“Riiii-ii-iibsy!” called Henry, panting as he pedaled. Drat that dog, where had he gone to? He couldn’t spend too much more time looking for him or he’d never finish his paper route in time. “Ribsy! Here, boy!”
He’d gone all the way around the two most recent blocks, backtracking and calling but there was no sign of his beloved spotted mutt. Other dogs barked at him excitedly from behind their fences and bounced at the end of their ropes to answer his call, but none of them were Ribsy.
Frustrated, red-faced and sweaty, he decided he was going to have to finish the route and then come back to look again, presuming Ribsy hadn’t just taken it into his head to run on ahead and meet him at home, something he had done in the past, though only rarely.
He cut across a driveway and into the alley that crossed the block between two rows of houses, splashing his bicycle through the puddles in the hard-packed gravel.
He looked up, surprised to see Beezus there as well as the blonde woman who had stopped him just a little while earlier. He braked, putting down a foot to balance and waving back as he tried to catch his breath again. “Hi, Beezus,” he puffed. “Have you seen Ribsy?”
“No,” Beezus said with mild surprise. “Is he missing too? I’m looking for Ramona.”
“Oh, no,” Henry groaned angrily. “If she’s done something to my dog again…”
“Henry Huggins,” glowered Beezus, crossing her arms. “That wasn’t very nice. I don’t know where she is, but you just can’t go blaming her every time your dog goes running loose.”
“Sorry,” he said, though he only partly meant it. Beezus was okay, and he didn’t really want to make her angry at him. But then, this was Ramona. “But this is Ramona we’re talking about,” he pointed out, deciding to voice it out loud.
“I take it she’s done something with the dog before?” asked the strange woman with a small smile.
He looked at her, still undecided about her presence in their neighborhood. “Yeaaah,” he said vaguely, not wanting to be a gossip in front of strangers. Beezus was one thing, but he didn’t need to contribute to a rumour mill.
“I’m sure they’ll turn up,” encouraged Beezus. “When we find Ramona, I’ll ask her if she’s seen Ribsy.”
“I doubt the dog will be able to return the favor,” the woman observed. Beezus laughed. Henry scowled slightly, not appreciating them taking it so lightly. He could be in big trouble if his dog damaged anyone’s property, for instance, and he was getting a little worried. Beezus noticed his reticence towards the newcomer.
“This is Romana,” she introduced belatedly. “She’s lost a blue box and was looking for it, so I’m helping her look for that and she’s helping me look for Ramona. You’re looking for Ribsy, so now we can all three of us look for all three things!”
“Haven’t seen any blue boxes laying around,” Henry said, shaking his head. “But I’ll let you know if I do. Thanks. I better get back to my route,” he added, putting a foot to a pedal. “Nice to meet you.”
He pedaled away then out onto the road. “Riii-ib-sy!” he tried one more time before he had to concentrate on which houses got papers again.
Romana and Beezus watched him go. “What does your sister do to his dog?” Romana wondered curiously.
“Oh, you know. Little kid stuff,” Beezus shrugged. “Bows on his tail, sticking perfume on him, that kind of thing. Henry’s a boy so he doesn’t want his dog to smell like a girl’s dog. You know how boys can be about their dogs.”
“Yes, I see,” smiled Romana. “I know a boy like that. Now, where were we? You go this way, I’ll go that way.”
Having left the fearsome bath behind, Ribsy eventually slowed to a trot, then a walk, his tongue lolling slightly as Ramona came up after him. She reached out and scratched at his neck as he walked, making him pause to just enjoy it. The pause made Ramona notice another door that wasn’t quite closed. She reached out to push at it, then switched from scratching at Ribsy’s collar to grabbing it and dragging him once more with her. It was another bedroom!
Ramona looked around, deciding she liked the bright coloured bedding and the bright posters on the walls. The one with the powder-blue daisies was especially pretty.
While Ribsy snuffled around the edges and crunched something he found in a wrapper on the floor, Ramona investigated the vanity mirror. (she liked how her hair was sticking all over the place after being air-dried) and then the contents of the small containers scattered in front of it. There was lip-stick, a few rings that were too big for her fingers, a really soft hairbrush and a couple perfume bottles. Little colored pictures of soldiers were stuck on the sides of the mirror.
She started to lose interest in what was, to her, typical boring big girl stuff when she pried open an oval container and found it partially filled with scented powder, topped with a fat pink powder-puff. Now that was interesting. Dipping the puff, she shook it.
Poof. The pink powder puff shot a cloud of sweet scent into the air. Poof! She shook it over Ribsy. He was still stinking from being wet, after all. She thought it a nice improvement.
Ribsy obviously didn’t and shook himself, then promptly ran out of the room into the nearest open doorway only to find it was a bathroom. Circling anxiously he tried to stuff himself under the sink and when that didn’t work, ran back out. Ramona was there. “Gotcha!” she cried, trying to tackle him and missing, the powder-puff flying off to the side, leaving a trail of white. Ramona grabbed up a green perfume atomizer with daisies on it and followed, excited by the chase. The unfortunate dog squirmed away from her again, then getting down on his belly, he worked his way under the bed. Unfortunately, his pursuer could fit under a bed almost as easily.
“Gotcha!” Ramona repeated triumphantly, spritzing the dog’s hindquarters with the atomizer as she shimmied along with her elbows after him. The cologne was stronger than expected and both of them sneezed explosively.
The bed turned out to have dust beneath it but also old magazines with pictures of people dressed in funny clothes on them. There were rumpled clothes too; it reminded her of the way she would sometimes kick her clothes under her bed in hers and Beezus’ shared bedroom when she didn’t feel like picking them up.
Ribsy made it out the other side and sneezed again. Ramona reached out dragging a pair of promising lumpy objects out with her as she followed. Sure enough, her treasures were more boots! Tall, soft yellow ones with long, long heels on them like her mother sometimes wore when she was going to town but even longer. She wanted to show them to someone.
Outside the door she heard K-9 rolling to a stop. “K-9!” she called.
“Present and functioning.”
“I wanna show the Doctor something. Where’d he go?”
“This unit is prepared to lead you to the Doctor,” K-9 responded equitably. “Previous behaviour indicates logical choice is console room. Please follow.”
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