The dog sniffed the ground, following the scent of fatty flesh and milky shit. There were Fluffies nearby, and lots of them, enough to satisfy the grumblings in his stomach. Salivating at the chops, the dog followed the scent towards a hole in a fence, a fence leading to a garden, a hole he could easily squeeze through if he just…
“BUSTER, Buster come on now, get outta here.”
The young and excitable Buster turned round to the familiar voice of Darius Washington, a sheet of wood in one hand and a hammer and nails in the other. Buster leapt up, placing his paws onto Darius’ legs and panting heavily, his tongue rolled out in excitement at seeing the nice man next door.
Darius scratched Buster behind the ear. “Sorry bud, garden’s off limits with the new tenants. Gonna need to close this up to keep folks like you out. Come on, let’s get you back home.”
Buster didn’t know what Darius was talking about, but he happily followed the nice man home, his thoughts son forgetting all about Fluffies and the hole that would be gone by the time he came back to this spot.
Back in the garden, Aphrodite dished out a long awaited meal for the herd, it wasn’t anything special, just some kibble she had left over from when she babysat the Fluffies of her neighbours Liz and Shep while they went on holiday, but for the starving ferals it was everything to them.
Aphrodite laid out eleven empty bowls, or at least what could used as a bowl, onto the patio, the herd could sense what was about to happen and all crept forward, their little bellies growling at the thought of food.
Before they could get any closer, Aphrodite held up her hand and the herd all stopped in their tracks.
“No-one eats until I make sure everyone has a fair amount, that means until I say so, you all have to stay back.”
Poseidon groaned. “Bu Poh-sy-dun hab wowstesh tummeh-huwties, need nummies.”
Hades knocked into Posidon’s side, knocking the unicorn off-balance. “Nuh-uh, Hay-dees hab eben wowstesh tummeh-huwties, need nummies nyo.”
Hera whined softly. “Need nummies fow tummeh-babbehs, nu wan tummeh-babbehs hab huwties.”
Zeus suddenly stepped forward and faced the herd. “Fwiends, Miss Ah-fwo nu say Fwuffies neba hab nummies jus need wait fow Fwuffies tu shawe nummies.”
Hermes piped up, the little ball of energy bouncing on his hoofs. “Bu Heh-mees hab hungwies NYO!”
Zeus marched over and plonked Hermes on the head. “Owwies, wai Zoos gib huwties?”
“Cos Heh-mees am being meanie, aww Fwuffies wan nummies, wai Heh-mees git dem befowe udda Fwuffies?”
“He’s right Hermes.” Aphrodite spoke up as she pour the kibble into the bowls. “Why should I give you the food before anyone else?”
“Um… cos Heh-mees am fastesh wunny Fwuffy an need nummies tu wun.”
“Really? Well by that logic what’s to stop me from giving the food to all the mares first, they need to stay healthy and safe to raise any babies you might have.”
Upon hearing that mares eat first, Hestia made to run forward but was quickly stopped by Demeter who simply shook her hea.
Aphrodite continued. “What about if I gave it to the Toughies first, so they can be bigger and stronger to protect the herd?”
Apollo and Ares looked at each other, neither said a word but both smiled and nodded, knowing they were the strongest in the herd and both proud of it.
“Or how about I give it to the older Fluffies first? They need that extra energy so they don’t go forever sleepies too soon.”
Hephaestus looked over at Demeter, both of them the oldest Fluffies in the herd.
“Hep couwd du wiv sum nummies nyp if De-meh…”
Demter shook her head again. “Jus wait Hep, nu wong nyo.”
Aphrodite looked back at Hermes, the eager young stallion now fret with confusion and shame.
“Do you see how unfair that would be Hermes, I don’t wait any of you to be hungry, but I need to make sure all of you have an equal amount of food so that I can keep you all healthy and safe.”
Hermes slunk onto his belly, too ashamed to look up. “Heh-mees sowwy Miss Ah-fwo.”
“It’s ok Hermes. I understand you’re just hungry. But good news, I’m finished, so dig in.”
The Fluffies all looked in astonishment; they had been so distracted by Aphrodite’s lessons on fairness they hadn’t even noticed that she’d kept working. With their minds back on food, the herd moved forward one-by-one and took a bowl, Zeus waited behind until everyone else was eating before finding the last bowl for himself.
