PUDDY AND I (Short Story)
Like most children, I wanted a pet. Like most parents, mine said no. But I was a very determined six year old. I wanted a pet.I went through a series of pigeons,crows,cockroaches,lizards and mice, that I tried to raise on our terrace or in our attic. But, the insensitive creatures had no finer feelings; actually, had no feelings at all. They turned around and abandoned me the minute they had their bellies full. They did not love me. My little heart broke. I wandered about the house with a long face and bleary eyes. My mother made me swallow many pills and drink all sorts of bitter syrups to get rid of the stubborn cold that made me sniffle all the time and made my eyes red and bloated. I wasn't going to tell her that I had looked love in the eye and it had been shot down , that my heart lay scattered in a million pieces around the house. My dad bought me a plastic doll to make me less cranky, I wanted a live doll, and No, my baby brother did not count. He was bald and red and bawled all the time. He didn't fetch or run or fly or anything. He was boring and stupid, and I wasn't even allowed to hold him. I wanted my own special pet, that loved me, that I didn't have to share with anyone, that I could feed, that I could take outdoors and most importantly, that played with me.
One rainy afternoon, I was playing in our front garden, making paper boats and sailing them around the bushes. I heard a whimper and looked up to see a couple of puppies cowering under the garage shed. One was light brown all over and significantly bigger than his friend , the other was white with dark brown spots scattered all over it , like a brown star spangled cloudy sky ( I know, bad metaphor). I was obviously drawn to the interesting looking one. I went over and stood above the dogs. They blinked at me, and the brown one yawned. Apparently, I bored him more than he bored me. He nosed the spotted puppy, shook himself up and walked away. The smaller puppy,however,scooted forward and nosed my wet shoe. We liked each other.I picked it up and tried to rub him dry with my sweater. Yellow sweaters and muddy dogs aren't a very good combination but hey, I was six. Taking him into the house was not an option. It could end in both of us being thrown out of the house, on our rears, right into the mud.So, holding him to my chest , I tiptoed around the house to the backyard. There was a corner ,right behind an apple tree which wasn't visible from any window of the house. I put him down and covered him with old car-seat covers. I had nicked them from the garage on my way back. Then, I went into the kitchen stole two slices of bread and a tube of jam. I sat down under the tree made a strawberry jam sandwich and fed it to the puppy. He was really hungry, so I gave him a soggy chocolate cookie from my pocket. The next day I ran through the entire neighbourhood, hunting for old cardboard boxes, I even found two wooden crates. I piled them all up in my corner and felt accomplished. I spent the whole evening putting the boxes together to build a doggie-home. I filled the inside with my baby brother's clothes. They were very soft and snuggly and fuzzy. I thought my stupid brother had too many and also, i didn't like the slobbering dullard. I loved my new four-legged friend.Everything was ready -- a cozy home, a tin of biscuits, a bowl of water, which I had flavoured with my mint candy, to make it cold and refreshing ( Whenever I drank water after eating a peppermint, it always tasted like ice water ) .I put my puppy in and sang hallelujah.I cleaned the boxes everyday, aired the inner clothing, fed him, read to him from my comic books, and most importantly, took him out to play. We played with a rubber ball in the street for hours, every evening.
Our house was in a cul-de-sac, and mothers didn't have to worry about us kids out on the street.Mum saw me with the puppy several times, and I told her that he belonged to the girl next door. She was too busy trying to make a functional human out of my blob of a brother, to check on my story.And, so gaining freedom, our friendship thickened and we spent whole days together, inventing all kinds of games with balls and twigs and dolls and flowers.
I finally had my own dear pet, to live with and play with as I pleased.I had decided to christen him 'Puddy'. I had found him in a puddle,and wanted to call him that but being all of six, I couldn't be expected to pronounce such a complicated word. Puddy and I spent all our days together. But soon school reopened , and I was relegated to meeting him for only a few hours a day -- briefly before I rushed away to the school bus in the morning, and for a couple of hours in the evening after my mother had made me finish my homework and a disgusting glass of milk.I had once cleverly tried to get Puddy to drink it for me, but that puppy had more sense and better taste than that.A year went by in merry gambolings and games. None of the servants discovered the doggie-house I had built in the corner of the yard, or if they had, had very kindly chosen to ignore it.
