Subject: The Disastrous Rescue of Chairman
Date: Wed, 7 Oct 1998 01:37:08 EDT
(This story deals with the spanking of minor children. If you're under 18 or offended by the subject matter, don't read it.)
I'd wanted a dog ever since I can remember, but it wasn't until the year I was eleven that I made a determined attempt to get one.
Oh, I'd tried to persuade Dad before. He always claimed that he couldn't have a dog because he was allergic to them, but I always suspected it was really because he simply didn't like them. Whenever he and Mom and I would visit families with a dog, Mom and I would pet him while she reminisced about the German Shepherd her family had had when she'd been my age. Dad would always excuse himself and fade away, flinching every time the dog came near him. I couldn't believe he was afraid of dogs. Young as I was, I realized he was a very important man in something called the Mafia, something one didn't get to be if one were afraid of things. But I knew Mom liked dogs even if Dad didn't; and perhaps if I kept working on her we might get one.
Then, when I was nine years old, Mom died. I'd never encountered death before... at least, close up... so I was wandering around in a daze for the next few days. Dad was always busy, and he was a lot busier making preparations for the funeral. So were the servants, and even my teenage cousins, Diana, Corinne, and Tim, staying over in Dad's large house, were busy exchanging gossip and chatting in what struck me as a disrespectfully lighthearted way. It was summer and school was out, my few close school friends mostly away on vacation. I was sure that nobody in the world was as utterly miserable and lonely as I was.
The inspiration hit me when I was trying on the new dress I was to wear at the funeral. Jessica Harrington's dog Archie had died several months before, and she'd been heartbroken... so heartbroken she'd talked her parents into getting her a pony and building stables on their estate for him. If a lost dog was worth a pony, surely I was entitled to something in place of Mom.
I burst into his study and put the proposition to him. He looked at me tenderly, said, "You do miss her a lot, Cynthia. Believe me, so do I. But we've had this discussion before, and the answer is no."
I couldn't believe it. I burst into tears... something I did again and again these days, and every time I'd done so Dad and everyone else had rushed to console me. But he just continued to shake his head. In total disbelief, I started screaming at him, "You don't CARE! I NEED someone to love me! I'll NEVER talk to Mom again, or hold her hand or kiss her or sit on her lap..."
That was a mistake. Next thing I knew, I was on Dad's lap alright, but not exactly sitting. He flipped up my dress and slapped me good and hard on my new silk undies. "For the LAST time, Cynthia, we are NOT getting a dog!" he bellowed as he spanked me a few more times.
I was bawling louder than I'd ever done, more out of grief and fury than pain. "But Jessica Harrington got a pony..."
His only response was to yank my undies down and whack me again. "That may BE! But WE -- ARE -- NOT -- GETTING -- A -- DOG!!!" I struggled and screamed at the top of my lungs as he continued to tan my bare hide, but nothing was about to stop him. And his study, I knew only too well, was soundproof.
Suddenly the door opened, and Giordano, Dad's consigliere, stood there. "Don Benedetto, what shall I do with the flowers the Saladino family sent..." He suddenly stopped as he saw us, muttered an apology to both of us, and closed the door, a lot more embarrassed than I was. I only felt devastated that Dad didn't care enough about my grief to assauage it, and I was far too young to realize how much worse he must have felt. His arm fell to his side, but I just lay there across Dad's lap with my bare butt in the air, too devastated even to get off.
Dad pulled my undies back up and my dress over them, then turned me over the right way. He hugged me and said, "I'm sorry, Cynthia. Truly, I am. But this is not the time to discuss pets."
I sat there on his lap for several minutes as he comforted me, feeling reassured and loved even as I reached back to rub my sore butt, especially where an unusually sharp key in his pants pocket was digging into it. He finally let me go to get ready for the funeral, but the question of a dog was dead. It only came up again two years later.
It was the spring I was eleven, a few weeks before Lou Remarra came to stay with us when his father got sick, that I first met Chairman Mao. He wasn't Chairman Mao then, of course.
I'd been to Lou's house after school, and decided, as I often did, that I'd walk home rather than take the bus. It wasn't the best of neighborhoods, but I'd been through it many times before, and felt a lot more comfortable after I'd offered one of the punks there a lot more for his switchblade than it was worth. With it hidden in my sock, I felt equal to any occasion.
Suddenly I heard a loud barking around the corner, and raced down a street I'd never taken before. Several poorly-dressed boys, ranging in age from maybe twelve to a couple of loud seven-year-olds, were taking turns poking sticks through a junkyard fence, laughing uproariously as the dog inside growled and snapped at the stick.
I placed my hands on my hips and glared at the boys. "What are you doing to that dog!"
"None of your beeswax!" sneered the oldest boy.
I charged in and tossed the boys right and left, knocking the youngest ones to the ground. The leader charged me and threw a punch, making it clear he wasn't about to go easy on me just because I was a girl. I wouldn't have had it any other way. A few quick punches and he was staggering back, suddenly reaching into his back pocket for his own switchblade. I pulled mine out of my sock, and he goggled and backed away.
With the boys gone, I turned my attention to their victim. He was a Chow Chow (Dad had given me a big book listing all the breeds one Christmas, in the apparent hope that it would assuage my craving) with a rope knotted around his neck so tightly that his fur, and occasionally parts of the skin below, had been worn away in spots. I gasped in horror, and tried to reach through the fence.
"HEY! You get away!"
A man with a sagging belly and stubble on his chin, his breath smelling of beer, charged toward me behind the fence. "I TOLD you kids to keep away from my dog!"
I examined myself. I'd played baseball at recess and spent the afternoon climbing trees with Lou, so I no doubt looked as if I came from the same neighborhood as the boys I'd stopped. I tried to explain, but he cut me off.
"DON'T tell me you haven't been hanging around for the last month!" I attempted to point to the plight of his dog, but he screamed back, "So fucking WHAT? He's MY dog and I've got the right to do what I want with him, and I've TOLD you that I'd whale the tar out of the NEXT kid to bother him OR me!"
