DOG FOR PAULA
PAULA MASON was throwing a stick for her dog, Spot, when she saw the young man. Being definitely imaginary, Spot was anything Paula’s fancy lighted upon, but always thoroughbred and AKC registered. When she walked he was likely to be a Newfoundland, with coal-black hair and slobbering jowls. When she took Spot in her 11-year-old arms he was most often a silky cocker.
At. the moment this dream-dog was a sleek, leanflanked. feather-legged Irish setter. He took the fences on Maple Street, in lithe bounds; seized the stick in tender jaws and brought it to her, his plume waving like the panache of Henri of Navarre.
Paula said, “Good dog,” and threw the stick— also imaginary-into the green lawn of the Broker house. ML Broker came around his shrubbery, pruning shears in hand, and caught her at. it. He blinked and shook his head commiseratingly. He thought she was bats, Paula knew, although that didn’t, bother her. But it did make her conscious that. Spot wasn’t real—made her achingly aware of the great sorrow in her life—that she hadn’t a dog and couldn’t have one, all because of her sister, Jo Anne.
She went down Maple, past Kingan, to the golf course fence. From there she could see the low white building set apart in its own field that was the Claremont Veterinary Hospital. She could distantly hear the bark of a dog; heard two others join in. She didn’t go down to the runs where she could see the dogs and talk to them. Dr. More didn’t, like that. He’d told her so on several occasions. Most definitely when he’d turned down her offer to help around the hospital afternoons. Dr. More was as old as Mr. Broker and terribly cranky. It didn’t, seem right that such an old foof should be privileged to live among dogs.
A light-minded tale about a tomboy who craved a pup, and a big sister who was allergic... but not to love
The October sun was warm and golden. Paula sat down on a huge rock where she could see the hospital on her right and look up Elm Road straight ahead to her own red-tiled house, set back from the wide, tree-shaded street. She glimpsed a green pullover and plaid skirt. Jo Anne was standing at the gate, looking for her.
Paula frowned. She snapped the rubber bands of her teeth braces with a practiced tongue and kicked at the grass. She couldn’t hate Jo Anne because her sister was so swell. Jo Anne never minded if Paula took a ribbon or a bangle from her boxes, never got mad and shouted. As far as sisters went, if one had to have them, Paula couldn’t think of anyone she’d prefer to Jo Anne, but she did wish desperately that Jo Anne wasn’t allergic to dogs. She’d have been the perfect sister then because Paula could have her own dog. Dad had said so and mother had agreed.
Wishing mightn’t make things the way you wanted them, but maybe if you wished hard enough and long enough it would. At 11, though, Paula wasn’t possessed of patience. She propped her round chin on stubby-fingered hands and the frown deepened as she tried to think how she could possibly manage to get herself a dog. Yet always she came back to Jo Anne’s allergy and that was a stone wall. Impassable, untumable.
A short branch lay at her feet. Paula lowered one hand and picked it up. She threw it with a gesture of defiance and longing. “Go get it, Spot,” she said quite loudly. But it didn’t work this time. She let her breath go in a heavy sigh and the greenish eyes under the carroty hair filled with tears. That was why, when she looked up Elm Road again, the legs seemed inordinately long and wavy. Just legs and no body, for the rest was hidden by low-hanging foliage. •
The legs quivered; seemed to dance up and down. Paula wiped her eyes and discovered that
the phenomenon was caused by the owner stopping and turning. He began to walk again, slowly, until he came to the corner. He turned once more to look back and Paula had a chance to see him fully. A tall man in a grey suit with a white shirt and blue four-in-hand tie. A thin-faced, tanned young man.
He came across Kingan, his hands in his pockets, his grey fedora shoved back on his head. His dark blue eyes were somewhat dazed. He said to Paula, “You wouldn’t happen to know the name of a young lady who lives about halfway up that street? A very beautiful young lady?”
Paula wrinkled her brow. “There’s several young ladies, I guess you’d call them, that live on Elm, but ...” •
“There couldn’t be any other like her. She has dark red hair and a skin like camellias and . . .” Paula’s voice rose incredulously, “You mean Jo Anne?”
Under his rumpled black hair his brows lifted. “It could be. The name suits her. She was standing at a white gate. She was wearing a sort of wonderful colored sweater ...”
