RACE NIGHT: the second downloadable kids ebook about Horace the driving dog, free from Megamouse Books
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RACE NIGHT

by Emma Laybourn

Chapter One

Horace was in the dog-house.

True, it was a brand new dog-house. Mr Hay had just built it in the garden.

It had a red roof and HORACE written over the doorway. Inside it was his bean-bag with its comforting smells of toast and old sausage. Kitchen smells.

Unfortunately, it was a long way from the kitchen. Horace was banned from the kitchen after finding a bowl of custard in the fridge.

Mr Hay had bellowed like a blustering bull.

"That dog cannot have the run of the house any longer!" he roared. "It's not just the paw prints in the custard. It's the doggy dribble on the breadboard! It's the dog-biscuits that he steals from the cupboard! It's the old pizza that he drags out of the bin!"

Horace was most indignant. They were his dog-biscuits, weren't they? He hadn't stolen them. And Mrs Hay had thrown the pizza away.

Licking up stray breadcrumbs was part of a dog's job. As for the custard, he'd simply been fascinated by its wobble.

But now he was in the dog-house, shut out from the kitchen.

Shut out from the garage.

Shut out from the car...

No longer could he creep into the garage at night and sit blissfully in the driver's seat. He was heart-broken.

It was only a few weeks ago that Horace had first borrowed the car keys. With the help of the two hamsters and Kimi, the snake next door, he had set out in Mr Hay's car. To his joy, he had learnt to drive!

Once the other dogs in the neighbourhood saw Horace at the wheel, they went car-crazy. Now they were all learning to drive too. At dead of night, cars buzzed and beeped around the sleeping streets.

Their human owners did not know the truth. Oh, they wondered at the muddy seats and moaned about the battered bumpers. They grumbled about vandals and joyriders. Some blamed their own teenagers.

It never occurred to them that dogs could learn to drive.

Not just dogs. Cats got in on the act as well. But not just any old cats...

Right now, as Horace lay in his lonely dog-house in the dark, he could hear the throaty purr of sports cars racing up and down, as if panthers were patrolling the streets. He put his paws over his ears and moaned.

"Drat those cats!"

He knew who was driving: the snooty cats from the car showroom down the road. Mordle's Modern Motors had the fastest, sleekest cars in town.

Horace stuck his head under his beanbag, trying to shut out the glorious snarl of speeding engines. It didn't work. He whined with jealousy.

"Why do I have to sleep out here?" he whimpered. "Why can't I be driving too? It's so unjust. I learnt to drive first! It's not fair...Ow!"

Something had pulled his tail. Leaping to his feet, Horace whirled round indignantly.

"It's only us," said Tickety, the hamster, in the doorway of the dog-house.

"Well, Horace? Are you coming?" demanded Boo, her brother, hopping impatiently beside her.

Horace was bewildered. "Coming where?"

"To the Faversaver car park! That's where it's all happening!"

"What's happening?"

"The rally!"

"What rally?"

"Hurry up, Horace!" "Stunt Hamsters for ever!" yelled Tickety and Boo. They scampered to the fence, dived beneath it and were gone.

"Rally?" said Horace. Hurrying out of the dog-house, he put his front paws on the fence to peer over it.

Headlights criss-crossed the sky above the Faversaver supermarket. All the growling engine noises came from that direction.

"A rally!" exclaimed Horace. Desperate to see what was going on, he scrabbled up on to the wheelie bins and leapt over the fence. Then he galloped after the hamsters towards the supermarket.

At this time of night, its car park was normally dark and deserted. But now headlights were swooping wildly round it. A dozen cars careered across the tarmac, squealing round the corners.

A crowd of dogs stood watching. Tickety and Boo perched on the handle of a shopping trolley, cheering the drivers on.

The drivers were all dogs. A bouncy brown mongrel pulled up nearby in a Mini Cooper and jumped out to check a tyre.

"Is it a race?" asked Horace.

"Just a practice," replied the mongrel. Then she stared at him. "Hey- aren't you- you're..."

"Horace," said Horace.

"Horace? You're the Horace? The Legendary Horace? Oh, wow!" She began to jump up and down, ears flapping, as if she was on springs. "I'm Ragbag. I saw you drive that tractor. I'm so proud to meet you, Horace! You're the champ!"

"Am I?"

"Hey, everyone!" she called out. "This is Horace- the very first driving dog! The one who showed us the way!"

At once Horace was surrounded by eager dogs all yapping with delight and trying to lick him.