He made a move toward the locked door, and I wasted no time in getting on my way. But I brooded as I walked home. A man who treated a dog like that had no right to him. Even if I couldn't have him for myself, I'd rescue him from the junkman if it was the last thing I did.
Over the next few days I walked by the junkyard, always at a safe distance. The sign was illegible but the Yellow Pages told me it was called Rogan's Iron & Steel, even though it seemed to have a lot more wooden items in the immense piles than metal ones. The man who'd screamed at me was always barking orders to a younger man even bigger than Dad's consigliere, who he called Zack, so I figured he was the owner, a fact confirmed when Zack replied, "Right away, Mr. Rogan."
As for the dog, he still growled every time I passed, but not as much as he had at first. One day my school had served a perfectly dreadful meat loaf, so I'd subsisted on my cook's sandwiches and slipped the meat loaf, wrapped in the sandwich paper, into my purse. I passed it through the fence to the dog on the way home.
Rogan saw me do so, and his face turned purple. "STOP that! He's supposed to be HUNGRY!" I turned and ran, catching a final glimpse of the dog as he, to my delight, gobbled down the meat loaf before Rogan could take it away. He had an enduring face that reminded me of Mao Tse-tung, the dictator of Red China we'd been talking about that day in Current Events. A Chow Chow was a Chinese breed, I remembered reading, probably called that because they had been used for chow in the old days. Yet even the farm animals raised for meat that I'd seen on occasional field trips seemed to be treated a lot better than this dog. Nobody had even bothered, or so it seemed, to give him a name.
Finally, my chance came one afternoon when neither Rogan nor Zack was in sight. I waited for several minutes, and even ventured to yell, "Mr. Rogan!" But there was no answer. Chairman Mao was alone in the yard.
He'd wagged his tail as I approached, but began to bark when I touched the fence. I wasn't going to let that stop me. He'd run several times around the post to which he was tied, which meant there were certain corners of the junkyard he couldn't reach. Good enough.
It was a high fence, but not much higher than the school fence that I'd climbed many times. The only real problem was the sharp points of wire jutting from the top, which I knew from past experience were apt to snag on dangling clothes, so I tucked my dress into my undies all the way around before starting to climb. I had to lift my legs really high to get around the points at the top, but at last I dropped down into the corner of the junkyard without detection.
Chairman Mao had been well-trained. He ran at me, barking and growling, stretching the rope to its fullest length. But I responded with soothing words until his growling tapered off. Then I pulled my dress out of my undies and took one of the pieces of steak I'd bought for him at the nearby butcher out of my pocket.
He gobbled it down, looked at me with the beginning of a growl, then gave a tentative wag to his tail. I tossed him another piece, and the tail wagged harder. I walked up to him and gave him a tentative pat under his chin, and he began to strain harder as he attempted to get the rest of the steak out of my dress pocket. I reached for his rope collar and began to loosen it...
Rogan came roaring out of his shack, rubbing his eyes and shaking his fist. "Zack!" he screamed in the direction of the parking lot in back. "This kid's trying to poison the dog!"
I stood my ground and indignantly denied the charge, but he made a grab for me. "I told you what I'd do to the next kid I caught around here! Maybe they thought I'd go easy if they sent a girl in!"
I was so furious at continuing to be associated with the punks that I didn't think. I pulled my switchblade out of my sock and opened it as he grabbed me, giving him a very satisfying slash across his arm. He screamed and let me struggle free, but as I ran toward the locked gate Zack came running toward me. He picked me up and tossed me over his shoulder, with my head hanging down his back.
Rogan came up to us as I waved my arms and tried to kick, to no avail since my legs were pinned beneath his arm. "You've maimed me, you little delinquent!"
"I have not!" I retorted. "You won't even get a scar from a little cut like that!"
"LITTLE cut?" roared Rogan. What I'd said turned out to be quite true, but with the blood still pouring down his arm, it looked a lot worse than it was. He walked around and slapped me hard on the seat of my undies, telling Zack, "Take this little bitch into the shack! We'll teach her what happens to delinquents around here!"
As Zack carried me inside the filthy shack, Rogan barked from outside, "Now put her down on the table!" Zack shoved some Playboys and empty beer bottles aside and dumped me on top of a flimsy wooden table, then rolled me over so I was face-down with my legs dangling over the side. I was determined not to give these men the satisfaction of crying or begging, but I couldn't help but stiffen when Rogan came in, slapping a plywood board about four inches wide against his left palm.
"Just hold her, Zack, and I'll take care of the rest!" said Rogan almost gleefully. He lifted the back of my dress above my waist, shoving it under me so it wouldn't fall down in case I struggled (something I'd realized was futile by then). Then he grabbed the elastic waist of my undies and pulled them down around my thighs.
I bit my lip and refused to make a sound as Rogan raised the board and brought it down on my bare butt. That only seemed to infuriate him more as he raised it and swatted my rear again and again, but I kept silent and still. In truth, I'd had a lot worse spankings in my life, especially from my Aunt Joyce on the rare occasions she'd used her hairbrush on me. The plank was so big and covered such a wide area that it didn't hurt nearly as much as that hairbrush, or even Dad's hand when he really got mad.
Then Chairman Mao came charging through the door. Apparently I'd loosened the rope enough so he'd gotten loose. He seemed to take in the situation immediately, and jumped up, pulling at Rogan's arm to try to get him to stop. "YOU keep out of this!" screamed Rogan, giving him a kick and shoving him out the door. I felt a lot sorrier for Mao than I did for myself. He hadn't asked to be there.
It hurt enough, though, and when Rogan finally got tired and told Zack to let me go, I couldn't resist rubbing my butt, which seemed to please Rogan immensely. I adjusted my clothing and followed them to the gate, finally deigning to address them directly as Rogan began to tie Chairman Mao up again. "That rope's tied way too tight!" I started to protest.
