Chapter 1: Christmas Miracle
It was Christmas Eve. Charlie was trotting along the street with his bare shivering paws rubbing against the bitterly cold and rough surface of concrete. Every step for him was torturing, the cold struck him as if an icy knife just punctured him. Charlie could feel his stomach rumbling like a rainstorm. The cons of being a stray is that you are always starving. Sometimes hours of searching in the dustbin turns out to be a few scraps of fruit peels which ruins his appetite. Charlie had tried his best to be a good dog this year, so hopefully, a turning point for him would come soon. His Christmas wish was to find a kind and amicable master that would accept him and provide him with food to help him regain some energy that had been lacking for months.
Closer and closer, Christmas morning crept closer and closer. Charlie stayed awake for the whole night, something was perturbing him inside. He had perfectly known how dangerous it is to spend the chilly winter on the streets, alone. His shaggy fur wasn’t enough, the cold could still knock him down at any second. However, that day was the best day in Charlie’s life, it felt like a miracle.
That morning, as Charlie trudged along the clear and desolate street, he involuntarily came to the only bakery shop that was still open. He gazed at the display window: “It would be merciful if I manage to get just a piece of plain bread!” Whenever the early customers came out, Charlie wagged his tail at them and pulled his cute face, so maybe, someone kind would throw him some bread crumbs. But that kind of person is really rare to find. To be honest, people usually feel loathful towards stray dogs such as Charlie:
“ Stop blocking my way out and never let me see your face again!”
See? Being a stray dog is pathetic and they are unpopular. Suddenly, a shadow loomed over him, a tall and eccentric-looking poodle was walking towards him:
“Hello! Congratulations for being chosen to be a member of the Cupcakes Academy! I am here to present you your special wristband that every single student at Cupcakes Academy owns.”
Charlie was super excited and puzzled: “ Wait, I don’t really understand what you are talking about. I mean, I am a stray, and nobody wants me anywhere. What is Cupcakes Academy anyway?”
“Haha! Don’t worry, every special dog performs the exact same reaction when they first hear of this. Cupcakes Academy is the most remarkable and luxurious boarding school that is particularly designed for stray puppies from the whole world! Every year, the school invites about 20 fortunate dogs around the world to join our community. The academy is set in a very secret place, where there is the most tasty food you could ever imagine. Once you have gotten your wristband, you have access to the academy through an invisible magic portal. You have been chosen because we were impressed by the potential in you, and we think you could be trained to become a professional cupcakes baker! Here is your wristband! Bear in mind it is only visible to us dogs.”
Charlie gingerly put the wristband onto his paws, looking a little perplexed by the excessive amount of information the poodle just told him. However, he didn’t hesitate before he said “Yes! I would love to!” He didn’t care about anything else the poodle told him, but simply the idea of tasty food was a powerful enticement. Also, we get to live there, so I would not need to sleep on the freezing streets anymore, I’ve gotten a shelter!
“Alright, I am informing you that your first day at Cupcakes Academy starts tomorrow. You will need to come to the academy straight through that magic portal. When you see the wristband glitters, you need to sneak to the nearest bakery near you with your wristband, because apparently we are the Cupcakes Academy, then you touch the shop windows three times with your wristband and it will lead you to the Cupcakes Academy where stray pups train to become bakers ! Don’t be late!” The poodle then vanished in a blink.
“Wow! Everything sounds so supernatural and possibly… a bit weird, but the food sounds so appealing to me! I just hope this is not a dream.” Charlie sighed with astonishment in his face.
Chapter 2: First day at Cupcakes Academy
Finally, the first day for Charlie at Cupcakes Academy came. Last night, Charlie found an abandoned box near the bakery store and crouched in there for a night full of sweet dreams and what he expects to see on his first day of school. He was already wide awake when the sun rose, then he scurried towards the bakery. The first day at a secret Cupcakes school was apparently the most marvellous thing that has ever happened in Charlie’s life. Clearly, he didn’t want to be late on his first day.
“Um… cupcakes? What are cupcakes anyway? Are they edible? I wonder what we will do there? I mean… at least there will be food.”
Charlie thought, looking bewildered. All of a sudden, a glittering light appeared on the wristband.
“That’s it, I have to tap the shop windows three times, and…”
Charlie tried to recall the eccentric-looking poodle’s words yesterday who he assumed to be the teacher or headmaster of the Cupcakes Academy. He didn’t have time to think before he found himself spinning away from the surface he was standing on at full tilt.
A sudden dizziness was rising up in his head. He felt himself landing on a concrete surface with a stumble. Nevertheless, when he eventually intended to open his eyes, the shop windows were not in front of him anymore, instead a gigantic and vibrant-looking building appeared that seemed to be in the shape of a cupcake!
“Wow! This is wonderful! I have never seen a place as magnificent as this! I am going to enjoy my time here.” Charlie stammered as he turned around and instantly realised that he was not the only pup here, there were a bunch of other dogs in tattered clothes, just like himself.