Aphrodite briefly wondered if that essay she did on communism during her political science college course was finally paying off.
The garden was filled with the happy, if slightly sloppy sounds of a whole herd chewing away on some healthy kibble. From the looks of them, none of the herd were starving but Aphrodite knew how feral life was and that it was likely sometime since their last decent meal, especially with a fat Smarty leading them. The eleven happy faces were enough to convince her she was doing a good job.
Still sitting down next to the herd, Aphrodite reached over and stroked Hera on the back, the pregnant mare initially tensed up at the touch but soon she relaxed and purred at Aphrodite’s soft petting.
“So tell me about your herd, how’d you all find yourself in my garden?”
Zeus looked up from his bowl, swallowing a mouthful of kibble before answering. “Hewd yoose wib in twee-pwace, hab gud homesie tiww bawkie munstahs come. Smawty daddeh twy tu scawe dem off, dey take off his finkie-pwace. Wose wots of udda fwiends dat bwite-time tuu.”
The herd all solemnly sniffed at the memory of their lost friends and family.
Zeus continued. “Bwudda take oba as Smawty den, wead hewd into sitty, bwudda say dat hoomins gib Fwuffies nummies ow bwudda gib dem sowwy hoofies. Sum hoomins am nice, wet Fwuffies hab wittew nummies, most hoomins am meanies, wose eben mowe fwiends. Sum gibben foweba sweepies by hoomins, sum wun way cos nu wike bwudda bein Smawty.”
“Why did you all stay?”
Zeus shrugged. “Nu hab betta choosie. Bwudda am dummeh bu hewd am safe togetha. Fwiends whu weave wewe famiwies whu hab eech udda.”
“Why didn’t any of you stand up to him, why didn’t anyone challenge him for leadership?”
“Fwuffies can du dat?” Ares asked with a mouthful of kibble still in his jaw.
Zeus shook his head. “Fwuffies neba fink of dat. Bwudda say he am smawtesh, stwongesh Fwuffy fow su wong dat Zoos fink Fwuffies stawt tu bewieve him. Neba fink dat he wyin tiww Miss Ah-fwo show Fwuffies dat Bwudda am wittew babbeh dummeh.”
“Well I’m just happy he’s gone now, you won’t have to worry about anyone like that ever again. Providing none of you try to be meanies yourself.”
Most of the Fluffies shook their heads, confirming none of them were planning anything. All except Ares and Apollo who looked at Aphrodite with shifty looks in their eyes. Zeus noticed them eying her as well.
“Wha am fwiends wookin at Miss Ah-fwo wike dat fow?”
“Jus finkin.” Said Apollo, his eyes narrowing at Aphrodite’s.
Eventually Ares relaxed his stare and shook his head. “Nah, Awes am suwe am stwonga dan Miss Ah-fwo, bu Miss Ah-fwo am smawta, Awes nu wan twy aneefing.”
Apollo chuckled. “Awes am betta Tuffie dan Smawty aneeway.”
Aphrodite giggled, she had other questions about the herd’s history and their dynamic, but their conversation was interrupted by Darius walking into the garden, his forehead shining with sweat.
“Woof. That was a tough job. Not the wood itself but trying to work with Buster next door wanting to play with me every five seconds was a lot to deal with.”
Zeus, Ares and Apollo rushed forward, forming a wall in front of their friends, Poseidon and Hades backed them up while Hermes and Hephaestus led the mares away to the other end of the garden.
“Whu am yu?” Zeus barked out. “Wai yu in Miss Ah-fwo’s gawden?”
Aphrodite laughed. “At ease Zeus, this is Darius, he’s my… well he’s my special-friend.”
It took Zeus a moment as he eyed Darius suspiciously, but he had no reason not to trust Aphrodite and he relaxed, the rest of the herd followed suit, all of them returning to the food bowls.
“Ok, if Miss Ah-fwo twust yu, den Zoos twust yu tuu Mistah Dawius.”
Darius chuckled. “Well thank you, uh… Zeus was it?”
Zeus nodded proudly. “Miss Ah-fwo gib Fwuffies gud namesies.”
“I see, quite a little ‘Pantheon’ she’s got here.”
Aphrodite smiled coyly and shrugged. “Whatever do you mean?”