"It was nothing, really," he said modestly.

"Can you give us some tips?" they yelped. "How fast can you do nought to sixty?"

"Can you do a handbrake turn?"

"What's the best car you've ever driven?"

"Well, I don't really know," Horace began. He didn't want to tell them that the only car he'd ever driven was Mr Hay's old banger, which did nought to sixty in about half an hour. And a tractor, which had been even slower...

"Give us a demo!" begged Ragbag. "Here, use my car! It's not big, but it's nippy."

Before he could protest, Horace was hustled into the Mini Cooper.

It certainly wasn't big. Horace was a long-legged Irish Dane, and didn't need to stretch to reach the pedals. But the controls looked quite different to those in Mr Hay's car.

"I don't know if I should," he said anxiously.

"Of course you should! And so should we!" squeaked Boo. "We'll be your crew." He swung off the shopping trolley handle and landed with a thump on the back seat behind Horace.

"Chocks away!" cried Tickety as she joined him. "Let's go!"

Horace put his foot down. The Mini shot off, pinning him back in his seat.

It took him a few minutes to get used to it, but soon he was buzzing around the car park like an oversized bumble bee. Ragbag was right: it was a nippy little car.

As the other dogs applauded, Horace puffed his chest out proudly. He really was the champ!

Then, above the Mini's engine, he heard another noise. If the Mini Cooper buzzed like a bee, this sounded like a hornet. A very large hornet with a bad cold and a worse temper...

Into the car park shot a lean red sports car. It sped right across his path.

"Get out of the way!" barked Horace indignantly.

He recognised the car. It was a Kazlo Burlap, the fastest motor in Mr Mordle's showroom. There was a cat leaning out of each window: and he knew those cats as well.

White-furred Fang sat behind the wheel. With him was the tabby, Demon.

the two cats in the sports car, waving and jeering at the dogs

Demon waved at him. "Hey, Horace! Nice little tin can you've got there!" she jeered.

"You call that driving? What a useless mutt!" scoffed Fang. "Watch us, and see how it should be done!"

The Burlap screamed round with an immaculate handbrake turn. Then it took off across the car park in a cloud of dust and empty crisp packets that left Horace far behind.

He stamped his foot down with determination. He had just started to chug after the Burlap when it wheeled round again and stopped. Fang stuck his head out of the window.

"That the best you can do?" he called.

"Give me a chance!" cried Horace. "I can go much faster than this!"

"Give you a chance? We'll give you more than a chance. We'll give you a challenge!"

"What?"

"This time next week," purred Fang, "we'll have a race. Two laps of the car park. We'll see who's fastest then!"

A black cat popped up from the footwell.

"We're the champs and you're the chumps!" it yelled.

Fang jumped on its head. "Shut up, Pibbles," he snarled. "Get back down there and do the clutch."

The Burlap set off again like a fire-cracker.

"Don't dawdle, dogs!" yelled Demon, as she waved a disdainful paw at them. "Daft dogs! Doo-lally dogs! You're all barking mad!"

At that, the dogs did indeed go mad. With furious woofs, they began to chase the cats' car as it revved around the car-park. The Burlap was pursued by a howling, barking, thundering mob. Pandemonium reigned...

Until, all of a sudden, a brilliant searchlight blazed out.

The dogs stopped in their tracks, dazzled. Horace was blinded. What was going on? What were those sirens?

"Wahey! It's the police!" cried Boo. At once, the cats' car whizzed away behind the supermarket, out of sight.

But the bewildered dogs stood still for too long. They were trapped. Police cars hemmed them in. Out of the nearest car leapt a pair of police officers and an elderly German Shepherd dog.

"Looks like we've got the culprits, Sergeant Baines!" the policeman cried.

"We have indeed, Constable!" said the policewoman. "Caught red-handed - thanks to Justine." She bent to give the German Shepherd dog a pat.

"Nice work, Justine!" she said. "I would never have believed a dog could drive, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. But now we know it's true. We've caught those canine car thieves in the act!"


Chapter Two

"You're not the only one in the dog-house now," said Tickety, as she helped herself to one of Horace's dog-biscuits.

"It's every dog in town!" cried Boo, tying a long piece of elastic to the red roof of Horace's kennel.

"People don't believe the dogs taught themselves to drive," explained Tickety. "They don't think dogs are clever enough."

"Or hamsters," said Boo. He tied the other end of the elastic to his ankle.

