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Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
By George Selden, Garth Williams
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 1974 George Selden Thompson
All rights reserved.
"Harry, is that you?" said Tucker Mouse impatiently.
He had his back to the opening of the drainpipe in the Times Square subway station, where he and his friend, Harry Cat, made their home, and he was fixing dinner. Which is to say, he was laying out on a clean part of the floor all the tidbits he had scrounged from around the nearby lunch stand today. They included a scrap of lettuce from a lettuce and tomato sandwich, and a corner of cheese from a ham and cheese sandwich, and a wedge of chocolate from a dropped candy bar.
"I have been waiting, Harry, for exactly one hour!" And Tucker Mouse knew that it was exactly one hour, because just one week before, the strap of a hapless commuter's watch had broken, and Tucker, ever alert to the value of everything, had dashed out and salvaged the watch before the commuter could find it. "One hour, Harry Cat, and —"
"Come on," whispered Harry gently behind him.
"What do you mean, 'Come on'?" said Tucker. "I'm already here."
"Come on," coaxed Harry.
Tucker turned. "What's that?"
In front of Harry, softly urged forward by voice and by nose, was what looked like a dirty dish mop. But this dirty dish mop had four legs and two frightened eyes that kept darting back and forth behind the tangles of knotted hair that fell over its face.
"Get that thing out of here!" shouted Tucker.
"Shh!" warned Harry, under his breath.
"A bit messed up my drainpipe may be," proclaimed Tucker Mouse, "but at least it's not filthy."
"I said," said Harry Cat, out loud now and in a tone of voice that Tucker recognized as being don't-argue-with-me serious, "to shut up!" He put a paw on the dish mop's rump and pressed it down. "Just sit now. That's the dog." The mop nervously huddled on its hind legs. "We'll have something to eat."
"It's staying for supper?"
"Stop calling him 'it.' It's a puppy — male — and he is staying for supper!"
Tucker wiggled his whiskers skeptically. "And just where, may I ask, did you come across this most sterling specimen of the canine species?"
"I found him whimpering — no, not whimpering, crying his heart out — in a dead-end alley on Tenth Avenue."
"A dead-end alley on Tenth Avenue is no place for a puppy to be. Or a mouse, or a cat, or even a human being," agreed Tucker Mouse. "What's its — his — name?"
"He has no name," said Harry. "Whoever threw him away didn't give him a name. And besides, he wouldn't know it anyway. He's too young to talk."
"Well, what's his breed?" demanded Tucker.
"Beats me." Harry looked at the puppy quizzically. "From that hair all over his face there must be some sheep dog in him somewhere. But his shoulders look more like a German shepherd. And that tail — maybe collie, but I don't know."
"It's the melting pot," said Tucker Mouse. He heaved a long sigh. "This is just what I need on a pleasant October day."
He and Harry had come back about a month before from visiting their friend Chester Cricket in Connecticut, and Tucker had been looking forward to an easy and peaceful autumn season. He'd even planned a few trips down to Bryant Park, in back of the Public Library at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, to enjoy the red and gold colors that made their way into the trees there, even in the midst of all the stone and steel and cement of New York.
"Is that all there is to eat?" said Harry.
"One moment!" demanded Tucker. "Even a mouse has manners. We're giving him a shower first."
"Hold on now," objected Harry. "You know how dogs are about baths —"
"He gets not one scrap of all the food I have laboriously scrounged for today," announced Tucker, "until he is clean! To the shower! — march!" With all the authority that a mouse can muster, he propelled the puppy into an opening at the rear of the drainpipe.
In an alcove back there was Tucker's and Harry's shower. From a leaky overhead pipe a steady trickle of water dripped down. And by some miracle the water was clean — maybe because it came from one of the pipes leading to the counter of the lunch stand. It filled a hollow in the floor, and then flowed off through a crack in one corner.
Perhaps on the level below his there was another mouse, or a rat, or a cockroach, who was using Tucker's bath water as his own shower — Tucker didn't know or care. Good water is a very valuable commodity in the Times Square subway station. And nobody bothers to ask where it comes from.
"Now into that water and under that shower! Right now!" Although the puppy was about four times as big as Tucker himself, the mouse got behind him, put his two front paws on his rump, and gave a tremendous push.
And the puppy went flying into the puddle — where he there proceeded to sit, beneath the leak, looking as soggy and dismal and sad as a waterlogged puppy can look. "Now soap up!" Tucker undid a piece of Kleenex, took out a clawful of soap chips — scrounged from the lunch stand late one night — and tossed them at the object in his bathtub. And the object just continued to sit — now decorated like a Christmas tree with a lot of snowy chips.
"If I must, I must!" Tucker made the mouse's gesture which, if he'd been a human being, would have been rolling up his sleeves, and marched into the water. Where, with much fuming and fussing, in a couple of minutes he worked up such a lather that both he and the puppy were nothing but two sudsy bubbles.
"Hey, wait a minute!" the Tucker bubble said, and looked back to the entrance to the bathroom, where Harry Cat was sitting contentedly with a smile on his face and his tail curled neatly around his legs. "Why aren't you doing this? He's your discovery!"