“Green. A green pullover and a plaid skirt.” “Yes.” His face grew solemn. “She isn’t married, is she?”
“Golly, no.” Paula laughed at the idea but the young man said, “You’re sure?” He seemed terribly in earnest.
Paula said, surprised, “She always tells me things. She’s my sister.”
The young man put his head to one side and considered Paula for so long that she fidgeted. At last he nodded. “I can see how it can be. It takes a little imagination, because you’re—well—” “Funny-looking,” Paula said resignedly.
“Plain. The teeth braces don’t help and your hair is carrots. You’ve got freckles and knobby knees but just the same it’s possible.”
“What is?” Paula asked, a little dazed herself.
“That you’ll be beautiful some day, like—like Jo Anne.”
Paula giggled. It was part what he said and part the way he fairly breathed Jo Anne’s name. He sat down beside her on the rock. “What’s your name? The whole of it.”
“I’m Reginald Felloway.” He regarded her sidewise. “You know, you could be my sister if I married Jo Anne.”
Paula’s eyes grew round. Her upper lip caught in the brace as her mouth opened. Something mentally shattering tinkled all about her like silver stars breaking and falling. “Do you want to?” Mr. Felloway didn’t answer that directly. “Did you ever want something awfully? I mean, want it so hard that nothing else really mattered?”
“Golly, yes!” Paula said.
“Then you can understand,” Mr. Felloway said. “The moment I saw Jo Anne standing there at the gate I knew she was the girl I’ve always been looking for and never hoped to find. I want to marry Jo Anne. I’ve never been more certain of anything in all my life.”
The tinkling shower stopped but there was a shining star clearly before Paula. She’d never thought of it before. If Jo Anne got married she’d go away. And if Jo Anne went away ... It was a thought that took Paula’s breath. It hurt a little because she couldn’t imagine the house without Jo Anne, but on the other hand she could imagine it very well with a dog. Her dog.
“What do you think? She isn’t engaged or anything, is she?”
Paula shook her head. “She’s never mushy with any of the boys that come around.” She got to her feet, trembling with excitement. “We could ask her.”
Mr. Felloway looked doubtful as he rose with her. “Just like that? I’m afraid it would be somewhat abrupt. I don’t know her yet.”
“You could come to supper,” Paula said, her eyes shining. “Then you’d know her.”
Mr. Felloway said, “It’s very kind of you, Miss Mason. You wouldn’t object to my marrying your sister?”
“Oh, no,” Paula said earnestly. “If Jo Anne’s got to get married, and I guess she has sometime, I’d prefer you, I’m sure.”
“Thanks,” Mr. Felloway said fervently. “And listen, Paula—I may call you Paula?”
“You call me Reg. I prefer it to Reginald.” His blue eyes were very bright. “Listen, Paula—the day I marry Jo Anne I’ll give you your heart’s desire. You’ve got one, of course.”
“I have.” Paula’s throat was tight. “A dog.” Reg Felloway’s smile was positively dazzling. “It’s fate,” he told her confidentially. “A dog you shall have.”
Paula’s heart bounded fantastically.
Reg said, “I guess we’d better go, hadn’t we? Your parents won’t mind?”
“They’re in Chicago,” Paula told him as they crossed the road. “Dad had to go on business and mother went with him. I couldn’t, school, you know, and Jo Anne doesn’t care for big cities.”
Reg seemed to walk a little slower, a little more stiffly as they came to the gate. Jo Anne was standing on the wide porch. She came down the steps and up the flagged way, the plaid skirt sway ing. about her slim legs, and Paula looked at her in the light of the way Reg had described her.
Jo Anne had always been just her sister to Paula. But she could see now that a stranger, looking at Jo Anne with an objective eye might view her differently. The live copper-tinted hair; the almond-shaped green eyes fringed by long dark lashes and the skin that was a translucent creaminess dusted with the faintest freckles. Golly, Paula thought, she really was something!
Paula looked up at Reg. He was staring at Jo Anne. Jo Anne looked at Reg and when Paula glanced from one to the other she saw that they had changed color. Jo Anne was red and Reg looked white under his tan. He put his longfingered hands on the gate and his Adam’s apple worked before he spoke. “If Paula’s late, Miss Mason, it’s my fault. I’m a stranger in town, though I hope I shan’t be that long, and I kept Paula talking of this and that.” He looked at Paula with eyes that said, “What we were talking about is our secret, you know,” and then back at Jo Anne. His smile flashed. “I hope you’ll forgive me.”
