“Judy.” My little sister calls from the basement steps. “Momma wants to know. Do you want a sandwich?”
I jump back from the basement window. I’d been watching the backyard and the people walking the alley beyond our fence. “Clara, don’t sneak up on me.” I soften my tone and bite off the end of a red licorice stick. “Tell Momma I’m not hungry.” I waggle my finger at her. “And nothing else.”
“I won’t, Judy,” she says, “but what are you doing?”
I take a deep breath. What would my six-year-old sister understand? I make it simple. “I want to stop whoever is throwing rocks at Tippy. When I catch them, I’ll make them so sorry. They’ll never do it again. Now get out.”
I return to the window. All the yards are fenced, but ours is best. It’s like the walls of a castle. Two tall, thick, woody hedges, at least six feet tall, cover the alley entry. Between the hedges, on an iron trellis, we have a steel mesh gate. That’s how we go to the alley store. People walk to the store all day long, right behind my yard. Somebody’s been stoning Tippy. I’m going to get them.
We’ve been in this house since I was five, seven years now. Lately Tippy’s been running down and jumping high and hard against the metal gate every time somebody walks by. I want the noisy barking and gate screeching under the force of my dog’s weight to stop.
Oh, that little sissy boy is walking slowly up the alley. He’s so polite in the store. He must be a fake and him only five. How’d he learn how to fake so young?
Tippy sees him and races up the yard. He leaps high and hard against the back gate. The metal frame rattles and shakes, but it holds as it always does.
The little boy pulls his arm back. Is he going to throw something? I unlatch the cellar door and push it open.
“Tippy,” I call and slap my leg. My good dog turns and runs to me. I put him in his doghouse, close the door, and slide the bar down so he can’t get out.
“Little boy,” I yell to the boy who’s looking around my yard through the gate, “do you have rocks in your hand?”
He shakes his head. “No, I don’t.” After a brief pause, he shows his hands.
He eases away, like he’s going to run to the alley store, so I say “Don’t be scared. Tippy can’t get out.”
The boy stops, but stays where he is.
I walk up. “I have tasty candy in the basement. Would you like a piece?”
He turns again, toward the store.
I open the gate. “What’s your name?” I ask. “Mine’s Judy.”
“Ch…hhe..ett,” the little sissy boy says, lips quivering.
“Come on in. Let’s be friends.” I pull a stick of red licorice out of the wrapper.
He reaches for it. I retreat and make him enter. He takes it.
“The really good stuff is inside.” He follows me into the basement.
As soon as he’s in, I slam the door shut behind him. “I saw you throw rocks at my dog.”
“Not me.” He shakes his head. “I just tried to shoo him away.”
But I tell him I saw him drop a rock behind my hedge. He lies, claiming it was a penny to buy candy. He sobs, begging me to let him out.
I hate his weakness. I let myself out, back into the yard. He presses his face against the cellar window. I let Tippy out of his house. Tippy yelps and lunges against the door. Little Chet whimpers.
Momma sticks her head out the back door. “Judy, did I hear crying? What’s going on?”
I kick the doghouse. It rattles loudly. “No, Momma.” I point to the gate and yell, “People in the alley.” Like the trusty guard dog he is, Tippy rushes to the gate, bounding against it with his full weight, bearing his long teeth.
Two kids in the alley scream and run down the alley as fast as their legs will take them.
Momma shakes her head and returns to the kitchen. I go into the cellar.
That little wimp, Chet, is still crying. At least he isn’t screaming. He tries to see through the grill and backyard gate to the alley. It keeps him quiet, so I let him.
I’m relieved until Chet yells, “Let me out.” A curly-headed girl about my age is walking on the far side of the alley on her way to the store. I’ve seen her before. It’s the little wimp’s sister. Tippy runs up to the gate to greet her in his doggy way.
Normally people scatter when Tippy greets them, but she stops and inches close to the gate. “Chet,” she yells, “are you in there?”
I put my hand over his mouth. He bites my palm. I pull the little biter away from the crack. “Go away, Raggedy Ann, or I’ll let Tippy give you a kiss with his wet lips.”
She turns and runs. But not toward the alley store, the other way. Back the way she had come.
When Chet’s father came to our front door and says to Momma that his son was in her basement, she denies it. But he insists and finally Momma says she’ll go down and see. That’s how I got caught. That curly-headed snitch.
Momma makes sure Tippy is locked in his doghouse. She sends me to my room. She says she’ll deal with me later.
From my second-story window, I watch the man lead the little wimp out of the cellar, past the doghouse. Chet pounds the roof with his hand. The doghouse shakes with Tippy’s excited reaction.
His father swats his son on the rump. “Chester Charles Almon, haven’t you learned anything? Don’t bully others, not even a dog.”
Dog photo. U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger – http://www.offutt.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/070417-F-7797P-001.JPG