Being a story of a beloved, if admittedly not terribly bright, minor character who may be familiar to you due to his adventures in The Curious Case of Miss Clementine Nimowitz and Her Exceedingly Tiny Dog, available in Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures
(If you’d like to hear me read this story out loud, here you go!)
Once upon a time, there was a happy little puppy named Chippy. He liked to bark, bark and run, run, but best of all he liked to sniff, sniff. He took Sister on walks where she held on to the leather lead so she would not get lost, just as he’d once taken Mummy on walks. They would walk and he would sniff, sniff at trees and fire hydrants and bushes where all the other dogs and some cats would stop and it was ever so interesting. Yay!
One day Sister wasn’t home, and that was sad. But Sneezy Lady (she smelled of lye and washing powder and it made Chippy’s nose itch terribly) came to hide all the interesting smells, and she left the front door open. At long last, Chippy could go on a walk by himself! He enjoyed walking with Sister and Mummy of course, but sometimes a dog just wanted to walk down the pavement and sniff, sniff where he would sniff, sniff and not be told what he could and could not roll around in.
So out for a walk Chippy went. Yay!
Down the street he strolled to investigate all of the interesting bushes so he could read the mail. People walked past and said nice things to him, so he wagged his tail politely. And then run, run, on to the next place to sniff, sniff. Yay!
At the big red mailbox on the street corner, he heard a man say, “You!” in an angry voice.
Chippy didn’t like the angry voice at all, it made him feel sad. And then he smelled a whiff on the man’s shoes and realized it was Mister Angry, and those were the shoes Chippy had done a Bad Thing on once. He hadn’t meant to do it, but it had happened because his stomach had been so very upset, and he felt very bad about that too.
He tucked his tail and his ears down to show how sad he was, and then Mister Angry swooped him up! Chippy squirmed and yipped and tried to make the best of the situation, because maybe Mister Angry wasn’t so angry anymore and wanted to play. Maybe he had forgiven Chippy for the Bad Thing.
Mister Angry carried him to a waiting steamy puff-puff car, and Chippy was excited because he liked cars. There were always such smells, and sometimes he could stick his head out the window and let the breeze flop his ears. Yay!
But Mister Angry just held him by the scruff of his neck so he had to sit still. He must still be upset about the Bad Thing.
“Grand Aunt Clementine was so fond of you, you little overfed rat, and so is Deliah. I bet she’ll finally give over some of the money that should have been mine so I don’t throw you in the river with a brick tied to your neck,” Mister Angry said.
There were a lot of complicated words in there that Chippy didn’t understand, but he recognized Mummy and Sister’s names, so he wagged his tail.
Mister Angry took him into a house that smelled like boiled cabbage, old shoes, and dust, which was all right but those smells became boring very quickly. He shut Chippy in a little closet and went away. Chippy tried to scratch at the door, but Mister Angry didn’t come back. He sniffed around and cataloged all of the old shoes, nosing them over. One of the shoes had shinies in it. Chippy loved shinies, they were his favorite. He couldn’t resist the taste and licked, licked them until he’d swallowed them all. Which made his tummy feel happy and full of shinies. Yay!
The closet door opened, and Chippy wagged his tail to say hello. It was Missus Angry.
“Why did Morris put you in here?” she demanded, angry.
He tried to lick her hand to make her feel better but she pushed him away, which mixed sadness with the shinies rumbling in his stomach.
“What did you do to the shoes?”
Missus Angry shoved him aside with her foot and he hoped maybe it meant she felt like playing, but instead she seemed to only want to play with the shoes. She shook each one as she put it back. “Did he move the safe deposit keys?” she muttered. “He did say he wanted to check on those papers he took from his mad old aunt’s house—oh you nasty little creature!”
Chippy had wanted to help, so had started sniffing through the shoes again.
Missus Angry grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and he went limp, ashamed. “This is not place I want a dog, let alone a bad little creature like you.”