"They think a criminal gang has been teaching dogs tricks, to get them to steal cars," said Tickety. "It was on the news."

"They said everyone must keep their dogs away from cars. Bungeee!"

Boo threw himself off the dog-house roof. There was a loud twang as the elastic broke.

"Oh, no!" cried Horace, pulling Boo out of his water bowl. "How dreadful! If the dogs aren't allowed to drive, how can we beat the cats at their challenge?"

Tickety nodded. "They didn't mention cats. Nobody will keep them away from cars."

"Bet you I can hold my breath for three minutes," announced Boo. "Stunt hamsters rule!" He dived back into the water bowl.

Horace looked dolefully over at the garage where Mr Hay had locked the car. "Do you suppose I could break in?"

"No," said Tickety. "Mr Hay's just bought a new padlock for the garage door. So have half the people on the street. And any car that isn't in a garage is bristling with alarms."

"Couldn't you steal the padlock key?" asked Horace hopefully.

"Mr Hay's hidden it," sighed Tickety. "So I'm afraid we're stuck. We have no car. We can't meet the cats' challenge."

Horace groaned, slumping to the ground in his despair. "They'll be unbearable! They'll gloat! And there's nothing worse than a gloating cat."

Tickety nodded glumly. "I know. But unless you can think of something, we'll just have to put up with it."

With a splash and a splutter, Boo came to the surface of the water bowl. "Two and a half," he gasped. Horace fished him out.

"I don't know how to do it," he said gloomily.

"It's easy!" declared Boo. "Just take a deep breath and hold your nose-" Tickety grabbed Boo by his stubby tail and dragged him away.

Horace lay and moped. He had no car. The triumphant cats would claim the victory.

He moped all day. He moped all night.

Sometimes he stopped moping to sulk. Sometimes he brooded for a change. Sometimes he howled. Sometimes he just whined and whimpered.

By the next morning, Mr Hay was fed up.

"I've had enought of this dog moping!" he snapped. "Josh? Take Horace for a long walk. He needs more exercise."

Horace whined some more. He didn't need exercise. He needed wheels!

"Walkies, Horace! Come on, boy! What's wrong?" Joshua tugged at his lead until Horace had to move.

He plodded along the street behind Josh, tail down, head drooping. Seeing all the padlocked garages added to his misery. To cap it all, they had to walk past Mordle's Modern Motors, with its gleaming sports cars - and its trio of cats sitting smugly on the wall.

"What's up, boy? Why are you unhappy?" Josh knelt down by the forecourt and gave Horace a big hug. Horace tried to pull away.

"Poor old pudding," said Josh, tickling his tummy.

"Noooo!" howled Horace. "Not now!"

"Aaaaaah! The dear little diddums doggie!" came the taunting cry from the cats. "Who's a poor little pudding, then? Who's a snivelling softy?"

Horace was frantic to escape. At last he wriggled free from Joshua's caresses and raced off down the road with the lead trailing behind him.

He ran all the way to the park. Here he slowed to a walk, since there were no cats to taunt him. Instead, there were dozens of other moping dogs being dragged round by their impatient owners.

Horace barked a gloomy greeting at his friends: Silverside, the butcher's dog, and Jellybean, the fat spaniel from the sweet shop.

Then he noticed Ragbag, the bouncy mongrel from the supermarket rally. She lolloped over eagerly, ears waving in the breeze.

Ragbag the happy mongrel dog

"Hi, Horace! You've heard the news?"

Horace nodded sadly. "We've no way of getting to the cars. What can we do?"

"I thought you'd know," she said, surprised. "You're the clever one, Horace. You're the champ! You're the one with all the good ideas!"

Before Horace could reply, Joshua ran up. He was panting and breathless.

"Bad dog, Horace!" he scolded. "You mustn't run away like that. Come here. Heel!" He grabbed Horace and tried to make him sit.

Horace twisted away. All the watching dogs thought he was a champ! They mustn't see Josh treating him like a naughty puppy.

So, pulling free again, he galloped off towards the pond, where toddlers were pushing toy prams and hurling bread at the ducks.

Suddenly Horace pulled up in mid-gallop. Police! Not that he minded the police normally - but this was different.

He recognised that policewoman, sitting on a bench to eat her sandwich. And he knew the stern and grizzled German Shepherd dog who lay beside her. Justine.

The police dog looked up. Her eyes narrowed and her lip curled.

"Well, well! Look who it is," she said, with a snarl. "Horace the canine crook!"