"But you do it so well," purred Harry. He gave his tail a little snap, and went back into the living room, living drainpipe, that is.
"Well, of all the nerve! Here you drag in —"
"Do hurry though," called Harry. "The puppy and I are getting hungry."
With a vast spluttering and muttering — and not without some soap getting into his eyes — Tucker completed his own and the little dog's shower. Then, from a niche where the Kleenex and the soap chips were stored, he took two pieces of clean Scot towels — the man who owned the lunch stand could never understand how things just seemed to disappear — and dried them both off.
"Suppertime," he grumbled to the puppy, very resentfully.
But it was suppertime only for Harry and Tucker.
"Whatsa matter with him now?" sulked Tucker Mouse.
The puppy sat miserably, staring down at the lettuce. And the corner of cheese.
"I guess he just doesn't like lettuce," said Harry. "Or cheese, either."
"A gourmet mongrel," moaned Tucker. "Precisely what I didn't need!" His whiskers twitched. "So how do we feed him?"
"I think," began Harry reasonably, "if we wait —"
"I know!" announced Tucker in a sudden rodent revelation. "It's meat! Dogs like meat." His whiskers flickered thoughtfully. "Now where to get meat?" He went to the opening of the drainpipe and looked out.
It was just past the rush hour. The crazy jumble — it somehow formed itself into a pattern — of commuters going this way and that, which filled the Times Square subway station in the late afternoon, had begun to thin out. There were shoes, legs — all that a mouse could see of human beings — trampling back and forth everywhere. But it wasn't as bad as at five o'clock.
"Meat," murmured Tucker. His twitching whiskers worked on the problem.
"Listen, little Mousiekins —" Harry put his paw gently on Tucker's head and drew it smoothly down his back.
"Don't call me 'Mousiekins'!"
"— when the puppy gets hungry enough, he'll eat."
"Have you ever spent the first weeks of your life in an alley on Tenth Avenue?"
"No, but —"
"So he has to have meat! And tasty meat, too." Tucker silently ran through his categories of tasty meat. His mouth was watering by the time he got to hot dogs, after bits of ham, from ham sandwiches, and — oh joy! — liverwurst. But then the tasty of tasties appeared. "It has to be a hamburger! What more could anybody want?"
"Tucker, he will eat if you'll only —"
"There's an opening! Goodbye."
Before Harry could hold him back, Tucker had spotted a space between the chaotic human beings and made a dash for the lunch stand.
Now a mouse who lives in the Times Square subway station leads a perilous life at best. But one who rushes out openly — though the rush hour may be past — is taking his four-legged life in his paws. Because in addition to all the commuters, who are only trying to get home, the Times Square subway station is full of transit policemen. Their job is to keep the place as orderly as they can, and they definitely do not think of mice as being ornaments of their subway station.
Tucker skittered across the left loafer of a man who was bound for Greenwich, Connecticut, managed to avoid the heel of a lady's shoe, ran right through a transit policeman's legs, and, panting like a sprinter, reached the safety of a corner of the lunch stand.
A middle-aged lady named Louisa was standing at the stove, frying hamburgers and hot dogs. (For the past two years a young man named Mickey, with red curly hair, had tended the lunch stand, but he'd finally saved up enough money and gone off to college this fall. A good thing, too, for the plan Tucker had in mind.)
The mouse caught his breath, and observed Louisa. He'd been observing her for the past two months from the drainpipe opening, and he had decided that she was a nervous type who wouldn't last long in the stress and strife of the Times Square subway station. He intended to make himself a little bit of that stress right now.
Choosing precisely the right moment, when Louisa had just inserted a freshly cooked hamburger between the two halves of a bun, Tucker dashed forward and scratched at her ankle. He was sorry that he ripped her stocking — but first things first. Louisa, startled, looked down and gasped. And then Tucker really did his thing: he jumped up in the air as high as he could, made his grisliest face, wiggled his claws at poor Louisa, and squeaked a little roar that any young lion would have been proud to make.
It worked. Louisa screamed, then shrieked, "A mouse! A rabid mouse!" and began to climb up on the counter beside the stove. And she dropped the hamburger.
Positioning himself like a professional football player, Tucker caught the burger, and holding it in both arms — it was far too big to fit under just one — he began some broken-field running back to the drainpipe.
And got there! Although his tail did get stepped on by a perfectly innocent man from Iowa who just wanted to see what Times Square looked like.
"Look, Harry! Look, Harry! I got —"
"You fool! You could've been killed!"
"Yeah, but look, Harry! I got this hamburger. And she's a big one, too!" Tucker cuddled his hamburger, half out of hunger — he was hoping there'd be a little morsel left over — but mostly out of pride.
As it happened, there was not one morsel left over. As soon as Tucker set the hamburger down, and lifted off the top half of the bun, and the puppy smelled the steaming meat beneath, that little dog discovered that he was starved. As well he might be, since the last thing he'd had to eat was a sliver of rotten boloney discovered in the gutter of Tenth Avenue.
"Well, that takes care of that," said Tucker glumly, staring at the space where the hamburger meat had been.