She knew about the Bad Thing too. Oh, no!
Missus Angry carried him out of the house and put him in the woodshed. “You won’t be able to harm anything here.” Then she shut the door and left him alone.
For a few minutes Chippy felt sad, because this must be about the Bad Thing and he was a Bad Dog, but then he began to sniff, sniff around. He could only be sad for so long.
The woodshed was even more boring and lonely than the closet. There were no shoes, and no shinies either. But Chippy went sniff, sniff and smelled rats. His doggy heart told him that he was supposed to hunt and kill rats. Then maybe Mister and Missus Angry would forgive the Bad Thing. He nosed wood aside and dug into the pile, his stomach rumbling happily around the shinies all the while, and found a big rat hole in the wall. Oho! Rats thought they were so clever. He squeezed through and popped out the other side of the wall, into the overgrown garden of the house.
The garden was very interesting and full of smells, like cats and more cats and even more cats. He ran back and forth and dug around a bit until he had gone sniff, sniff in every corner. Then he thought he should go home to Sister, because she would worry and it was getting very close to tea time.
The fence around the garden was just for decoration, and he could walk right between the iron bars in the gate. He trotted down the pavement, head held high, and paused to sniff, sniff at everything that seemed interesting.
“Oh, what a cute little doggy!” a young woman said.
She smelled of bread and baby burps, which were both smells he liked. So he wagged his tail for her and danced around to say hello, and she scratched his ears.
“Are you wearing a collar?”
She picked him up in her arms in the nice way and he licked her face. She laughed, and the sound made him feel warm and happy around the rumbling shinies that were feeling progressively less and less happy in his stomach.
“Well, little man, you are a long way from home. I shall send your mistress a message so she can come fetch you. But you can spend the afternoon with me.” The young woman carried him to a house down several streets. It was a small house but there were food smells and a squirmy little human in a high chair. She let Chippy wander around in the kitchen and the squirmy little human fed him handfuls of soggy cereal and peas. Yay!
His stomach rolled around and around the shinies and soggy cereal and peas when Sister arrived. Even though he felt strange and weighed down, he still jumped and barked for her. Yay, Sister!
“I can’t begin to thank you enough,” Sister said to the young woman. “Please, if ever you need a favor, do let me know. Chippy is very dear to me.” Then she took Chippy off into a different car, and she let him sit on her lip and sniff, sniff out the window.
“I had the nastiest little note from Morris, claiming he had you, you know,” Sister said during the ride. “But you seem to have rescued yourself quite well. That’s my clever little boy.”
Chippy wagged his tail, though he was beginning to feel a bit odd. Maybe it was the car rocking back and forth.
Sister took him into the house and set him down in the parlor. “And you’re home just in time for supper.”
Chippy loved supper. Yay!
But then his stomach gave one mighty rumble around all the shinies and mushy cereal and peas, and he did a Bad Thing again. Right in front of Sister. In the middle of her carpet that was still new enough it smelled of dyes and wool instead of shoes.
Horrified with himself, Chippy tucked his tail back and let his head hang, waiting to be told he was a Bad Dog. He felt like a Bad Dog.
Sister, a handkerchief over her nose, leaned down to look at the Bad Thing. “Oh my. Are those…keys? They look like safe deposit box keys.” She didn’t sound angry at all. In fact, she sounded pleased. “Did you eat those at Morris’s house? Oh, good boy. You’re a very good dog.”
He was a Good Dog?
He was a Good Dog! Chippy wagged his tail and wiggled happily for Sister. She picked him up and carefully skirted around the Bad Thing on the carpet.
“And you shall have a nice supper of chicken and steak now,” she told him. “While I make certain all of my jewelry and keys are well out of your reach. I don’t know where you picked up this terrible habit.”
Chicken and steak? Yay!
And Chippy was a happy little puppy indeed.
If you would like to read more about Chippy and his human friends, check out Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures!