Whisper 1.29

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We’re looking for Stray Dog.

Everywhere I go, I keep an eye out for him.

Every day after school, Marigold heads up to her fort and uses her telescope to look over the fields.

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She sleeps in the tree fort, then bright and early, she’s looking again.

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We haven’t seen him yet.

“Do you think he’s OK?” she asks.

“Oh, yeah,” I say. “Me and Stray bonded pretty closely, so I can still feel him. I would feel it if something were wrong.”

“Then where is he?”

“You know what I think it is? I think he’s a free-loving roaming wanderer. Some individuals are just like that. I bet he loves living wherever he chooses, sleeping under the stars, doing what he wants.”

“Kinda like me,” Marigold says.

“Yup,” I reply. “Kinda like you, Bunny.”

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A few days later, Marigold goes to a friend’s house after school.

When she comes home, she’s so excited.

“Mom!” she says. “Guess what? They have an actual table for doing homework! They call it the dining room table. It’s so awesome.”

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“Oh, yeah,” I reply. “I guess that’s pretty standard, to have a dining room table.”

“And you know what else?” She asks, enthusiastically. “They’ve got this room they call the living room and it’s really pretty with matching lamps and even matching chairs and a rug and a TV, and we could sit there together, watching sports and talking! It was so cozy.”

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“It sounds like a nice house,” I say.

“It is,” she replies. “It’s really pretty.”

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I start thinking about how much money we have in savings. We’ve got a bit of a cushion. I’ve been saving it up for Marigold’s college and so that, in case anything happens to me, she’ll have something to fall back on. I’ve talked to Mara Nix, and she’s agreed that, if I go before Marigold is old enough to live on her own, she’ll come and take care of her, so the savings is for that. It’s hard to think about, but I figure I’d better face it and be prepared. Maybe that way, it won’t happen.

Anyway, all this calculating of our savings is so that I can decide if we have enough to buy a real couch and a dining room table. Marigold seemed so excited about her friend’s house, and I want her to feel like she has everything she needs at home, too. Not everybody feels that cheap college-student decor is comfortable, I remember.

The next morning, Marigold asks the mailman if he’s seen Stray Dog.

“No,” he replies. “My route’s just here in the north bend. But I walk all over, and I haven’t seen him.”

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Marigold looks sad when she comes in.

“Bunny,” I say, “I’ve been thinking. Would you like us to fix up the house a little? We can clean up all the spray paint on the walls, maybe get new wallpaper, buy a regular dining room table and a couch and a chair that matches. Would you like that?”

“No,” she says. “What for? I like our house how it is. You wouldn’t wipe off your art, would you? I love it!”

“Really?” I ask. “But I thought you liked your friend’s house.”

“I do,” she says. “For them. But I like our house for us.”

“Then why are you sad?”

“I want a puppy.”

A few days later, while Marigold is doing some research for a class project on the computer, I surprise her.

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While she was at school, I found out that the shelter had a young dog available for adoption, and I arranged for them to bring him over that afternoon.

“Look, Mom,” she says while he sleeps on the floor. “He’s got a tail like Stray Dog.”

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He looks a lot like Stray Dog, only his coat is lighter.

I asked when I called to adopt him if they knew his sire and dam. They said they knew the mother, and they suspected that the father was a gray stray with a borzoi tail.

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We think maybe Zoey is Stray Dog’s pup.

“Mom! I love him!” Marigold laughs. “He’s our own Zoey dog!”

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Zoey loves it here. He settled in right away, sleeping on the couch, on my bed, on the floor, and he’s been doing a great job eating the beef stew I fix for him.

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That evening, when I’m standing outside watching the mist settle over the meadow, Marigold rushes out to me.

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“Thanks, Mom,” she says. “I have everything now.”

I know just how she feels.

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