Another Part of the Forest
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by Dorothy Bodoin
Description: Danger rides the air when a kidnapper whisks his victims away in a hot air balloon and a false friend puts a curse on a collie breeder's first litter.
eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [389 KB]
Reading time: 231-323 min.
Nell gave her daughter a frosty look. "You know I can't abide dogs, Josie. Why you even brought her into this house I can't fathom."
"What was I supposed to do? Leave her there at the bazaar?"
Josie said. "I won her fair and square. She's mine. I have her pedigree papers and everything. She has the prettiest registered name. It's Mallowmere Drift of Sand."
Nell gave an exasperated sigh. "Yeah, well now she's gone. Sorry again, Mrs. Ferguson. Josie should have called you earlier."
"I have a few questions," I said. "How did it happen?"
Nell looked at her daughter. "Josie?"
"I took her outside to the backyard this morning," Josie said. "She sniffed around a little, then took off running. That way." She pointed east.
"Without a leash or collar," Nell added. "Don't forget that."
And without a fence. The need to run free must be ingrained in every dog's psyche. When Halley was a puppy, my recurrent nightmare was her loose on a busy city street. Poor Sandy could be dead by now, run over by a car or picked up by one of those vile puppy mill procurers. She was young, purebred and an unspayed female. In other words, a dog collector's dream.
"I ran after her, but she got away," Josie said.
"You're not responsible enough to take care of a goldfish."
"Why does it matter to you?" Josie demanded. "You wanted to call the dog pound. They'd kill her there." She turned to me, obviously seeking an advocate. "I'm the one who phoned you. I saw a story about the Collie Rescue League in the paper and figured you'd find Sandy a home where someone else would love her."
"I'm glad you did," I said.
"I wanted to put up 'Lost' posters, but she wouldn't let me."
"What's the point?" Nell demanded. "To get back a dog you're going to give away?"
"To make sure she ends up safe and in good hands," I said.
"She was in good hands." Josie tugged on her braid again and confronted her mother. "There's no reason why I can't keep her."
I detected a slight furtive note mixed in with Josie's defiance. Her eyes kept shifting from our faces to the floor, and she'd used the present tense as if Sandy were in the next room.
I suspected I wasn't hearing the entire story and that wasn't likely to happen today.
Having desperately wanted a collie myself when I was Josie's age, I truly sympathized with her. How sad to have your possession of a cherished collie puppy vetoed by a higher authority, in this case an unfeeling woman in pearls and an apron. The situation wasn't uncommon, but inevitably, it would have long-lasting repercussions, further damaging the fragile relationship between Josie and her mother.
Be patient, Josie, I wanted to tell her. In ten or fifteen years, you can have your own place and another puppy. Just not this one.
That assurance wouldn't have satisfied me when I was a child. Spoken now, it would only add to the anger that swirled around us, and I couldn't appear to be taking sides in this conflict. Terra would be horrified.
I wanted this sad episode to end. My own dogs were waiting for me. Crane would be home soon, and I wanted to be there to greet him. At this time, on a normal day, I would be starting dinner. Now I felt as if I were trapped in an escalating domestic scene that should have nothing to do with me. Still, I was involved because of my position in the Rescue League.
Mother and daughter were glowering at each other. The air was so thick with tension that the purple tulips were drooping.
I had one more question. "You said you won the puppy, Josie. Where was this?"
"At the Spring Bazaar at Saint Emerentiana's Catholic Church. I bought two dozen raffle tickets."
At a possible dollar apiece, Josie had paid twenty-four dollars for her treasure. An astounding price for a purebred puppy; a sizable amount for a teenager.
I made a mental note of the church's unusual name. "I didn't realize anyone gave away live dogs as bazaar prizes," I said.
"They do it every year. Isn't that neat?"
"I don't think so."
"Yesterday was my birthday," she added with a poignant sniffle.
It seemed that I had stepped into Albert Payson Terhune's book, the one that had left me angry. Bruce, I believe, was the title. The boy in the story had bought Lass with his birthday money. He'd been promptly ordered to take the nasty female dog back. Past or present, fiction or reality, some mothers never change.
"Won't you come in, Mrs. Ferguson?" this one asked. "Sit down? Have a cup of coffee or tea? For your trouble."
There wasn't the tiniest shred of welcome or sincerity in her voice.
There was, also, no reason to linger, without a collie to rescue. Except, as long as Sandy's whereabouts were unknown, Terra wouldn't close the case. I'd come to Arden Street to pick up an unwanted puppy who might still need saving. I wasn't going to accomplish that here.
"Thank you, Mrs. Lawson," I said, making a show of consulting my watch. "But I'm running late today. The fact remains..." I slipped with ease into lecture mode. "Josie accepted Sandy. Until you turn her over to me, she's still your responsibility, like it or not."
Nell bristled at that. "I don't like it, and really, what can I do? The dog is gone. She won't find her way back to this house; she was only here for an afternoon and overnight. Just long enough to bite me and make a mess on the carpet." She sniffed the air. "That's my pork chops burning. If you'll excuse me..."
She swept out of the room without a backward glance or word of farewell.
"She's so hateful sometimes." Josie swiped at her eyes, creating larger smudges on her cheeks. "If you find Sandy, Mrs. Ferguson, will you take care of her, please? She's so little."
"I promise," I said. "If I find her."
But where would I look with only a direction, east, for a clue? Sandy had been gone for a whole day.
"She's the color of a butterscotch sundae, all golden and soft. She has white on her chest and the tip of her tail."
"She sounds pretty," I said.
"She's beautiful. The most beautiful collie ever."
Josie's teary plea, combined with my certainty that Sandy had already met with an unfortunate accident or fallen prey to an unscrupulous opportunist, should have brought tears to my eyes. Why didn't it?
As I walked back to my car, I answered my own question.
Because Josie's story didn't ring true.