The morning sun streamed through the small side window into Jerry’s face. Half asleep he rolled over to catch a few more winks and found himself nose to nose with his new bedmate. Winifred said her doggy Good Morning! with a big lick on Jerry’s mouth.
“NOOOOO! Eeeeegggggth…” Jerry threw the covers aside and climbed out of bed.
“All right. You’re the fastest tongue in the west. I’ll give you that. But it was just a one-night stand. So don’t get ideas, sweetheart.”
Too late for that as Winifred rolled on her back, legs akimbo exposing her pink belly.
“Forget it. I don’t need this right now.”
Winifred rolled over, climbed on top of Jerry’s pillow, assumed a pose worthy of Cleopatra lounging on an Egyptian chaise and shot him a sidelong sultry come hither look.
“Three words: Not going to happen.”
Winifred tweaked her head, questioning…
Jerry wasn’t about to argue the math. But the thought made him smile. “Think you’re pretty cute, don’t you?”
Winifred’s tail beat a happy thump, thump on the pillow. Jerry grabbed jeans and a golf shirt and escaped into the bathroom.
Sinatra crooned I’ve Got You Under My Skin from an old turntable in a corner of the dinette. Winifred sat on the dinette bench, head propped on the edge of the table watching Jerry sautéing onions and red potatoes in butter.
“You up for a nice spinach and potato frittata?”
Winifred sat tall, nose twitching, tail pounding the dinette bench in anticipation.
Jerry grinned, please to have such an enthusiastic breakfast guest. A knock at the door surprised them both. Jerry opened the door to find Betty and Jacques.
“Betty… What’s up?”
“Wanted to say goodbye. They’re bringing in a new manager. I’m gone by the weekend.”
“I’m sorry. Big mistake. You work your ass off around here. I’ll talk to him.”
Betty shook her head. “He wants you out of here by the end of the month. Upgrading the park.” Betty eyed the expensive rigs up and down the row as a dusty Subaru Outback pulled up and parked next to Jerry’s truck.
Abby got out, took a long look at the woebegone trailer, and offered Jerry an uncomfortable smile.
Abby stood at the trailer door as Jerry turned off Sinatra and the burner under the potatoes. Taking in the full impact of Jerry’s dreary abode, Abby turned to Winifred.
“Hi, Winifred. Remember me?”
Winifred eyed Jerry.
“What are you doing here? How did–” barely got out of Jerry’s mouth when he knew the answer. “Evelyn.”
Abby shook her head. “The clinic. Winifred has a lot of friends.”
“Who dress their dog badly,” Jerry said, and sat on the dinette bench beside Winifred who jumped on his lap.
“I don’t know, Sweets. You don’t look like a Winifred to me.”
“We microchip all our rescues.”
“Winnie and I weren’t that close. She wasn’t with us long before she was adopted.”
“Well, I have a few choice words for whoever—”
“Get in line. You know Walter Knox?”
“You mean the guy who– She belonged to him?”
“Walter was very good to her, until… We have no idea what happened.”
Jerry eyed Winifred, “She does.”
“Where did you find her?”
“Near the canyon by the service entrance to Pebble. A couple of coyotes were about to have breakfast.”
“Well… Looks like you were the right man at the right time for our little girl. Thank you.” Abby smiled at Winifred, who pushed her backside tight against Jerry’s midsection. Abby waited for Jerry to get up and hand Winifred over.
Jerry was in no hurry, sat there waiting for Abby to make the next move.
“You know why I’m here… Don’t you, Jerry?”
So, he was going to make this as hard as possible. “Okay. We have a protocol at FHARP. When an adopter can no longer care for one of our animals, we take it back until we can find a new responsible home.”
Before he knew what he was saying, Jerry blurted, “Well, maybe she’s found one.”
“I’m afraid it’s a little more complicated than that. Until Winifred’s injury has healed and the circumstances of Walter Knox’s death resolved, Winifred will need to be in our custody.”
“In this case, mine. I’ll be fostering her. When everything is all wrapped up, if you’re still interested, you can apply for adoption. We’ll do a formal interview, check any history with animals, living conditions…” Abby couldn’t help another wary eye around the trailer, not lost on Jerry.
“If it makes you feel any better. I have a quaint termite infested cottage in Carmel. Tourists seem to love it. And no complaints from the termites…”
“I’m sure it’s… charming. You understand our first priority is to make sure Winifred is in a loving, safe home.”
Jerry massaged Winifred’s bandaged paw. “Well, so far you’re ‘O’ for one.”
“Then I guess we’ll need to be even more careful this time.” Abby moved to take Winifred.
The little dog clung to Jerry, ears pinned flat, eyes pleading for Jerry to save her again.
Abby pulled back. “You surprise me. After the other day at Farmer’s Market…”
Abby watched Winifred snuggle deep into Jerry’s arms and chest. “Looks like you two have really made a connection.”
The truth of that was more than Jerry was ready to deal with.
“Let’s not make this any harder for her. Okay?”
Jerry knew Abby was right, gently removed Winifred’s paws from his chest and looked her in the eye.
“This isn’t a great time for me, little one. Besides… Couple more days, I’m out of here.”
Jerry got up, handed Winifred to Abby, and went back to the kitchen. “Like I said, Sweets. Just a one-night stand.”
As Abby carried her out the door, Winifred looked back at Jerry, eyes uncomprehending his rejection.
Jerry stared at his cold pan of potatoes… dumped it in the garbage.
~ ~ ~