Horace was about to turn and run away, when he remembered he was the champ. All the other dogs were watching, waiting to see what he would do. He couldn't back off now.

So he began to bark. "Go! Go! Go! My park! My park!"

Sergeant Baines looked up in surprise and put down her sandwich.

"What a noise that dog's making! Is it yours?" she asked Joshua as he came running up.

"Yes! Sorry! He doesn't usually bark," gasped Josh. "Here, boy!"

He reached for Horace's collar. Horace ducked out of his grasp. With an agile leap, he sprang away.

He sprang too fast. A little girl stood in his path with her toy pram. He was about to knock her over...

No, no! thought Horace. Not that! Champs didn't bowl toddlers over!

With a huge effort, he managed to twist sideways in mid-air. He missed the toddler by centimetres. Instead, he fell smack into her pram.

The pram began to roll. With Horace struggling to get out, it trundled slowly down the slope into the pond. There it tipped over and deposited Horace into a family of baffled ducks.

The ducks pecked him, screeching quacks of protest. The little girl began to cry. Her mother began to shout.

Sergeant Baines came hurrying over. "Can't you keep that dog under control?"

"Sorry," groaned Josh. "Sorry. He's usually better than this."

"I should hope he is! Because at the moment he's a walking disaster area!"

Horace shook off the ducks. He waded back to shore and sneezed. A slimy wreath of duckweed had draped itself around his head, a slice of soggy bread stuck to his back and a lily pad dangled from one ear.

"Get that dog on a lead!" commanded Sergeant Baines.

"He's a scruffy scoundrel," growled Justine. "I'll be watching him."

Josh grabbed Horace's collar. This time, there was no escape. As he was dragged away, the police dog fixed him with a long, suspicious stare.

A dozen other doggy faces were watching too, with their mouths open. Horace could not look at them for shame.

Under their astonished gaze, the champion driver, crowned with duckweed, hung his head and dripped and drooped out of the park.


Chapter Three

Horace couldn't stop sneezing.

Joshua rubbed him down with an old towel. Feeling guilty, Horace offered him a lick and a handshake.

"Get your muddy paws off," said Josh huffily. "You got me in trouble again."

All the same, he took pity on Horace. He persuaded his mum that because of his soaking, Horace needed to stay warm and should sleep inside the house that night.

So Mrs Hay put Horace's beanbag in the hall with strict instructions to Stay There And Be Good!

"Of course," sneezed Horace.

He couldn't sleep, however. He longed to go and sit in the car. It was his favourite place: he always felt better in the driver's seat. But when he padded down the hall in the middle of the night, he found the kitchen door was locked. He couldn't get into the garage that way.

So Horace padded out again, unhappily. Upstairs, the family was snoring; but faint thumps came from the living room, where Tickety and Boo had their cage.

Horace slunk in to see the hamsters. He thought they might let him watch Roaring Roadhogs.

For once, though, the TV wasn't on. Horace tripped over a tangle of elastic on the floor.

"Ow! Ow!" he yapped as he sprawled across the carpet.

"Ow! Ow!" he cried again, as he landed on Joshua's construction bricks. They were scattered everywhere. Some had been made into toy trucks, and others into towers and bridges.

"Watch out!" said Tickety. "You're trampling all over our Titanic Trucks assault course." She was busy winding something long and pink round Boo's left hind leg, until it looked like a sausage.

"What are you doing?" asked Horace, sitting up gingerly amidst the bricks.

"Putting a plaster on Boo's knee," she said. "He sprained it."

"Poor Boo!" said Horace. "Was it the assault course?"

"Bungee jumping off the bookcase," said Boo faintly. "I must have measured the elastic wrong."

"Well, anybody could have worked that out!" came a hiss from underneath the sofa.

Horace bent down and peered beneath it. All he could see was a striped shadow with glittering golden eyes.

"Kimi? How did you get in?"

"There's a hole in your floorboards," said the snake as she glided out like a long, lithe ribbon. "Did you use the proper formula for that elastic, Boo?"

"Formula?"

"Mg(l +d)= half kd squared."

Boo scratched his head. "I thought formula was baby milk."

"You're lucky you didn't break your neck!" tutted Kimi. "That elastic's far too long."

"How do you know all this?" asked Horace, impressed.

The snake rolled her eyes. "It's basic engineering."

"Did you come over just to give us a maths lesson?" demanded Tickety.

"No. It's Tuesssday!" Kimi hissed.

"Oh! Your feeding day," said Horace, remembering that Kimi only ate one meal a week.

