Based on the short story: Mrs. Smith Gets Busted by Just A Girl
I had just pulled into the driveway when I noticed the neighbor's black Lab was outside. I frowned, thinking Max had probably knocked out a window screen again. Dr. Singh left his upstairs open during nice weather--though today, in the high eighties and uncomfortably sticky, it wasn't particularly nice--and Max had twice now knocked a screen out and escaped. Sure enough, looking at the second floor windows, I saw a curtain protruding over a windowsill.
"Mia," I sighed. "We have to get the dog."
Mia immediately perked up. "Max is outside again?"
"Yes," I acknowledged, watching Max watching us. "Time to play good neighbor again."
Leaving my purse and the shopping bags in the car, I took Mia by the hand and lead her across the lawn into the neighbor's yard. Max liked me well enough, but he adored 10-year-old Mia. He immediately rose and loped over to meet us.
"Maxie!" Mia squealed excitedly. She rubbed his head and down both sides of his flank, giving him a big hug that Max responded to with a loud bark. Mia giggled, which made me roll my eyes and grin.
"Come on, trouble-maker," I said, scratching Max's ears before sliding a finger beneath his collar. "You come play with Mia, while I go leave your pain in the ass owner a note on the door."
"Mama!" Mia responded disapprovingly.
"Pardon my French," I said, grinning ruefully. I had forgotten myself again. Ten points.
Retrieving my purse for the car, I extracted a pen and a torn-in-half piece of notepaper, which I further decimated by tearing in half again. I jotted down the particulars of Max's latest escape, and then stuck the note between the brass knocker and the strike pad on Dr. Singh's front door. A bark from inside told me that Thor, his German Shepard, was behaving himself. I returned to the car and took my purse and the three bags of new purchases into the house.
"Can we keep him until Dr. Singh gets home?" Mia pleaded excitedly.
A pediatrician, Dr. Singh had a large clientele of Pakistani children. He also volunteered at the local clinic, which meant that he sometimes didn't turn up until eight o'clock at night or later. Frowning, I bet myself tonight was one of those nights.
"I suppose so," I grumbled irritably. Max was a big dog with a big dog's appetite. His last visit had seen the disappearance of two cans of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli, and a large can of smoked salmon. I wondered what injury to my pantry I'd see tonight. It wouldn't be so bad, if the good doctor (I say this entirely in jest, as there is no way I'd ever let him near my daughter as a pedestrian) would deem to pay me back for the expenditures; instead, he'd actually gotten a little rude concerning my choice of dinner for Max. Seems he's on a tightly controlled diet. Seething inside, I had nonetheless remained entirely pleasant to the man.
"I wish we could keep him," Mia opined, wrapping so tightly around Max's neck as to make him emit faint choking sounds.
"Easy, sweetie," I cautioned.
Frank, my ex-husband and Mia's father had a severe allergy to animal dander. Any pet had been out of the question while Frank was in residence. But, having seen her father only once in the last six months, I had promised Mia I'd think about getting her a dog. A small dog, nothing like this energetic black monster she was doing her best to strangle.
While I prepared a deep-dish pizza for Mia and I, she set out a bowl of water, as well as an empty bowl for whatever treat I might select from the pantry. She squealed with glee when Max licked her from chin to hairline, but earned a slap on the fanny for trying to lick him back.
"Dog's are not clean, young lady. One of the dirtiest things on the face of the earth is a dog's tongue. Don't let me catch you trying to swap spit with him again." Frank would have simply snatched Mia up from the floor and paddled her bare behind, another reason I was glad to see him gone. Mia immediately giggled and smiled widely.
While Mia and I ate pizza and a salad--well, I had the salad--Max pigged out on a double helping of Beefaroni and a can of Star-Kist tuna. Afterward, we all three of us retired to the family room to watch some TV. It was just after six o'clock.
Around eight, my cell phone rang. Digging it out of my pocket, I set aside my glass of Diet Coke, not really cognizant of what I was doing, wondering if Dr. Singh was calling about his dog. I said "Hello?" in the same instant the glass tottered off the far edge of the end table and plummeted to the floor. "Oh, shit!" I exclaimed, jumping up.
"Donna? Is that you, Donna?"
