Ribsyby Beverly Cleary, Tracy Dockray
When Ribsy, a city dog, strays from Henry Huggins, he sets off a chain of hilarious events as he tries to make the best of his separation from home.
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Ribsy and the Hungry Flea
Henry Huggins' dog Ribsy was a plain ordinary city dog, the kind of dog that strangers usually called Mutt or Pooch. They always called him this in a friendly way, because Ribsy was a friendly dog. He followed Henry and his friends to school. He kept the mailman company. He wagged his tail at the milkman who always stopped to pet him. People liked Ribsy, and Ribsy liked people. Ribsy was what you might call a well-adjusted dog.
This did not mean that Ribsy had no troubles. He did have troubles, and high on the list were fleas, particularly one mean hungry flea that persistently nipped Ribsy right under his collar where he could not get at it no matter how hard he scratched with his hind foot. If it had not been for that flea, things might have been different for Ribsy.
Ribsy's troubles began one Saturday morning in October when he was sitting out in front of the Huggins' square white house onKlickitat Street keeping an eye on the brand-new station wagon to make sure the family did not drive away without him. The Hugginses had owned the new green station wagon almost a week, and not once had Ribsy been allowed to ride in it.
"We're going to keep this car clean," vowed Mrs. Huggins. "No more muddy paw prints on the seats. No more smudgy nose marks on the windows."
Ribsy knew the Hugginses were getting ready to go someplace, because he could hear Mrs. Huggins tapping around in high heels, a sure sign that she was about to leave the house. He bad also sensed an air of hurry that morning. Henry had dumped half a can of Woofies Dog Food on Ribsy's dish without stopping toscratch him behind the ears. Nosy the cat had been fed and hurriedly shoved outdoors. The Hugginses had not lingered at the breakfast table. All this meant the family was going someplace, and this time Ribsy did not intend to be left behind.
While Ribsy kept an eye on the station wagon he amused himself with his soggy old tennis ball, wet from last night's rain, which he dropped at the top of the driveway and caught as it rolled to the bottom. Then he sat down and, with a great jingling of license tags, scratched. He dug in with the toenails of his left hind foot, starting under his chin and gradually twisting his head until he was scratching the back of his neck. Then he switched to his right hind foot and scratched the other half of his neck. All this scratching did no good, because his collar got in the way of his toenails. He still itched. The mean hungry flea knew exactly the spots that Ribsy could not reach. Henry came out of the house wearing his raincoat and helmet. He stopped to pat Ribsy on the head. Then he scratched his dog behind the ears at the point where the hair became soft and silky. "Want to play catch?" he asked, picking up the ball and throwing it across the lawn.
Ribsy caught the ball on the first bounce and dropped it at Henry's feet before he had to sit down and scratch again. That flea was driving him crazy.
Henry's friend Beezus, whose real name was Beatrice, and her little sister Ramona came running down the street. "Can you go to the park?" Beezus asked Henry. "Mother said we have to get out of the house awhile before it starts raining again.
"Nope," said, Henry, picking up the tennis ball. "We're going down to the shopping center to buy some paint and new jeans and a bunch of stuff."
Beezus held out her hand to Ribsy. "Shake hands," she said. Ribsy agreeably held out his left paw and allowed the girl to shake it. "Isn't he ever going to learn to use his right hand -- I mean paw?" asked Beezus.
"There are left-handed people. Why shouldn't there be left-pawed dogs?"' This seemed reasonable to Henry.
Ramona ran to Ribsy, dropped to her knees even though the ground was wet, and threw her arms around his neck good and tight. Ribsy knew what to do about a small girl like Ramona. Patience was the answer. just stand still long enough and she would go away. It sometimes took quite a bit of patience to get rid of Ramona.
She pressed her face against his and said, "Don't I look cute? Daddy ought to get a picture of this."
"Oh, Ramona," said Beezus crossly. "Daddy can't take a picture of everything you do. Come on. Stop choking Ribsy, and let's go to the park."
Patience had worked. Ribsy was free of Ramona.
"So long," said Henry to Beezus, as his motherand father came out of the house and climbedinto the front seat of the station wagon. Henrythrew the ball down the street and started toclimb in after them. This time Ribsy did not chasehis ball, which he knew was perfectly safe lyingin the gutter. No one ever bothered his soggy oldball no matter where he left it.
When Ribsy was a few feet from the station wagon, the mean hungry flea gave him an extrahard nip. Ribsy could not stand it. He had to sit down for one quick scratch.
"Henry, don't let that dog in this car," said Mrs. Huggins.
Henry hopped in and slammed the door.
"Sorry, old boy," he said to his dog, who had finished scratching and was wagging his tail.
The car started and Ribsy was left behind. Ribsy was not a dog to give up easily. He could be almost as persistent as his flea, and now he started running down the street as fast as he could after his family's new car. This had happened before with the old car, and he knew that by running fast he could catch up at the first stop sign. He managed to stay close enough to get thoroughly drenched with muddy water when the car drove through a puddle. As he expected, he made it to the stop sign, where he stood panting and looking hopefully at his family.Ribsy. Copyright © by Beverly Cleary. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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