Jo Anne said quickly, “Of course, Mr . * .”
She stopped, blushing, and Reg said, “Felloway.” Paula said, “His name is Reginald, but he prefers to be called Reg. I asked him to have supper with us.”
“The thought was utterly kind,” Reg said hopefully and Jo Anne murmured, “We’d be happy to have you.”
She turned and almost ran up the walk, and they followed her into the house.
Reg washed up and
Continued on page 42
A Dog For Paula
Continued from page 17
came downstairs looking ever so distinguished with his jet hair sleekly combed. Jo Anne disappeared into her room and reappeared just as Paula was wondering when on earth they were going to eat. Jo Anne had taken off the pullover and skirt and wore her emerald-green shantung. Her hair was piled up on her small head and she really did look nice—though Paula wasn’t quite sure that it called for Reg looking as breathless as he did.
He held out their chairs for them and praised the salad as if he knew Jo Anne had made it. Later, they sat on the front porch in the gathering dusk and Reg said, “I like Claremont. It’s the sort of town a man dreams of when he is thousands of miles away. I’m considering buying a business and living the rest of my life here. It hasn’t gone through yet so I can’t talk about it, but . .
He didn’t finish. His chair creaked. Jo Anne’s face was a pale blur. Paula hoped she wasn’t aware of the time, for it was well past eight. But Jo Anne must have known, for Paula distinctly heard her sigh. Jo Anne said reluctantly, “It’s bedtime, Paula,” and as Paula said, “Oh, shoot!” Reg got to his feet.
He said, “I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed the evening, Miss Mason. I only hope you’ll let me reciprocate in some way your kindness to a stranger.”
Jo Anne said from the dark, “I—we enjoyed having you. I hope you will come again.”
“Thank you,” Reg said. He sounded almost too grateful. He said, “Well...” and then, “Goodnight, ladies,” and started for the steps.
It was Paula who had to say, “Reg had a hat, Jo Anne.” Jo Anne laughed and Reg laughed and came back. Paula brought his hat. Reg took it. He hesitated and finally went down the steps. The gate creaked and he reappeared under the dappled light where the street lamp was half-hidden by the elm fronds. Then he was gone.
Jo Anne wasn’t up when Paula left for school next morning but she was home when Paula got back. The phone rang several times while Paula was swotting through her homework before supper and trying to decide what sort of dog she’d choose when Reg and Jo Anne got married. Each time Jo Anne came dashing from either upstairs or outside to answer, and each time she came slowly past the door of the sun porch where Paula was working, looking the least bit disappointed.
Paula was too busy with her homework and the terrific problem of what kind of dog to choose to worry about anything else. When the doorbell rang just before supper and a messenger from Kraker’s brought a box of flowers, Paula thought there wasn’t any reason for Jo Anne to look so relieved and so ecstatic. It was a very small box and there were only three flowers in it. White with purple lips. Jo Anne cried, “Orchids!” and avidly read the card that came in the box.
She didn’t offer to tell Paula what the card said. Paula had to ask as she wandered in from the sun porch, “Did Reg send them?” Jo Anne, her lashes low, said, “Yes. He can’t come over this evening. But isn’t he thoughtful, Paula?”
“He’s nice,” Paula said, a little surprised that there was any question about Reg Felloway at all. She went back to the porch and chewed her pencil, thinking of every type of dog she knew and coming finally to the sickening conclusion that there wasn’t
any particular one she wanted more than any other. And more than one was out of the question. Reg had said one, and dad and mother would surely object to more anyhow.
She dreamed of dogs that night. Dreamed she had to appear before a school board and make a decision—and couldn’t. What followed must have been frightful for she woke with a thump on the floor with the bedclothes about her. Jo Anne came running in, all drowsy-eyed and hair flying, to ask, “Paula, what is it?”
Paula said sleepily, “I was dreaming.” Jo Anne, picking up the bedclothes, looked up to say, “I was, too. About Reg?”
