The bath was too hot. The yellow duckies squirted icky water. And her favorite tiger towel was still in the laundry.
Annie had had enough.
She wrapped herself in a frayed blue towel, curled up into a ball on the bathmat, and went away. She went away to the Middle of Nowhere.
It was nice in the Middle of Nowhere. Soft. Dark. A little moist. But nice.
Annie was listening to the sound of her heartbeat in the Middle of Nowhere when from far away she heard a voice.
A shrill, scratchy sort of voice. It reminded her of her mother.
“Annie!” the shrill, scratchy voice shouted. It grew louder. It sounded like it was on top of her.
“Annie’s not here!” Annie shouted back. “She’s gone far away.”
The shrill, scratchy voice was silent. Then it said, “Oh.”
The “oh” was soft and just a little bit scratchy. It reminded Annie of her mother when she read a bedtime story.
“Can you tell me where Annie has gone, please?”
“Far away,” Annie said. “To the Middle of Nowhere!”
“Oh!” said the voice. “And where exactly is the Middle of Nowhere?”
“It’s very far away. It’s farther than Australia and Gibraltar. You have to take 17 airplanes to get there.”
“Oh my,” said the voice. “That is far away. I wonder how Annie managed.”
“Well,” said Annie, “she does run the fastest of anyone. She got there quick as a flash.”
“Of course,” said the voice. “But what is the Middle of Nowhere like? What’s in it?”
“Oh, it’s a beautiful place,” said Annie. “There are only giraffes. And no ants and no spiders can live there.”
“Really?” asked the voice. “Just giraffes. No people?”
“No. No people,” said Annie.
“Except for Annie, right?” said the voice.
Annie thought that the soft, scratchy voice was chuckling a little bit. It reminded her of her mother when she was listening to her father tell a joke.
“Yes, except for Annie. She’s allowed there. The giraffes like her.”
“Do the giraffes play with her?”
“No. They never play with her. They only eat leaves and moo.”
“Wait … the giraffes moo? Like cows?”
“Yes. They moo all day long. They’re very noisy.”
“Wow. So do the ants and the spiders play with Annie?”
“No! Remember I told you there are no ants and spiders in the Middle of Nowhere. Just giraffes.”
“Just giraffes that moo. Yes, you did tell me that. I’m sorry,” the voice softened even more. “Well, I have an important question to ask you. If there’s no one to play with her there, why did Annie leave our cozy house to go to the Middle of Nowhere?”
“Slugs,” said Annie.
“Excuse me?” said the scratchy voice, turning a tiny bit shrill again.
“There are slugs in the Middle of Nowhere. Annie likes slugs,” said Annie.
“Annie likes slugs?” the voice said with a sigh.
“I’m a slug,” said Annie.
The voice was silent for a second. Then it said slowly, “Let me get this straight. You’re a slug?”
“Yes,” said Annie.
“From the Middle of Nowhere?”
“Yes,” said Annie.
“And you arrived here when Annie left for the Middle of Nowhere?”
“Yes!” cried Annie.
“Oh!” said the voice. “Welcome to our bathroom.”
“Thank you,” said Annie.
“Do you like it here in the bathroom?”
“Very much,” said Annie.
“Well, well,” said the voice, sounding brighter. It reminded Annie of her mother when they were out walking in the woods. “The rest of the house is even nicer. How would you like to spend the night? Since Annie’s run off to the Middle of Nowhere, there’s an empty spot in her bed. You might as well wear her pajamas too — that is, if slugs wear pajamas.”
“Slugs do,” said Annie. “And yes, I would like to spend the night. I’m quite tired.”
Annie stood up and threw off the blue towel. Annie’s mother was sitting on the bathroom floor, holding her favorite red and white striped pajamas.
“Oh!” said Annie’s mother, sounding exactly like when she opened a surprise present.
“What is it?” said Annie.
“You look just like my daughter Annie, even if you are a slug,” said Annie’s mother. “Now, come on, let’s go find Annie’s father. We’ve never put a slug to bed before, and I know he’s going to be very interested to meet you. Do you leave a trail of slime wherever you go?”
And far off, in the Middle of Nowhere, a herd of giraffes mooed.