"Come on," said Harry. "We still have the bun. And it's laced with lovely meat juice."
Tucker consoled himself with that thought, and was almost through his half of the bun when he noticed that Harry wasn't eating. "Now what's wrong?" he demanded through juicy lips.
"He's crying," said Harry quietly.
Tucker jerked up his mouth. "He's —"
Over in one corner, his head leaning on the wall, eyes hidden behind his scraggly hair, but the tears dropping down nonetheless, the puppy sat, all alone.
"Come on," coaxed Harry, in a voice soft as his fur. "Come on. Come here. Be part of our party."
The puppy came up and sat beside Harry.
"That's right," said Harry. It may seem very strange that a cat should do this, but with his nails withdrawn he reached out and petted and stroked the dog's head. "You're Harry's pet puppy. Harry's puppy. All right?"
"He's starting to say something!" burst in Tucker Mouse.
"Shh. Shh!" Harry warned.
"Hu-huppy," stuttered the dog.
"Harry's puppy. Huppy." Harry glanced toward his friend. "Okay with you? That we call him that?"
Tucker looked at the two of them, his whiskers dripping with now forgotten delicious meat juice. "Okay with me. I guess."CHAPTER 2
But a few days later Tucker wasn't so sure it was all okay.
"Tuppy," he grumbled. "It could have been 'Tuppy.' Tucker's puppy. After all, I scrounged up that hamburger!"
A pet puppy, the next few weeks were to prove, could be a nuisance. Especially when its true master was out prowling — which is a cat's duty as well as his pleasure — through the vast mechanical labyrinth of the city of New York.
There was, for instance, the very day after the puppy moved in, the question of —
"Stop that!" shouted Tucker Mouse. "You stop that right now! Come over here!"
In the farthest corner of the drainpipe, and discreetly concealed behind a big chunk of fallen plaster that Harry had pushed into position, was a section of floor that was always covered with several layers of very clean newspaper. Late each night, when the subway was almost empty and safe, either Tucker or Harry — they took turns at the chore — would wrap the newspapers up, secure them with a rubber band, and deposit them in a nearby trash basket. (Tucker always made sure that he'd scrounged up a sufficient supply of rubber bands. The take-out department of the lunch counter was very handy for that.)
"Now there," said Tucker Mouse, with all the parental authority he could muster, as he pointed down at the newspaper, "is where you do — what you have to do." He marched grandly back into the living area of the drainpipe.
And in a few minutes Huppy slouched back, too.
"Do we have that all straight now?" demanded the mouse.
"Yup," muttered Huppy. He had a few words now. A very few.
But he didn't understand at all. Anyone who has raised a pet puppy will know what a trial the first few weeks are. They were an especially difficult trial for Tucker Mouse, who prided himself on having the very cleanest — if still chaotic — drainpipe in the Times Square subway station.
"Harry," he said that night, when the big striped cat got back from his roaming and roving, and Huppy was asleep, "we have to talk about something."
"I can guess," said Harry with a sniff. He could see that much of the living area had been rearranged, and that a commuter's handkerchief — a favorite from Tucker's collection of human salvages — had been thrown out.
"It is absolutely ridiculous for a mouse to toilet-train a dog." Tucker drew himself up to his full regal height — about three inches. "I will not appear ridiculous."
"Well, if that's all that's worrying you, Mousiekins," said Harry Cat, "you don't need to worry, because you have never failed to be —"
"And don't give me any of your furry lip!" shouted Tucker as his three inches collapsed.
"Easy now," soothed Harry. "It'll just take time. You know how puppies are."
"No, I don't know how puppies are!" growled Tucker in a mouse's growl. "Me being perhaps the first mouse in recorded history that had to take care of one!" He kicked a belt buckle he'd salvaged a week before. "And by the way — as far as taking care of goes —"
"I've been busy," said Harry.
"A cat's excuse," grumbled Tucker Mouse. "Always the same excuse. 'Been busy ...' Doing what?"
Harry Cat didn't answer. He was trying to formulate a plan, but he wasn't ready to discuss it yet.
Instead of replying to Tucker's question, he went over and looked at the sleeping puppy. And tucked a Kleenex — a special Kleenex, because Tucker had managed to salvage it whole — beneath the little dog's left shoulder.
"He keeps kicking it off," fretted Tucker Mouse. He ran around to the other side and fastidiously edged the torn fringe in. He had meant to use the Kleenex for some grand and glorious nose-blowing. But although it was a blanket now — he'd decided that an hour ago, on a chilly fall evening, when he put Huppy to bed — he demanded that at least it be treated with respect.
* * *
Though less undignified than his toilet-training, another of Huppy's habits caused Tucker much more worry.
One Tuesday, between the early rush hour and lunchtime, Tucker looked up from a morning chore — the counting of his life savings, making sure that none had been stolen — to find that the puppy was gone.
"Huppy?" he anxiously asked the empty drainpipe. "Huppy — are you here?"
He was not.
Excerpted from Harry Cat's Pet Puppy by George Selden, Garth Williams. Copyright © 1974 George Selden Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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