C-F-A-F-C or A Promise to Misty

Misty, the beagle

When the one you love goes missing and it’s all your fault, how do you make amends?

An Eddy and McClure Story

Nancy McClure carefully fingered an A chord on her guitar. Three fingers, one on each of three strings, second, third and fourth. She strummed. “Not bad for a rank beginner,” she thought. It wasn’t “her” guitar, really. It was her brother Doug’s. But he had lost interest last year in favor of the swim team and the guitar ended up in the back of his closet.

Nancy had rousted it out last week in a fit of boredom. Now she sat cross-legged on the floor of her bedroom, guitar propped up on her lap. She’d mastered four of the twelve Beginner Guitar Chords according to onlinemusicschool.com and was going for numbers five and six.

Fingering a C chord, she began strumming first the C and then the F.

“Oooooo!” she sang out. “What a beau-ti-ful daaay!”

Mischief, the beagle, was dozing alongside. At the sound of Nancy’s voice, she lifted her head and yowled. “Auuuwooo!”

“Oooooo! That’s all I have to saaaay!”


“Aw, common, Misty!” Nancy glared at her musical partner. “This is a solo, not a duet!”


“Okay, okay. You win. This time only. Come on let’s go outside.”

Before Nancy could put the guitar aside and jump up, Misty was already down the stairs, and waiting at the back door. She wrestled the beagle into her new harness of bright pink felt with green trim and affixed the leash. All the while, Misty was jumping up on her and barking with excitement.

Off they went, Misty pulling Nancy along like a little red wagon. After about a block or so, the beagle started to calm down and trotted alongside her mistress. The yellow and reds of the fall leaves glowed in the late afternoon sun, warm on Nancy’s back. Scuffing through fallen leaves, she headed up Jane Street near Lawrence Road on the way to Crawford Park.

Lawrence Road was the oldest street in Crawford. The sidewalks were bumped up from the roots of old oak trees lining the street. The houses were from the 1920s and 30s with wide front porches and real shutters framing the windows. Picket fences and deep front lawns distinguished the neighborhood as were garden borders with old fashioned flowers like daffodils, lilacs, iris, and hydrangeas blooming in sequence every year. Interspersed between the old-fashioned homes were woods to give privacy and allow for future development.

One of these woods was next to the house belonging to Mrs. Sackett, maker of premier chocolate chip cookies for PTA nights and one of the gossipiest women a small town could have.

It was Mrs. Sackett that thought Eddie Eddy couldn’t even run for dog catcher when he was trying for highway supervisor . And it was she that reminded townsfolk that the Eddy property was unkempt and that the Eddy’s son Hale was “a troublemaker.”

Nancy always tried to steer clear of Mrs. Sackett, who also was a cross walk guard at Crawford Middle School where Nancy was in the 7th grade. But this time Misty was in charge and off they went trotting down Lawrence Road.

Just as they were approaching Mrs. Sackett’s house, Misty spotted a squirrel loping across her lawn. Galvanized, Misty took off like a rocket ripping the lead from Nancy’s hand. Tearing through Mrs. Sackett’s front gate, trampling on her flower border, and barreling across the lawn, Misty set up a frenzied barking as the squirrel leapt onto a nearby tree and sat looking down, chittering in alarm. In doing so, the leash caught the hasp of Mrs. Sackett’s front gate and tore it off at the hinge.

Nancy stood frozen. The trail of destruction was monumental for one small dog. And Mrs. Sackett’s house besides. She felt tears coming and sternly repressed them. “Not now,” she told herself. “Later.”

Mrs. Sackett herself had been resting on the front porch, the smell of newly-baked chocolate chip cookies wafting serenely though the open windows from the kitchen. Soon as Misty entered the yard, Mrs. Sackett was up and starting down the porch steps waving her arms and shouting “Get away! Go away!” Waving your arms on a fairly steep set of steps is not a guarantee for keeping one’s balance. And so it was with Mrs. Sackett. She toppled, waving her arms even more energetically as if to right herself, and crashed in a heap at the foot of the steps.

Nancy thought she would faint. “Later!” she shouted to herself and ran to see if Mrs. Sackett was still alive, though she wasn’t sure what she would do if Mrs. Sackett wasn’t. But she was relieved to see the older woman glaring at her furiously.

“What’s the matter with you? Are you an imbecile? Your idiot dog has ruined my gate, trampled my yard and – oh, oh!” The pain of falling cut Mrs. Sackett’s tirade short. “Oh! Oh! Oh, my Lord! I—I can’t move! Oh!”

“Mrs. Sackett are you alright?”

Mrs. Sackett grimaced, a flash of her old anger masking the increasing pain, “What do you think, you idiot! You careless, privileged, selfish, little brat! I’ve held traffic for you and your snobby little school friends. Nobody ever says ‘Hel-lo, Mrs. Sackett!’ ‘How are you Mrs. Sackett!’ Nooo! Your heads always buried in your phones — Oh! Oh! Oh, my Lord! You! Brat! Do something!”

Trembling, Nancy thought for a moment. “Can you move?”

“No, you fool! Oh, oh!”

“ Mrs. Sackett, I am going to call 911 and get emergency help.”

“Ahhhhhhggg.” Then silence.

“Oh snap! Is she dead?” Nancy tapped 911 with a shaky finger. Giving her name, Mrs. Sackett’s address, a description of the accident and her apparent condition. Nancy squatted by the older woman.

“Mrs. Sackett? Are you alright?”


“Help is coming soon.”


Nancy heard a siren in the distance. “I better call Mom,” she thought and dialed.

“Mom? I’m over at Mrs. Sackett’s house and she’s fallen down. Can you come?”

(Sqawking from the phone as Nancy held it away from her ear.)

“Can you just come, please?” Pause. Moderated squawking. “I love you too, Mom. Please come.”

The sound of the siren came closer, arriving just as Sydney McClure pulled up.

The emergency crew took over. What happened? She fell down the steps. What was Mrs. Sackett’s full name? Antoinette Sackett. (Really? Nancy wondered.) This was her home? Yes. 475 Lawrence Road. Her ID? Likely in the house. (Ms. Sackett gestured weakly towards the front door.) Sydney went inside, found a purse by the telephone and held it up to Mrs. Sackett. (A nod and a wince. Yes.)

Sydney said to the paramedic. “Where are you headed? St. Vincent’s or Southcove? I can meet you there.”

