“Five dollars!” Jesse looked around him to see if anyone was looking, glancing carefully at the dirty bill lying on the street half covered by the mud and grime of the gutter. He dropped the folder of papers under the books in his arms to fall close to it and prayed that they didn’t land in the water. “Oh please, just don’t land in the water!” he whispered to himself. He looked around one more time to see if he had attracted anyone’s attention. No, what few were near were busy with other things. Quickly he reached down and gathered up his Peechee, slipped his hand under the bottom of the folder and grabbed the bill, pulling it back to rest against the back of the folder and straightened back up. An older woman had paused near him as he looked up. “Oh just crap!” he thought. He could feel the sweat beginning to form on his brow, his mouth was getting dry and there were squirrels running circles in his stomach. “Oh, just crap!”
“Are you okay son?” the lady asked, her hand reaching out toward him. “Did you fall? Are you hurt? Can I help you find your mother?”
“I, uhm, I, uhm, no, I’m uh fine.” He swallowed hard. Oh God! Please keep me from stuttering! She’ll take me home and dad will find out and I’ll get a whooping! “Really, ma’am, I’m fine. I just dropped my folder. See?” He held up his books in front of him, holding tight to the bill pressed against the back.
“All right then. It’s getting late. You should get yourself home before you worry your parents.” The lady smiled as she instructed him.
“Yes ma’am!” Jesse grabbed the books tight to his chest and stepped onto the sidewalk and scrambled down the street. As soon as he was sure “she” was no longer looking, he stuffed the bill deep into his pocket and mushed it down tight so it wouldn’t work its way out. Paper has a way of doing that, he had learned that one with enough forged notes and a few homework assignments. He wasn’t taking any chances with this one wiggling its way out of his pocket! No siree! Then he patted the front of his pants just for assurances. One can never be too careful.
“Five whole dollars!” He had never had that much money at one time in his whole life! That was almost a thousand dollars! His mind began racing over the things he could buy himself with that much money. Candy and toys and a slingshot and maybe one of those whirley-giggy things or a new top! The thoughts began whirling in his head, dancing visions of all the treasures he had thought of that would be his soon, just bouncing up and down with the sound of a merry-go-round in the background. His feet began to skip along the sidewalk and he found himself humming a little tune as he rounded the corner, then WHAP! His books went flying, and with them, other books joined in.
“Emily!” he cried out. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”
The young girl who was about his age stared back at him, crossed her arms tightly to her chest, then blew a huff out of her nose. “I WAS watching where I was going, you brainless stoop! You crashed into me! And now look at the mess. You pick my books up right now and you just better hope none of them are damaged or your momma will be payin’ for them.”
“Don’t you go near my momma tellin’ her nuthin!” Jesse yelled, his voice cracking with the fear and anger in it. “You go tellin’ anything to my mum about anything and I’ll tell your daddy that you showed Johnny your panties for a quarter. Then we’ll see who gets the bigger whoopin’!” Jesse reached down and started to gather up his books, making sure to avoid touching Emily’s to the point of grabbing on with just his thumb and forefinger and sliding it out from underneath it. Cripes! How he hated her! Of all the people he had to crash with, why did it have to be “her”?? And how can one have the luck of finding a five dollar bill only to have so many disastrous things happen after? He thought about the possibility that maybe he hadn’t done the right thing sticking that bill in his pocket and not saying anything to anyone. But, he just wasn’t about to admit that he didn’t deserve that money and no one was going to take it away from him, no way, no how. He brushed the smudges off his books and stood back up . . . . and was no more than 4 inches from the face of Emily!
“Ewww! I can smell your breath! Get back!” Jesse hissed at her.
“Not till you pick up my books!” Emily shouted at him. “You ran into me, you knocked them out of my hands, you pick them up! If you don’t, I swear, I swear . . . . . ” Emily paused for a moment to think about what she could come up with. Suddenly her eyes brightened and a smile spread across her face. “I swear I will kiss you and tell everyone at school that you kissed me!” she exclaimed, a look of complete triumph on her face.
Mortification spread across Jesse’s features. Oh crap! He thought he was going to puke. Quickly he reached down and gathered up the rest of the books and shoved them at Emily. “Here! Now go home.” And he stomped off past her and down the street.
“Where are you going? This isn’t the way to your house. Can I come with you?” Emily’s voice chirped behind him.
“None of your business! Go away! Leave me alone!” Jesse yelled back at her. “Don’t you have some dolls to pull the heads off of? Or some insects to pull the wings off of?”
“Naw, I did that earlier. I don’t have anything to do right now. So, I think I am going to follow you.” she chirped.
“Well, I don’t want you to come with me. Isn’t there anyone that actually likes you that you can go spend time with?”
“Oh sure. But, its much more fun annoying you! So, where you going? Want to go play in the crick? Its nice and warm out, we could try and catch some tadpoles or maybe even a couple of toads.” Emily sing-songed as she bounced along the walk behind him.
“No! Go away and leave me alone!”
“I know where some puppies are.” She teased.
“Puppies? What kind?” Jesse paused and looked over his shoulder.
“Mr. Wiggles’ dog had puppies a few weeks ago and he’s looking for homes for them. I haven’t seen them yet, but we could go look at them together.” she had him hooked. Yes!
“Well, maybe we could go take a quick look. But, then you have to promise you will go away and leave me alone! He shot with the sternest look he could summon.
