It was a nice and warm summer day. The Friendies were waddling along the streets of a suburb and discussing whether cherries ripen before plums, or is it the other way round.
Neither of them had happened to make a note of that ever before. They did, however, remember all the times they had eaten them—either when some kind family invited them to their summer garden to drink tea and taste the freshly ripened fruits, or when they discovered someone selling them at the market. Some years, cherries had been the first to ripen, while on others it had been plums.
As they waddled on, they saw a doggie standing next to a fence, and as he looked sorrowful, they approached him to ask what’s wrong or if anything had happened to him. The doggie was shy and fearful at first, and didn’t want to answer. Instead, he kept really close to the fence. B@b@ took a gingerbread from where she always takes those things—the fourth dimension. Just last winter, she had gotten the gingerbread from Santa Claus himself in Rovaniemi. She broke the gingerbread into three pieces, gave one piece to Fofefa, and placed the second piece on the pavement near the doggie. Then, as a sign of peace and trust, she bit off a big chunk of her piece and quickly munched it away, leaving lots of crumbs. Fofefa did the same with her piece, and confirmed that it truly was a particularly tasty gingerbread, approvingly saying, “Fofefa!”
The doggie sniffed the gingerbread, and, indeed, it had an especially good and sweet aroma. But he had been alone for so long that he didn’t know what to think of the Friendies. True—they had shared their gingerbread with him. Not everyone shares their gingerbread. Some would scare him away, shouting, cursing and swearing.
The doggie took another sniff. Indeed, there was this delicate scent of cardamom and sugar, the aroma of baking. See—there is even some flour on the back of it, this is to make sure the dough won’t get stuck to the bake tray. Whoever made this gingerbread knew full well how to bake a proper gingerbread. The doggie took another look at the Friendies, who were standing in a deferential distance of him, encouraging him to try the gingerbread by making waving gestures with their paws.
The doggie cautiously took a tiny bite. Ohhh, how tenderb@! A bit crunchy on the outside, but once you bite through the crust, it is very soft, and crumbles just right. It is juicy and has just the right amount of cardamom and sugar inside, so it isn’t too sweet!
The doggie took another bite, and another, and looked at the Friendies, who were kindly nodding toward him. He took a fourth bite, and just like that, they had finished off the gingerbread. The doggie felt warmth spreading all over his body, and his paws were tingling from the tasty gingerbread. Behold, even the tail decided to wag a little.
The doggie timidly shifted a bit closer to the Friendies and introduced himself, saying he is Voldemar, and thanking them for the gingerbread. B@b@ answered that he’s welcome and that they are always happy to share—besides, Voldemar seemed miserable and they were wondering if they could be of help somehow.
Voldemar looked down and said that he really is sad, because roaming the streets alone is terribly boring, and when he reaches a crossroad, he does not have anybody to consult regarding which turn to take, so sometimes he just turns around and walks back. B@b@ and Fofefa listened in silence. Then, B@b@ comfortingly told him, “B@b@b@,” and Fofefa, saying “Fofefa!” meant that the doggie should come with them, because a firm friend is always a good addition to their company—besides, doggies have a great sense of smell!
Voldemar the Doggie confirmed that his sense of smell is indeed brilliant, and that he is a very good doggie, and he would love to join them, because he really doesn’t want to be alone anymore, since it is sad to have nobody to wait for at home, and nobody to run to upon their arrival. His mood improved so much that he happily wagged his tail.
And so the three of them waddled on together. Voldemar was walking in front of them and talking about all the smells he sensed coming from everywhere. Then, he stopped for a moment and said that since he overheard the Friendies talk about cherries and plums, he would like to point out that there are cherries and plums growing side by side behind this high fence. This meant they could go and ask the residents which ones ripen first, cherries or plums. But they would have to be careful, because there is a sign on the fence that warns of a bad dog.
The Friendies said that they would like to go and ask themselves, and that it would be best if the doggie stays outside and waits for them there. Big bad dogs could harm smaller ones, and that would be awful. The doggie was worried about whether the Friendies would come back and not leave him alone. The Friendies assured him that since Voldemar is their family, they would never leave him, because one never leaves their family. Voldemar wagged his tail out of joy and stayed on the street, next to the gate, to guard them.
