I finished stuffing the odds and ends of my brief sojourn at the Friendly Campfire into plastic bags and my knapsack. I would not grieve the artwork in cabin seven. Why didn’t Serena put some of her stuff on the walls? People might stay longer. Although it might be a little like a Nobel prize winner being asked to write a jingle for a toothpaste commercial. I wondered what Jan was like. That Serena liked him was in his favor. That he had dogs was probably in his favor. That the neon campfires were his idea was not.
I put the glamorous red leather lead back on Sid and looped the handle over the bathroom door knob. This was in theory so I could leave the cabin door open while I schlepped my gear out to the van without worrying what she was getting up to. I hoped this would not include chewing the corner off the bathroom door, since I hadn’t bought her any dog toys yet, while I was preoccupied with the tiresome limitations of vehicular three-dimensional space. Of course she might well prefer the corners of bathroom doors even after I bought her some dog toys. Some one or ones of Mom’s Ghastlies had chewed through the back legs of the living-room sofa without anyone noticing. It went down, and over, on Thanksgiving, with a crash that had the downstairs neighbors howling for our blood, when Uncle Throgmorton sat down next to Aunt Daphne and Cousin Agatha. My parents and I tend toward the lanky. The Throgmorton end of the family are more well-nourished. I laughed till I was sick, and was sent to my room. Unfortunately they let me out again later. I could leave most of the shopping bags where they were to come out tonight with Merry, although the apples and the 127.9% minimum cocoa solids organic dark chocolate bars clearly had to come now to sustain me through the coming trials of box-hauling. I brought in a couple of book boxes to make room on the van’s passenger seat. I tried not to think about how much they weighed carrying them up the few short steps to cabin seven. The second one popped open as I set it (laboriously) on the floor. LEST DARKNESS FALL and THE CANTERBURY TALES were on top. I have catholic tastes.
Sid was watching me a little too closely, but I didn’t see any splinters sticking out of her mouth. The door was probably plastic anyway. “Dog toys,” I said. “With the dog food and the brush. I promise.” The doors at Rose Manor, I was reasonably sure, were wood.
The doors. At Rose Manor. The keys. Oh black widow spiders and large rodents, I had to stop by Homeric Homes and pick up the keys. And I had a remedial dog problem. I stared blankly into space for a moment, and then pulled out my phone. “Eats,” said Bridget’s voice.
“Um,” I said, reverting to my standard phone persona.
“Oh, hi,” said Bridget immediately. “I understand you have an inadvertent dog. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I was told there was cheering. The adrenaline buzz in my ears meant that it was hard to hear much.”
“We’re all really glad the Phantom has a home. Or has met her match, depending on how you want to look at it.”
“I’m not sure she’s met her match,” I said, eyeing my dog, who was having another scratch. I hoped no one at the lab had got the new vat of Fleawhacker™ serum mixed up with the experimental let’s-party flea pheromones. “Did Callie tell you about her previous owner?”
“Ah,” said Bridget. “Well, let’s pretend she didn’t, because you’re new, and you should probably be broken in gently to the truth about small-town gossip.”
“Manhattan is just a lot of small towns shoved up against each other,” I said. “Okay. I won’t mention the broken leg and the devil dog.”
“Devil dog?” said Bridget. “Ooh. Exciting. I missed that part.”
“Yeah. Her previous owner seriously doesn’t want her back.”
“She doesn’t deserve her.” There was a noise in the restaurant and Bridget said away from the phone, “I can see you fine. You’re going to give yourself repetitive stress injury and what if your face froze like that?” She said to me, “I assume you need something. I should to be working.”
“Yes. Sorry. Um. I have to pick up the keys to my new house and—”
I didn’t get any farther because Bridget started to laugh. “You’re more fun to watch than the TV. No, you’re right, Homeric Homes is the clean and tidy end and Sally shouldn’t see the devil dog till she’s had a bath. Maybe two baths. Sure, bring her back to the courtyard again on your way and I’ll take my break early.”
“You’re a star,” I said.
“I know,” she said, and hung up.
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