"So fucking WHAT?" bellowed Rogan, as Zack opened the gate to let me out. "I'll treat MY dog as I please!"
"Does he have a name?" I asked. Rogan's only response was a final whack on the back of my dress that sent me flying through the gate, which he immediately relocked.
Later that afternoon I was sitting at my desk at home, my icebag in my undies and vengeance in my heart. I knew that if I told Dad what those men had done to me, he'd probably see to it that they never laid hands on me or any other kid or dog again. But that wouldn't do anything for poor Chairman Mao, who'd probably end up being sent to the dog pound and gassed to death. Besides, as angry as I was at Rogan and Zack, I didn't want them dead. They hadn't really treated me any worse than a lot of grown-ups treated a lot of kids in those days. But the way they treated Chairman Mao... this I couldn't live with. It was my battle, not Dad's, and I'd have to look for help elsewhere.
I stood up and winced, not for the usual reason after a spanking. It occurred to me that, as painful as Aunt Joyce's hairbrush was, at least it was made of varnished wood.
"You know how to remove splinters, don't you?" I asked in a deceptively conversational tone as Lou Remarra and I walked to my house after school the next day. Not all kids did, but it was something you tended to learn fast if your mother wasn't alive to do it for you.
"Sure I do! You just take a needle, sterilize it in a match flame, break the skin near the splinter and pull it out with tweezers! Don't you?"
"Of course, but sometimes it's easier if someone else does it. Didn't your mother do it for you when she was alive? Mine did."
Lou nodded, but he already seemed a bit nervous as he followed me up to my room. I had everything ready... a needle, matches, and tweezers, all laid out on my desk.
I chose my next words carefully. "Besides, these splinters are a bit hard for me to reach myself." I turned away and lifted my dress.
He got the idea at once. "Uh, maybe Diana should do it? Or your Dad?"
I leaned over the desk and pulled my undies down. "Diana's away and Dad's busy. What's the big deal? You've seen my butt before."
He sterilized the needle, but it was shaky as he approached the first splinter. Finally I said, "Look, maybe it'd work better if you sat on the chair, and I got over your knee. Like you were giving me a spanking." I gave him what was meant to be a reassuring grin, but he only flinched more as I added, "Which you've done."
"Only because Diana..." he tried to protest, but he set gamely in and removed the first splinter like an expert. As he started on the second, he asked the inevitable question, "Uh, how did you...?" He didn't need to complete it.
I'd already decided on my answer. "A word of advice, Lou. If your Dad ever takes you visiting in an old house, don't take it into your head to slide down the bannister. At least unless you're wearing very thick jeans." It wasn't exactly a lie.
Lou shuddered in sympathy as he pulled the second splinter out. As he started on the third, he asked, "Maybe you could've asked Jessica..."
"I'm not sure Jessica even knows how. And if she did, she'd blab it all over the school." I tried to change the subject. "Lou, what do you think about dogs?"
Lou shuddered again, but at least I'd taken his mind off the operation. We chatted a bit, but I already knew he was afraid of them, even Corinne's little Pekinese, so I didn't bother to tell him about Chairman Mao. Finally we were down to the last two splinters.
"Ow! What's the trouble?" I asked as Lou's needle went in a lot farther than necessary to pull out the penultimate splinter. I suddenly realized; he was desperately trying to pull it out without actually putting his hands across my crack. I reached back and grabbed his hands. "Look, if you put them there, it'll work a lot better."
He removed the splinter with some difficulty and started on the last one. "Lou, what are you afraid of? You can get closer... I'm not about to fart in your face if that's what you're afraid of." It wasn't; my attempt at humor had just unnerved him even more. As he finally removed the last splinter, I reflected that it was just as well I hadn't been sliding down bannisters and probably getting splinters in even more intimate areas. It would've been too much for Lou's delicate sensibilities.
I tried to interest him in climbing the tall oak with me, but he made an excuse and departed. My closest friend at school, but he had his limits. I'd have to find someone else to help me rescue Chairman Mao. But who?
* * *
It was about a week later that I found the one. As I arrived at school, I saw several kids clustered around Mike O'Reilly, a quiet third-grader who was rarely the subject of attention. As I passed, the word "dog" caught my ears, and I joined the group.
"Fancy's going to have puppies!" Mike was exclaiming, as he passed around pictures of his dog. "We -- Mom and I -- bred her to the top Afghan Hound in the country. He even won the Westminster dog show last year! And Fancy's a champion, too. She's one of the top Afghan bitches..."
There was a round of giggling, and Charity Randolph reproached him, "Oooh, what you said!"
Mike's face reddened. "It's a perfectly good word when you're talking about a dog! And she is! Everyone says she's a very good-looking bi-- uh, dog, and we didn't have any trouble getting her, uh, pregnant." There was another round of giggles, and I headed for class. I suddenly had a plan, but I'd have to approach Mike at some more appropriate time.
I'm sure you've seen those plastic monstrosities that pass for playgrounds these days. Every square inch of ground covered by soft mats, monkey bars low to the ground so kids won't hurt themselves, and garish, twisted plastic slides. They must bore kids out of their skulls.
Back in that spring of 1958, a playground was a playground, and my school had one of the best. Big swings you could almost fly around a circle on if you could get someone to push you, monkey bars you could execute complex maneuvers on, and a slide fully twenty feet high. You could zip down it faster than a rocket, especially if you'd saved the wax paper your sandwiches had been wrapped in at lunch. It was against the rules, but you could slip it out of your pocket and beneath your undies, spreading your dress around you for camouflage. I figured they owed it to me for making me wear a dress in the first place, since that slide got rather hot to slide down with bare legs after the sun had been beating down on it all day. But it was worth it, and if you got a skinned knee here or a bruised thigh there, it was all a normal part of growing up. At least, I thought so.
The slide also gave me a good view of the entire playground, so I could keep an eye on Mike. He was heading toward the monkey bars, so I slid down once more, stuffed the wax paper in my pocket, and joined him as he tried to do a flip.