“Southcove,” was the answer.

They loaded Mrs. Sackett onto a gurney, rolled it into the back of the ambulance and took off.

Nancy sat down on the porch steps, heaved a sigh, and began to sob. “It was Misty, Mom! She -she-she r-r-ran after a s-s-ssquirrel through Mrs. (gulp) Sackett’s y-y-yard. She came down the s-s-steps after Misty and f-f-fell down (sniff).”

Nancy suddenly looked up with horror in her eyes. “MOM! Misty! Where is she?”

After calling and calling, it became evident that the beagle was nowhere to be found.


Mischief, aka Misty, was a proud little beagle. At 18 months she was fully grown, complete with big soulful eyes, floppy ears, a pert comma of a tail, and a mission to be the best beagle the McClure family would ever have. She might well have exceeded expectations— until today.

But right now, Misty was lost. She’d treed the squirrel and was feeling pretty good about that when the squirrel took off again along a branch and down the trunk of another tree further into the woods.

Misty took chase crashing through barberry bushes and over rocks. She almost kept up with the squirrel who was now leaping from branch to branch over her head. After a while, even the chasing game was getting tired. It was time to go home. Misty stopped and looked around. Where was home anyway? Woods on all sides. Smells like earth, and mold and deer poo. Hmmm, did she smell a whiff of the Nancy?

Misty snuffled in the fallen leaves a bit, just to make sure, lifted her head with assurance and trotted off in the opposite direction from Mrs. Sackett’s house toward Route 75, the four-lane highway connecting Crawford and Sanders.


Nancy walked tearily back home, her mother heading for Southcove Hospital. Coming through the kitchen, she saw the twins, Desi and Danny, in their underwear for some reason, wrestling on the kitchen floor. Doug was on the phone in the TV room, presumably with his best friend Hale Eddy.

“Hey, guys!!” she shouted. “Meeting in the kitchen right now! Emergency!”

Doug looked in through the kitchen door. The twins just looked bewildered. “What’s up?” Doug asked.

“Misty’s gone missing over by Mrs. Sackett’s house and we’ve got to find her!” Nancy started to sob again and caught herself up. The twins were watching fascinated.

“Whoa! That’s serious! What happened?”

“She took off after a squirrel and pulled the leash from my hand. And, and…Mrs. Sackett was on her porch and fell down the steps chasing Misty. Mom’s going to the hospital with her!”

“Holy candy! You’re in deep, Nan!” Doug prided himself these days on clean-living expletives.

The twins edged in closer as Nancy and Doug sat down at the kitchen table.

“I think, first off, we should have a flyer.” Doug said.

“ I can make a flyer right now.” Nancy ran and got her laptop from her bedroom and opened up Word. In a few minutes she had a flyer which said:

Answers to the name Misty or Mischief.
Classic beagle, 1 year old female, fully grown. Friendly. Wearing a pink and green harness and possible trailing a leash. Last seen at 475 Lawrence Road.
Went missing around 3:50 pm October 14.
Please call cell: 678-846-3737.

“Doug? Do you have a good picture of Misty? She’s asleep in all of mine!”

Doug rapidly thumbed through the photos on his phone. “Check your email!”

Nancy downloaded a sweet photo of Misty and added it to the flyer. “Poor baby,” she thought, looking at Misty’s innocent face.

“Send me the flyer so I can email it!”


“Should be ‘possibly trailing a leash,’ not ‘possible’!”

“Shoot,” Nancy made the change and started to print twenty copies.

Doug added the flyer to emails to veterinarians in Crawford, the ASPCA, the local animal shelter and the library.

When they both came up for air, Nancy looked at Doug. “What’s next?”

“Let’s post the flyers on Mrs. Sackett’s street and ask around her neighborhood.”

“We can’t leave Desi and Danny by themselves!”

“Then we’ll take them with us.” Doug called out, “Desi! Danny! Put your clothes on! We’re going for a walk and you’ve got to come, too!”

Flyers, tape and a staple gun in hand, Doug and Nancy with Desi and Danny in tow started their search for Misty.


When Jane Gardner got a call from Southcove Hospital that her sister Antoinette Sackett had an accident and would be there overnight, she decided to drive to Crawford right away and get to the hospital first thing Saturday morning. “The old bat,” Jane muttered to herself. Then she shrugged mentally. “Oh, well. It was bound to happen one of these days. To her or to me.”

Jane was Mrs. Sackett’s older sister by five years. Unmarried, she kept house for herself in Lexington up north. Her sister visited maybe twice a year once at Christmas and once for her birthday, though neither ever ended up being a happy occasion. This past year they hadn’t seen each other at all.

So it had been a while since Jane traveled to Crawford and the construction on Route 75 had her confused. Stopping for gas just outside of town, she asked the attendant, “Do I take 75 all the way into Crawford or is there a shorter way?”

“Where ya goin’ in Crawferd?”

“Lawrence Road.”

“Ah. The old pert a town. Take 75 to Grand Ave and follow Grand to Jane Street…”

“Hah! Street’s named after me!”


“Never mind. Grand to Jane…”

“…and Lawrence is off a Jane.”


Jane Gardner got into her Subaru Forester and headed back out on the highway.


Around 5:30, Sanford’s phone buzzed as he drove home from work. It was Sydney.

“Sanford, would you fix some dinner for the kids? I’m at Southcove hospital. Mrs. Sackett has had an accident at her house and I happened along to help out.” He stopped for a red light and texted a thumbs up. At the corner of Bank and Broad, at the new stop light, his phone buzzed. It was Sydney. “There’s frozen burgers and leftover mac and cheese. And, would you make a salad?” He texted a thumbs up.

Pulling into the driveway, he observed the house ablaze with lights. The kitchen door was unlocked. “Doug! Nancy!” he called coming into the kitchen. No answer. “Danny! Desi! I’m not playing! Come out wherever you are!” Nothing.

Then he noticed a note on the kitchen table. “Dad, we went to look for Misty at Mrs. Sackett’s house. Love, Doug, Nancy, Desi, Danny”

“A note? Since when do kids leaves notes? They couldn’t text me?” Sanford thought for a moment. “Better go see what they are up to.” He picked up the pencil and scribbled at the bottom of the note: “Sydney, went to get the kids. They are off to find Misty(?) —Sanford” Then he looked up Sackett online, got the address, grabbed his keys, locked the kitchen door, and headed for 475 Lawrence Road.