"Hold on a minute, Mom," I pleaded, rolling my eyes and silently cursing the puddle of fizzy brown liquid soaking into my carpet.
"Go!" I ordered, pointing Mia toward the kitchen. "Get a couple of towels out of the laundry basket. Dirty ones if there are any," I added as she disappeared at a run. Phone clamped between my shoulder and ear, I told Mom to hold on while I picked up what visible ice cubes there were, and then moved the table away from the now-mostly absorbed puddle.
"Mia!" I called out angrily. "Just get anything! I don't care what it is!" An instant later she dashed into the room clutching two folded bath towels to her chest.
"Sorry," she panted. "There weren't any dirty ones."
"It's all right. Just help me get this up."
Leaving the first towel folded, I pressed down on the stain. Mia added her two smaller hands to the towel.
"Is it gonna be okay?" she asked worriedly. She knew I hated stains on the carpet.
"It'll be just fine," I assured her. Turning my head, I called to the phone "I'll be with you in a moment, Mom! We're having a soda emergency here!"
Mia giggled, and I laughed right alongside her.
Being Diet Coke, there was no sticky residue to collect dirt, and the stain was virtually the same color as the carpeting. I'd let it dry and tomorrow evening attack the area with Resolve.
"That OK? Mia asked.
Liquid had spread into a shallow table leg footprint. Though it sat inconveniently in the way--dangerously so, if you valued your shinbones--I left the end table where it was. It was a decision I'd come to regret--deeply.
Snatching up the phone, I shooed Mia away then spent the next half hour gabbing and gossiping with the most notorious busybody in Ft. Lauderdale.
At nine o'clock, there was still no sigh of Dr. Singh. I clapped my hands together and announced that it was time for all small children to go to bed.
"But Mom!" Mia protested stridently. "It's only nine o'clock!"
"And it's only a school night," I pointed out. "Which means that Max goes out one more time for the evening and then you go to bed."
Grumbling fitfully about the injustices in her life, Mia hauled Max to his feet and accompanied him to the back door while I turned off the TV and the lights, and went upstairs to lay out her pajamas and turn down the covers on her bed. Out back, I could hear Max barking and Mia yodeling at him. It made me grin. A dog, even a small one, would be good for my little girl.
While Max sat obediently at the foot of the bed, I peeled Mia's top off over her head and helped her out of her training bra. She really didn't need the damned thing, but she insisted, and wearing one made her happy, so I was happy along with her. When she shinnied out of her panties, I turned away, preserving her modesty.
"Can Maxie sleep with me?" she asked.
I almost said yes, but knew I'd find her still awake at eleven o'clock. "Absolutely not," I scolded, softening it with a grin and a kiss on the forehead. "Maxie will stay with me in my bedroom until Dr. Singh decides to show up."
Pouting, but resigned to the idea, Mia said: "How come he's so late?"
"I have no idea," I admitted, tucking her in and pulling the covers under her chin.
"Can I sleep with the light on?" she pleaded, her voice retreating two octaves in pitch to that of a six-year old.
"Absolutely not," I said, kissing her on the forehead again. "There's no scaredycats in this house."
She pouted, sticking out her lower lip, which I pinched between my thumb and forefinger, which only made her pout more.
"Goodnight, sweetheart," I said.
"Goodnight," she grumbled, turning onto her right side away from me. I sighed, wondering if letting Max stay in the room with her wasn't such a bad idea after all. In retrospect, I wish I had let him.
By ten-thirty I was intensely irritated. Twice in the past fifteen minutes I had peeked out the window blind, each time discovering the house next door dark and no car in the driveway. I had not yet changed my clothes and was disgruntled to be sitting on the bed still clothed in my stupid black slacks and white blouse.
"This is ridiculous," I muttered. I thought momentarily about just shooing Max out of the house, or tying him to a tree in Dr. Singh's yard, but knew what kind of outrage that would spark in my ten year old in the morning. Grumbling, I began to undo the buttons on my blouse. I could just as easily meet Dr. Singh in my dressing gown.
Naked, I discovered Max no longer sitting at the foot of my bed, but standing right before me. I blinked, taken by surprised.
"What? You like the looks of me naked?" I teased.
.... There is more of this story ...