"Maybe you'd have better luck if you did it this way, I said, trying to be kind. He was a bit of a klutz, if the truth be known... not as big a klutz as Lou Remarra, but Lou was two years older than Mike, and even he could do a simple flip once I'd spotted him long enough. He moved aside, and I spun around the bar to demonstrate.
"You know, your underpants show when you do that?" Mike wasn't taunting the way Porky Judson would; he was just trying to tell me something he thought I didn't know. I liked that.
I shrugged. "Then they should let me wear pants to school. But you don't have that problem, Mike. Want to try it?"
He fell down the first time, but struggled gamely up for another try. I liked that, too. I examined the hand on which he'd landed; it wasn't seriously hurt. "Another tip... when you fall, try to land on your butt. Your parents would rather you ripped your undies... or your pants, since you're a boy... than have you break an arm or a leg."
By the end of recess, he was spinning around that bar with only a bit of help from me. As the bell rang and we headed back to school, I brought up Fancy. "That dog of yours really sounds like something! I'd love to see her!"
He instantly began to chatter away, all excited to be talking about the champion mother-to-be he and his mother owned. By the time we got to our respective classrooms, he'd promised to ask his mother if I could come by some afternoon after school.
Two days later Mike gleefully conveyed the invitation, and I walked home with him. The O'Reillys lived in a downtown townhouse which, I was delighted to see, was within ten blocks of Rogan's junkyard. As we entered, I heard Mrs. O'Reilly's voice from the kitchen as Fancy eagerly licked Mike's face and wagged her tail at me.
"Did you bring your friend home? Just bring him in the living room and I'll bring out the milk and cookies!" She emerged and stared for a moment, apparently surprised at my age and sex. Some people have such limited imaginations.
But Mike had paid attention in class when they'd taught introductions, "Mom, this is Cynthia Benedetto. Cynthia, this is my mother, Mrs. O'Reilly." She evidently didn't read the papers, or if she did she didn't associate me with "reputed organized crime leader" Gino Benedetto, so she beamed as I responded with a proper "How do you do?" She warmed to me further as soon as I brought up the subject of Fancy. She told me enthusiastically about the history, life, and pedigree of Fancy (whose real name turned out to be Ch. Mardon's Fanciful Reverie, CDX), and of her chosen stud, to whom she'd been shipped out by plane for the experience.
We soon adjourned and went into the back yard, where Mike showed me his own playground and exercise bar. "Can you show me how to do the routine here, Cynthia?" he asked. "Dad'll be thrilled when he gets home from work!"
"Doesn't look much different from the one at school," I said. "Want to try it?"
I was dangling across the bar when Mike reached for my dress and pulled it down over my undies. "You don't need to do that! I protested. "You can't do a routine in a dress if you're worried about trivialities!"
Mike turned red. "It's just that I hear Mom at the door," he said. "She... uh, might not understand."
Mrs. O'Reilly didn't do anything but open the door so Fancy could come out, but I obligingly tucked my dress into the leg holes of my undies before resuming the routine. "She doesn't seem to be worried about Fancy showing her undies!" I laughed.
"Oh!" Mike hastily yanked off the ruffled underpants the bitch was wearing, enabling her to do her business in the yard. "She doesn't normally need those. It's just that when she's in heat..." he looked at me to make sure I understood the terminology, showing some relief when I nodded, "she has to wear those inside. Or she'll bleed all over the carpet. It's only twice a year."
"Lucky girl. I'm going to have to face that every month before long."
Mike looked at me uncomprehendingly. It amazed me that so many kids in those days could be so knowledgeable about some things and completely ignorant about others, but I only said, "Ask your mother. Let's try that routine again."
Just before I left, I asked Mike the question I'd been preparing for. "Mike, I really had fun. I'd invite you home someday, but my house is full..." (as it was, of caterers getting it ready for an upcoming conference of family leaders from all over the world) "...but what would you say to a picnic in the park? Our cook makes the best sandwiches in the world..." I saw his expression and added, "...next to your Mom's, of course. Our chauffeur can pick you and Fancy up after school next Monday, in my Dad's Rolls."
That did it, of course. I knew from experience that every boy from six to twenty-six would've given his eyeteeth for a ride in a Rolls. "That's terrific, Cynthia!" He suddenly stammered, "But won't Lou Remarra mind?"
"What does he have to do with it?"
"He's your boyfriend, isn't he? Everyone says..."
I had to set him straight at once. "Lou is only ten years old! And I'm just eleven. Kids our age don't have boyfriends and girlfriends. Don't you know that?"
He looked a bit uncertain, but nodded. I thought maybe I'd have to set a few other people straight. At least, after I rescued Chairman Mao.
Everything started out perfectly on the following Monday. Mike easily accepted my story that Ferranti found it easier to pick us up at a location he knew, so we took the bus to his house to get Fancy, then walked toward the designated point... and also, though Mike didn't know it, toward Rogan's junkyard. We were about a block away when I pretended to remember something.
"Oh!" I slapped my forehead. "I also have to walk another dog today. He doesn't belong to me, but he needs the walk." Which was all perfectly true. "Mind waiting on the corner for us?"
I walked around the corner and examined the junkyard gate. Several months before I'd played several games of poker with one of Dad's less affluent associates, which ended with his owing me over a thousand dollars. I'd magnanimously forgiven the debt in exchange for his teaching me to pick locks, and giving me a few picklocks for extreme situations. But I'd examined Rogan's padlock and decided that all I needed to open it was a bobby pin, something nobody was surprised to see a girl carrying even when she didn't need it. I pulled one out and began to work on the lock.
It opened, and I darted in. I'd gotten a new switchblade to replace the one I'd left behind at Rogan's the last time, and now I pulled it out as Chairman Mao raced around me, barking but not growling. I severed the rope just as Rogan spotted me from a distance.
