie! We could’ve used you here sooner. Things are bad at Spaghetti Bridge. You must hurry!” Whistlecrisp handed Bonnie a stack of thinly-sliced white cheese.
“Bridgegators love Havarti cheese,” said Whistlecrisp.
“Sorry? Bridge-what?” Bonnie asked.
“The Bridge-gators. They tend to Fluffland’s roadways and bridges. They’re very upset about Spaghetti Bridge and won’t speak with anyone but you. The cheese will help. You got this! Fluffland loves you, Bonnie,” Whistlecrisp said with proud eyes. “Dogspeed to you!”
In a blur, Dumpling led Bonnie up and over curly hills. Finally they arrived at Spaghetti Bridge, a beautifully woven system of pasta strands that stretched high across the bubbling milk river. A white, shaggy buffalo dangled dangerously from a loose strand at the centre of the bridge. A white mouse held on for dear life from the buffalo’s tail.
A furry Bridgegator stood by a workshed at the end of the bridge where Bonnie and Dumpling had landed. It had its head in its hands.
“Bonn-eh! Thank heav’ns. Our bridge! We’ve tried ev’rythin’ to fix ‘er. People ‘r fallin’ right through! All of Fluffland is so cross with us.”
“Would this help?” Bonnie held out the cheese stack. The Bridgegator peeled off the top slice.
“Oh, Bonn-eh. Bless y’r pritt-eh face.” The creature blew its nose into the cheese, folded it, and stuffed it into the front pocket of its work vest.
Sirens wailed as a giant rescue-dragonfly buzzed through the sky. It hovered below the dangling buffalo and mouse, who screamed before plopping down onto it safely. Bonnie and Dumpling breathed a sigh of relief.
“You built this bridge, yes?” Bonnie asked.
“My brother and I,” the Bridgegator said, pointing to the other Bridgegator in his matching hard hat. He was trying to fasten a loose spaghetti strand with a dab of thick, white honey.
“Oh! Hey, Bonn-eh!” the brother called. “It jus’ won’ hold like normal! But we don’ know why! The noodles was boiled fresh this mornin’!”
“Some’re sayin’ it’s due to climate change,” said the other Bridgegator.
Bonnie looked at the white sky and wondered how a climate like Fluffland’s might have changed. “No offence,” she called, “but are you boiling the noodles too long? My mum does a thing where she throws the spaghetti onto the window to test—”
“Bonn-eh! We’re boilin’ ‘em same as ALWAYS!” the Bridgegator yelled. “Sorry to raise my voice. I’m jus’ not m’self lately.”
Just then, a woolly, white camel came trotting across the Spaghetti Bridge from the opposite side.
“Oh, dear,” said Dumpling.
“Didn’t you put up warning signs?” Bonnie asked the Bridgegator.
“We did. But Humpletrots can’t read.” The Bridgegator cupped the sides of his long gator mouth. “Turn back! Go north and take Silver Licorice Bridge!”
The Humpletrot was listening to music through her headphones and didn't hear a word. Her hoof snapped a noodle. She fell through and caught another strand with her teeth. She dangled with all four legs running in place until *SNAP!* she fell thirty metres, hump first *SPLASH!* into the bubbling milk river.
“Good thing Humpltrots’re strong swimmers!” the Bridgegator brother said. “C’n I get another four metres o’ noodle, please?”
The other Bridgegator opened the workshed and pulled a length of tan spaghetti from a large spool. Bonnie’s eyes perked up when she saw the colour of the noodle. She examined the empty, oversized pasta box. Dumpling tilted his head curiously.
“I see the problem,” said Bonnie. “This pasta is gluten-free.”
“What?!” The Bridgegator put his hand to his forehead. “Oh, the boxes are nearly identical!”
“I know,” Bonnie said. “Gluten-free pasta might look and taste right, but it does not have the same stretch and stick like regular pasta.”
“Ah, Bonnie! Yer brilliant!” The Bridgegator cried tears of joy. “We’ll go back to the other pasta right away!”
Dumpling hooted, jumped into Bonnie's arms and began to glow. Suddenly, Bonnie was back in her room and her mum was sitting at the edge of her bed.
“You were talking rather loudly in your sleep again, Sweetbean.”
“Ungh.” Bonnie stirred but stayed asleep. When Mum bent to kiss Bonnie’s forehead, she noticed a strand of cooked spaghetti in her daughter’s hair.