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Dumpling Episode 1 Mopping Budgemallows Cover

Mopping Budgemallows

“Girls! You’re splitting the seams on your pillows - stop hitting,” Mum said from the sisters’ bedroom doorway. 

“You said we could ‘blow off steam,” seven-year-old Bonnie Fields huffed as she plopped her pillow back onto her bed.

Dumpling Episode 1 Mopping Budgemallows Image 1

“It’s late and you need a good sleep before your first day at the new school tomorrow,” Mum said.

“Sorry, Mum. G’night,” said both sisters as they climbed into their beds.

“Night, sweet beans,” Mum said and closed the door.

“Ugh. I’ll never fall asleep,” Bonnie muttered to herself. She turned off her lamp and held her eyelids shut with her palms. She lay awake for what seemed like ages. Until... 

“Any milk left?” a gruff little voice asked.

Bonnie turned her head on the pillow and clicked her light back on. That wasn’t her sister Sylvie. She was already snoring in her bed.

“Bonnie Fields, right?” The voice seemed to be coming from under her bed. Bonnie swung her head over the side of the bed to take a look. Upside down she saw slippers, her stack of puzzle books, a half-eaten biscuit and her stuffed sheep toy. Or was it a sheep dog? And how did she get that toy exactly? She couldn’t remember. A woolly fringe hung over its little, black marble eyes that she swore just blinked at her.

“Can I have that milk?” the toy spoke. “On your bedside table?”

“It’s soy milk,” Bonnie said. “We can’t have cow’s milk. Mum says it gives us the rumbles.”

“No matter. Milk is milk.”

“No. Not exactly,” Bonnie said as she climbed down and scooted the small cup toward the toy under the bed.

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“Could you always talk? Where did you come from? Do you have a name? Is this a dream?”

Bonnie was now lying on the floor with just her head beneath the bed. The toy creature lapped from the cup.

“You like answers. That’s good,” the creature said, then licked milk off its woolly moustache. Its cream-coloured fur began to glow.

“To answer: I could always talk. I’m from Fluffland. I’m called Dumpling. Remind me what a dream is.”

“A dream is like a movie that plays in your mind while you’re asleep where you’re the star and you can fly and there’s loads of food.”

“That sounds like Fluffland, so maybe, Yes. Or - maybe no?”

“Fluffland. Sounds like something my little sister would invent while playing with her mashed potatoes.”

“Well, it’s where we live.”

“Who’s we?” Bonnie looked over at Sylvie who was still snoring.

“‘We’ is us; the Fluffins.”

“So...you’re a Fluffin called Dumpling...and you come from Fluffland...and this is maybe not a dream?”

“Yes. Good, then. You get it.”

Suddenly a soft light filled the bedroom. It came through the thin curtain of Bonnie’s window, like white sunshine.

“Hold on to me,” said Dumpling. Bonnie squinted as Dumpling pulled her through the sky into a very bright place. Dozens of white, furry, fish-like creatures flew by them.

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“It smells like pancakes here,” Bonnie smiled.

They crossed a river that looked like bubbling milk and landed in the white front garden of a dollop-topped house surrounded by shrubbery that looked like big white clusters of grapes. Bonnie’s feet touched the lawn, which felt like firm cake and squeaked like tiny dog toys as she stepped.

The front door of the house flung open.

“Well done, Dumpling!” A silver-haired, deer-like creature stepped out on their hind legs. They took a pea-sized marshmallow from their robe pocket and tossed it to Dumpling who snapped it from the air and swallowed it without chewing.

“So happy to have you here,” said the silver deer. “We’re ready to start work right away.” 

“Work?” asked Bonnie.

“Yes. Fluffland’s in trouble,” explained Dumpling. “The naughty Budgemallows are back. This time they’re imitating pillows and pushing people off couches and out of their beds. It’s dreadful!”

“Budgemallows? I’m sorry. I’m not sure I know how I can help you with that.”

“Oh, dear.”  The silver deer looked worried. “Dumpling, we sent you to retrieve the one and only Bonnie Fields.”

“No, Dumpling got it right. I’m me,” said Bonnie Fields.

“Well, that’s a relief!” said the deer. They then brought out long-handled tools from inside the house: rakes, brooms, mops and dusters. 

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“Not every pillow in Fluffland is a Budgemallow, but you must whack them all to be certain,” said the deer.

Bonnie suddenly understood her job. She grabbed one of the tools. “I believe the mop will be just right.” 

“We’ll see you back here for milk and candy-floss at foof o’clock,” said Whistlecrisp.

“Foof?” 

“It’s a number. And some things that aren’t a number. Knowing you Bonnie, you’ll catch on in no time. I’m called Whistlecrisp by the way.” The silver-haired deer bowed and extended their hoof. Bonnie shook it. “Nice to finally have you on board. See you at foof o’clock.”

Dumpling led Bonnie away, flying them from house to house through Fluffland so she could whack pillows. Everyone welcomed Bonnie, and seemed to be expecting her. Bonnie found it satisfying to whack pillows with the mop. She was good at it, everyone agreed. Several cushions merely sat still after she swatted them, but others squealed. Some shrieked and jumped down and ran out the nearest door or window.

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“The Budgemallows return every seven years,” said Dumpling as he pulled Bonnie into the sky toward the next neighbourhood. 

“And they always come back as pillows?”

“Well, last time it was bean bag chairs. Naughty beasts, the Budgemallows.” 

“I’m just happy I can help.”

Time passed quickly, and before she knew it they were back at Whistlecrisp’s house, sitting at a table with milk and candy-floss.

“Well, Bonnie. How did you find your first day of work?” the deer said while patting their lips with a lacy napkin.

“Satisfying!” Bonnie said, gulping the creamy milk. “I’m not so sure when foof o’clock is, but I need to get back before my sister Sylvie worries where I am.” 

As Bonnie spoke, Dumpling glowed increasingly brighter until Bonnie had to close her eyes. When she opened them again, she was lying on her bedroom floor in her nightgown. Her pillow was a few feet away and its down feathers were spilling from its seam. Sylvie woke up and looked down at Bonnie from her bed. “Bonnie, you’re floor-sleeping again?”

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“Sleeping?” 

Bonnie caught sight of the stuffed toy on her desk that she now knew was a Fluffin...named Dumpling.

The End

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