Pancakes and Cha-Cha Don't Lick Things
Last summer Puffin published The Puffin Book of Big Dreams, an anthology of short stories by children's writers. My story in the book is Pancakes and Cha-Cha Meet the Bin Genie, about two dogs who annoy a magical spirit. It was illustrated by Nicola Slater, who also did Jonathan the Magic Pony with me. The dogs are based on my children. Just before last year's lockdown, during a trip to Aldi, I caught my then two-year-old son licking our trolley handle and giggling, and I had a bit of a meltdown. So I revisited Pancakes and Cha-Cha and wrote them a new story in the hope that it would stop them licking everything. It did not work, but here's the story anyway.
Pancakes and Cha-Cha Don’t Lick Things
Two dogs called Pancakes and Cha-Cha sat in the park. “What a beautiful day,” smiled Pancakes, the big yellow one, as butterflies fluttered around his head. “The sun is shining, the birds are singing. Everything is… CHA-CHA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING??”
“I LICK SWINGS!” shouted Cha-Cha, the little brown one.
“Cha-Cha, don’t lick that!” Pancakes shouted, running over towards his swing-licking friend. Cha-Cha stopped and turned to Pancakes, confused.
“Why on Earth were you licking a swing?” Pancakes asked.
“IS FUNNY!” shouted Cha-Cha, laughing.
“No Cha-Cha, it isn’t funny”, said Pancakes. “It’s dirty. Look at me. What goes on swings?”
“PEOPLE” shouted Cha-Cha.
“And what do people have?” asked Pancakes.
“SMELLY BUMS” shouted Cha-Cha.
“That’s right”, said Pancakes. “People have smelly bums. So when you lick a swing, it’s like you’re licking lots and lots of smelly bums. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you, Cha-Cha?”
But Cha-Cha had disappeared. Pancakes looked around, and then his eyes opened wide in horror.
“CHA-CHA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW??” he shouted.
Cha-Cha was standing next to the bin, and was licking it as hard as he could. “I LICK BINS!” he shouted back between great big slurps.
“STOP IT!” shouted Pancakes, running over as fast as he could. “CHA-CHA! Licking a bin is even worse than licking a swing! Listen to me, what goes in bins?”
Cha-Cha jumped up onto Pancakes’ back and peered into the bin.
“URRGH!” he shouted. “DIRTY RUBBISH”
“That’s right”, said Pancakes. “Dirty rubbish goes into bins. Do you want a dirty tongue?”
Cha-Cha looked down at the ground, sad. “No dirty tongue”, he said quietly.
Pancakes closed his eyes patiently. “I know you like licking things, Cha-Cha”, he said. “I know you think that licking things is really funny. But you have to be very careful. If you keep licking dirty things, you might get poorly. Do you want to get poorly, Cha-Cha?”
Pancakes opened his eyes. Cha-Cha was nowhere to be seen. Pancakes looked at the swings, but Cha-Cha wasn’t there. He looked inside the bin, but Cha-Cha wasn’t there either. “CHA-CHA!” he shouted. “WHERE ARE YOU?”
“I OVER HERE” shouted Cha-Cha, from a long way away.
Pancakes squinted. “Cha-Cha, what are you doing now?” he called over to his friend.
“I…” shouted Cha-Cha.
“Oh no”, mumbled Pancakes.
“LICK…” shouted Cha-Cha.
“Please don’t say you’re licking a worm”, mumbled Pancakes to himself.
“I LICK WORMS!” shouted Cha-Cha.
“CHA-CHA!” shouted Pancakes. He ran over to Cha-Cha and, sure enough, saw that his little friend was licking a long pink earthworm that had poked its head out of the ground.
“Why are you licking a worm??” asked Pancakes. “Worms are disgusting! They’re slimy and dirty and they live in mud! Is there something wrong with you?”
Cha-Cha was lying on his back, wriggling his legs in the air and laughing. “LICKING SO FUNNY!” he squealed.
Pancakes sighed. He crouched down on the ground and looked Cha-Cha right in the eyes. “Cha-Cha”, he said. “Do we need to play Lick or Don’t Lick again?”
“OK, let’s play”, said Pancakes. “Ice lolly”.
“LICK!” shouted Cha-Cha.
“Well done”, said Pancakes. “Envelope”.
“LICK!” shouted Cha-Cha.
“Really good”, said Pancakes. “Frog”.
“LICK!” shouted Cha-Cha.
“CHA-CHA!” shouted Pancakes. “You don’t lick frogs! Nobody licks frogs! Licking frogs is horrible! You don’t know where the frog has been!”
Pancakes sighed. “I know that you’re only little, Cha-Cha”, he said, “But you always have to be careful about licking things. It’s very important. You shouldn’t lick most things. Not swings. Not bins. Not worms. Not frogs. I’m only telling you this because I want you to be safe. Do you understand?”
But Cha-Cha wasn’t there. Pancakes looked to his side. “Cha-Cha”, he said. “What are you doing now?”
Cha-Cha was licking Pancakes on the head. “I love you”, said Cha-Cha.
“I love you too”, sighed Pancakes. “But your tongue is covered with worms and bins and bums”.
Then Pancakes heard a noise in the distance. “I know what we can do”, he said.
Two minutes later, Pancakes and Cha-Cha sat outside an ice cream van, licking a big bowl of ice cream.
“What do we lick, Cha-Cha?” asked Pancakes.
“SMELLY BUMS!” shouted Cha-Cha.