Paula didn’t remember answering. When she woke it was almost time for school. Mother and dad returned sometime during the day. Mom was at home when Paula got there. Jo Anne must have told her about Reg because mom had that amused smile on her lips. Dad must have known too, for when he came from the office at dusk and Bertha served dinner, dad grinned and mom said, “George, don’t look at me like that! You’ll make me spill my soup.” Paula blinked at them but Jo Anne said, not at all angrily, “I think you’re both mean.”
They’d hardly finished dinner when Reg came. It had turned cool, and he looked ever-so-handsome in his grey tweed topcoat. Jo Anne took him into the living room and Paula followed. Reg bowed to mom and shook dad’s hand. Jo Anne sat quietly while dad and Reg talked, and once mom looked past Paula and nodded ever so slightly as if to say, “He is nice, pet.”
Dad was saying what a good place a town like Claremont was for young men home from the war. What good opportunities it offered. That was when Reg said, “I think so, too, sir. That’s why I’ve bought a business here. I closed today. It isn’t far away. Dr. More’s.” Paula distinctly heard mom gasp. She looked up with the funniest expression and dad took his cigar from his lips to ask, “Dr. More’s? You mean the veterinary hospital?”
“Yes,” Reg said. “The hospital and the practice. I’m a veterinarian.” He laughed. “Of course, you didn’t know. One assumes everyone knows all about . . .” His voice trailed off. Paula sat looking at him in utter delight but Jo Anne got up and said, “I’ve an awful headache. Would—would you all excuse me?”
She went from the room. Mom went after her while Reg stood, looking handsome and bewildered. Dad said, “I think you’ve made a good investment, Dr. Felloway. Dr. More is getting a little too old to practice. I’d heard he was about to retire.”
“Yes, sir,” Reg said blankly.
Neither of them said anything then, and Paula was too busy adoring Reg to wonder about it. After a moment or two Reg said, “It was nice of you to let me come, sir. I hope Jo Anne will be feeling better tomorrow. I—I’ll call and enquire.”
“Do,” dad said. They shook hands again and dad went into the hall with Reg. When he came back he was frowning. He said, “Isn’t it your bedtime, Paula?”
Paula came out of a happy dream and recognizing the tone, went right upstairs. As she passed Jo Anne’s closed door she could hear mom’s low voice and something that sounded suspiciously like a sob, but she was still too stunned with delight at the news that Reg was a veterinarian and that the hospital was his, to pay much heed.
SHE could hardly wait for school to be over the next day. As soon as the bell sounded she seized her books
and ran. When she got to the corner of Maple and Kingan she saw Reg, sitting on the rock where they’d met. He came quickly to meet her. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he said and he sounded as worried as he looked.
Paula said apologetically, “School just got out.”
Reg said, “I called your house. I didn’t get Jo Anne. Your mother said she was better but resting.” He peered down at Paula. “What is it? What happened? I know some people don’t think veterinarians are up to M.D.’s in a social sense, but your dad and mother aren’t that sort. And Jo Anne . . .” He shook his head. “I thought they liked me. And then all of a sudden they . . .” He gulped.
Paula said, “It’s Jo Anne, I guess. She’s allergic.”
Reg stared. “She’s what?”
Paula said doubtfully, “Allergic. Isn’t that it? She breaks out all over and things. She’s not allowed even to get near a dog or cat. That’s why I can’t have a dog for myself.”
Reg’s mouth was open. He closed it to demand, “You mean that’s why they clammed up and Jo Anne got a headache . . .” He answered himself as Paula watched him interestedly. “It must have been. But, Lord, it . . . it’s utterly ridiculous.”
“Utterly,” Paula echoed because she liked the sound.
“I mean, a thing like that . . .” He frowned uncertainly. His head lifted. “Is your father at home now?”
“He doesn’t get home until six.”
Reg let his breath go. “You might do me a favor and tell your mother I’ll be ovèr this evening to see Mr. Mason.” “All right,” Paula said and shifted from one foot to the other. Her mouth was a little dry. “Could—could I see the hospital and—and the dogs, Reg?” “Of course you can. Anytime you like. Now?”
“Now,” Paula said, and let a sigh escape her.
It was she who let Reg in that evening. Jo Anne was in her room and mother was somewhere upstairs. Only dad was in the living room. The log fire was going because it was beginning to rain.