The first indication that Misty was truly missing was the flyers with the headline LOST DOG that started appearing along Jane Street. Sanford followed the flyers to Lawrence Road and right up to Mrs. Sackett’s house. And there were Desi and Danny chasing each other on Mrs. Sackett’s front lawn. Doug and Nancy were in deep conversation pointing this way and that. They saw the Jeep drive up and ran to the car.

“Dad! Misty’s lost and Doug and I put up flyers everywhere and I want to search the woods next to her house, but Doug—’

“Dad, we need more flyers and it’s going to get dark and we can’t track Misty in the dark and Nan wants to try anyway and—”

Desi and Danny ran up. “Daddy! Daddy! Misty’s missing! We can’t find her!”

Sanford took a deep breath. “Okay! Okay. Everybody take a deep breath.” Sanford took another deep breath himself. “That’s better. Doug’s right. It’s starting to get dark and it will be even darker in the woods. And the flyers–you did the flyers, Nan, right? I thought so. They’re great. But we’re going to need more. And…”

The kids stood silent sensing there was going to be more. There was always more.

“…and, tell you what,” Sanford spoke thoughtfully. “Let’s leave some water for Misty in case she finds her was back here.” At Nancy’s amazed look, he said, “They do you know.” Resuming his thought, he said, “We’ll go have some dinner at the Crawford Diner and make a plan. Then head home and print more flyers.” To himself he added, “And I’ll call the police department, just in case they find something along the road…”

The twins were ecstatic to eat out on a weeknight, even if it was Friday. Nancy was very quiet. Doug nodded looking around Mrs. Sackett’s yard for a bowl for water. He found an overturned flowerpot with no holes in the bottom, filled it at the spigot, and put it near the tree where Misty had chased the squirrel.

“Can we have milkshakes, Dad?” Desi asked. Danny added, “And fries?”

“Get in the car and we’ll see.” Sanford smiled. “The little ones move on,” he thought. “The big ones have already learned to worry.”


Sydney McClure got back home about 7:00 that night.

In the interim, she had learned a lot about Mrs. Antoinette Gardner Sackett, including the fact that she had a son out west and sister up north. Jane Gardner was a “spinster” – as Mrs. Sackett called her. The hospital called Miss Jane and confirmed that she could stay with her sister when Mrs. Sackett was released. “She used to be a nurse,” grumbled Mrs. Sackett. “Got lazy and retired. Humph.”

Sydney stayed with her helping with the admitting forms and keeping her company waiting for the x-ray. Then she was banished to the waiting room to wait by herself until the doctor came out to say that because Mrs. Sackett had apparently hit her head on the way down the stairs and bruised a rib, she would be spending the night in the hospital for observation.

Mrs. Sackett’s fall had not changed her crabbiness one bit. Sydney was hard pressed not to call her up short for all the grief she gave everyone — the paramedics, admittance staff, the emergency doctor, nurses, x-ray technicians – even the housekeeper who came to empty the waste basket. What finally did slow her down was the generous dose of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

When Sydney pulled into the driveway she saw lights were on all over the house. “The place is ablaze,” she thought. Unlocking the door, she called out, “Hey everyone, I’m home! Mrs. Sackett’s okay!” No answer. No movement. No nothing. “Hey, guys?” Sydney looked around the kitchen and saw the note on the table. “…Misty…Mrs. Sackett’s house…” she murmured reading the kids message. Then Sanford’s addition about getting the kids. “Writing notes?” she said out loud, “What year is this anyway?” Fumbling for her phone, she saw the battery was down to nothing. “Great.” she thought, putting the phone on the charger in the kitchen.

Grumpy, she went into the TV room and flopped on the couch to wait.


Misty was hungry and thirsty. Where were the people that put out food and water for her? She tramped on through the woods looking for a path that would surely lead her back to her people. She trotted further away from Mrs. Sackett’s house and deeper into the evening dusk.

She came to a road she vaguely recognized but at this point was too hungry and thirsty and just a little scared to make much of it. So, she crossed Jane Street and followed it up towards Grand and the Route 75 interchange, leash dangling along behind her.

Along came a car flashing high beams in her eyes. She stopped and barked. Were these the people? The car passed. Another car came by. Misty barked. These were the people. She was sure of it. After the car passed it pulled over and came to a stop. A people got out and crouched on the ground next to the open car door.

“Here, boy! What are you doing out late dragging a leash like you ran away. Are you okay? Come here to Mama and let me look at you!”

Misty didn’t recognize that people’s voice. It wasn’t the Doug or the Nancy or the big people. But it was a kind voice and Misty was tired and hungry. She trotted to the people and allowed herself to be stroked and petted.

“What a pretty boy – oops, girl – you are! Where do you live? Where are your tags?”

Mistry liked the people’s voice, so when the people opened car door, she jumped in.

Jane Gardner got behind the wheel. “Welcome to Crawford,” she thought. “Action-packed from the getgo.” She drove down Jane Street looking for Lawrence. Unfortunately, it was too dark to see Nancy’s LOST DOG flyers.


Ranged around the table at the diner, the kids showed that adversity didn’t affect appetites particularly. All except Nancy who was still quiet and withdrawn.

“Okay!” Sanford called the group to order. Let’s plan what to do next. Ideas?”

Doug looked up from his phone. “It says here that you can institute a ground search by dividing up the area into a grid and searching each section with a partner.”

“That could work. Doug and Nan can be one pair, Sydney and Danny, Desi and I can be the other pairs.”

“How big an area is behind Mrs. Sackett’s house, anyway?” Nancy wondered.

Sanford entered “475 Lawrence Road” into his phone and set it to satellite. “Ho, ho! The “woods” behind her house goes along Jane Street all the way back to Grand Avenue. With Crawford Lake on the other side of Jane, that’s a big area! I never realized that.”

Nancy started to tear up. “We’ll never find her. It’s all my fault,” she whispered.

Just then the check came and the twins were getting squirmy, so Sanford herded them all into the Jeep and headed home.

They piled in through the kitchen door to meet with a furious Sydney standing in the middle of the kitchen, hands on hips, and fire in her eyes.

“So here you are! Leaving half-baked notes on the kitchen table. Not even bothering to check in with me. Where were you? Why were you gone so long? What’s going on?” She paused for breath then added sarcastically, “And thanks for including me in your plans, by the way.”

