THE PYES AND PETS
Would Gracie-the-cat be jealous if the Pyes got another pet—?a dog? That was what Jerry Pye wanted to know and what he was dreaming about as he sat with Rachel, his sister, on their little upstairs veranda. Gracie had belonged to the family for eleven years. This was longer than Rachel, aged nine, or even Jerry, aged ten, had. She had been a wedding present to Mama, and she was known in the neighborhood as “the New York Cat.” Jerry was trying to imagine what Gracie’s feelings would be if the Pyes did get another pet—?a dog.
The one thing that Jerry Pye wanted more than anything else in the world right now was a dog. Ever since he had seen the new puppies over in Speedys’ barn, he was not only more anxious than ever to have a dog, he was most anxious to have one of these Speedy puppies. He had the particular one picked out that he would most like to have as his own. This was not easy to do for they were all wonderful.
Jerry had chosen this certain special puppy because he was convinced he was the smartest of the new puppies. Naturally, he would love any dog he had, but imagine owning such a smart puppy as this one! When he owned him he would teach him to heel, be dead dog, sneeze, scratch his stomach when Jerry scratched his back, beg, and walk on his hind legs. If he had this dog, that is. And he looked speculatively at Gracie-the-cat who had pushed open the screen door and was now lolling with an agreeable expression on the rope mat. He would not want to hurt her feelings and he thought some more whether it would or would not hurt Gracie’s feelings if he brought a puppy into the house.
It was a Friday evening and Jerry and Rachel had been sitting, reading, on the little upstairs veranda of their tall house. Rachel had The Secret Garden from the library, and Jerry had one of the Altsheler books, and neither one of these books was an “I” book. They both always opened a book eagerly and suspiciously looking first to see whether or not it was an “I” book. If it were they would put it aside, not reading it until there was absolutely nothing else. Then, at last, they would read it. But, being an “I” book, it had to be awfully good for them to like it. Only a few, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and Swiss Family Robinson, for example, survived the hard “I” book test. These were among their best beloved in spite of the obvious handicap.
The children had read for a long time, but then it had grown dark. Now they were just sitting quietly, thinking, and watching the bats and bugs hurl themselves against the tall streetlamp which had suddenly come on and was casting a purple glow. Jerry was getting ready to bring up the matter of the dog to discuss with his sister Rachel, but first he liked to sit and dream about the wonderful idea that it was.
Rachel and Jared, called Jerry, Pye were very close companions. Of course they had many friends too; for instance, Dick Badger, who lived next door and who had a huge gray hound that knew how to scratch its stomach when you scratched its back, was Jerry’s best friend.
Rachel’s best friend was a girl over on Bugle Street named Addie Egan. All the boys and girls in Grade Five said Addie Egan had cooties and she really did not have cooties at all. Rachel stuck up for Addie whenever the occasion arose and she said, “Let Addie sign your character books. She does not have cooties.”
But then Rachel stuck up for everybody who was picked on. There was a little girl named Evvie Powers in the next block and sometimes the older boys and girls picked on her. “Police! Come and get Evvie!” they would cry, trying to scare the wits out of Evvie. But Rachel, if she heard them, would cry out, “Police! Don’t come and get Evvie!” And she would run and put her arms around the little girl. Evvie just worshiped Rachel and wanted to be with her every minute. This was a nuisance, for Evvie wasn’t even up to onesies in the game of onesie-twosie and Rachel was up to fivesies! But Evvie had to be protected nevertheless. Rachel would give her a smile and a pat and say, “Don’t worry, Evvie. I won’t let the police get you.” Then she would run off to find Addie or Jerry and Dick or someone her age, leaving Evvie wiping her eyes and looking after her adoringly.
Rachel was an eager skinny little girl who almost always wore skirts and blouses that didn’t stay tucked in, or sweaters, and her nose was frequently runny, because she had hay fever. Jerry was skinny too, but his nose didn’t run. Jerry had black hair and Rachel’s was reddish gold though, at this moment, sitting under the streetlamp, the hair of both of them looked purple.
To lead up to the subject that was nearest his heart Jerry said, “Rache, which is more important—?a dog or a cat?”
Rachel and Jerry were in the habit of having discussions as to what was the most important of anything—?the most important, or the prettiest, or the best, or the funniest. For instance, in the dictionary, almost their only picture book except for Mr. Pye’s books of birds, they had excited discussions over which was the prettiest fish on the shiny colored page of fish, or the prettiest bird, or butterfly. One favorite discussion of theirs was the one they had whenever they played train, calling out like conductors, “New York to Boston!” Which was more important, they asked one another, New York or Boston?
“New York,” Jerry would say. “Because it has the Museum of Natural History in it.”
“Boston,” said Rachel. “Because it sounds more important.”
“It just does.”
Rachel couldn’t explain the reason she thought Boston sounded more important than New York but it probably had something to do with the roundness of the letters, the B and the o’s. For the same reason she thought London sounded more important than Paris, though Paris sounded prettier. Sometimes, since Jerry was one year older than she, she wondered if she, too, should not say, “New York.” Still, to her, Boston sounded rounder, bigger, more solid—?more important.
Their town, Cranbury, was between these two big cities. The trains went streaking past, running back and forth from Boston to New York, from New York to Boston. Mama was from a little town near New York, and Papa was from Boston. This made it doubly hard to choose the more important. How had Mama met Papa when they were at two different ends of the railroad?
It happened this way. Papa was much older than Mama. He was thirty-five when he met Mama and up till then he had not had a minute to get married because all he thought about was birds, birds, birds. Already, he was a quite famous bird man. Well, one day Papa happened to be standing in a New York subway station. Though he came from Boston he had frequent business in New York. In this particular subway station there was an escalator and all of a sudden Papa decided to see if he could run up the escalator, not the &ldqu...