Little Pal

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2000

By Nikki Morse, Illustrated by Garrett Landon

I saw it in an old country store. All around it were dull tools of an earlier generation. What caught my attention at first was the flash that I saw when I opened the door. I walked over eagerly. In my pocket was a five-dollar bill that I had gotten for my birthday. My dad had taken me to the only store in town and told me to get anything with my money. Surely the flashing thing was under five dollars.

It was a golden model dog with a silver tail. I gasped. I had never seen the color gold in our little town. I lifted it gently and looked on the bottom, then I rolled it around. Still, I couldn’t find a price tag. Holding it gently I went up to the counter. The only thing distinguishing the counter from the shelves piled with broken stuff was an old lady standing behind it.

“Could you tell me the price of this model, ma’am?” I asked as politely as I could.

“You can’t buy that dog, young lady,” she replied, “it’s thirty-five dollars.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I laughed. “There isn’t any model dog worth thirty-five dollars.”

“Then you can kid yourself out of here. That model is worth more than thirty-five dollars.” She stomped out of the  shop and into her house across the muddy yard.

The dog was glittering in my hand. It flashed temptingly. I wanted something gold and silver. Something that would look like what the rich people have in their fancy houses. I looked around and saw that my dad was bending over the old pickup trying to get a squirmy puppy out of the back. I started trying to shove the model in my pocket when the lady came back.

Little Pal a girl and a dog

He licked my fingers and I felt that the model dog didn’t matter to me anymore

“What are you doing with that dog, young lady?” she demanded.

“Oh,” I said, while my brain started racing frantically.

“Is that your father out there?” she asked, going to the door.

“Uh, yeah,” I mumbled, and tried to sneak the dog back onto the shelf.

“I see what you’re doing, young lady,” she snapped. “You can leave it in your pocket while I get your dad.” There wasn’t any way out. The bell jingled as they came in.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, for the trouble my daughter has caused,” my dad said. “I assure you that you won’t have her coming into your shop in the future. Come along, Sara.” He jerked his head to the door and we marched out. I was feeling terrible, but not because I had been caught stealing. No, I was just mad about not getting that model.

On the ride home my dad was silent and so was I. The only sound was a lonely yip now and then from the pup in the back. My dad was going to sell it to the lady in the shop because we didn’t have any need for another puppy. He couldn’t sell it after what I had done. I wasn’t sorry. All I wanted was to get that model, and I would sneak out tonight and go to the village and get it.

I stayed awake long into the night while I waited to make sure everyone was asleep. When it had been at least an hour after the last light had gone out, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was really uncomfortable to lie in bed in overalls. As I crept to the front door I felt something grab my pant leg. I whirled around and saw the pup digging his claws into the floor with his teeth through my cuff. I was furious! I grabbed him and set him on the floor none too gently. He whimpered and I turned away. He was back, trying to rip my sock off. Over and over I’d try to get away and he’d stop me. I finally stuck him in the broom closet and ran outside into a pounding rain.

I started running toward town with my bare feet slapping on the mud of the road. It was crisscrossed by torrents of water cutting little canyons into the dirt. There was water everywhere. The trees were dripping with it and the stream was flooding out of its banks. Little pinpoints of light beside the road told me that the raccoons were watching me. It gives you an eerie feeling seeing unblinking eyes watching you from the forest.

I felt something hit my back and I froze. A wet tongue licked my face and I knew the puppy had gotten out of the closet. How, I didn’t know, but I was sure that it had damaged the woodwork a little. It whimpered and tugged at my pant leg. Then I realized what he was doing. He was trying to keep me from going to the store and stealing the model! I reached down and patted his head. He licked my fingers and I felt that the model dog didn’t matter to me anymore. The little dog leapt into my arms and I started running home.

“You know,” I said into his fur, “I’ve got the perfect name for you. You’re my Little Pal.” Little Pal, as he was now called, fell asleep on my bed right after we got home. After I told my dad I was sorry, I used my five dollars to buy myself the best birthday present ever, Little Pal. My very own genuine dog. He was adorable, the most perfect puppy ever, in my opinion.

Little Pal Nikki Morse

Nikki Morse, 12
Boulder, Colorado

Little Pal Garrett Landon

Garrett Landon, 11
Santa Cruz, California

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