"But my stupid humans have gone out without feeding me!" complained the snake. "I was hoping there might be some dead mice in your fridge."

"We don't keep mice in our fridge," said Horace.

"Anything, then," snapped Kimi. "Rats! Chicken! Steak! I'm hungry."

"Sorry. They've locked the kitchen."

"I could find a way in. I can find a way in anywhere. I need food! Beef! Rabbit! Hamster!"

"Don't look at us," said Boo.

But Kimi was staring at Tickety and Boo with avid eyes. "I'm sssstarving. I can't help it."

"Yes, you can!" urged Tickety. "Don't think about food. Think of something else. Think of... snowdrops."

"Snowdrops," said Kimi dreamily, "with a fat little hamster curled up underneath them." She began to sway with a hypnotic motion. "Come to me, my little rotund friends..."

"What? Whoa!" Horace barked a warning. He leapt up and promptly fell over in a tangle of bungee elastic.

Kimi swayed closer to the hamsters, her forked tongue stabbing the air. "Oh, come to Kimi, plumptious little pals!"

"Run, Boo, run!" cried Tickety as she scampered to the bookcase.

"I can't run!" Boo squealed. "I've got a leg in plaster!"

Tickety flung herself at Boo and dumped him on to a toy truck. She gave it a shove so that it shot across the carpet. Kimi rippled after it, flowing as fast as a stream in flood.

"Whee!" cried Boo. "I'm a Titanic Truck!"

Horace managed to pull free from the elastic. He leapt across the room and, just before the snake reached Boo, clapped a paw down on her.

"Let me go! I'm famishhhhed!" hissed Kimi, pinned to the carpet. "I've got to eat!"

"If you leave Tickety and Boo alone, I'll find a box of chocolates for you."

"Are any of them mouse flavoured?" asked Kimi sulkily.

"I don't know," said Horace. "Try them and see." He dragged a box of Mrs Hay's favourite chocolates from their hiding place underneath the dresser.

As soon as he nosed open the lid, Kimi dived into the box. She promptly swallowed three truffles and a caramel, one after another.

"Aaah," she sighed. "They're niccce." And she sank her fangs into a strawberry surprise.

"That was fun!" cried Boo from the toy truck. "Push me again, Tickety. Faster this time!"

"It won't go any faster," said Tickety.

"Ushe the elashtic ash a catapult," said Kimi with her mouth full.

"Good idea," said Tickety. She looped the elastic round the truck and tied the ends to the sofa leg. "Give me a hand, Horace!"

Horace helped her pull the truck back. The elastic tightened, until suddenly the truck - with Boo perched on it - leapt away.

It shot back into the sofa with a WHUNK. Two tyres and a hamster flew through the air.

Boo bounced along the carpet. "Ooh! Ow! Ow! Ooh! Cool," he said. "I must have gone at a hundred miles an hour!"

"At least," said Tickety. "Horace? What's the matter?"

For Horace stood rigid, nose quivering, tail aloft like a flag.

"I've had a brainwave," he announced.

"Does it hurt?" said Kimi.

Horace ignored her. "A hundred miles an hour - that's our answer! That's how we'll beat the cats! Can we build a truck that's big enough for me?"

***

And so begins Horace's attempt to build his own hundred mile an hour car! But it doesn't quite turn out as he planned...

Want to read more? The whole book is too long to fit on a web page, but you can read it all online or download the free ebook in all formats at Smashwords
Also free at Kobo Books
The Nook Book Store
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Read the first story about Horace and his friends, Petrol Paws.

Read the start of the third story, Flying Fur.

the cover of the free children's ebook Race Night by 
Emma Laybourn, about Horace the driving dog

Go to the list of free books.

Copyright 2013 Emma Laybourn

Download the free ebook of RACE NIGHT, or read it all online at
Smashwords (for all ereaders)
Also free at Kobo Books
The Nook Book Store
and Apple iTunes

the cover of the free children's ebook Race Night by 
Emma Laybourn: the second book about Horace the driving dog

Click here for a printable crossword about cars (pdf file)

Try another free book:

the logo of the WHEElers series of books by Emma Laybourn the cover of the free children's ebook Petrol Paws by 
Emma Laybourn, the first book in the WHEELers series about Horace the driving dog and 
his friends the stunt hamsters the cover of the children's ebook Flying Fur by 
Emma Laybourn, the third book in the WHEELers series about Horace the driving dog and 
his friends the stunt hamsters