Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes Page 43

I yanked her into a tight hug. “It’s okay, Violet. I’ll be all right.” I didn’t add for another five days anyway. No sense worrying her any more than necessary.

“But, Rose…”

“I love you, Violet!” I yelled over my shoulder and headed to my car.

I tried to remember my list, hoping to do something on the way home. Get cable… I picked up my cell phone and found the number for the cable company. They said they’d send someone to install it the next day. I had to ask off work to meet the cable installer, then decided to call in sick for the entire week. I sure wasn’t going to waste my last five days at the DMV.

Get my own place… Violet said she would sell the house to me, so that made it mine. Two items just like that. Maybe this would be easier than I thought.

As I drove through downtown, I noticed a pickup truck stopped at the edge of the park. The tailgate hung open and a large metal cage sat in the grass. A puppy romped next to it.

Get a dog.

I turned around and drove back to the truck, parking to the side of it. A family with two small children played with the puppy. A bigger dog, but not by much, sulked in the corner of the cage when I walked up.

“Can we get him, Daddy?” the little boy asked the man who appeared torn.

He bent over, rubbing the back of the puppy’s neck. “Well…”

The boy and his younger brother began a chorus of pleases that would have softened the staunchest of men. The father caved.

I watched it all transpire, taking delight in the children’s happiness. The way the puppy’s owner kept glancing at me I realized I probably looked like some kind of child predator standing there.

“Is that your last dog?” I asked, looping my hand around the strap of my purse.

“That’s my last puppy. I’ve only got the mother left. She’s just a mutt, though. Nobody wants her. I was gonna drop her off at the shelter on my way home.”

I looked down at the whimpering dog in the cage. She was small, definitely a mutt and not cute like her offspring. Her gray and black fur was short and wiry. She had short legs, a long body, and pointy ears and snout. She looked like a cross between a terrier and a rat.

“Can I see her?”

The owner looked at me like I’d lost my mind, which I supposed I had. I knelt down. “What’s her name?”

“Muffy.”

“Come here, Muffy,” I beckoned, patting the ground. “Come here, sweet girl.”

The dog crept toward me, her head hunkered down and her tail between her legs. She stopped at the opening of the cage. I stroked her neck and behind her ears. She cautiously left the cage and sat next to me while I continued to pet her.

“She’s a good dog,” the owner said. “She’s scared of other dogs, which don’t work out so well on my farm. In fact, she’s pretty much scared of everythin’. I'm surprised she came out of the cage to you. She don't normally take to strangers.”

Muffy’s sad eyes looked up at me. My tummy tightened with empathy. We were a lot alike, Muffy and I, both afraid of the world and what was in it.

“How much is she?” I asked, taking the sides of her face into my hands.

“I ain’t gonna charge you nothin’, you can just have her. Like I said, I was gonna take her to the pound, although, honestly, I didn’t want to do that. She just showed up at my farm one day and had a litter of pups a couple days later. I kept her and the pups until they was ready to go.”

“What do you say, Muffy? Wanna come home with me?” I could have sworn she wagged her tail, or she may have moved it to pass gas, which was highly probable from the stench suddenly filling the air. I decided to go with the wag.

I tried coaxing her into the car without much success. Finally, I scooped her up, surprised to find her lighter than she looked, and plopped her into the driver’s seat. She peered up at me.

“You gonna drive? That’d be a sight. A driving dog. What? No? Then scoot over.” But she didn't budge, so I sat on the edge of the seat and pushed her over to the passenger side with my hip.

The farmer loaded up the cage, laughing.

“We’re puttin’ on a show, Muffy. Let’s go home and get some dinner.”

I drove with the windows halfway down. Muffy stuck her face over the top of the glass, her tongue hanging out. I prayed she didn’t get carsick.

When I pulled up, I noticed Joe’s car in his driveway. Why’re you even looking? That man was a confusing mess. I only had five days left. Instinct told me that wasn’t nearly enough time to figure out Joe McAllister.

I carried Muffy into the house. After I set her down on the kitchen floor, she began sniffing everything while I rummaged through the refrigerator for dinner. I couldn’t remember the last time I went to the grocery store.

“Whatcha want for dinner, Muffy? There’s not much here.”

Muffy didn’t answer. She turned around in circles, then sat in the corner of the kitchen behind the table. She laid her head on her front paws and stared up at me. I’d never seen such a pathetic sight in all my life.

I made scrambled eggs and fed half to Muffy, half to me. Afterward, Muffy got a really strange look on her face. Uncle Earl had made a face like that after eating a batch of bad pickles once and that didn’t turn out so well. I ran to my bedroom and found a belt, which I strapped around Muffy’s middle section. I was afraid I’d choke her if I put it around her neck.

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