Everyone stopped in their tracks. Then started all talking at once. “We were at the diner and had fries!” “We have a search plan for finding Misty. Can you help?” “Sydney, I’m sorry, there was a lot going on. How’s Mrs. Sackett?” Everyone that is except Nancy who ran up to her room and shut the door.

Mollified, Sydney listened to the search plan and agreed to help out the next morning. “Nancy better print extra flyers. I’ll bring them to the supermarket,” Sanford looked around for Nancy. He found her in her bedroom flat out on her stomach on the bed. Shoulders shaking.

“Aw, baby, don’t take this so hard. Things will work out.” he said sitting by her side.

Nancy rolled over, her tear-stained face and red eyes looking so woeful. “Oh, Dad! I’m so glad you are here! I’ve lost Misty and likely killed Mrs. Sackett. I feel so awful and scared…”

Sanford gathered her up into his lap just like he used to do when she was small. “Nan, Nan,” he said. “Your mom is back from the hospital and Mrs. Sackett will be all right. What we need to do is get up early tomorrow morning and start the ground search Doug suggested. Go wash your face and hands. Can you print some more flyers tonight?

Nancy sniffled and made a small smile. “Yea. I can do that, Dad.”

“Okay. Now wash your face. I love you.”


Arriving at 475 Lawrence Road, Jane let Misty out of the car and began looking for the flowerpot her sister always used for the hide-a-key. The front gate was askew and the flower border looked dug up. “Wonder what she was up to?” Jane thought. “Let’s find that key to the house.” Be sheer luck in the darkened yard she found the key box near the faucet, but the flowerpot wasn’t around. Letting herself in through the kitchen door, she flicked on the lights and saw two dozen chocolate chip cookies on the cooling rack. “Mmmm,” she thought helping herself. “If there’s one thing I envy Antoinette for is her baking.”

There was a scrabbling sound at the back door and there was the dog, tail going like a windshield wiper on high. “Come on inside, little one. I’ll bet you are hungry. We need to find you some dog food.” Jane dug her phone out of her purse and located herself on the map and searched “Nearby Groceries.” There was a Safeway about a mile down Grand. “Okay, doggie-dear. Back in the car. We’re going to get you some dinner!” Scooping up Misty’s leash she headed back out to the car.

Misty liked this new people very much. When Jane’s car pulled into Mrs. Sackett’s driveway and let her out, Misty was thrilled. She knew she’d been here before with the Nancy. So naturally, they would find her and she could go home. Yay! While Jane looked for the hide-a-key, Misty bounded around the car following her own trail to the foot of the tree — wow! there was a bowl of water! Yay! And the scent of the Doug! She barked ecstatically.

The new people were in the house. Maybe she was home already! Misty dashed to the back door and entered Mrs. Sackett’s kitchen.


With everyone back home, except for Misty, of course, Sydney discovered that she was very hungry. She heated up the leftover mac and cheese and made herself some dinner. Wandering into the TV room with her food, she stretched out on the couch. Sanford was there alone and was on the phone. He looked towards her and put a finger to his lips.

“Yes. About 18 pounds. Wearing a harness. Yes, there are flyers around the neighborhood where she got lost. Okay. I appreciate it. Thank you.”

Sydney gave Sanford a questioning look. “The highway department,” he said quietly gesturing with his eyes to the rest of the house where the kids might be.

“Ohhhh.” Sydney took a deep breath. “Oh, Sanford.”

“It may not come to that, Syd. But I wanted to alert the police just in case.”

Sydney curled up next to Sanford. As Sanford put his arm around her, she said, “I hope for everyone’s sake, that never happens.”

They stayed quiet for a while.

“Mom? Dad? Can I come in and be with you?” It was Nancy, still a little tear stained holding another two dozen flyers.

“Of course, baby, come here next to me and we’ll snuggle up to Daddy.”

The three of them sat quiet.

“Hey, guys! I was looking for you.” Doug came in and sat next to his dad. “Kinda lonesome without Misty around.” At Nancy’s sniff, he quickly said, “But that’s all gonna change tomorrow, right Dad?”

“That’s right, Doug.” Sanford looked up, “Well look who’s here!” Danny and Desi in their pajamas came over to the couch and stood looking at everyone.

“We made a sign for Misty,” Danny said. “I colored it!” Desi added.

They held up a hand drawn picture of what looked remarkably like Misty done in crayon and magic marker on notebook paper. “Help Find Our Dog” it said.

Nancy sat up. “That’s amazing guys!” Sidney opened her arms to the twins who crawled onto the couch for a hug.

“I guess we all miss Misty.” Doug looked at his fellow McClures almost as if it was the first time. “Dad!” he said. “You’re sleeping!”

“Huh? What?” Sanford came out of a doze with a jerk.

“Maybe it’s time for all of us to go to bed.” Sydney said. “ Come on twins, bedtime, I’ll tuck you in.”

“Tuck me in, too, Mom?” Nancy asked.

“Sure sweetie. Come on along.”

Doug and Sanford sat in silence for a while.

“Guess it’s just you and me, Dad,” Doug finally said. “Dad? Maybe it’s time for you to go to bed!”

“Huh? What?” Sanford came out of a doze with a jerk.


Mrs. Sackett was having the time of her life. Pain free from the acetaminophen and ibuprofen, with dinner on a tray and multiple people to harass, she now lay watching the TV her hospital roommate had ordered. “Wheel of Fortune! Hrrumph! Stupid show,” she thought, watching avidly. “Buy an “a” you nincompoop! The word is Halloween!”

Soon she began to feel extraordinarily sleepy. Her eyelids started to droop and her breathing became very slow. She opened her eyes one more time and there at the foot of her bed was Henry Sackett. “Henry! What the deuce are you doing here?”

Henry Sackett came around the bed and took the chair by her side. “Came to see you, Toni-girl. Make sure you are all right.”

“Henry Sackett! You are dead! You’ve been dead for the last 15 years. What do you care if I’m all right or not. You sure didn’t when you were alive.”

“Now, Toni. You’ve always had a trigger temper. Maybe this time you got what you deserved. Scaring that little girl. And chasing off her dog. You gotta calm down in life. Take it from me. I wasn’t the nicest guy on the block and now I wish I’d tried harder to mend my ways.” Henry took Mrs. Sackett’s hand and stroked it softly.

