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Authors: George Selden

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BOOK: Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
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“Harry, please,” Tucker gasped. “If you wouldn't mind not squashing me—”

“—you know every hole in this subway station,” the cat went on. “You know every crack. You could
escape.
But Huppy's young. He doesn't understand danger yet.”

“Young he may be,” said Tucker Mouse. “But heavy he's also getting. I had to practically
carry
him back here, before that cop could find where the barking was coming from.”

The cat frowned again. “Really serious. And I haven't decided what to do.”

“About what?” asked Tucker.

“Never mind,” said Harry. “Let's wake him up. This business of misbehaving and running around—we've got to have it out right now.”

They went over to what was now called “Huppy's House.” It was a fairly large cardboard box—which had originally contained six bottles of Scotch whiskey, and which Harry had found, by the greatest good luck, late one night in the street and dragged all the way down to the subway station. He and Tucker had to bend it a little to fit it through the drainpipe opening, but they'd managed it without too much damage. Then, the next Sunday, working together, the two of them had salvaged a copy of the Sunday
New York Times,
and Tucker had shredded the whole thing by claw—which was quite a job, since the Sunday
Times
is about as big as a newspaper can get. And
then
—the climax of “Huppy's House”—Tucker discovered a ripped but still usable cushion in one of the trash baskets. After inspecting it thoroughly, to make sure that no bugs or other unwelcome guests were living in it, Tucker fitted it into one end of the box, so Huppy had a place to lay his head. Tucker waited for thanks, but the little dog just sniffed it and said, “Woof.” But he lay down right away and fell asleep with his head resting on it. And looked quite nice, Tucker thought. At first the box had seemed much too big for the puppy, but he'd grown so rapidly, just in the time he'd been living with Tucker and Harry, that now it fitted him perfectly.

“Wake up. Come on—” Harry reached inside and shook the puppy. He grumbled in his sleep. “—wake
up!

Huppy stumbled up to a sitting position. His head barely reached to the top of the box's side. “Wha'—?” “Wha'” was another of the few words he'd learned.

Harry gave him a very stern lecture—complete with gestures and demonstrations of running around, just in case Huppy couldn't understand everything—which ended with “Mustn't!” He shook his furry paw in warning. “
Mustn't!
Bad dog! Mustn't do! Now promise! You promise?”

The little dog hung his head and his eyes peered out, cowed, through his tangle of hair. “Yup, Hawy,” he murmured, and dropped back down onto his pillow. In a minute his soft little snores could be heard.

“I think that should do it,” said Harry Cat, rather pleased with the feline authority that he exercised over a growing dog.

“I hope so—
Hawy!
” sulked Tucker Mouse.

*   *   *

That was
another
thing that made Tucker mad. Huppy refused to call him by name. By his third week in the drainpipe he was adding words fast. There was “hammaga” for hamburger; there was “fwamps” for frankfurters; there was “swa,” for coleslaw. (Tucker could see by this time where the heart of a little dog lies: it lies right in his mouth.) There was “yup” and “nope”—picked up from a conductor on the shuttle, and obstinately retained, despite all Tucker Mouse's efforts to make him say “yes” and “no”—and one glorious afternoon there was “Hawy.”

The two had been playing together, Harry half tickling and half wrestling with Huppy. And suddenly, out of nowhere—which is where a lot of words come from to puppies and other young people—the little dog stopped his giggling and rolling around, looked up at the smiling cat, and said solemnly, “Hawy.” It wasn't a question; he wasn't asking for anything. He simply had found Harry's name. There's a mystery in names, something very important—and especially the names of living things: names make things be themselves.

And when Huppy said, “Hawy,” the cat and the mouse just looked at each other. Tucker Mouse had been sitting on the sidelines, wondering if he should join in the fun, and had just about decided to, when it happened. But instead, for a moment, they both sat silently, recognizing what a great thing had happened.

However, in the opinion of Tucker Mouse the moment would have been even greater—far greater, in fact—if, after “Hawy,” the dog had said, “Tucka”—or anything else that sounded like him. But Huppy did not. He went on wrestling with the big gentle cat, repeating over and over again, “Hawy! Hawy! Hawy!” and laughing hilariously … Tucker decided not to join in.

But the very next day, when Harry was out—he wouldn't have dreamed of admitting to a twinge of jealousy—the mouse spent one whole afternoon coaxing, asking, pleading, and at last demanding that Huppy say his name.

He pointed at the puppy and then himself—“You Huppy, me Tucker”—like a pioneer trying to teach an Indian to speak English.

“Hammaga!” said Huppy.

“Me Tucker!”

“Fwamps!”

“No,
Tucker!
” the mouse shouted. “Tucker Mouse. Now
say
it!”

“Hawy!” The puppy began to snicker. Then, adding insult to injury, he said, “Hawy
Cat!
”—and rolled over on his back, squeaking with glee and scratching the empty air with his paws. It was something that he only did when he was especially pleased with himself. Like the times when he gave Tucker Mouse a fit.

That night, when the wrestling started again, Tucker wouldn't even watch.

*   *   *

The last straw, the straw that broke the mouse's back, dropped into place like an iron crowbar late one Thursday afternoon about a month after Huppy's arrival. (And he still would not speak Tucker's name.)