“Of course! Just follow me, I know the way.” And off she trotted ahead of him.
Jesse’s thoughts wandered as he followed behind Emily. “I wonder if he’ll let me have one of the puppies? Ma said I could have another one. Pa didn’t really mean to run Colonel over, he had just had too much of the shine before he came home. He didn’t see him cuz his eyes were foggy from the likker.” Jesse remembered how sad he had been over that. It had been almost a year now since he lost Colonel. Maybe it was time to find another dog. And Pa had gotten better about the drinking. And he would keep this one tied up so it wouldn’t get in the way of Pa’s truck when he came home.
“Hey!” Emily’s shout brought him back to the here and now and stopped him dead in his tracks. “Get your head out of them clouds. We’re here.” she announced. “I swear. All boys are just plain daft.” She shook her head at him and stomped up a driveway just behind where he stopped. He quickly reversed his course and ran to catch up with her.
Mr. Wiggles watched them carefully as they picked up each of the puppies and played with them. “Them is purebred, just so you’se know.” He informed them. “Gots most of them sold already. Got a right fine price for them too.”
“Sold?” Jesse looked up, his face fallen to near tears.
“Well, yeah! That be what you do with purebreds. You sells them.” Mr. Wiggles looked down at him. “What? Did you think I was just giving them away?”
“How much are they?” Jesse asked, quiver in his voice as he forced the words out.
“I got me 75 dollars fer the boys and 50 fer the girls. Made a nice little profit off’n this here litter, I did.” A big smile crossed his face and his chest puffed out as he spoke. “Tell the truth, there’s only one left what ain’t been sold. No one be wanting that one cuz he’s a runt.”
“What’s a runt?” Jesse asked.
Mr. Wiggles walked over to where the momma dog was and reached down and plucked out a squalking small puppy ball. “This be what a runt is. He ain’t but a bit of the size he should be. No one wants a runt. They can be sickly and die and even if they make it, people just don’t want the runt.”
He walked over and dropped the tiny yelping pup into Jesse’s hands. Instantly the pup started pawing his way up Jesse’s belly toward his chest. Jesse looked down into the eyes of the little ball of fur and pulled him into his arms. The pup became a blur of motion as he jumped and yelped, trying to lick and nip at Jesse’s chin. Jesse pulled him closer, laughing as the little dog showered his face in kisses, then nuzzled his head under Jesse’s chin.
“Well, will you look at that! He’s rather taken with you boy! Mostly he just runs and hides behind his momma. Whataya know about that?” Mr. Wiggles bantered, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth and shaking his head.
“So, whatcha going to do with him?” Jesse asked. He was in love! He wanted this puppy so bad! But, he only had 5 dollars. He said he was selling them for way more than that.
“Well, how much you got boy?” Mr. Wiggles looked sternly down at him.
“I – I – I only gots 5 dollars” Jesse stammered.
“You got 5 dollars?” Emily screamed. “Where’d you get that much money? Did you steal it from your momma’s purse? Ooooh, you’ll get such a whooping for that!”
“I didn’t steal it from no one!” Jesse shouted, the pup jumped and began frantically licking his face again to calm him down. “I found it. It’s finders keepers! It was just laying in the middle of the street.”
“Well, that be the way it be. Finders is keepers.” Mr. Wiggles agreed. “Now, you sure you telling me the truth bout you finding that money? You wouldn’t be lying, now would you boy?”
Jesse shook his head violently back and forth. “No sir. Lying will get you sent to hell. Momma and preacher both done told me that. I’m not lying, I found it. Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what. Ain’t no one gonna take that pup off my hands. But, if you’re willing to change me that five for him, you got yerself a dog. He’s cost me more than that in care and feed and such, but I figger I can take a bit of a loss to give him a good home. Was worried I might have to put him down for a while. You sure your momma gonna let you keep him?”
“Yes!” Jesse yelped and jumped up to reach in his pocket for the 5 dollar bill. “She been telling me for a while I could have me another dog. And I promise, I’ll take real good care of him. Ain’t nothing going to happen to him! No siree. You won’t regret this mister! Thank you.” And he held the crumpled bill out for Mr. Wiggles to take.
“Well, alrighty then. You just make sure you do give that little guy a good home. He’s a right cute little feller. Whatcha gonna call him?”
Jesse looked down at the little bundle in his arms and thought and thought, the dark mottled fur tickling his chin, causing him to press his face deep into its depths. Suddenly, he looked up, a big grin on his face. “I think Shadow! I think that would be a right fitting name!” He looked down at the pup and was met with another volley of puppy kisses. He laughed and looked at Mr. Wiggles. “I think he likes it too.”
“I think that’s a right fine name!” Mr. Wiggles laughed. “Okay, you kids get along now. I gots me a lot of work I still have to get done. And you take care of that pup. You hear?”
“Oh, yes sir.” Jesse exclaimed as he headed back down the road, Emily following right behind.
“You know? He probably woulda given you that dog just to get rid of him.” Emily said when they got back to the main road.
“Maybe, but I haven’t had anything but rotten luck since I picked up that 5 dollars. Not till I got this here pup. He was worth every penny of it. And I’m glad to be rid of it.” Jesse replied. “Well, here’s my house. You know? You aren’t too awful bad”
“Well, thanks, I guess.” Emily replied.
“Just sorta kinda.” and Jessee walked down the drive to his house.
“Boys are just daft.” Emily muttered, shaking her head before continuing down the road to her house.