The door chime rang out as Herman walked into the hardware store, it was a quiet afternoon, no other customers in sight, which made Herman a prime target for the assistant.
“Hewwo Mistah Heh-man.”
Herman knelt down and gave a soft pet to the Fluffy in front of him, a young chocolate brown earthie stallion with a black mane, a little red shirt and a grey badge with the name ‘Cumin’ embedded on it.
This was the first son of Hickory and Cinnamon born under Herman’s roof, and one who Herman kept in close contact with.
“Hello Cumin, how are things?”
“Fings am gud Mistah Heh-man, vewy qwui-et bu mummah wike dat. Gib hew timesie tu wowk on ‘Pwo-jecks’.”
“Yeah, that sounds like her. Is she around?
“In da bak-wook, Coomin git hew fow yu. MUMMAH, MISTAH HEH-MAN AM HEWE!”
There was a clutter of movement from the stock area before a young woman wearing dungarees and safety goggles over her wild and unkempt ginger frizz came bursting out.
“Well feck me, an here I wiz thinkin that Herman Fecking Mongola didnae associate wae us mere mortals anymore.”
Herman laughed and shook the woman’s hand. “Sorry Cait, I’ve just been busy.”
Caitlin O’Conner, or Cait as she preferred, heartily took Herman’s shake and damn near ripped his arm off as a result. “Well busy er not, ye still need tae feckin drop us a call. Ain’t good no hearing from an auld fecker like yerself, gies a girl the fear.”
“You don’t need to worry about me Cait, I’m still healthy.”
“Ach, it’s no you I’m fecking feart about, it’s me feckin business.”
“Then good news, I’m in need of some materials, quite a fair bit in fact.”
Cait picked Cumin off the floor and carried him over to the counter. “Then why’d ye no fecking start wae that. Jeez Herm, whit can I dae ye fir then?”
Herman joined Cait and Cumin by the counter, scratching Cumin’s head as he drank from his water bowl. “I need wood, a decent amount, mostly planks but a few sheets thrown in as well, probably need a few nails, as well as a new saw and a hammer.”
Cait’s manic face grew serious for a moment. “Ye still no found it in ye tae git intae the barn?”
Herman shook his head. “Everytime I get close I still smell the burning. I don’t blame Jonathan for what he did, his mental health was completely shot, but that stench… it’s not leaving anytime soon.”
Cait smiled and gave Herman a comforting pat on the shoulder. “Well, since yer a good customer an all, I’ll gie ye a staff discount on the tools, save ye a wee bit a’ hassle. Whit’s the feck’s this all fir anyway?”
“That’s why I’ve been busy this last few weeks, accidentally got a new pet.”
“How in the feck dae ye ‘accidentally’ git a new pet?”
“Had a feral herd invade my crops, did the brick trick on the Smarty but in the panic, one of the numbskulls stepped on a filly, completely obliterated her back legs and hips.”
Cumin seethed at the thought. “Dat sound howwibew.”
“It was, poor thing was hurt and abandoned, we had to remove her legs so she wouldn’t go forever sleepies. But I took her in, nursed her back up to health as much as I could and now little Oracle is a member of the household.”
Cumin smiled and gave a little happy dance. “Yay, Coo-min hab biggesh fekin heawt happies.”
Herman laughed at Cumin’s foul mouth, whilst Fluffies were set with an aversion towards swear words, Cait’s thick Irish brogue had bypassed Cumin’s self-censorship and the little guy was known to drop a ‘feck’ every now and again.
Cait rewarded her little guy with more scratches before turning back to Herman. “So ye’re needing the wood tae make some fecking ramps or something, right?”
“Correct, figured it might help Oracle move around a little bit, see more of the house without having to rely on Hickory or Cinnamon.”
“That’s fecking good of ya Herm, ye’re a good man.”
“I’m just looking out for the little guy. That’s just a little more literal these days.”
Cait let out a hearty chuckle before a sly look crossed her face as she pondered for a moment.
“Feck it.” Cait shouted out without warning. “Dinnae fret about the wood, I’ll cover everything fir ye, even build the fecking things meself.”
Herman, for the first time in a long time, found himself speechless. “That’s… Christ Cait, that’s great, thank you. But I can’t take up your time and material for free, that’s just not right.”
“Then just pay me fir the labour costs, the wood’s fecking cheap and it’s no like I’ve got many customers tae worry about. This gives me something tae dae and it’s fir a good cause.”
“Well… if you’re sure it’s ok.”
“Of course it’s ok Herm, feck sake man, yer getting a handour, dinnae look a gift horse in the fecking gob.”
Herman had the laugh at that. “Ok, ok, point taken. So what’s your going rate?”
“Pint a Guinness will do nicely. Plus ye need tae look after Cumin here whilst I get everything sorted.”
“Coomin gu wiv Mistah Heh-man? See mummah an daddeh?”
“If Herm’s alright with that?”
Herman looked down at the little brown guy, it had been a while since Cumin had visited the house and he figured Oracle could use a new friend.
“Sure, I don’t mind keeping an eye on him for the day.”
“YAY, COOMIN GU SEE MUMMAH AN DADDEH!”
Cumin instantly gave Herman the upsie pose and nuzzled into the old man’s coat as he held the stallion in his arm.
“Cheers Herm, I promise I’ll be done with all this fecking shite by this afternoon, tea-time at the latest.”
“Take your time Cait, Cumin’s earned some quality time with his parents.”
Cait gave Cumin a final goodbye before Herman left the store, happily listening to Cumin’s excited humming.
Back at the farmhouse, Oracle was feeling down.