The last Thursday of every month—the mouse always salvaged a calendar in January of each new year—was house-cleaning day in the drainpipe. That meant, for all practical purposes, that Tucker rearranged the clutter of everything that he'd ever collected. He promised Harry every month that he would get rid of the useless possessions, but Tucker had one of those hoarding souls that couldn't bear to lose a thing. So he moved all the junk to new locations—at least it made the drainpipe
look
different—and called it cleaning house. And each month, with an aching heart full of pride, he did throw away something—but only so he could say to Harry, “Well, I got rid of
that,
didn't I?” Four weeks ago it had been a shoelace—horrible loss!—that he put back into the same trash basket that he'd pulled it out of the day before, and this month—this month—Tucker looked around. The broken glasses had to stay—a real prize, that—and so did the brass belt buckle. But at last he decided that with a great effort of will he could stand to be separated from a hairpin he'd found two weeks ago. With a heavy sigh he threw it out the drainpipe opening, and hoped that some young lady might find it, and wash it, and use it. It wasn't that he was completely a miser—he was a bit of a one, to be sure—but Tucker also couldn't bear the thought of anything being simply wasted.

Huppy had watched him all afternoon, lugging this thing here, and that thing there, and the other thing into the opposite corner. (It was really redecorating, not cleaning at all.) And the puppy had been most impressed when Tucker said to himself, “I guess I can throw this out”—and tossed the hairpin to whatever fate awaited it. But the effort, mental—
losing things!
—as well as physical—moving everything around—left the mouse exhausted. He crawled into his corner, fluffed up his shredded newspapers, and took a much needed nap.

And woke up an hour later to the most horrendous experience in his entire life!

In a dream he thought he heard jingling. It was a sound that Tucker liked because it reminded him of the time each day when he counted his life savings: the loose change, most precious of all his possessions, that was neatly piled in a hole in the drainpipe wall. But then, for some reason—perhaps because he couldn't
feel
the coins—the jingling began to worry him.

His eyes opened—just in time to see Huppy's tail going out the drainpipe opening. “Hey! Come back!” Tucker jumped up, grabbed a clawful of tail, and dragged the puppy back inside. “You've been told, by your friend ‘Hawy'—”

The mouse didn't finish his scolding. Because just then Huppy, whose cheeks looked funny to Tucker—kind of bulging—gave a cough, and out of his mouth dropped three quarters, four dimes, and six nickels.

“What on earth!”

Tucker stared at the coins for a second. Then whirled around—and his worst suspicions were confirmed. The piece of plaster that concealed the hole in the wall where he kept his life savings, and which he carefully replaced every day after counting it all, had been pushed aside. Half his money was gone. If he'd had the time, Tucker Mouse would have fainted dead away on the spot. But within his panic a warning sounded: something more might be wrong. And it was! Almost all his other possessions were gone as well. The drainpipe was practically empty.

“What have you been
doing?
” he screamed.

“Th'o away! Th'o away!” beamed Huppy happily. In his innocence, having watched Tucker move all his belongings around, and having been especially impressed when Tucker heaved the hairpin out, he'd decided that, well, it would be a good idea if he threw away everything else. Particularly those shiny things in that hole.

“Oh, my lord—” Tucker clutched his chest and fought off a heart attack. Then his panic turned into action—and anger. “Get in that box! And
stay
there! No supper tonight, you stupid
mutt!

Trembling, Huppy jumped in his house and hid his head under the pillow. He just thought he'd been helping.

One of the few things not thrown out—yet—was the wrist watch. Four o'clock. Half an hour before the human herds began their stampede through the station.

Tucker turned into a furry whirlwind. Throwing caution completely aside—what was life without his life savings?—he dashed out into the subway station. And in half an hour of mad scrambling he'd retrieved two dollars and eighty-three cents—naturally, he went after the money first—and many of the furnishings. (Luckily, Huppy was still quite small, and he hadn't been able to throw things too far from the drainpipe opening.)

But much was lost. When the commuters did begin their rush, Tucker could only sit in the drainpipe opening, in a daze of fury and pain, and look on hopelessly as they picked up missing nickels, dimes, and quarters that he knew belonged to him.

Harry Cat got back late that night. But Tucker was definitely
not
asleep. In a flurry of sputtering, swearing, stamping, he managed to tell the dreadful tale.

“Now take it easy, Tucker.” Harry knew that this was more than serious. For Tucker Mouse it was downright drastic—and might even prove fatal. “He's just—”

“I don't care
what
he's just!” Tucker roared hysterically. “Besides my life savings—my buckle—my high heel—!”

“I'll slip down to Fifth Avenue and steal you a
pair
of high-heel shoes,” Harry promised.

“I don't
want
a pair of high-heel shoes! I want my good old heel. And it's gone! I saw some dope kick it onto the tracks.”

“We'll talk about this—”

“We'll talk about this right now.” Tucker pointed a shaking claw at the cardboard box—from which a peep had not been heard all night. “He goes!”

“Shh!” warned Harry. “You'll wake him up.”

“This is
my
house!” Tucker whispered indignantly. “And he goes! Tomorrow!”

“Well, where does he go?” asked Harry, as calmly as he could.

“To Bellevue Hospital if necessary! They
need
animals over there. They experiment on them!”

“Tucker!”

“I mean it, Harry! We could sell him there. I could get back the ninety-five cents he still owes me—”

Hurt, worried, and deeply disappointed, the cat turned his back coldly on his friend. “I will not discuss this further tonight.”

BOOK: Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
13.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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