The touch of gentleness warmed her hardened heart in a way she would have never thought possible. It has been too long since anyone showed her unconditional kindness. She had borrowed into her own bad temper as a defense. She knew it was just a defense. Henry’s touch brought it all to the fore.

“Henny, maybe we didn’t try hard enough to be good to each other. Bickered a lot. You drank. I was a crank—” She laughed. “Made a rhyme, Henny.” They smiled at each other for the first time in more than 15 years.” Still smiling, Mrs. Sackett fell asleep.

It was morning when she woke up and there was her sister Jane standing at the foot of her bed.

“’Bout time you got here,” she groused.

“Well, I’m here now,” Jane replied. “How are you, Toni? What happened?”

“I tripped and fell down the porch stairs chasing a dog that tore up my flower bed and broke my front gate.” Mrs. Sackett started to boil all over again. “He was on a leash and the little girl just let him go! Now I’m laid up and I don’t know what’s going on.” She added, “Henny was just here.”

Jane blinked. “Oh, really?” she said slowly.

“Yeah. After all these years. He actually said he was not the best husband in the world. Held my hand.”

Jane swallowed. Henry Sackett had been a lout at 15 years old and dead for as long. Her sister was hallucinating – the drugs or maybe a concussion? She decided to go with it.

“I’m glad he made amends, Toni.” Jane chose her words carefully. In her experience anything could set her sister off and it would be war from that moment on. “And I’m here to give you a ride back home. Keep you company for a while til you get back to your routine.”

“That’s nice.”

“Nice?” Jane thought. “Maybe Henny really was here and made up with Toni.” She determined to not let Mrs. Sackett get “her goat” like they used to say.


While Jane Gardner was at the hospital getting Mrs. Sackett, the McClure family with the addition of Hale Eddy, Doug’s best friend and Hale’s brother Palmer, who was in the same grade as Nancy, were starting out for Mrs. Sackett’s house to search for Misty.

“Ever done a ground search before?” Doug asked Hale and they walked along.


“We split up into groups of two and each take a section of the woods behind Mrs. Sackett’s house and look for clues.”

“What kind of clues, dog poop?”

“Maybe. Or scuffed leaves, scratches. Maybe her leash left behind. Like that.”

“Sounds iffy. Wanna go to the DD’s over on Grand after this?”

“Um. Sure. If it’s okay with the search party. After all, we’re here to find Misty.”

“Yeah. Sure.”

Nancy was walking with Palmer. “So, when we find evidence in our section that Misty has been there, we text everyone and we stay put until they get to where we are.”

“You got Family Sharing on your phones?” Palmer asked. “They’ll find you faster that way.”

“Good idea. Mom!” Nancy called to Sydney walking with Sanford and Danny and Desi. “Let’s all connect on our phones so we can find each other!”

The kids and adults stopped in a clump to connect their phone’s location with each other. The resulting GPS map showed all their photo icons clustered on lower Jane Street.

Sydney and Sanford walked along with Desi and Danny. “What’s a ground search, Mom?” Desi asked.

“We’re going to spread out in the woods behind Mrs. Sackett’s house and look for Misty.”

“Think she’s still there, Mom?” Danny looked worried.

Sydney repressed a sigh. “I think so, Danny. I hope so.”

“You guys stay with Mommy and me,” Sanford looked at the twins. “Let’s hold hands so we don’t get lost as well.”

Arriving at Mrs. Sackett’s house, the three teams spread out and entered the woods. They called to each other as they went along, but as the woods got wider and thicker, they soon lost sight of each other. The GPS location sharing kept them in touch with each other.

Nancy and Palmer had the outer edge of the woods nearest to Mrs. Sackett’s house. “Here’s where Misty treed the squirrel.” She pointed to the maple now in brilliant fall color.

“Where did she go from there?”

“I don’t know. That’s when Mrs. Sackett fell down the stairs. I wish I did.”

Doug and Hale tramped through the woods. It was more like a hike than a search. “Slow down, Hale! We have to look around!” “Oh, yeah, right.” They surveyed the area. Everything looked like a woods. Leaves, twigs, rocks, trees.

“What’s that?” Hale pointed to a twig with a bright pink piece of fluff attached to it.

“Whoa! This could be from Misty’s harness!” Doug knelt by the twig. “I’d say it definitely is from Misty’s harness. “

“See where we are on your phone. Who else is nearby?”

“It’s Dad and Mom and the twins. I’ll call Dad.”

Sanford answered his phone. “Yes, Doug?’ He listened. “Interesting. I’ll be right there. Stay put.” Turning to Sydney, “Doug says he found some fluff from Misty’s harness. Can you manage with the twins while I check it out?”

At Sydney’s nod, he started off following the map on his phone towards the dot where Doug was.

Sydney watched Sanford disappear into the brush. “Okay, my dears, Take my hand. Let’s see if we can find Misty.” With a Danny on one side and Desi on the other, they walked together through the woodland. Sydney looked for signs of a dog. The twins looked at everything.

“What’s that sound, Mom?” “A woodpecker.” Giggles. “A wood pecker?” Giggles. “What’s that, Mom?” “What?” “That pile of pebbles.” “Desi, that’s deer poo – Danny, don’t touch it!” “Mom, are we going to find Misty?” “I hope so.”

Sydney and the twins reached the upper end of the woods on Grand Street way before everyone else. “I’m going to ping your father and tell him we are going to walk back home.” They started down Jane Street. The sidewalk faced traffic so as they walked back they didn’t see the Jane’s tire tracks from last night and the doggy paw prints in the soft earth on the other side of the street.

With Sanford along, Doug and Hale didn’t find any more fluff, but the location of the fluff they did find showed Misty was headed up towards Grand Street. As they exited the woods on Grand, Hale said to Sanford, “I’m headed for DDs, can Doug come?” “All right. Doug, get home by one o’clock, you have Saturday chores.” Sanford crossed Jane Street with the boys. They headed for DDs and Sanford started down Jane along the shoulder.

About 100 yards along, he saw tire tracks on the shoulder. He almost walked past but something made him take a closer look. That’s when he saw the paw prints and how they stopped next to the tire tracks.

“Someone picked up Misty!” It wasn’t much to go on, a piece of fluff, some paw prints, and tire tracks, but somehow he was sure of it.