"YOU again!" roared Rogan. He was fast but I was faster, pulling Chairman Mao on my improvised leash. He reluctantly came through the gate he'd most likely never been outside since Rogan had acquired him, and Rogan called, "Boy! Don't go with that little delinquent! Here, boy!"
Then, as I yanked him outside, Chairman Mao turned and galloped so fast I had to hold the rope and stumble to keep up with him. Nothing mattered to him any more, not Rogan nor Zack nor me nor his limited food. Nothing mattered but Fancy, there at the corner with Mike, a beautiful bitch in heat and irresistible to any male dog.
"This way!" I said as, exactly on schedule as always, Ferranti drove our Rolls around the corner. I opened the door and told Mike to bring Fancy in first, after which Chairman Mao and I quickly followed. I slammed the door just as Rogan turned the corner.
He looked around uncomprehendingly as we drove away. Rogan, I knew, had only seen me at my worst -- even today, my dress and hair bore the marks of a hectic baseball game. He thought me a poor street kid like the ones who'd been tormenting Mao, and the thought of me riding away in a Rolls-Royce never entered his head.
He waved his fists as Ferranti drove away. I would have liked to back up to the rear window and moon him then and there, displaying my bare butt now that it was forever out of reach of that splintering plank. But I wasn't about to do anything so crude with Mike watching. (To my surprise, he'd remembered my quick comment about bleeding and had asked his mother, who'd been rather startled but had explained menstruation to him as haltingly as she'd earlier told him most of the other facts of life. It hadn't occurred to me that anyone who owned a brood bitch would be that uncomfortable with the subject, but it wouldn't do to lower her opinion of me even further.) Besides, unless they were open... as they'd been on that disastrous occasion the previous fall when Dad had spanked me in the back seat, after I'd thrown a rock through a police car... we could see out, but nobody could see in through the windows of one-way glass.
Ferranti drove us to the park gate, agreeing to meet us in an hour. He'd brought sandwiches fresh from Mrs. Scalia's kitchen with him, and Mike removed Fancy's leash. I'd already removed the rope from Chairman Mao's neck. The leash laws that were later to make it next to impossible to let dogs run free were thankfully years in the future, so nobody stopped us.
"No, Chairman Mao!" I exclaimed for the umpteenth time as he once again attempted to mount Fancy. "She's been bred!" At least, he kept away the other male dogs who occasionally were lured to the vicinity when they caught Fancy's scent.
Mike ran his fingers through Fancy's fur. "Ouch! She's full of burrs! And I'll bet Chairman Mao is, too! Ooh! This hill's covered with them!"
"Tell me about it!" I groaned. Only a few minutes before I'd slid down the hill on the seat of my undies, and hadn't even begun to find all the ones that had stuck. "Let's get back to where Ferranti's going to meet us."
With a certain limited success, concentrating first on Fancy, we managed to get some of the burrs out by the time Ferranti showed up. Following Mike's directions, he had no trouble getting us back to the O'Reilly home, though he did look rather reproachfully at us as he examined the back seat.
"Dad pays him very well," I assured Mike as we went inside. "Do you have a hairbrush? Maybe we can get Fancy clean before your mom sees us... NO! Mao!"
Too late, Chairman Mao was once again mounting Fancy from behind. And Mrs. O'Reilly stood in the doorway, watching as we strove to separate the dogs, and getting angrier every minute...
"It's all my fault, Mrs. O'Reilly!" I said. I wasn't about to let Mike get into trouble on my account.
Mike's mother glared at me. "I can see that! But don't think you're going to get away with this, young lady! I'm calling your mother immediately!"
Even after two years, that was a sensitive subject for me. I retorted, "Then you'll have to hold a seance!"
She stared, then got it. With a voice that perhaps showed a tinge of sympathy but was still furious, she continued. "Your father, then! I don't care if he is at work!"
He worked out of his house most days, but I thought it best not to give her any idea of his true profession. I simply gave her his private number, the one only Giordano, Ferranti, and members of his family knew. She dialed it and spoke to him.
As we waited... quite awhile because Ferranti had to get home with the Rolls and then bring him back... Mike and I attempted to clean Fancy and Chairman Mao. Mrs. O'Reilly was screaming at us, "Do you *realize" how expensive that breeding was, Michael? And that Chow Chow of yours has ruined it! Who does it belong to, Cynthia?"
There was no way around it. I told her the complete story, leaving out only my switchblade and Rogan's whaling me with the board, finishing just as Dad came in the door. Then, of course, I had to repeat it to Dad, who was seething by the time he'd heard it.
"The trouble is, Mr. Benedetto," raged Mrs. O'Reilly, "that a breeder has to swear his or her bitch hasn't mated with any dog other than the designated stud. Otherwise the puppies can't be sold or registered. But, thanks to Michael and your daughter..."
Dad glared at us, but especially at me. "I see!" he said, "Cynthia, come here!"
He'd sat down on the O'Reillys' sofa, so I pretty much knew what to expect. But Mike stared in horror as he pulled me over his lap, and his mother seemed uneasy. But she was still angry, and suddenly picked up the hairbrush we'd been using to groom the dogs, and held it out to Dad.
He waved it away. "No, thank you!" He gave me a slap on the back of my dress, and I gasped. Even though he didn't take down my undies or lift my dress in front of Mike and his mother, he spanked me good and hard several times. I wasn't about to beg, but I did whimper and yell a few times. It seemed to be called for under the circumstances.
Even Mrs. O'Reilly seemed to have second thoughts. "It really wasn't all her fault, Mr. Benedetto! Don't you think she's had enough?"
Dad gave me one last spank. "Maybe. But I don't want you blaming your son. He's much younger than my daughter, and thought she knew best. Which she doesn't." He let me stand up, and I rubbed the seat of my dress, despite the burrs in my undies. It wasn't anything like the worst spanking he'd given me, but it hurt.
"But the breeding! The breeding is ruined!" protested Mrs. O'Reilly.
