Wedding Bell Blues

By: Meg Benjamin

Pete had a sudden sneaky feeling he knew what was coming. “You want me to take her back to the apartment.”

Cal nodded. “You can keep each other company until the wedding—I’ll find somebody else to take over until we get back from the honeymoon. If you take her home with you now, I can still be around to help out if you need it.”

Pete gave the greyhound a long look. The dog stared straight ahead as Cal rubbed her ears, almost frozen in place. The Toleffsons had grown up with a succession of noisy strays who couldn’t have stood that still if their lives depended on it. The greyhound looked like she’d bathed in Novocain.

Pete scratched the back of his neck. “I don’t know, Cal, I’m not much of a dog man.”

“Since when?” Cal narrowed his eyes. “You’re the one who used to smuggle Granger into bed with him every night. Hell, you had the flea bites to prove it.”

Which, of course, was how his mother had figured out who was hiding the mostly coon hound under the covers.

“Well, Granger was Granger. This one… What’s her name anyway?”

Cal looked down at the greyhound’s head. “Pookie’s Pleasure.”

There was a moment of total silence.

“You made that up,” Pete snapped.

Cal shook his head. “So help me. It was the dog’s racing name. Pookie was the owner’s girlfriend, or anyway that’s what they told me at the rescue center.”

“You can’t honestly expect me to call a dog ‘Pookie’, Calthorpe.” Pete folded his arms across his chest. “It would be an offense to the memory of every dog we ever owned.”

Cal shrugged. “Hey, I own a dog who was originally named Señor Pepe. Sometimes you get stuck with other people’s idiocy. If you don’t like the name, you can always try calling her something else. See if she answers.”

The greyhound shifted her feet, then glanced up at Pete. Her eyes looked like obsidian, dark and shiny. After a moment, she reverted to frozen again.

“Why is she standing so still?”

“Greyhound stress behavior.” Cal rubbed along the dog’s shoulders again. “She’s frightened, but she doesn’t want to show it. She’s been chasing a mechanical rabbit since she was a pup, with a lot of yelling. This is probably the first time she’s ever been in a relatively quiet place. Plus it’s the first time she’s been off a regimented schedule.”

The greyhound’s shoulders shuddered lightly underneath Cal’s fingers. She raised her wary black eyes to Pete again, questioning.

He sighed. “Okay, I’ll do it. Does she have a leash?”

Cal shook his head. “Better wait until tomorrow. The first day she’s out, you’ll need to stay with her all the time.”

“I’m not doing anything in particular—she can hang out with me.” Plus it would give him something to do besides bugging Janie Dupree.

Cal pushed himself to his feet. “Mom might not appreciate that, seeing as how we’re supposed to pick her up at the airport in a couple of hours. And then take her to dinner with Docia and her mom and dad.”

Pete grimaced. He would vastly prefer spending the day with a stressed-out greyhound to spending it with his mother. But he was the best man, and the best man supported the groom in his duties. All of his duties, apparently. “Okay, tomorrow it is.”

Cal thumped him on the shoulder. “Thanks, bro. I knew you’d come through. Come on, I’ve got some greyhound pamphlets for you.”

Pete closed his eyes for a moment, counting to ten. This just got better and better. “Pamphlets. Of course you have pamphlets. Lead away, Calthorpe, lead away.”

Docia came into the bookstore around noon, par for the course these days. Janie was surprised she’d made it in at all, given that The Wedding was less than a week away.

She wore a pale yellow cotton dress—full skirt, halter top, very un-Docia. Janie thought she could count the number of times she’d seen Docia in a dress without running out of fingers. She was usually more a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of girl.

“What’s up?” She kept her voice chipper. Docia looked like she was headed for the gallows. These days Docia looked like that a lot.

“Oh the usual. Flower arrangements. Wedding arch. And my mother-in-law-to-be, whom I’ve never met, is arriving in San Antonio at two.” Docia took a deep breath and gave a bright, totally artificial smile to a passing customer.

“She’ll love you,” Janie said automatically.

“I don’t know. From what Cal and Pete have said, she’s sort of difficult. Love may be asking too much—I’ll settle for tolerate.”

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