Dad said, when Paula had brought Reg in, “You may go now, Paula,” but Reg said, “If you don’t mind, sir, could she stay? Paula and I—she’s sort of—of moral support for me and what I have to say won’t harm her.” Dad looked doubtful but he merely gestured to a chair. Reg didn’t sit down. He stood tall and straight. “Paula has told me about Jo Anne’s allergy. Are you certain of it, sir?” “Very certain,” Dad said slowly. “She was Paula’s age at the time. She spent a night at a school friend’s home; played with her dog. In the morning she was a sight and as ill as she could possibly be. Dr. Phillips said it was a sensitivity to animal fur and hair. Some people, unfortunately, are afflicted that way and Jo Anne is one of them. Ever since we have taken care that she does not come in contact with animals cr even people who are among them constantly and there has been no recurrence.” His greying brows lifted. “If you could have seen her at that time I am sure you would agree with me that Jo Anne must be protected.”
After a long moment Reg said, “I see.” They looked at each other and Reg said, “Will you tell Miss Mason . . .” He didn’t finish but dad said, “I will,” and Reg turned and went out, his shoulders drooping.
Dad said, “You had better go upstairs, Paula.” He didn’t sound angry or anything. Mom was coming down as Paula went up. Mom put her hand on Paula’s head but she didn’t stop. Paula did. She heard mom say, “Oh,
George, he’s such a nice boy.” Dad said, “Don’t look at me like that. It’s not my fault is it? Why couldn’t he have been a lawyer like me or—or anything but a vet?”
Jo Anne was up and about the next day, which was Saturday. She went off to keep an appointment downtown but she didn’t look very happy about it. There were faint circles under her eyes and her nose was a little pink.
Paula didn’t think much about that. Jo Anne’s allergy was an old story and besides she was much too excited about the hospital. She did her chores before lunch and slipped out immediately after and made for Reg and the dogs.
Reg was glad to see her. He told her so, gravely, then asked Tim, the kennelman, to bring her a smock: He said, “Keep that on if you’re going to mess about with the dogs, and be sure you wash yourself thoroughly before you go. For Jo Anne’s sake.” He said her name ever so sadly.
Paula didn’t mention where she had been when she got home. Joe Anne was very quiet that evening. Dad frowned and Mom looked concerned and Paula began to wonder if Jo Anne and Reg really would get married. The thought was upsetting because if they didn’t she wouldn’t get her dog. But at least it meant she wouldn’t have to decide on what sort of dog she wanted just yet;and that was a relief.
SHE got back from Sunday school early the next forenoon and after dinner, when mom and dad went off in the car to pay a visit, and Jo Anne turned down two invites over the phone and went upstairs, Paula made for the hospital.
Reg wasn’t there. Tim and the other kennelman, Jack, were. There was a wire-haired terrier on a leash in the office. Paula put on her smock and Tim said, “I gotta go downstairs and give Jack a hand with them cages. If someone comes for the Miller dog, this is him. Rusty.Just hand him over. Oke?”
“Oke,” Paula said.
She felt very important, all alone in the office. Rusty let her play with him a while and then lay down and went to sleep against the radiator. Paula considered him lovingly. She was sure a wire-haired was as nice as any. But then the other breeds were equally nice. She went out of the office, through the treatment room and opened the door of the upstairs cage room. As she did so something big and white slipped out. Paula said, “Oh my goodness,” and started in pursuit. One of the cages must have been improperly latched and a dog was loose.
The battle started just as Paula got to the office. Rusty and the white Spitz were snarling and growling. The Spitz dived in as Paula grabbed Rusty’s leash. She screamed at the dogs but they were aware of nothing except a desire to mow each other down. Paula jumped on the desk chair and then up on the desk. She lifted Rusty bodily by his Dutch harness. He tugged and snarled and the Spitz darted around looking for an opening. Paula held Rusty close to her feet and alternately yelled at the Spitz and yelled for Tim. No one came. The Spitz jumped and Rusty tugged and Paula began to get scared.
Her foot kicked over the phone. Frantically she picked it up with her free hand. She heard the operator say, “Number, please,” and instinctively she gave her own number. The dogs were still making a terrible noise when Jo Anne answered. Jo Anne said, “Yes?” and Paula cried, “Oh Jo Anne . . . the dogs . . .”
Jo Anne gasped, “Paula. What is it? Where are you?”