"Surely when your dog has the puppies, it will be clear enough who sired them. I would guess this dog never had a real chance to sire puppies, and if he did..." he spread his hands... "I will compensate you for the loss in full." He glared at me. "And remove the money from Cynthia's allowance."
Mrs. O'Reilly looked reluctant, but Dad had a way of taking charge of a situation, and she seemed more and more inclined to agree with him. Suddenly Dad said, "Now, Cynthia, you take this dog back where he belongs!"
"You go with Cynthia, Mike!" added his mother. He headed for the door in evident relief as she added, "But Fancy stays here!"
I tied the rope back around Chairman Mao's neck, trying to keep it as loose as possible. He whimpered, almost as if he knew what was going on. But he followed me trustingly as I led him back to his prison, and I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.
Mike saw them as we walked back toward Rogan's, and naturally he misunderstood. "Gee, Cynthia, your dad really hit you hard!" he said. "Uh... does he do that often?"
"Not often. Only when I need it, which I probably did today. It's no big deal."
But it did seem to be a big deal to Mike. "It's just that... I always thought I was too old to be spanked. I haven't been, since I was six. But you're older than me, and your Dad just..."
"How do you get punished, Mike?"
"Usually I'm sent to bed without supper. I hope Mom doesn't do that when I get home."
"So wouldn't you rather have a few slaps on your butt and get it over with? I know I would..."
"No! replied Mike with a shudder. It's just that I'm already so hungry..."
"So think of how hungry poor Chairman Mao must get every day. And he gets kicked when his owner's mad at him, not just spanked. Don't you see why I had to save him?" I couldn't help myself; the tears were running down my face.
Mike stood up straight. "If you want, Cynthia, I'll help you..."
I sighed. "No, you can't. I've done everything that could be done. Here we are." Gesturing to Mike to remain a safe distance away, I resolutely walked forward.
Chairman Mao tried to pull back as I approached the junkyard where he'd lived nearly all his life. For a moment I considered running away with him, but then sense prevailed. "Mr. Rogan!" I screamed.
He came charging to the door, in an absolute fury. Mao tried to hide behind me. "I came to return your dog," I said. "I just thought he deserved..."
Rogan unlocked the gate and grabbed the rope around his dog's neck. "I could've been robbed BLIND this afternoon without my attack dog!" As he continued to rant, he shoved Chairman Mao insided the gate and closed it. I tried to go away, but he grabbed me by the shoulder. "Obviously you didn't have enough last time!"
I tried to struggle, but despite his drunkenness, Rogan was a lot stronger than me. I caught a glimpse of Mike's horrified face in the distance as he sat down on the pavement, dragged me across his lap, and lifted my dress. "But I brought him back!" I protested.
"And that's the last time you'll come back... AHHH!" he roared as his hand came down on my undies. He shook it in pain and shock, and I seized the opportunity to wriggle free. Rogan struggled to his feet and started to chase me, then whirled as Chairman Mao barrelled through the unlatched gate. He ran after his dog and seized the rope as I made my getaway around the corner.
Mike and I didn't stop running until we were several blocks closer to his house. "What happened there?" he gasped when he had a chance.
"Let's just say that that was one spanking that really did hurt him more than it hurt me!" I laughed. "My undies were still full of burrs from the park, and he just got himself a good handful of them." Which paid him back for the splinters, I thought... but to myself.
Mike laughed too. "Good thing for you he didn't..." his voice dropped off as his face began to redden.
"Pull them down, you mean? If he had, he'd have gotten even more burrs without even one whack at me!"
His face turned an even deeper red at the thought. He almost whispered, "It's good your Dad just... you know... kept your dress down. But I guess he always does, doesn't he?" It was asked more for reassurance than as a question, almost as if it'd give his own mother ideas when he got home.
So I gave him what he wanted to hear: "Yeah." Which was usually true, at least in public. I thought a change of subject was in order, "I hope there won't be any trouble over Fancy's puppies."
Mike shuddered. "I sure hope not. Mom won't like Fancy having puppies by a mutt!"
I rushed to the defense of the dog I'd tried to adopt. "He's not a mutt! I'm sure he's a purebred, too... a Chow Chow!"
I fell right into it. "Chow Chow!"
"Gesundheit!" he cried, laughing hysterically at his own wit. Although he wasn't about to be the next Sid Caesar, I forced myself to laugh, too.
I learned the next day that Mike had managed to avoid being spanked and/or sent to bed without supper, though his mother was very mad at me and didn't think it'd be best if we played together for awhile. It was just as well; I had a lot more thinking to do.
That Friday, I couldn't resist strolling by Rogan's junkyard, trying to stay at a safe distance from the gate. Chairman Mao whimpered as he saw me, and I couldn't resist coming closer and slipping him a piece of hot dog I've saved from lunch. Suddenly Rogan came charging out of his shack.
"YOU again!" he screamed. But he made no move to open the gate or run after me. "My GOD, haven't you done enough?"
"What?" I asked in puzzlement.
"WHAT? You positively RUINED my attack dog! All he does since you STOLE him is lie there and whimper, even when I kick him! One of your friends climbed over the fence and STOLE some tires yesterday, and he didn't even bark!"
"I... I'm sorry. I never meant to..."
"Well, you DID! A hundred bucks I spend on that mutt, and it's ALL down the drain! I'll have to put him down now!"
I gaped at him. Could it really be that simple...? "You don't have to do that."
"WHATTA ya MEAN? It'll cost me at least a hundred fifty for a new one..."
"Then I'll give you two hundred dollars. Cash. For the dog. Chair--" I stopped and asked, "What's his name?"
"Can't be bothered with nonsense like that! Where would a kid like YOU come up with two hundred bucks? Unless you stole it?"
I didn't bother to mention that my allowance for a single month amounted to more than that. I opened my purse and gave him $50, all I had on me. He staggered, and I said, "That's a down payment. I'll be right back."
A quick trip to the nearest branch bank and I was back with the money. The moment he saw it and the bank statement, he reached for it, but I said, "First the dog. And if you have any ownership papers, I want those too."