Before Darius could think of a comeback, Hestia suddenly piped up. “Yu am Miss Ah-fwo’s speciaw-fwiend?”
Darius nodded. “Yeah, I suppose I am.”
“Am yu an Miss Ah-fwo gun hab babbehs?”
Darius’ eyes went wide. “Whoa there, Christ you sound like my mother.”
“Hes-tee-ah confoosed. If yu am bov speciaw-fwiends, wai nu hab babbehs?”
Athena placed a hoof onto Hestia’s shoulder. “Hoomins hab babbehs diffawentwy dan Fwuffies, maybe dey jus nu hab babbeh yet.”
Hestia was still confused, but Athena led her away before she could ask any more questions. Aphrodite made a note to check in on Athena later and how she knew so much about human reproduction.
With all the bowls empty and all the Fluffies full, Aphrodite stood up and stretched her arms. “Ok guys, I’m gonna go inside for bit, all of you feel free to play around. All I’ll say at the moment is thatif you need to go poopies then please do it onto the flowers.”
Poseidon looked at the bright red roses for a minute then back at Aphrodite. “Yu wan Fwuffies make poopies on pwetty fwowas?”
Aphrodite nodded. “That’s right, poop makes the flowers grow big and strong, it’s a strange trick that only works on flowers, not on babies.”
In the background Aphrodite watched as the excited Hestia slowly put down her hoof, her ridiculous question already answered. Aphrodite looked down at Zeus.
“I won’t be too long Zeus, you remember what we talked about?”
Zeus nodded. “Zoos wook afta Fwuffies, teww Miss Ah-fwo if aneewun hab pwobwems.”
Satisfied that Zeus had control over the herd, and that the herd would be too busy playing to cause any issues, Aphrodite returned inside with Darius, shutting the door behind them as they did. Once the door was shut, Darius let out a hearty chuckle.
“What?” Aphrodite giggled as she slapped her husband’s arm.
“Zeus? Really? Did you give them all Greek God names?”
“Jesus, you’re as bad as your father.”
“Hey I had to give them names somehow, sorry if literally being called ‘Aphrodite’ put the idea of Olympus in my head. We’re just lucky none of them was pink or else I’d to share my name with a Fluffy.”
“We’re even luckier you didn’t name any of the green ones Artemis.”
“God you’re right, she might have actually killed me if I named a Fluffy after her.”
Darius slid over and embraced his wife in a hug, softly kissing her as he did. “It’s a good idea, keeps them unique and memorable. And is only a little bit egocentric from yourself.”
“Oh shut up.” Aphrodite giggled again as she kissed her husband. “Alright let me go, I need to call dad.”
“Why, what you need him for?”
“Well dad still works in the bioscience field, he still gets funding for his projects, if anyone has access to cheap food it’ll be him. All I can do is ask, right?”
Darius nodded his head in agreement. “Can’t see the harm in it, just maybe don’t ask him to come visit.”
Aphrodite rolled her eyes and she stepped away and took out her phone, it wasn’t long after calling that Dr Deimos Jackson answered his phone.
“Hey dad, it’s Aph, I just wanted…”
“You’re calling about the herd in your garden aren’t you?”
“How did you…? Art told you, didn’t she?”
“Yep, your sister called me about an hour ago telling me about your little predicament.”
“It’s not a predicament dad, it’s just some animals looking for someone safe to rest up. I’m just helping them out for a bit.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, if this has anything to do with your mother I’ll…”
“Why does everyone think I’m doing this because of mum? Look mum’s actions were her own and have nothing to do with this, call me a bleeding heart but I’m helping these Fluffies because it’s the good and right thing to do.”
On the other end of the line, Deimos let out a long sigh. “You’re right, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have brought up your mother like that. I guess being so clinical around Fluffies I forget they are supposed to be cute little pets. To answer that question you haven’t got round to asking me yet, yes I have some spare food and I’ll be happy to send you some. Just promise me if things get out of hand that you’ll call me or your sister to help you.”
“I will, thanks dad.”
Aphrodite rolled her eyes at her dad’s insistence at using her full name but she smiled all the same. After a quick catch-up the two said their goodbyes and hung up.
Sorting out the food situation was a small but important first step, Aphrodite wanted the herd to be safe and happy under her guard. Keeping them fed helped her believe that they just might pull this off.
It wasn’t paradise, but it was a start.