Everyone was staring at each other with their glassy eyes, looking baffled. Finally, a familiar face emerged, the eccentric-looking poodle. “Alright everyone, I am Ms Roxie, the headmistress of this school. Welcome to your first day at Cupcakes Academy, which we initiate as CA. You all stray pups are honored to be here. In the foreseeable future, you will spend all of your time here at this school, eating, sleeping, learning… What you are starting now is a fresh journey that none of you has ever experienced. As you probably already know, this is a place where you all will be trained to become professional cupcake bakers. Eventually, after you have passed all the mandatory stages of learning to get you certified. In the end, you will be moved to the final department: manufacturing. Cupcakes made in that department are all exquisitely packed and decorated, which would be sold to humans who are obsessed with food such as cupcakes.”
“Now, without further explanation, you will be attending your first class at CA: Introduction to cupcakes and our Academy.”
All the pups suddenly got exuberant and began to trot towards the Cupcake Building in a hustle. “This is the most important building at CA, the Cupcake house, made from cream that would never melt, also where the final stage manufacturing department is located. Here, you will learn lots of magical ways to make cupcakes that will make you mouth-watering! However, you will be starting with the basics: paw-shaped cookies.”
“Wow, I guess there will be satisfying food.” Charlie smiled, still a little astonished by the amazing secret school specifically designed for stray pups!
“Now, let’s get you started with your first lesson at CA. This is the preparation room, all the natural ingredients you need are in the drawers. Everyone who makes paw-shaped cookies successfully would be moved to the manufacturing department, where you will be baking cupcakes that we sell to humans! Ready? You can start now!” Ms Roxie smiled haughtily.
All the pups pelted towards the long dining table that is filled with bowls of sprinkles, flour, eggs. “Haha! I love sprinkles, colourful!” Screamed Charlie, desperately trying to lick while grappling a few of them. “Table manners! Remember, this is a school! Expulsion can happen to anyone!” Yelled Ms Roxie, looking enraged by Charlie.
Charlie peeked around to find that other pups have already started to blend together the ingredients. “Oh no, I’d better start! I never want to get expelled.” He immediately started to imitate what other pups are doing: stirring eggs and flour by flapping his paws. After that, he meticulously poured the mixture into a few separate round shaped molds. Then, he pressed his paws against it and there! A paw-shaped cookie was ready to be baked.
“Now, it seems like everyone’s cookie is ready to be baked. In CA, we don’t use an oven which is what humans call it. Instead, we use a gigantic pumpkin to bake our delicious cookies. Come on! Let’s head off to the Pumpkin castle! The most precious thing in the whole school!” Ms Roxie smiled delightfully.
Ms Roxie led the way to Pumpkin castle whilst everyone else bustled after her. Charlie had no idea what a pumpkin is, but when they arrived, he was as if stupefied by the massive look of this transparent and bulgy pumpkin, which appeared to him as a crooked inflated ball. “Now, everyone can put their cookies inside this humongous pumpkin, you all have to figure out how it works.” Without a moment’s hesitation, pups started jostling with each other, everyone wanted to put their cookies in the best spot. Surprisingly, there were no holes or slits on the pumpkin surface for them to put cookies in. Charlie was getting more and more disgruntled, therefore began to nudge the surface with his nose. The moment the cookie touched it, something miraculous happened, the cookie was as though enchanted and somehow magically passed through the plastic surface into the inside of the pumpkin. Immediately, the cookie started to turn more yellow. “Wow! Isn’t that cool!” Charlie gasped. Straight away, all the other pups started to mimic exactly what Charlie did: gently push the surface of the pumpkin, then some sort of magic key would be able to deliver the cookie from the outside to the inside of the pumpkin which acts like an oven.
Ms Roxie glanced around and said: “Everyone’s paw-shaped cookie is now inside, while we wait for it to be fully cooked, we are going to have our kibble time! Remember I told you all that the best thing about CA is the food!”
“Yeah!” For stray pups, food is the thing that would appeal them the most. Everyone darted towards the long tables the moment they saw the food. The most common food for stray pups everyday used to be fruit scraps, pickled vegetables…But in this school, a feast was waiting for them on the tables! Every pup had its own bowl, and there were innumerable types of snacks for them to choose from: strawberries, blueberries, carrots, peanut butter, pumpkin pie, cheese crackers, roasted chicken, avocado toast… All of them were baked in the pumpkin. Charlie and other pups were busy gobbling and grabbing as much food as he could to regain energy in him that had been lacking for months.
The only sound you could hear in the dining hall were pups chewing and munching, as if all of them haven’t eaten for months, no one even bothered to even talk to each other. “Ah! I really hope this could last forever! It is not a dream, right?” “Achoooo!” “Haha! No! Wide awake!” Charlie thought contentedly.
After about an hour, the only thing left on the tables were empty bowls and plates. “Seems like it is the end of kibble time, we can now go and pick up your paw-shaped cookies from the pumpkin.” Most pups have passed their first stage of learning at CA including Charlie. His cookie was in a flawless paw shape, and the egg, flour and sugar blended perfectly well with each other. Charlie swallowed it with a complacent smile on his face. Even Ms Roxie seemed to be satisfied about it. However, some pups were not so lucky. There was a chubby bulldog who was throwing a tantrum at the pumpkin by punching it with his paws, because his cookie melted into a pile of syrup and yolk, as he had forgotten to flour into it;
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