“At the hospital. Reg’s hospital,” Paula wailed. She heard Jo Anne cry, “Don’t be frightened. I’m coming, Paula . . .” The phone buzzed. Paula put it down and kicked at the Spitz and almost lost her balance. Rusty wasn’t any help either.
She didn’t hear Jo Anne come. She was too busy trying to keep the dogs apart. The door flew open and Jo Anne, her green eyes wide, burst in. She closed the door as Paula quavered, “Do get him, Jo Anne. They’ll hurt each other—”
Jo Anne didn’t flinch. She went right for the Spitz, caught him around the middle and lifted him in her arms. Rusty yelped the louder but the Spitz stopped snarling and raised his head to sniff Jo Anne’s cheek. Then he subsided. His red tongue touched Jo Anne’s ear and his bushy tail waved.
Paula said, “Hold him.” She climbed down and slipped the end of Rusty’s leash over the radiator valve. Then, not thinking at all, “That one belongs in the cage room. I’ll show you where.”
She led the way. Jo Anne carried the Spitz and put him in his cage while Paula shoved the door to and made the latch secure. Jo Anne stepped back. Her cheeks were flushed and she looked ever so pretty. “Is—is he here?” she asked.
“Reg isn’t,” Paula said. “I’m so glad you came. If anything happened to the dogs I’d have died.”
Jo Anne wasn’t listening. She looked about the cage room and then she went into the treatment room, her eyes wide and interested. Paula asked, “Would you like me to show you around?” and Jo Anne said, “Would you?” \
They went into the operating room and the X-ray room; the medicine room and the distemper ward. It was as they got back to the office before going downstairs that Reg came in.
Paula started to speak but Reg just looked at Jo Anne and Jo Anne looked at Reg. Reg said, “Jo Anne . . .” Jo Anne said, “Oh, Reg . . .” Then they just looked. It was Reg who said, “You shouldn’t be here.” Jo Anne said, “I had to come. Paula called me.”
Then Reg had to be told. He didn’t get mad. He looked at Jo Anne, his tanned face intense. “You picked him up? You carried him into the cage room?”
Jo Anne’s fingers went to her lips. “I—yes, I did.”
Reg said, “Come here to the window.” He bent and looked into Jo Anne’s face. He said, “Your eyes should be blistering by now; tearing . . .” He shook his head. “You feel all right?”
“Why . . . Yes!” Jo Anne said wonderingly.
Reg straightened. He looked extremely determined. “Come on. We’re going to your house. I want to see your father.”
Dad and mom drove up five minutes after they got there. Mom came up onto the porch and dad was close behind her. They looked at Reg and then at Jo Anne. Reg was on his feet. He said, “I have something to tell you, Mr. Mason.”
He didn’t say a word about how Jo Anne had come to have a dog in her arms. Only that she had. Mom put her arm about Jo Anne and looked at her anxiously. Dad said, “I don’t understand.”
“It’s obvious,” Reg said. “I don’t doubt that Jo Anne is allergic to something, but it isn’t dogs. I’ll wager my reputation on that.”
“But Dr. Phillips . . .” dad said. Reg nodded. “Quite so, sir. Jo Anne had slept at her friend’s house and played with her dog. Something affected her. The first thing Dr.
Phillips thought of was the dog. But it could have been any of a dozen other things, all difficult to spot. The ticking of the mattress Jo Anne slept on; what the pillows were filled with. A blanket. Anything. But it wasn’t the dog.”
Dad said, “Well!” Mom said, “And all these years!” And Jo Anne and Reg just smiled at each other. Mother said at last, “You’ll stay for supper, doctor,” and dad said, “Sure he will.” They went inside.
Jo Anne and Reg still stood looking at each other. Paula felt her heart sink. She gulped. “Reg, I don’t know what sort of dog I want. I can’t make up my
mind. I love them all. What will I do?” Reg put his head to one side. “It’s a problem, all right,” he said. Then, “You like the hospital, don’t you?” “Oh, yes!” Paula breathed.
Reg nodded. “I’ll give you an interest in it. Very small, but legal. Papers and everything. Then you can have dozens of different kinds of dogs to fuss over. How’s that?”
Paula could only stare at him. “Why —why—” she gasped, her heart filled with delight and relief. “Oh, Reg, you’re wonderful.”
Jo Anne said softly, “I think so, too, Paula.” ^