The Friendies entered through the gate and waddled toward the house. Abruptly, the door opened, and an unfriendly-looking couple were standing in the threshold. They asked what business do the strangers have with them, and what are they doing in their yard, suspecting it is to steal something. And oh, no! A growling angry dog run up from behind the house, standing before them and snarling.
The Friendies wanted to explain that they mean no harm, but the dog’s snarling muted most of what they said, and, in fact, the auntie and the uncle didn’t really want to listen. Who knows why and when they had become so mean. Usually, people are kind and friendly, but sadly sometimes something goes wrong.
There is no telling how this crazy situation would have resolved if the angry dog hadn’t fallen silent, and, in amazement, started staring at something behind the Friendies. The growling of the angry dog had also been heard on the street, and as Voldemar heard it, he ran into the yard to see what’s going on. He quickly arrived on the scene, and stood between the Friendies and the angry dog, and since the auntie and uncle had also stopped talking, Voldemar affirmed his presence by stoutly saying, “Wuff!”
And, you see—this took the edge off the whole situation. The Friendies had almost been holding their breath—they were also surprised—and were now breathing easier. The angry dog was no longer angry, but was wagging his tail as he approached Voldemar. They sniffed each other and nodded as a sign of greeting, and then looked toward the auntie and the uncle to let them know that there is no danger.
Seeing this, the auntie and the uncle remembered the times when they had visited their friends, and had once started to wonder which fruits ripen first, cherries or plums. Then, they had built the house and created a garden, in which they then planted these trees. Oh, how everything had seemed beautiful and bright then.
But then, a raging tempest had come and damaged the land, breaking down all the trees, and leaving the ground looking wild and dark. They had thought that perhaps this had been done by someone malicious, and so they took an angry dog, who would then guard their property, so nobody could enter. They stayed inside and showed great viciousness toward the world. In time, corrosion took the gate of the fence, and the path to the house grew grassy, because nobody visited them.
And now, they realized that they had been the ones who had turned their back on the world. In reality, the world had been beautiful and wonderful all along, and when sometimes something bad does happen, one shouldn’t become self-absorbed and turn their back on the world, but instead do even more good, so the bad does not get a chance to win. And seeing how a little doggie comes and stands fearlessly for everything that is good in this world means that good will always win over evil.
The auntie burst into tears out of joy, and the uncle, after what had felt like forever, burst into laughter while hugging the auntie and apologizing to everyone for their grumpiness. He asked the group of friends to join him and the auntie at the table in the garden to drink a cup of tea and taste the freshly ripened cherries and plums, which were exceptionally sweet this year.
The Friendies and the doggie kindly accepted the invitation, and when the tea was ready and the first sips were taken, they expressed their interest in getting to know which fruit was the first to ripen this year. The uncle and the auntie discussed the matter for quite some time, and, indeed, they couldn’t say—because when you are grumpy, you are oblivious to the happenings of the world. But after all, they had planted the trees with exactly that idea on their minds! Next year, they promised to closely observe which tree bears fruit first in order to come to a conclusion. Until then, let’s just indulge in the fruits, aren’t they delightful!
Voldemar and the other dog took a sniff at all the fallen cherries and plums, but even they couldn’t be sure about which had ripened first. However, they were both quite certain that the fruits had ripened at almost the same time. The angry dog was not angry at all, because he realized that all this time he had thought he had to be angry, since his owners had been like that, but now he understood that this had happened for a whole other reason.
After finishing their tea, the Friendies and Voldemar thanked them for their company, promised to come by the next year, and set off. The auntie and the uncle walked with them to the gate and sent them off with a happy wave. It always feels good when someone comes to send you off and wishes you a safe trip home.
The Friendies waddled, one on both sides of Voldemar, and in astonishment, they looked at the doggie who stood bravely for all that is good in this world. One word can change so much, even if it is a quiet, yet brave, “Wuff!”