“Now what am I going to tell everyone,” he thought.


After they searched their part of the woods as best they could, Nancy wanted to look around Mrs. Sackett’s yard to see if maybe Misty had gone another way. “Just to check and be sure,” she said to Palmer. So, they retraced their steps back to Mrs. Sackett’s house.

They stood and looked at the house. “Let’s circle the house and back to the tree.” Palmer followed her as she walked toward the back yard near the garage. “Do you hear something?” he said. Nancy listened. “It’s very faint,” he said. She shook her head. “Doesn’t sound like a dog barking to you?” She listened again. “No. I think you’re hearing things and it’s not nice to tease.” Palmer shrugged. “I wasn’t teasing.”

Misty spied the Nancy and another people from the front window. There they are! There are my people! Misty barked and barked, but the Nancy and another people kept on walking. Misty stood paws on the sill and watched them walk away until she couldn’t see them anymore. Jumping down from the window, she flopped down resting her head on her paws, soft beagle eyes staring sadly. Surely the people would come for her soon.


Mrs. Sackett didn’t get discharged from Southcove Hospital until 4pm. It had been a long afternoon. First there was lunch to be eaten at 12:30. “What is this?” “Rice pudding.” “Ugh! Looks like rabbit puke!” “That’s what rabbit puke looks like, I didn’t know.” “You don’t know anything, Jane, and that’s a fact.”

Then the wait for the doctor’s final visit. “What time is it?” “Quarter of two.” “Well, where is he? I want to go home!” “He’ll be along. He’s got other patients to see.” “Go see what’s keeping him.” “Toni, I will not ‘go see what’s keeping him’. He’ll be here when he gets here.”

The discharge nurse briskly entered Mrs. Sackett’s room around 3:15. “Where the hell have you been?” “Excuse me, you’re Mrs. Antoinette Sackett?” “Hurrumph!” “Yes, she is. I’m her sister. How can I help?”

By that time, it was all Jane could do to keep her own temper in check.

The nurse consistently addressed Jane with her questions thereby infuriating Mrs. Sackett to the point of apoplexy.

Nurse: Where will she go? With you?

Mrs. S: Of course not. She lives miles away. I want to go home.

Jane: I’ll stay with her at her house until she’s feeling better.

Mrs. S: I feel fine!

Nurse: Where is her home?

Mrs. S: It’s my home! 375 Lawrence Road. In Crawford. And don’t talk over my head!

Jane: It’s 475 Lawrence Road.

Mrs. S: That’s what I meant!

Nurse: (unperturbed) Here’s a list of precautions she should follow. No stairs for two or three days. A prescription for pain relief. Take two times a day as needed. She needs plenty of rest. No strenuous activity – cleaning, cooking. No bending over to pick up something or reaching for something overhead.

Mrs. S: You done? Cause I’m ready to get out of here.

Jane: Got it.

Nurse: If she’s dizzy or disoriented, is nauseous, or gets overly excited, check with her doctor. If she becomes unconscious, call 911.

Mrs. S: What the hell do you think is wrong with me? Am I on my deathbed?

Jane: Now, Toni… (to nurse) Thank you. I’m glad I have nursing experience.

The nurse gave Jane a speaking look of pity, gave Mrs. Sackett the papers to sign and got her into wheelchair.

On the way home, Jane asked, “Toni, how are you really feeling?”

Antoinette Sackett looked over at her sister. A tear glistened in the corner of her eye. “I feel pretty terrible,” she said slowly. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty terrible.”

“We’ll be home soon.”

When they pulled into the driveway, Jane motioned for Mrs. Sackett to stay in the car while she unlocked the kitchen door.

From the window of the kitchen, Misty saw the car pull into the driveway. The people are here! They’ve some to take me home! She bounced across the kitchen floor and waited impatiently at the door. Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy! Now I get to go home! Yay!

When Jane opened the kitchen door, Misty bounded out barking joyously. Jumping up and down like a pogo stick, she greeted Jane and tore towards the car, ready to jump in.

Mrs. Sackett was trying to stay awake. The pain killers and excitement were taking their toll. But when she saw that self-same dog that got her into this mess come charging out of her very own house, she completely lost her temper. Jumping out of the car she went after Misty. “Get away, you vile dog! You are the cause of all this! Shoo! Shoo!”

Misty took off for the woods and Mrs. Sackett felt the blood rushing from her head. She took a step, swayed, and toppled to the ground.

“Cripey!” Jane thought. “Here we go again.” She ran down the steps stripping off her sweater as she went and wadded it up to put under Mrs. Scakett’s head. Soon Mrs. Sackett was stretched out son the ground, with her legs lifted to get blood flow back up to her head.

“Toni? Toni? Can you hear me?”

Mrs. Sackett moved slightly and opened her eyes. “What just happened?”

“You got up too quickly and did a faint. Rest here for a minute and we’ll get up slowly and get into the house.”

For once Toni Sackett did not argue or fight back. She sighed and rested her head on Jane’s arm. “Okay.”

It took Jane about forty minutes to get Mrs. Sackett up and into the house, into comfy clothes and sipping homemade hot soup which she found in the fridge.

“You are a good cook, Toni,” Jane said. “And baker. I snitched a couple of your chocolate chip cookies and they are stellar.”

Mrs. Sackett looked up from her soup and said nothing. Jane kept up the small talk lighting on a topic that she thought would help her sister get over the whole “dog” thing.

“Remember Moxley? Our dachshund? I was just thinking about her. Those little legs that would go so fast they were a blur.”

“Oh, my. I had forgotten all about her. Moxley. How did we come up with that name?”

“We were living in Knoxville, remember? And there was this mountain folk tale about little creatures – I’ll bet they were shrews – that they called moxleys. They would scamper about under the house.”

“That’s right! And Moxley was always burrowing under the crawlway to get at them.”

“Dachshunds are like that. Moxley used to dig up the garden, too. Remember?” Jane bit her tongue mentioning digging up the garden. Would Toni got ballistic again about the little beagle that tore up hers?

But Mrs. Sackett didn’t make the connection thankfully. “She was a stubborn little dog. Only came when it suited her. And picky with food!” She thought for a moment. “I loved her, though.”

“How old were you when we had Moxley, Ton?”

“Oh, I’d say twelve or thirteen. Maybe twelve. Moxley was my best friend at the time. Funny how I’d forgotten all about her.”