It had been some time since her operation had taken away her leg, and she still felt rotten about the whole thing. Her natural Fluffy instincts to run and play and dance were all screaming at her but every time she tried to do any of those things, she would get a painful reminder that she was broken.
Even worse, the humiliation of wearing a Fluffy nappy was making her feel even worse.
“Huu, nu feew pwetty, Owacew make bad poopies in bad dummeh nap-pee. Wan weggies bak, wan wun an pway.”
Cinnamon, hearing Oracle’s cries for help, came toddling over to the young filly, holding her softly against her Fluff.
“It ok babbeh, daddeh nu mind, nap-pee hewp keep bad-poopies off fwoow.”
“Bu Owacew stiww nu feew pwetty, nu wike dummeh nap-pee.”
Cinnamin kept holding Oracle as the poor filly held onto her adoptive mother tightly, hugging was about the only thing she could do and would often sit for hours just holding Cinnamin or Hickory.
Cinnamon looked over at her mate, the two of them felt awful, both about Oracle’s situation and their own guilt. Both of them wanted to run and play and dance with each other, but they knew that doing so in front of Oracle would only make her feel worse, but after several days, both of them were starting to feel stressed out.
Thankfully both of them had better willpower than most Fluffies thanks to Herman’s teachings, but even that had limits.
To everyone’s happiness, they heard Herman’s car pull up not long afterwards, the three Fluffies waited with bated breath for the door to open and…
“Yeah, I’m home, and I brought someone with me.”
The excitement caught all of them by surprise, which very quickly turned to ecstatic joy when Hickory and Cinnamon saw who Herman was placing onto the floor.
Cumin rushed over and was immediately enveloped into a hugpile with his parents. The three of them fell about hugging and holding each other, having not seen each other in FOREVER!
Which was a little over a month but Fluffies were always weird about time.
Herman took a moment to take in the family reunion, before he heard the soft sniffing from the awkward forth Fluffy in the room. Taking pity on her, Herman picked Oracle off the ground and carried her to the bathroom.
“Come on there hun, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Herman felt Oracle shiver as they went into the bathroom, but there was no shouting or screaming, not anymore since Oracle had gotten use to her frequent visits to this room by now. Laying the Pegasus down on a warm towel, Herman filled up the sink with a comfortable water and gently unfastened the nappy around Oracle’s waist.
He made sure not to make any reaction to the smell of Fluffy poop, he’d gotten use to it but being this close still caught him off-guard now and then. Even still, he knew that right now Oracle didn’t need the extra shame.
“Owacew am sowwy fow bad poopies daddeh.”
“They’re not bad poopies hun, when they’re in the nappy, they’re still good poopies.”
“Dey nu make Owacew feew pwetty.”
“I know they don’t, and I’m sorry. But we’ll make it through together, don’t you worry.”
Oracle was silent as Herman lifted her up and placed her into the soothing warmth of the sink. She naturally shuddered at the watery touch at first but soon released the tension in her body and let Herman softly scrub the poop from her behind.
Herman kept busy at work, but he noticed how much more silent Oracle was with this was compared to her others. He debated over asking her what was wrong or just letting her tell him when she was ready, only for Oracle to break the silence with a rough question.
“Daddeh? Wai Hikowy an Cin-a-min nu wike Owacew?”
“What? That’s silly Oracle, they love you.”
“Nu aneemowe, dey nu wike Owacew, can see it in deiw see-pwaces. Owacew am dummeh Fwuffy who nu can wun ow pway. Hikowy an Cin-a-min wan wun an pway bu nu du cos gib Owacew heawt-huwties.”
“Well doesn’t that prove they love you? They’re giving up their playtime to think of you.”
“Wouwd daddeh wub sumwun who take way his pwaytime?”
Herman sighed and wiped off the final pieces of poop from Oracle’s Fluff before hoisting her out of the sink and wrapping her in the towel.
“Oracle… I’m not going to lie to you. It IS difficult looking after you, neither me nor Hickory nor Cinnamon have ever had to look after a disabled Fluffy before.”
“Wha am dis-ah-bewed?”
“It means someone who is missing a body part, or has sickies in their head, someone who has difficulties with regular living, who needs help looking after themselves. There are plenty of people who dedicate their entire lives to helping others who are disabled, who learn how properly care for people like you. And then there are people like me who will help because it’s the right thing to do, knowing that it’s going to be hard but never blaming the disabled person for making it hard. It’s like… it’s like stacking your blocks as high as you can, you know it’s going to take a long time, that it’ll probably frustrate you and you might resent the blocks for making it difficult, but in the end, YOU decided to stack those blocks and you’re not going to abandon that just because it’s difficult.”
“Su… Hikowy an Cin-a-min stiww wub Owacew, dey jus fink it hawd.”
“In a roundabout way, yes. They’ll always love you like you’re their own foal, but they are probably tired, they’ve never done anything like this before. I promise you, they will never hate you for something outside of your control.”
Herman could tell that Oracle still felt off about her disability, but she had perked up somewhat.
“Ok daddeh, Owacew be gud Fwuffy fow Hikowy an Cin-a-min. Pway wiv nyu Fwuffy fwiend, wet dem hab westies.”
“I think that’s a great idea Oracle, good girl.”
Happy to see the little filly smiling again, Herman carried the burrito Fluffy through to meet the others. As he did though he felt his phone get a message, quickly checking it out he saw a message from Cait with a picture attachment.
‘Had an idea for Oracle. Think she’d like this?’
Herman scrolled down to the picture and a wide smile grew on his face.
‘She’d love it.’