He swore but led me into his shack, which I entered with some reluctance. What if he grabbed the money, and perhaps called Zack to help give me an encore with the plank? But he already seemed to have more respect for a girl who could lay her hands on so much money with so little effort, so he searched through a rusty file cabinet and finally came up with a blue piece of paper. Nothing had been filled out but the breeder's name and date of birth (Chairman Mao was less than two years old; he could probably still have a long and happy life); not even a name for the dog. I had him sign ownership over to me.
"Cynthia Elena Benedetto," I told him as he prepared to fill it in. He jumped as he heard the name; evidently he read the papers or even had personal dealings, most likely with someone far down the chain from Dad.
"Not related to..."
"Gino Benedetto is my father," I told him. He staggered back in horror, and I shot him a fiendish grin as he contemplated the possible consequences of having dragged a Mafia don's daughter into his shack, pulling down her undies, and spanking her with a splintering plank. I finally took pity on him. "Don't worry, he doesn't know about the plank. Good-bye, Rogan. I'd like to say it's been a pleasure doing business with you, but..." I handed him the money and untied Chairman Mao's rope.
He sat down in a relieved daze and began to count the money. "If there's anything at all... HEY!" he roared, just as Mao followed me out the gate. "There's only $130 here!"
I smiled back. "Oh, didn't I mention it? I deducted $20 to pay for that switchblade I lost in your yard. It's yours if you can find it!" He glared at me but made no move to follow as, Chairman Mao eagerly capering at my feet, I left Rogan's Iron and Steel forever behind me.
As I approached my house, I contemplated how to break the news about my new dog to my father. I knew how he'd always felt about dogs, and remembered the way he'd flinched when even gentle Fancy had approached him at the O'Reilly house. Still, I thought as Chairman Mao followed me into the kitchen, maybe if I promised to keep him away from him...
Unfortunately, Dad was seating a sandwich at the kitchen table when we came in, and he stood up and screamed. "CYNTHIA! What did I tell you about dogs! Especially THAT one!" Chairman Mao didn't help matters by bristling and growling at him.
Without a word, Dad pulled me across his lap, raised my dress, and slapped me on the butt. Then he screamed even louder, as Mao jumped up and sank his teeth into Dad's arm.
"No, Chairman Mao!" I screamed. "It's all right, really! Dad's just..."
But Dad had risen to his feet, shaking off my new dog in absolute fury. "MRS. SCALIA!" he roared. Our cook bustled in, and Dad continued, "Take this -- creature to your cottage and lock it up! We'll have it destroyed later!" She and her husband, who worked for Dad as a full-time handyman and gardener, shared a small cottage near the door to the estate.
Chairman Mao looked at me imploringly as Mrs. Scalia hastened to obey. "Please, Mrs. Scalia! Don't..." I wailed, my tears flowing freely. She gave me a sympathetic look, but dragged poor Mao out of the kitchen.
I turned to my father. "Dad, I was wrong. You can finish spanking me, but don't kill Chairman Mao! Take your belt to me if you want, or even a board full of splinters..."
He looked at me in shock. "What are you talking about? What kind of monster would hit a child with a board?"
I realized I'd said too much. I left that part out, but otherwise I told the truth about my experiences with Chairman Mao, most of which he knew already. He made no move to put me over his knee again, but rolled up his sleeve and examined his arm. It was bleeding, but not nearly as profusely as Rogan had been when I'd cut him with my switchblade.
He muttered, "I've probably got rabies..."
"No you don't! Rogan didn't name him, but he did give him rabies shots! See, I have the paper! And I'd feed him out of my allowance, even pay someone to walk him when I'm at school..."
Dad held me as I cried my heart out, but at length he pushed me away from him. "No, princess. Your feelings for the dog are honorable, but my decision is final. You may not keep him."
I burst out crying again, and Dad added, "Still, it seems only fair that he should at least have a chance at life. It wouldn't hurt to let the Scalias keep him while you advertise for a new home for him. But if nobody wants him..."
I wanted him, but I knew Dad's decision was final. Still, at least Chairman Mao was alive, and safe from Rogan. That was one good thing.
* * *
But my despair only deepened over the next week. I'd used up most of the rest of my spending money to buy a large ad in the paper for three days, but it got only a few responses. Only one family with a couple of toddlers actually came to see Chairman Mao, and as soon as Mao barked at the two-year-old his father snatched him up and stalked to his car. Dad was right; nobody did want a two-year-old Chow Chow who'd once been, but was no longer, attack trained. I lived in constant dread that Dad would decide enough was enough, and send him to the same fate he'd have received from Rogan. I thought to myself that I'd at least have been $300 richer if I hadn't bought him, then cursed myself for my insensitivity. I probably didn't deserve to have a dog.
My sleep was often fitful then, but I was jerked out of it one night by Chairman Mao barking and growling... probably one of the last chances, I thought as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, he'd ever have a chance to bark at anything. I got out of bed and went out to the hall, and suddenly stopped. There were loud footsteps around the corner... footsteps that didn't belong to Dad or Mrs. Scalia or Giordano or anyone else who had any business in our house.
I stepped back toward my room to get my bathrobe, when suddenly two men were upon me... two men with far more vicious looks on their faces than Rogan or Zack or anyone else I'd ever met. One of them grabbed me before I could run and clapped his hand over my mouth.
"Who's THAT?" he asked his companion, whom I recognized as Rozini, an assistant gardener Dad had fired two months before for sneaking into the house and pilfering his china.
"That's Benedetto's daughter!" he exclaimed with evident delight. "If we hold onto her, nobody'll dare to get tough with us!"
I struggled, much harder than I'd done even when Rogan had caught me, but the man's grip was inescapable. He clapped his hand across my mouth. "Shut up!" he whispered. "We've got business with your father!"
