What Mommy Said
By StrixAluco

Casey saw a puppy. Her mommy didn't see the puppy because she was doing mommy things but Casey saw it.

The puppy was out in the garden.

Mommy always told Casey she shouldn't go into the garden.

"The swingset is safe for little girls," she'd say, "but you should stay out of the garden. It used to be a cemetary. All sorts of bad people are there. If you go into the garden alone you might get eaten by a monster. You don't want that to happen, do you? I'd be so terribly alone if you got eaten. You don't want that, right?"

Casey didn't.

But there was a puppy! A puppy was somebody, right? So she wouldn't be alone if she was with the puppy.

Casey slipped down from her booster seat at the kitchen table and went outside.

The sun was shining. Casey saw the light sparkle on the puppy's metal tags. She heard the tinkle of them as the puppy ran toward her. The puppy dodged her playfully and scampered further into the garden. Casey giggled and followed.

Casey liked the garden. There were many fallen trees for her and Puppy to run under or jump over. There butterflies to chase and interesting things to look at.

Puppy even found a bridge.

Casey liked the bridge very much. It was straight out of a fairy tale and made of pretty stones. Puppy led the way across it and investigated a little door in the base of a tree.

A tiny man came out of the little door and bowed to Casey and Puppy. "Hello, hello! Welcome! Lovely seeing you two here. Care for some tea? Or perhaps cookies?"

Casey told the tiny man she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers.

"Of course, of course! Me either! It's a swell game. We can just follow each other and not talk, doesn't that sound fun? Yep, yep, I'll lead first!"

The tiny man closed his door and scurried further into the garden. Casey followed the curious person and Puppy followed Casey.

Casey knew she shouldn't talk to strangers. But she wasn't talking to him. Mommy hadn't said she couldn't follow strangers.

And now she definitely wasn't alone. Mommy didn't have to worry that monsters would eat Casey. Casey had found a friend and now she was playing a game. A chasing game.

Casey chased the little man. Puppy chased Casey. The little man led the way deeper into the garden.

Then the little man stopped at another tree with a door and knocked.

A big man opened the large door in the tree and looked down at the tiny man. "I did not expect to see you here," he said in a grumbly, rumbly voice.

The tiny man bowed. "Ah, but I have come here to pay my debt." He grinned and waved at Casey. "I brought a friend."

The big man looked at Casey. "And who's this?"

Casey told the big man she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers.

"Well, is that so? That's okay then, little one. We don't need to talk if you don't want to. Would you like to stay for dinner?"

Casey didn't say no because she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers. But Mommy also hadn't said she couldn't have dinner with strangers.

The tiny man disappeared and the big man herded Casey and Puppy into his house in the tree. Casey found a pretty chair and sat on it. Puppy sat next to Casey. Casey and Puppy stared at the big man.

Casey wondered if Mommy had finished making dinner yet. She wondered if she should be heading home soon so Mommy wouldn't be worried and sad.

But Casey wasn't talking to strangers and she wasn't alone so Mommy didn't have to worry that Casey'd get eaten by monsters in the garden.

The big man pulled out a measuring tape and measured Casey. Casey giggled because the measuring tape tickled. Puppy tried to bite the measuring tape when the big man measured him.

The big man pulled out a giant pot. Casey got off her chair and looked inside it. Puppy jumped inside and sniffed around.

Casey thought she might fit in the pot too. She liked how big the pot was.

Puppy didn't like the pot so he jumped out again.

The big man took the giant pot outside. Puppy scampered after him. Casey scampered after Puppy.

Puppy decided to run back the way they had come with the tiny man. Casey followed him.

She heard the big man yell at her a little bit later. He was very loud and scary in his grumbly, rumbly way, but Casey and Puppy were far away by then.

Casey stuck her tongue out at him. She'd told him she wasn't going to talk to strangers and he said he wouldn't talk either.

Mommy always told her she shouldn't break promises.

Casey wondered if the big man's nose had grown when he broke his promise and started talking to her. Then she remembered that that was what happened when you lied and Casey knew it hadn't.

Puppy led Casey back to the bridge but didn't want to go over it. Casey patted his head but he still didn't want to.

Puppy went to the edge of the water and sniffed it. Casey saw a pretty thing move in the water.

The pretty thing came out of the water a bit and looked at Casey. "What are you doing here, child?"

Casey didn't even say she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers. She was afraid of the monster in the water. After all, a talking snake had to be a monster and it would probably eat her for being in the garden. Even if she wasn't alone.

"Oh, I see, little one. Mommy told you not to talk to strangers?"

Casey nodded and hugged Puppy close.

"A wise woman. You should always listen to her." Casey nodded agreement.

The talking snake looked like it was listening to something. "You should go home now, child. The ogre is looking for you. Mr. Gnome promised him a meal, you see."

Casey wondered who the talking snake meant. She hadn't met anyone but the tiny man and the big man. Who were these 'ogre' and 'Mr. Gnome'? She couldn't ask, though, because the talking snake was a stranger and she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers.

Puppy barked at the talking snake. The talking snake nodded in understanding and waved Casey forward with her snake head. "Go on home, child."

Casey walked across the bridge and looked back when she got to the other side. Puppy jumped out of her arms as she waved to the talking snake. She went back into the house with Puppy.

The big man came out of the garden to stand on his side of the bridge. With his arms crossed he yelled at the talking snake in his grumbly, rumbly voice. The talking snake rolled her eyes and dove back under the water. The big man got splashed and walked away, complaining in his grumbly, rumbly voice about still being owed a meal.

Casey and Puppy didn't see any of this. Casey climbed back into her booster seat like nothing had happened. Puppy sniffed around the house until Mommy found him and carried him back into the kitchen.

Mommy looked at Casey angrily. "Did you go into the garden, Casey? Haven't I told you not to go into the garden?"

Casey pointed out that Mommy had said not to go into the garden alone and she'd found a puppy so she hadn't been alone.

Mommy sighed and gave Casey her grilled cheese. "Well at least I know you're listening to me."