Merry Christmas, Boss Mama

December 16, 1990|By Clarinda Harriss Raymond

I lie here on the high stone front steps of a house in Bolton Hill. I lie here because front steps have a front door at the top, and a front door sometimes opens, which means "come in." Sometimes it means "eat." I lie here because I'm too hungry and tired to go any further.

In Bolton Hill people seem to like dogs, other dogs. I know thibecause many people here wear dogs on strings that are tied to their wrists. The strings are long enough for the big dogs to scare me with their nosing and for the little dogs to scare me with their nasty, high yip-yip-yips. These steps are high enough so the dogs on strings can't reach me. I remember some little dogs, so little their yips were more like peeps, that used to wiggle up under me and tug at me and sleep in a pile under me. I can't think where they could have gone.

People come up to me and when they look at me closely thejump back. "Yuchh, a dead dog," one girl says. A tall boy waiting for a bus says to another boy, "If I had a dog like that I'd clip his ears all the way back to his head and I wouldn't feed him unless he fought for it. I'd have me one killer dog."

The man with the beard used to call "Here, Killer" before he gavme my food. Then he stopped feeding me. One day he put me in his big clean car that he never would let me ride in before and drove me to a small dark street between two buildings and pushed me out and hit me with a stick when I tried to climb back in again.

A tall boy called Ricky lives in this house. He brings me food on a paper plate sometimes. His mother came out a while ago and saw me and said, "Oh no. That's all we need." Ricky said something to her in a low voice that I couldn't hear but I heard what she said: "Don't even think about it." Now some of his friends have come to the steps. They stand around looking at me. One of them says, "Maybe you should call Andy." Ricky says, "Yeah, he's studying to be a vet. He might know if she's going to die." "And his mom's a real pushover," another one of the boys says, and laughs.

I don't like it when people laugh. The man with the bearlaughed in a way that sounded like barking when he hit me with his stick. "Come on, Killer." And then he'd laugh.

Now here comes a big, old, rusty blue truck, and out of it jumps very big boy with big, bushy hair that's both yellow and black. "Hi, Andy," Ricky says. Andy looks at me. He puts his great big hand on my head and moves it down my spine. "I don't believe this," he says. "You could pick her up by her backbone. She must not have eaten for weeks."

He looks at the two rows of long flabby things the little dogused to suck on. "She must have had a million puppies," he says. "Like, a couple of days ago." I try to remember the little dogs. "Yup," says Ricky. "She's a boss mama, for sure."

Andy tries to help me stand up and I do the best I can, but I keefalling down on the steps again. He scoops me up in his arms and now he's carrying me to the blue truck. Now I'm really scared, but I can't get out of his arms because I'm too tired. He puts me in the truck and gets in the other side. The truck is nice, all full of mud and grease and big blankets with leaves and burs stuck in them.

When we stop he doesn't push me out. Instead he carries minto a building that smells like hundreds of dogs and something else I never smelled before, something sharp. A man dressed in white takes me into a white room and Andy goes with me. The man looks at me all over. I'm scared. The man sticks some sharp things into my leg but Andy is patting my head. "You've got yourself a fine purebred Staffordshire terrier here," the man says. "She's in excellent health. Aside from being starved almost to death, of course."

Then I'm back in the truck and my eyes close and when I opethem the truck windows are full of people. There's a lady with bushy yellow and black hair like Andy's except much, much longer, and a man with nice short brown hair like mine, and two younger ladies, one small and sleek and brown and one that shines red-gold in the sun. "Well," says the bushy lady. "I guess we can baby-sit her for a day or two. If it's OK with Ginger."

"Huh. I knew we'd end up with one of these. I knew it as soon athey started being famous killer dogs." The small sleek brown-haired lady rolls her eyes.

"If she doesn't go in two days, I go," the short-haired man growlsThe bushy-haired lady smiles at him. He doesn't growl the same way as the man with the beard. He talks funny, though. "Dozza gweat big wittle puppy wanna pway?" is what it sounds like, but maybe I can't hear right because he's stroking my ears.

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