I shut up as Rozini directed his companion toward Dad's bedroom. I tried to think what I could possibly do, and made my decision. When we were still several feet away from Dad's door, I suddenly sank my teeth into my captor's finger.
"Goddam you!" he whispered, but his hand had loosened. I screamed at the top of my lungs as he let me go.
I don't know what I expected then. A slap on the butt, or even on the face, maybe. What I didn't expect was to be punched square in the mouth... something that had happened to me before, but only from kids my age or not much older. I screamed again, and Dad threw open his door.
And was faced with Rozini's gun. He'd seen me get slugged and stared at the man who'd done it with utter fury, but he only shook his head. "I might have known, Rozini. And... Nick Saladino, is it? Trying to make a power grab?
Saladino grabbed me and held his own gun to my head, "Not trying, Benedetto. There's a new Don in power now. Unless you want this brat to get a bullet through her head..."
He hadn't noticed Chairman Mao. Dad had, but let the commotion drown out Mao's footsteps until the moment he leapt on top of Saladino and sank his teeth into his throat.
Saladino screamed, and Rozini turned his gun toward Mao's head. "I thought you hated dogs, Benedetto!" He suddenly looked back as Dad charged him, ignored Saladino, and pointed his gun straight at Dad. His finger tightened on the trigger, and I screamed as the sound of a gunshot roared through the corridor.
I flung myself onto Dad's body. "Don't die, Dad!" I begged him. I looked back at Saladino, gurgling as Mao's teeth sent his blood jetting onto the clean carpet, and my only thought was that Mao was being too gentle. I looked back at Rozini, whose gun was still raised. Of course! He was going to wipe out Dad's whole family, so there'd be nobody left to take vengeance. Of course he didn't have a son, and his daughter didn't have a husband or even a boyfriend. (Or did Lou Remarra count? Nonsense, and even if he did he'd be incapable of killing even a spider.) But she'd remember, and if I got out of this I'd track them to the ends of...
Rozini was still staring at me, his eyes glassy. Then he fell forward and crashed to the floor, revealing Scalia behind him, his own gun still drawn after shooting Rozini in the back. Dad stirred beneath me. "Good work, Scalia. Let's call the police."
Scalia protested at first, but Dad insisted. "These men are wounded or dead. What of it? They broke into my house, attacked my daughter..." I suddenly put my handkerchief to my face and shuddered at the blood, but the flow was already lessening... "and were attacked by my dog." My eyes brightened at the sentence, and he hastily amended, "My gardener's dog."
Rozini was pronounced dead by the police doctor, and an ambulance was sent for to take Saladino to the hospital. He died on the way there, apparently from wounds, though I'd seen Dad pass some money to an orderly as they carried the wounded man out. I didn't say anything about it, but otherwise answered all the questions honestly, as did Dad. At least he denied having any notion as to why these men would break in and try to kill him, and the police failed to get any other answer out of him.
After the police had gone, Dad lifted me up and carried me back to bed. I knew this was the time to ask. "Uh, Dad..."
"You've seen what Chairman Mao can do now. Can't I please..."
"I'm afraid the answer is still no."
"But he saved your life!"
Dad shook his head. "Do you truly think I am so foolish as to leave my house unguarded? Scalia and several others saw those men the moment they entered the house, and were waiting to make their move. They could have dealt with them much more easily if the dog hadn't awakened you, giving them a hostage at a critical time."
I went limp as he laid me on my bed and began to pull up the covers, "You mean he's still..."
"I'm afraid so. But..."
I sat up in a burst of renewed hope. "But what?"
"You did give me a much more convincing story to tell the police. And it's clear that the dog will risk his own life for you." He paused and added, "Scalia and his wife say he's obedient and doesn't eat much. I don't see why they can't keep him at their cottage indefinitely."
I jumped up and hugged him. "And I can play with Chairman Mao every day! And maybe... bring him to the house? Just a few times..."
Dad pulled the covers over me again and began to tuck me in. "We'll see." Then he shook his head. "But did you have to give him that name? I get enough bad press without someone thinking I'm a Communist."
The following September, Mike O'Reilly came up to me on the playground and invited me to come and visit Fancy's puppies. "You're sure your Mom won't mind? After what happened?"
Mike laughed. "Positive. There's not a trace of anything but Afghan in any of them. Maybe Chairman Mao's impotent."
I shook my fist at him, but couldn't avoid laughing. "When?"
"Tomorrow would be good. Mom wants as many people as possible, especially kids, to help socialize them before they get sold. So ask your friends, too."
I thought about my other friends, but decided against most of them. Lou Remarra and even Doug McMurdo were nervous around dogs, Jessica Harrington would be bored out of her skull, and Porky Judson, who hardly qualified as a friend, would probably tease them. So I was the only one who came home with Mike that Thursday.
As Fancy's seven puppies climbed over us in the basement, licking us and pulling at our clothes, I asked Mike, "You didn't get in any real trouble over those puppies, did you?"
Mike grinned. "No. In fact, since that day we talked, I've only been sent to bed without supper once. When I dropped one of the puppies four days after he was born. And I've never been spanked again. Guess I really am too old for it now."
I concealed my inner wince, because I still wasn't. Only the previous week I'd let Chairman Mao into the living room after it had just been vacuumed, getting his pawprints all over the Persian carpet Dad had just acquired. But he was used to Dad now, and calmly watched as he took me across his knee and gave my undies a good warming. Well, he realized the way things were at least. We all did.
Mike was introducing the puppies. "This one's called Scamp... after the Disney puppy, you know. And this one's Droopy." His eyes brightened as he picked up one of the liveliest of the bunch. And you know this one...?"
I held the puppy in my hand as he went on, "I call her Cynthia. It seems to fit. She's the one we might be keeping, if Dad can be talked into it."
I cuddled my little namesake as Droopy and another puppy got into a scuffling match... a match broken up when Fancy shot out a paw and cuffed both of them. Yes, that was the way things were, all right, I thought as I stroked Cynthia's little head. But sometimes that wasn't so bad.