Did you enjoy The Arranged Marriage by Justine Alley Dowsett? If you missed it, you can find that seven part Fantasy/Romance short story here. This time, we’ve got a short story by Rita Monette and its a prequel to her fabulous middle grade mystery/adventure series the Nikki Landry Swamp Legends! You can find the series here. Without further ado:
“Got me a fine hunting dog,” Papa announced as he burst through the screen door, letting it slam behind him. We lived in a houseboat that sat in a small bayou in Pierre Part, Louisiana, on account of Papa being a fisherman and needing to move around a lot.
“What kind of dog?” Mama said as she stirred the iron pot on the kerosene stove.
“A beagle. He’s a young one, but Mr. Lowry said he’s from a good blood line and already trained.”
It was 1952, and I was only six at the time, but the word dog caught in my ears like a catfish on a hook. Nothing else he said mattered, especially the part about it being a hunting dog.
“Where is he?” I shouted as I ran to meet him.
“Slow down Tadpole.” He kicked off his boots and picked up his cup of coffee mama had set on the kitchen table.
Papa had called me Tadpole every since I could remember, but Mama called me by my rightful name, which was Nikki…Nikki Landry to be exact.
“He’s in a cage. You can’t let a good hunter like that run loose. He’s liable to get a hint of a rabbit and take right on off.”
“I want to see him.” I jumped up and down. “Is it a boy dog or a girl?”
“It’s a he,” Papa said then took a sip of his steaming drink.
I ran out the door and crawled into the rusty bed of Papa’s old pick-up truck, where a small crate sat.
The dog put his nose to the wire cage and whined. I opened the little door, and he scooted to the back of the pen. I dragged him through the opening and squeezed him against me.
“You are the prettiest dog I ever did see,” I told him, while passing my hand over the big bump on his head.
He stuck his nose up to my shirt and sniffed, then he put his nose in the pocket of my worn overalls and sniffed again.
I giggled. “I don’t have any snacks in there, fella, but you sure are a snoop. I think I’ll name you Snooper. Do you like that name?” I hugged him tight one more time. He didn’t seem to mind it at all.
“Nikki, don’t mess with the dog,” Papa yelled from the doorway.
“I ain’t messing with him Papa, I’m just lovin’ on him.”
“You don’t love on a hunting dog. He has to stay disciplined. He’s been trained to track and hunt.”
“Can he stay in my room?” I asked. “He doesn’t like it in the cage.”
Papa walked over to the truck, took the dog from me, and put him back into his crate. “I’m going to build him a bigger cage tomorrow, and no, you can’t keep him inside. Your Mama’d be fit to be tied.” He lifted me out of the back and plopped me on the ground.
My face twisted up into a pout, and I folded my arms across my chest. Then I stomped one bare foot on the hard clay.
Papa turned and walked away, shaking his head.
Hmph. That always worked before to get what I wanted. Papa seemed more interested in having a hunting dog than anything I wanted. I chased behind him toward the dock and followed him inside.
“I’m taking him out first thing in the morning to see what he can do,” Papa said as we sat down to a supper of gumbo and rice and potato salad.
“Can I go?” I asked.
“No, you can’t go hunting,” Mama said. “You’re not old enough.”
“I am too,” I blubbered to myself. “I even have my own gun.”
Papa had gotten me a BB gun for Christmas last year, but he said I couldn’t use it until I was six.
Now I’m six and he hasn’t taken me hunting yet, I think. It’s all Mama’s fault. She says Papa is trying to make me into a tomboy ’cause he wanted a boy when I was born. But I reckon girls can hunt and fish just as good as boys can.
After supper, I went to my room and took out my drawing book and drew pictures of Snooper and me chasing a rabbit through the woods.
The next morning, after breakfast, I watched from the deck while Papa drove off with Snooper in the cage bouncing around in the back of his truck. I stood there watching until he was out of sight, then ran back into the house.
“Mama, Can I go play with Lydia? I want to tell her ’bout my new dog.”
Lydia was my best friend in the whole wide world. She lived in a regular house down the road apiece. She was in my first grade class and didn’t even make fun of me for not wearing dresses like the other girls. Her daddy built her a tree house in their yard, and that’s where we shared all our secrets and kept our treasures.
“Don’t be getting attached to that dog, Nikki,” Mama said as she cleaned up the breakfast dishes. “You can’t make a pet out of a hunting dog.”
I put my hands on my hips. “I am already attached to him.”
Mama smiled and shook her head. “Go play with Lydia.”
Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. She loves to write stories set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. She is currently retired and lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee. Besides writing and illustrating, She enjoys participating in festivals and craft shows where she does face and body art, along with selling her books.