Authors: George Selden
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For Barbara and Edward Knowles, and Sarah, Mary, Emilyâand especially for Christopher!
“Harry, is that you?” said Tucker Mouse impatiently.
He had his back to the opening of the drainpipe in the Times Square subway station, where he and his friend, Harry Cat, made their home, and he was fixing dinner. Which is to say, he was laying out on a clean part of the floor all the tidbits he had scrounged from around the nearby lunch stand today. They included a scrap of lettuce from a lettuce and tomato sandwich, and a corner of cheese from a ham and cheese sandwich, and a wedge of chocolate from a dropped candy bar.
“I have been waiting, Harry, for
one hour!” And Tucker Mouse knew that it was
one hour, because just one week before, the strap of a hapless commuter's watch had broken, and Tucker, ever alert to the value of everything, had dashed out and salvaged the watch before the commuter could find it. “One hour, Harry Cat, andâ”
“Come on,” whispered Harry gently behind him.
“What do you mean, âCome on'?” said Tucker. “I'm already here.”
“Come on,” coaxed Harry.
Tucker turned. “What's
In front of Harry, softly urged forward by voice and by nose, was what looked like a dirty dish mop. But this dirty dish mop had four legs and two frightened eyes that kept darting back and forth behind the tangles of knotted hair that fell over its face.
“Get that thing out of here!” shouted Tucker.
“Shh!” warned Harry, under his breath.
“A bit messed up my drainpipe may be,” proclaimed Tucker Mouse, “but at least it's not filthy.”
” said Harry Cat, out loud now and in a tone of voice that Tucker recognized as being don't-argue-with-me serious, “to shut up!” He put a paw on the dish mop's rump and pressed it down. “Just sit now. That's the dog.” The mop nervously huddled on its hind legs. “We'll have something to eat.”
“It's staying for
“Stop calling him âit.' It's a puppyâmaleâand he
staying for supper!”
Tucker wiggled his whiskers skeptically. “And just where, may I ask, did you come across this most sterling specimen of the canine species?”
“I found him whimperingâno, not whimpering, crying his heart outâin a dead-end alley on Tenth Avenue.”
“A dead-end alley on Tenth Avenue is no place for a puppy to be. Or a mouse, or a cat, or even a human being,” agreed Tucker Mouse. “What's itsâhisâname?”
“He has no name,” said Harry. “Whoever threw him away didn't give him a name. And besides, he wouldn't know it anyway. He's too young to talk.”
“Well, what's his breed?” demanded Tucker.
“Beats me.” Harry looked at the puppy quizzically. “From that hair all over his face there must be some sheep dog in him somewhere. But his shoulders look more like a German shepherd. And that tailâmaybe collie, but I don't know.”
“It's the melting pot,” said Tucker Mouse. He heaved a long sigh. “This is just what I need on a pleasant October day.”
He and Harry had come back about a month before from visiting their friend Chester Cricket in Connecticut, and Tucker had been looking forward to an easy and peaceful autumn season. He'd even planned a few trips down to Bryant Park, in back of the Public Library at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, to enjoy the red and gold colors that made their way into the trees there, even in the midst of all the stone and steel and cement of New York.
“Is that all there is to eat?” said Harry.
“One moment!” demanded Tucker. “Even a mouse has manners. We're giving him a shower first.”
“Hold on now,” objected Harry. “You know how dogs are about bathsâ”
“He gets not one
of all the food I have laboriously scrounged for today,” announced Tucker, “until he is
To the shower!â
” With all the authority that a mouse can muster, he propelled the puppy into an opening at the rear of the drainpipe.
In an alcove back there was Tucker's and Harry's shower. From a leaky overhead pipe a steady trickle of water dripped down. And by some miracle the water was
âmaybe because it came from one of the pipes leading to the counter of the lunch stand. It filled a hollow in the floor, and then flowed off through a crack in one corner.
Perhaps on the level below his there was another mouse, or a rat, or a cockroach, who was using Tucker's bath water as his own showerâTucker didn't know or care. Good water is a very valuable commodity in the Times Square subway station. And nobody bothers to ask where it comes from.
“Now into that water and under that shower! Right
” Although the puppy was about four times as big as Tucker himself, the mouse got behind him, put his two front paws on his rump, and gave a tremendous push.
And the puppy went flying into the puddleâwhere he there proceeded to sit, beneath the leak, looking as soggy and dismal and sad as a waterlogged puppy can look. “Now soap up!” Tucker undid a piece of Kleenex, took out a clawful of soap chipsâscrounged from the lunch stand late one nightâand tossed them at the object in his bathtub. And the object just continued to sitânow decorated like a Christmas tree with a lot of snowy chips.
“If I must, I must!” Tucker made the mouse's gesture which, if he'd been a human being, would have been rolling up his sleeves, and marched into the water. Where, with much fuming and fussing, in a couple of minutes he worked up such a lather that both he and the puppy were nothing but two sudsy bubbles.
“Hey, wait a minute!” the Tucker bubble said, and looked back to the entrance to the bathroom, where Harry Cat was sitting contentedly with a smile on his face and his tail curled neatly around his legs. “Why aren't
doing this? He's your discovery!”
“But you do it so well,” purred Harry. He gave his tail a little snap, and went back into the living room, living drainpipe, that is.
“Well, of all the nerve! Here you drag inâ”
“Do hurry though,” called Harry. “The puppy and I are getting hungry.”
With a vast spluttering and mutteringâand not without some soap getting into his eyesâTucker completed his own and the little dog's shower. Then, from a niche where the Kleenex and the soap chips were stored, he took two pieces of clean Scot towelsâthe man who owned the lunch stand could never understand how things just seemed to disappearâand dried them both off.
“Suppertime,” he grumbled to the puppy, very resentfully.
But it was suppertime only for Harry and Tucker.
“Whatsa matter with him now?” sulked Tucker Mouse.
The puppy sat miserably, staring down at the lettuce. And the corner of cheese.
“I guess he just doesn't like lettuce,” said Harry. “Or cheese, either.”
“A gourmet mongrel,” moaned Tucker. “Precisely what I didn't need!” His whiskers twitched. “So how do we feed him?”
“I think,” began Harry reasonably, “if we waitâ”
” announced Tucker in a sudden rodent revelation. “It's
Dogs like meat.” His whiskers flickered thoughtfully. “Now where to get meat?” He went to the opening of the drainpipe and looked out.
It was just past the rush hour. The crazy jumbleâit somehow formed itself into a patternâof commuters going this way and that, which filled the Times Square subway station in the late afternoon, had begun to thin out. There were shoes, legsâall that a mouse could see of human beingsâtrampling back and forth everywhere. But it wasn't as bad as at five o'clock.
“Meat,” murmured Tucker. His twitching whiskers worked on the problem.
“Listen, little Mousiekinsâ” Harry put his paw gently on Tucker's head and drew it smoothly down his back.
“Don't call me âMousiekins'!”
“âwhen the puppy gets hungry enough, he'll eat.”
“Have you ever spent the first weeks of your life in an alley on Tenth Avenue?”
“So he has to have meat! And tasty meat, too.” Tucker silently ran through his categories of tasty meat. His mouth was watering by the time he got to hot dogs, after bits of ham, from ham sandwiches, andâoh joy!âliverwurst. But then the tasty of tasties appeared. “It has to be a hamburger! What more could anybody want?”
“Tucker, he will eat if you'll onlyâ”
“There's an opening! Goodbye.”
Before Harry could hold him back, Tucker had spotted a space between the chaotic human beings and made a dash for the lunch stand.