I stopped crying. I gently lifted Sid out of my lap and picked up the hash. It did not have a tab opener like a beer can. I had been assuming a can opener as part of the furnishings at Rose Manor and hadn’t bought one. Wait. Think. I remembered Mr Screaming Skull giving me the tour of the van. “You never want to go on the road without a coupla things,” he said. He flung the glove compartment door open proudly and said, “Can opener. Bottle opener. Box a’ tissues. Matches. Sunglasses. Flashlight. Granola bars.” Granola bars? “You eat the granola bars, you replace ’em,” he said. I hadn’t eaten any.
I went out and retrieved the can opener from the glove compartment. Sid was standing in the door watching me hopefully. There was a dog in cabin seven. I looked furtively around again but there was no one in sight. I opened the hash and Sid had her breakfast.
Which left me.
I looked at the phone. I hate the phone. I have hated phones since long before there was email, let alone texting. The only person I’m ever ready to talk to without advance warning is Norah. I had hated the phone even when I was a teenager, which is a sign of mental impairment and severe social maladjustment (although this latter was not news). My feeling had been that we could get together for an ice cream at Dangerous Sweets or I could see you tomorrow at school. I still felt that way, except without the ice cream and the school options. And as soon as email happened I stopped checking my phone machine messages. My agent used to threaten to fire me if I didn’t learn to answer normal business questions in less than eighteen months and fewer than forty-six times of asking.
I needed to call Homeric Homes and find out when I could pick up the keys. (Unless they’d done a blood test on my thumbprint and found out that I am an alien from Alpha Centauri. Rats! My secret is out! Well, but so? Why wouldn’t they rent to a nice law-abiding alien who pays the rent on time?) I needed to find a local vet and make an appointment to bring in my stray dog.
I needed to ring Mr Wolverine.
There was a yellow pages under the phone. I riffled through it. I punched in some numbers.
“Eatsmobile,” said a familiar-sounding voice.
“Er,” I said, my usual phone paralysis coming over me. “I don’t suppose you do takeout?”
“No,” said the familiar voice. “Not at breakfast anyway. Who is this?”
“Er,” I said. “Kes. I . . .”
“Yeah,” interrupted the voice. “I thought so. You came in with Serena. And then you asked if I was going to warm the pot.”
“Oh, um,” I said apologetically. In hardly more than twenty-four hours in this town I had already offended the Mistress of Tea. “I’m from Manhattan. Most of the restaurants there don’t know these things.” I narrowly managed not to beg the Mistress of Tea to have pity on an ignorant supplicant. I really hate the phone. It makes me stupid.
“Why do you want takeout?” said Bridget. “This time of year, we can always fit another body in. I’m looking at an empty booth right now.”
“Er,” I said articulately, for the third time, not counting the “um.” “I seem to have acquired a dog. Sort of inadvertently. And I haven’t moved in yet so I don’t have anywhere to leave her.” There. That was clear and cogent.
“You’ve got a dog inadvertently?” said Bridget. “Okay, that’s a new one. I’m glad I’m not from Manhattan. I like to know when I’m adding something to the household that’s going to bark at the mail delivery, eat my socks and shed hair everywhere. Hang on.”
I think she put her hand over the receiver, but there was some shouting, and I’m pretty sure I heard the word ‘dog’ and I’m also pretty sure I heard someone laugh. “Okay,” said Bridget. “Depends on how desperate you are for another pot of well-made tea. We can open up the courtyard and I can serve you out back, and you can bring the dog. We don’t usually expect people to sit out there till frostbite is no longer an issue, and I’ve got a little warming tray for the teapot and an extra cosy, but you’re going to freeze your butt off. I don’t know what we’ll do about your food. We’ll have to think of something that congeals attractively.”
“Thank you,” I said, feeling my eyes fill up again. For godssake, MacFarquhar. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” said Bridget. “Although, speaking of mentioning, it’s only fair to warn you that this will be our favorite story of the weirdness of customers for at least a week.”
“Cheap at half the price,” I said. “I’ll be along as soon as—er.” How was I going to bring Sid with me? I didn’t even have a collar and lead for her yet. Nor any idea if she had a clue about leash manners. I had already theorized that perhaps collars brought on the psychotic breaks.
Bridget laughed. “Yeah. Inadvertent dogs are like that. See you. When you get here, come around to the side. I’ll open the gate.”
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.