New Thing, 5
Gelasio was allergic to dogs, so we’d never had one.
We’d had little hairy yappy things when I was a kid, because my mother bred them: Gormenghastly terriers. If you have a Ghastly terrier, my mother probably had a hand in it somewhere. The family joke was my parents had had only one kid because they needed the bigger of the other two bedrooms for breeding stock. This was on the Very Upper West Side before it got gentrified; by the time we were surrounded by CEOs and kitchen designers my mother’s Ghastlies had been declared to be in the national interest and no one could touch her unorthodox kennel arrangements. Also, after my father moved out, she started sleeping with the building manager, who was god, and all the other tenants knew it.
She still had Ghastlies, but I hadn’t seen her or them in a while, since she was inclined to take Gelasio’s going off with the girlfriend as a personal failure. Which is to say that my father had lived in Boston since I was a teenager, and my mother seemed to think I should have learned how not to have this happen to me by her experience. Since learning by her experience (according to her) would have involved having several children, this was a non-starter, but I didn’t even have dogs as an excuse.
Making a cup of tea took twelve minutes, between how long it took for the water to boil, and then boil again after you’ve warmed the cup, and then waiting till the tea had steeped the precise length of time for optimum excellence—I was perhaps a trifle fussy about my tea—so I had time to invent my perfect dog. If you put four or five (or six) of my mother’s Ghastlies together you would just about have one dog-sized dog, only I wanted one less hairy and yappy. It would be tall and noble and graceful and have a far-off look in its eye. It would also be short-haired and would never bark. When the wizard from Flowerhair Four tried to break in and steal the medallion of chura kampo, which was lined up to be the quest thing in Flowerhair Five, my tall noble dog wouldn’t bark before it foiled his fiendish plan. I had to admit that the slightly sinister three-bedroom house was much more appropriate for this scenario than the little normal two-bedroom one I’d already put in for. . . . Wait a minute. Was I maybe having a little trouble with the standard boundaries of reality here? Maybe eighteen cups of tea was too many for one day. And after my tall noble barkless dog did its foiling, then what? I call the cops? Pardon me, I have caught this wizard housebreaking. How do I know he’s a wizard? Well, because he wanted the medallion of chura kampo— The medallion of what? the police receptionist would say. Chura kampo, I would repeat, patiently, and who else but a magician . . .
My email pinged.
Two months’ security deposit is standard, wrote Hayley primly. But you should inspect the property in person before you make your decision. When will you be in this area? I would welcome the opportunity to show it to you. The house is unfurnished, but there is a plumbed-in connection for your washing machine in the kitchen. The one restriction is that there is a no-pet rule.
No pets? You are living in Cold Valley and you can’t even have a dog? Almost without thinking, because my mind was full of the Silent Wonder Dog, I typed back, I am sorry about the no-pet rule. I was looking forward to getting a dog, living in the country. For the first time in my life. I had been steadfastly not thinking about this ever since I saw my pin vibrating in the name Cold Valley. I liked my holidays in the Adirondacks fine. But I liked coming home even better. I was with Marlon Brando on this one: I don’t like the country, the crickets make me nervous. Especially the really big ones that breathe under your windows all night and occasionally test the window latches.
Hayley wrote back so quickly I had visions of her dancing around the office in New Iceland, crowing to her colleagues, I have someone who wants to move to Cold Valley!, and being determined not to let me get away. The other property permits pets, she wrote, and it has a washing machine, and some basic furnishings.
And Yog-Sothoth in the cellar, I thought. I was going to have to inspect it in person. With a lance, or at least a sturdy umbrella, to test the cellar walls for hollowness. And why shouldn’t I inspect in person? I looked around the huge empty room that had once been my office. I’ll be there in three days, I typed. Can you recommend a hotel?
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