Wednesday, December 6, 2017



Alma and I were walking home from the Palsied King on a warm night last April, when a small child, closely followed by a collie, nearly ran us down. The dog was nipping the child's heels, chivvying it along as fast as it could run. The dog did this in complete silence, while the kid kept up a constant whine:

"No Rover, no Rover, stop, get away, stop, help, Rover, stop...," well, you get the picture.

"Hasp," Alma said, tugging on my sleeve, "help that poor little boy."

"You'll be—"

"Fine," she said. "I'm no hothouse flower. Go!"

So I ran down the street myself. I jogged beside the boy and his dog. "What's the doggie's name?"

"Won't *pant" work, Mr.," the boy replied. "She won't stop." He was weaving now, sweat pouring down his face.

"Here. Lamppost. I'll boost you up." I did that thing and stepped back. The dog sat down at the base of the post, her nose inches from the boy's feet. All I could hear was the boy's breathing.

"So, isn't Rover a boy's name." I asked.

"Not if you spell it," he panted, "with a final silent 'e,' my dad says. This is all his fault."

I raised one eyebrow.

"He bought me the stupid dog. She won't bark!"

"Still, that was a nice thought," I replied, as Alma reached us, "gave his son a dog. Maybe you should name her Silent Barb."

"Ask me why," the kid demanded.

"Why, and what's your name?" Alma said, letting Rover sniff her hand.

"Because he gave me a toy cart, pulled by a wind-up bull. The thing's no good. It keeps tipping over. And it's Fred."

Alma knelt down beside Rover, scratching the back of her neck. Even 3 months pregnant Alma was so beautiful it made me dizzy for a moment.

"The cart. A birthday present?" Fred shook his head.

"He means well, but it goes wrong every time. Dad gave me the cart and bull because my billy goat went on strike. Eventually we just had to let it go. We couldn't afford to keep it, Dad said. He gave me the goat because he felt guilty about the mirror. It would have taken me seven years to save up for a new one, with never a speck of luck the whole time." He shrugged. "Never really wanted a looking glass anyway. He only bought it for me because my diamond turned out to be made of paste."

"Okaaay." I looked at Alma. She scowled and shook her head slightly. "Big disappointment, eh."

"Thing was," Fred sighed, "I'd really wanted a mockingbird, but it wouldn't sing."

"A miming bird, then," I said. "I can certainly understand how you felt. And now the dog has the same problem. What next?"

"I've always wanted a horse," Fred said, jumping down and running down the street, silent collie at his heels.

"At least you know your dad loves you!" I shouted, as they dwindled in the distance. "And it could be 12 freakin' lords, jumping all over the furniture."

"Now that wasn't my fault!" Alma protested, "and you didn't help clean up afterwards."

I'd been preoccupied with the Banbury Cross slayings at the time, but try to tell her that.

 Here's the source:

Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird.

If that mockingbird won't sing,
Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring.

If that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama's going to buy you a looking glass.

If that looking glass gets broke,
Mama's going to buy you a billy goat.

If that billy goat won't pull,
Mama's going to buy you a cart and bull.

If that cart and bull turn over,
Mama's going to buy you a dog named Rover.

If that dog named Rover won't bark,
Mama's going to buy you a horse and cart.

If that horse and cart fall down,
You'll still be the sweetest little boy in town.

So hush little baby, don't you cry,
Daddy loves you and so do I.

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