© 2017 by J.M.STENGL

A Wish Come True . . . .

 

Excerpt from The Lady and the Wish

The little dog ran freely on the lawn among the flower beds, barked his fool head off at some birds, and rolled in the grass until his white coat turned a delicate shade of green.

Lady Beneventi cooed and gushed over the creature. “Darling boy! Now don’t dig holes in the . . . Oh, you silly boy, look what you’ve done!” Not once did she admonish or discipline the destructive beast. His muzzle and paws were soon black with dirt and mud from digging up several small plants, and he sneezed convulsively.

“You, girl, put those plants back where they were,” Lady Beneventi ordered, pointing at them with a gnarled finger.

“Do I look like I’m dressed for gardening?”

“Do I look like I care how you’re dressed?” she shot back. “Do it.”

Score one for the old hag. I squatted, careful of my skirt and shoes, tucked the plants back into place, and gently patted soil around their roots. The gardeners would not be impressed, but I was no farm girl.

“Now clean off my dog.”

I straightened, holding my dirty hands away from my skirt. “Using what?”

Her eyes gleamed with . . . anger? Humor? Madness? “Your fingers?” she snapped. “Your skirt? Make do.”

I was tempted to toss the pompom-infested rat into the pond for quick, efficient cleaning but thought better of it. He might not be able to swim, and I was in no mood to go wading. “Come here, dog.” He would not come to me, no matter how I snapped my fingers and called. I tried to grab him, but he was quick on his feet and evaded me every time. By this time, I was ready to hop into the pond myself, I was so hot.

After observing my efforts for a time, Lady Beneventi said, “Bacio!” The dog immediately ran and jumped into her lap. Holding him with his nose inches from hers, she fawned over the dirty fuzzball, making kissing noises at him. The idiotic pompom on his tail vibrated, and his tongue flicked in and out like a snake’s as he tried to lick her on the mouth. “That’s my little Bacio,” she crooned.

Lady Beneventi glanced up in time to catch my grimace. “That horrid girl doesn’t appreciate your kisses, little man. You are too smart to trust such a shallow, hateful human.”

“Letting a dog lick your mouth is disgusting,” I stated, unable to remain quiet.

Lady Beneventi sat upright, her back straight, her pale eyes narrowed. “Bacio is worth a dozen of you, girl. I wish I had a hundred of him.”

In the blink of an eye, the garden was filled with dirty white toy poodles.

I froze in horror. The dogs dashed about, yapping, digging, chewing, and making messes. All morning I’d feared another crazy event, but nothing could have prepared me for this: The old woman had made a wish that literally came true.

Bacio tore himself out of the lady’s hands and fell upon his likenesses in wrath. But he was no real fighter—the growls and snarls quickly shifted into shrill barking and running. I could only stand and watch in horror as waves of poodles swept past. One little dog wasn’t terribly intimidating, but one hundred toy poodles? That was a nightmare.

I turned upon the lady. “You’re an enchantress! Nobody warned me!”

“Don’t be a blithering fool,” she snapped. Two clumps of her hair were waving about as if caught in a windstorm.

Dogs kept trying to jump into Lady Beneventi’s lap, their claws catching on her pant legs. Even for her, their number was overwhelming. “Take me back to the house, girl. This is all your fault!”

I would have preferred to climb up on the plinth with Giano, but I couldn’t leave that old lady at the mercy of one hundred pompom-tailed monsters. “Get back in your chair,” I ordered, my voice shaking almost as hard as my hands, and hurried to hold the wheelchair for her, shooing dogs off the seat so she could sit down. As soon as she was seated, I turned it around and headed up the path toward the villa.

Servants came running—no doubt the shrill clamor filled the entire villa. None of them even stopped to ask questions. I heard the handsome gardener-man suggest they herd the poodles into the pool enclosure, and soon people were snatching up dogs and shoving them through the gate. But the toy poodles were small enough to slip through or under the fence rails and smart enough to figure this out immediately.

Lady Beneventi began shouting at the dogs to get away, and they obeyed her, tails tucked, eyes sorrowful, following along behind us. We had just reached the level walkway past the swimming pool when one of them—I could swear it was the original Bacio—turned on me and started attacking the ties and straps on my sandals. I nudged him away with my foot, but he charged right back, growling while he wrestled one of the leather ties. Then at least a dozen others got the same idea, all of them attacking my designer shoes!

Right about then, I totally lost it. Sure, they were just tiny balls of white fluff, but they jumped and barked and tugged, and their sharp teeth flashed. One of them leaped up, latched its teeth into my skirt, and started flinging its head back and forth while it hung there, as if it planned to tear the dress off me.

By that time, I was dancing around and screaming—I honestly don’t remember much of what I did, but I know Lady Beneventi was laughing so hard she doubled over in her chair. More dogs jumped up to bite my skirt and dangle there, shaking their heads and growling, their little claws scratching my legs.

I took off running blindly, screaming and dripping with poodles. I tripped, fell on my hands and knees, and was nearly buried in yapping dogs biting my hair and sunhat. One of them pulled off the hat and started a game of tug-of-war with at least ten rivals. Others went for my hair, growling and tugging until it fell over them. I barely scrambled to my feet and sprinted on around the corner with dog-chewed hair streaming over my face and behind me.

Just as I approached the gate to the drive, it opened, and a male figure stepped through. I threw myself at him—pretty much climbed him like a tree—and clung around his neck and shoulders, my legs wrapped around his waist, ankles locked together. Far below, dogs ebbed and flowed around his feet like ocean foam on the green grass.

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