“So I was seventeen or eighteen, then. Before we moved from Knoxville.”

“I guess,” Mrs. Sackett yawned and then yawned again. “Jane?”


“Would you help me go to bed, now? I’m fearsome sleepy.”


A half hour later Jane stood at the back door looking out at the night. “Where oh where is that little dog now?” she thought. Then she heard a little whimper. “Is that you, little lady? Come on up here on the porch. I’ll get you some dinner. Then let’s think about what we are going to do with you.”

Misty crawled up the steps and looked up at Jane tail wagging like an old fan in a hot hotel. When Jane returned with her dinner, she perked up a bit but didn’t eat as much as she could have.

This is a nice a people. The other people is not nice. I want to go home. Misty put her paws on Jane’s knee, then laid her chin on her knee.

“Aw, girly-girl. Who are you?” Jane had picked up Misty’s harness on the way out with the idea that they would go for a walk while she considered what to do. The dog couldn’t be inside with her sister that was for sure. But it was getting chilly at night and it was not right to leave a dog outdoors in the strange place or anywhere for that matter. She settled on a solution of a blanket and chair on the porch.

As Jane helped Misty step into her harness, she caught sight for the first time of the name and phone number inscribed on the clasp across the back. “Oh-ho! So your name is Mischief, is it? Well, that sure fits, little Miss Mischief!”

At the sound of her name, Misty barked. “Shhhh!” Jane shook her head. “Don’t get into any more mischief today, okay? I’ll call this number tomorrow and hopefully you can go home.”

Harness on, the tall gray-haired woman and the little brown and white dog with a bright pink harness started up Lawrence Road toward Grand.


Sydney McClure looked in at the twins, who were already fast asleep. “Unless they are pretending again,” she thought. “ Danny…Desi…” She spoke softly. No response. “Okay, you’re asleep.”

She passed by Doug’s room hearing that he was on the phone. “Hale, most likely.”

She came to Nancy’s room and the light was on and Nancy was sitting on the floor with Doug’s guitar.

“Hi, sweetie. Can I come in for a bit?”

“Sure.” Sydney sat down on the bed. Nancy was cross-legged on the floor with the guitar in her lap. “Want to hear the song I made up for Misty? I call it ‘A Promise for Misty’.”

Sydney eyes widened. “Yes, of course.”

Nancy began to sing using the four chords she had learned on Doug’s guitar.

I’ll take care of you
I’ll take care of you
Whatever else I do
I’ll take care of you
I’ll be there for you
I’ll be there for you
Because I care for you
I’ll be there for you
I’ll hold you in my arms
I’ll hold you in my arms
To keep you from all harm
I’ll hold in in my arms
I will see you through
I will see you through
You can depend on me
Like I depend on you
I will see you through
I’ll be here for you
I’ll be here for you
When your day is through
I’ll be here for you

When she finished, Sydney sat looking at her sweet, young teenager. Smart, sensitive, grown up, yet still a child. Caught in her first trauma of her own making.

“That’s beautiful, Nan,” she whispered. She felt a knot in her throat of love for this girl. “We’ll find Misty, dear. I know we will.”

“And that Mrs. Sackett gets better,” Nancy added.

“And that, too, dear. Please go to sleep soon. It’s been a long day.”

Okay, Mom. I’ll go to bed soon.”

“Good night, sweetheart.”

“’Night, Mom.”

Sydney walked slowly down the hall to her bedroom. Sanford was at the door. He folded her in his arms and murmured, “I heard her song. She’s pretty special, Syd.” “So are you, Sanford.” They quietly closed the door to their bedroom.


Early Sunday morning Sydney’s phone rang. She reached for the phone on the bedside table and answered in a gravelly voice, “Hello?”

“Hello? My name is Jane Gardner. I’m staying with my sister Antionette Sackett. You may know her.” Sydney sat up, wide awake.

“Yes, I do—” Sidney started to say, but Jane was going full steam ahead.

“My sister suffered an accident on Friday and I drove in from Lexington to take care of her while she recovers. Along the way, I found a little dog—” Sydney gasped. “—who was lost. I think she belongs to you.”

“I-I I can’t believe it —am so grateful—Is she alright? The dog, I mean. And Mrs. Sackett, of course, too, of course.— Oh, thank you, thank you! You don’t know what this will mean to my little – well, teenage — girl. And, well, the whole family, really.” Sydney knew she was being incoherent, but she just didn’t care.

“Are you nearby? Would you like me to bring her to you?”

Sydney pulled herself together. “You’re Jane Gardner,” she said. “The hospital contacted you on Friday night. My daughter Nancy was the one that called the ambulance for Mrs. Sackett and I accompanied her there. My name is Sydney McClure. And you found our dog! That is so incredible!”

“It is coincidental isn’t it. Also, that my sister’s accident was also due to a dog! What’s the likelihood of all that happening?”

Sidney paused. This Jane person sounded a little cold and reserved. But it was time for the truth. She took a deep breath. And chickened out. Instead, she said, “Can we meet somewhere, maybe Crawford Park? I don’t want to bother Mrs. Sackett, but I would like to meet you and talk with you.”

Jane cocked an eye at the phone. “Alright,” she said slowly. “When?”

“In fifteen minutes?” Sydney hoped she didn’t sound pleading.

“That should work. I’d like to walk the dog anyway and I can hand her off to you there.”

Sidney breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s a good idea. Thank you.”

“What’s up, babe?” Sanford opened a drowsy eye.

“I’m going to go meet Jane Gardner, Mrs. Sackett’s sister.”

“Oh. Umph.” Sanford groaned and pulled the pillow over his head.

Sydney threw on some clothes, got her jacket from the front hall, and started off to Crawford Park.


Nancy woke Sunday hearing her mother’s phone ring. The events of the past two days since Misty ran away came flooding back. She curled up in bed and pretended Misty was there beside her. She had almost drifted off to sleep again when she heard her mother come down the hall. She listened and the sound of the front door closing made her sit up in bed. “First her phone rings, then she tiptoes out? she never goes out on Sunday mornings,” she thought. “What’s up?”

She slid out of bed and pulled on a sweater and jeans. “I think I need to find out.” Nancy had never been sneaky in her life, but today was different somehow. With Misty gone the norms had changed and it felt like anything goes. She crept down the stairs and let herself out the front door.