One summer vacation we went out of town, to spend the holidays with my grand parents on the seaside. I instructed my not-so-close friend, the fabled girl next door to look after Puddy, to at least give him a little food to eat very day.With a heavy heart I held my mother's hand and boarded the train. But, little children's hearts will be little children's hearts,and will be very easily diverted. I spent an enchanting summer being coddled by my grandparents, pampered by my aunts and uncles, and all the evenings were spent in visiting parks with slides and rides and ice cream.When it was time to go back, I wept most bitterly. i didn't want all the heavenly fun to end, and to have to go back to the dreary, lonely life in our house in that forlorn town. I had clean forgotten about Puddy. It was almost a week after my return while strolling in the backyard, collecting pebbles , that my eyes suddenly fell on the doggie-house.Memories came flooding back. Puddy !! The little cardboard house was in ruins, and the poor , little puppy was nowhere to be found.I searched through all the back and front yards in our street, under the trees, over the garbage piles-everywhere, but Puddy was lost.This new loss sent me into the throes of another bout of separation-misery. I cried my little eyes out, demanding that my mother bring Puddy back. My poor mother didn't know about the puppy and probably imagined that Puddy was some dear toy I had left behind at grandmother's. She tried her best to sooth me and distract me from my worries.And as children are often wont to , I slowly forgot about Puddy and grandparents and aunts, and floated back into the routine lull of my life --- school, homework,cycle,hide and seek,exams, singing classes.
A full three years after I had forgotten about the existence of Master Puddy, he came back. At first, I didn't recognise him. He was with a pack of 'no-breeds' ( my friend had acquired a snow white, fluffy,princely pomerian, and it the last word in dog supremacy), dirty. They were full of nasty germs we had been taught about in school.One day I was walking back home from my friend's house when I saw two dogs fighting in front of our main gate.The cruel growls and barks frightened me. I was frozen to the spot , too scared to retreat to the safety of my friend's lawn.As I watched, the battle enfolded. A memory struck me.
That dog with the limp! The one with with his teeth bared, snapping viciously was Puddy. White coat, brown star spots. He even had the mickey mouse band-aid I had plastered tightly against a mosquito bite on his leg.Flinging both common and instinctual senses to the cold winds of August, I rushed towards the dogs.Puddy had grown up. He was a big dog now , but he still had the same wide, watery, hazel coloured eyes."Puddy", I cried and tried to pick him up. A nine year old girl with skinned knees , a pink sweater , and a fully grown, grimy street dog do not cut curtseys to each other and hold tea parties. What happened next was to be expected.Puddle was startled by my sudden shriek. He saw my arms around his body, squeezing , as a distinct threat to both his doggish masculinity and his standing amongst his vagabond peers.He kicked at my knees with his clawed paws, growled angrily at me , and leapt out of my arms.I was too juvenile and blinded by love and nostalgia to perceive this as the polite dismissal it was supposed to be. Uncomprehending and thick-skulled, I ran behind him.By this point, his dueling partner had left us alone and was stomping away to seek a less complicated victim. He could have finished off the cripple quickly but the dumb human girl was hounding him now. He probably shrugged nobly, leaving his spoils for me.Running behind Puddy with my arms stretched open, I was trying to reach him and hug him. My sweet, cuddly, little Puddy.Love and happy memories had blinded me to the stance and demeanour of the dog standing in front of me. But , Puddy had had enough of this piffy sentimentality.He turned around , looked into my eyes, stomped closer with his tail ramrod straight between his legs, bent his head to reach my cupped ,inviting hand, and quick as a mouse-trap snapped my wrist between his sharp teeth.I yelled out in shock and pain. The scream scared him, he unclenched his jaws , dropped my bleeding hand, and ran away swiftly.Momentarily blinded by the pain, when I finally opened my eyes, all I catch a glimpse of was his white spotted tail, wagging, tottering off , as fast as he could with his limp leg. He disappeared into the sunset.
And that was the end of my story with Puddy ---- A rainy afternoon, a pile of brown boxes, hidden and saved biscuits, mind candy water, stolen baby sweaters, a hasty direction to the girl next door, a summer away, a friend forgotten, street life,mob fights,duels,a crippled leg, and a bleeding wrist ---- The heart wrenching story of a little girl and a little puppy.I think I will call it , Puddy and I.