Sundays With Ingrid: Nigel
“I could get sick,” Brucie said on the bus ride home.
“What if I forged a note?” Brucie said. “With Adobe Photoshop I could make it look like a doctor’s—”
“Zip it, guy,” said the driver, Mr. Sidney, his BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA cap slanted low over his eyes, like a ship captain in rough seas. Brucie zipped it; the other choice was walking the rest of the way, as Brucie had learned on the first day of school last year and then had to relearn again just last week.
Mr. Sidney stopped in front of Ingrid’s house.
“See you, petunia,” he said. Girls were petunia to Mr. Sidney, guys guy. Things must have been a lot different when he was growing up.
Ingrid stepped off the bus, started up the brick path to her house. Ninety-nine Maple Lane was the only place she’d ever lived. Not the biggest, newest, or fanciest house in the neighborhood, Riverbend, but there were lots of good things about it. Such as the breakfast nook in the kitchen with windows on three sides, where the family—Mom, Dad, Ingrid, and her brother, Ty, a freshman at Echo Falls High (home of the Red Raiders)—ate just about all their meals; and the living-room fireplace, the bricks set in zigzags that matched the brick patterns in the chimney and front walk, a nice touch in Ingrid’s opinion; and maybe most of all her bedroom at the back, overlooking the town woods—the smallest room in the house, excluding bathrooms, and the most peaceful.
Ingrid went around to the side, unlocked the mudroom door. Nigel ambled out.
“Hey, boy,” said Ingrid, reaching down to pat him.
Nigel loved to be patted, maybe his second favorite thing, next to food. But now he changed course, making a kind of slow-motion swerve that took him just out of reach of her hand.
Nigel, crossing the lawn, swiveled his head around in her direction, walking one way, looking another. He had a jowly face and tweedy sort of coat, just like Nigel Bruce who’d played Dr. Watson in the old black-and-white Sherlock Holmes movies; Ingrid, a lover of Sherlock Holmes, had them all on DVD. Her Nigel, like Dr. Watson, could be slow on the uptake. Unlike Dr. Watson, he wasn’t always reliable.
For example, the way he was now avoiding eye contact and had resumed his course, headed for the road. Nigel wasn’t allowed on the road. Ingrid, with a book in hand called Training Even the Dumbest Dog, had spent hours with Nigel, teaching him not to leave the property, rewarding his eventual success with a pig-out of Hebrew Nationals, his hot dog of choice.
Nigel paused at the edge of the lawn, right forepaw raised in the attitude of one of those clever pointing dogs that understand commands in several languages. Was he remembering those hot dogs, even maybe just a little bit? “Nigel?”
He stepped onto the street, a dainty little movement—like Zero Mostel in the Producers movie, one of Ingrid’s favorites—that still surprised her and always meant no good. The next moment he was picking up the pace, pushing himself into that waddling trot, his top speed.
Ingrid dropped her backpack, hurried after him. Nigel tried to go faster—she could tell from the furious way his scruffy tail was wagging, slowing him down if anything. He reached the other side of Maple Lane, sniffed at the Grunellos’ grass, and then made a beeline for the stone angel birdbath that stood by their front door.
“Don’t you dare,” said Ingrid, running across the lawn.
Too late. Nigel raised his leg against the birdbath. Ingrid grabbed his collar and dragged him away, trailing a golden arc all the way back to the road. Nigel didn’t like the Grunellos, a quiet middle-aged couple who were kind to animals, never bothered anybody, and spent a lot of time away. Like now, please God. At the edge of the driveway he snatched up the Grunellos’ copy of The Echo.
“Put that down.”
But he clung to the rolled-up newspaper with all his might until they were back at the mudroom door. Then he dropped it in a casual sort of way and scrambled inside.
“Kiss those hot dogs good-bye,” Ingrid said. She could hear him panting in the kitchen as though he’d just performed some incredible feat.
From Behind the Curtain.
Tags: Echo Falls Series
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