“Whoo, should have worn a jacket,” she thought, striding along in the crisp morning air. Then she saw her mother some blocks ahead just turning into Jane Street. “Where is she going? Maybe just for a walk and some ‘me time.’” Nancy had read all the Shape magazine articles Sydney kept in the TV room. She slowed her pace to keep from catching up.

Nancy reached Jane Street just in time to see her mother stop at Lawrence, wave (“Wave?” Nancy thought.), and disappear from view. As she reached the corner of Jane and Lawrence, there was her mother talking with a tall lady in front of Mrs. Sackett’s house. (Mrs. Sackett. Nancy shivered.) The tall lady had a dog on a leash – OMG! It’s Misty!

“Misty! Misty!” Nancy shouted and started running.

Misty was happy to be outside with the nice people. The inside place did not smell like home and it made her uncomfortable. So, she submitted to the harness and leash and dutifully followed Jane down the porch steps. As they started down the front walk, Misty saw one of the other people coming towards them. That made her very happy and she danced at the end of the leash. Then she heard a familiar voice calling, “Misty! Misty!” She knew that voice anywhere. It was the Nancy! Yay! Hooray! Time to go home!

Misty tore the leash from Jane’s hand, shot through the garden border (again!) taking down a birdbath along the way, and bounded into Nancy’s arms, tail wagging furiously, barking ecstatically, licking Nancy’s face until the two of them fell back on the sidewalk in pure bliss.

Jane and Sydney stood at the foot of the porch steps. “Your daughter?” Jane asked rubbing her hand.

“Nancy. She’s thirteen.”

“A match made in heaven,” Jane observed watching the joyous reunion.

“We got Mischief for the whole family, but it was obvious from the beginning that Misty – as we call her – preferred Nancy.”

As they watched, Nancy looked up towards them and suddenly she froze. She pulled Misty to her and slowly stood up. Jane and Sydney followed her gaze.

There was Mrs. Sackett standing on the top step of the porch. Her hair uncombed, her bathrobe catching the breeze, her eyes shooting both fire and ice as she glared at Nancy.

Nancy stood straight and tall. Misty leaned against her looking nervous and quivering a little.

Jane made the first move. She quietly mounted the steps and took Mrs. Sackett’s arm. “Toni, let’s sit down on the porch. I’ll get you a blanket.”

Nancy who was stock still, barely breathing. Sydney drifted back to stand behind her, hands comfortingly on Nancy’s shoulders.

Jane returned with the blanket and tucking it up she whispered, “Toni, remember having the love of a dog when you were thirteen?” Nod. “This young girl is thirteen and she has a dog she loves dearly. She is you 60 years ago.”

Mrs. Sackett looked out at Nancy still as ice Misty at her feet.

“Remember what Henny told you in the hospital?” Mrs. Sackett’s eyes dropped to her hands twisted in her lap. “Yes,” she said slowly hearing Henny’s voice in her memory.

“Now, Toni. You always had a trigger temper. Maybe this time you got what you deserved. Scaring that little girl. And chasing off her dog. You gotta calm down in life. Take it from me. I wasn’t the nicest guy on the block and now I wish I’d tried harder to mend my ways.”

“He took my hand and stroked it like he never was able to do in life,” Mrs. Sackett’s eyes misted over. She looked up at her sister and sighed deeply. Then she looked out at her bedraggled garden and sighed again.

“I can’t talk to anyone today, Jane. My head hurts and my ribs hurt and I am very tired. Tomorrow.” She closed her eyes.

Jane came down the porch steps, stopping to look at the ravaged garden, and met Sydney and Nancy at the end of the front walk. “Can you visit us tomorrow for tea?” she asked.

Nancy’s eyes widened. Sydney put her arm around her daughter and gave her a squeeze. Nancy knew what that meant. “You are on your own. I will back you up whatever you decide, but this is your decision.”

Just like the old lady on the porch Nancy took a deep breath. She looked down at Misty who looked back at her with trust and adoration. She looked at the garden, the birdbath, the broken gate and sighed again. Then she cleared her mind and said quietly, “Yes, I would like to visit and apologize to Mrs. Sackett.” She paused then said, “Can my mother come, too?”

“Of course. But Nancy, this time it’s best to leave Misty at home.”

Nancy nodded and gave Jane a small smile.

Sydney, on the other hand, gave Jane an incandescent smile. “I am so pleased to have met you, even under these circumstances. And…” Sydney raised her voice to be heard on the porch, “our thanks to you and Mrs. Sackett for having us to tea tomorrow. We’re delighted to accept. We can come after school. Is about 3:30 okay?”

Jane smiled yes and Sydney and Nancy turned to go.

As they walked down Lawrence Road towards Jane Street, Misty bouncing as her side, Nancy turned and looked back at Jane. “Thank you,” she mouthed.


Yay! I’m home! Misty was in a permanent state of ecstasy. It’s so much fun to chase the people that look the same! Misty ran back and forth in the yard with Desi and Danny. The Doug is throwing the disc! Yay! Misty ran and jumped, tearing back to Doug with the Frisbee ready to go again.

Later, she gobbled a meaty supper prepared specially by Sydney with the whole family looking on. Yum! So hungry! So happy!

After dinner for the remaining McClures, Sanford called everyone to order. “Meeting in the TV room. All must attend.” There was a general shuffle as everyone headed for the TV room, Misty following along behind.

“Starting next week,” he pronounced, “Misty goes to dog training school. She’s just old enough at 18 months to learn manners. I will pay to have Mrs. Sackett’s garden and fence repaired. Nancy, I want you to contribute to the effort from your allowance and you and Doug are responsible for Misty’s training. Understand?”

“Yes, Dad.” Okay, Dad.” “Can we help, too?” Desi rubbed Misty’s head.

“You watch what Nan and Doug are doing and be sure you understand the rules. I don’t want either of you to make it difficult to train Misty not to pull on the leash or chase squirrels.”

“Okay, Dad!” The twins giggled and poked each other.

That night, Misty lay on the bed in Nancy’s room while she finished her homework assignment on geography as a factor in the rise of civilzations. Taking a break, she looked over at the exhausted little beagle. “I think I’ll sing you your song, Misty.” She picked up the guitar and strumming gently began to sing.

“I’ll be here for you. I’ll be here for you. When your day is through,
I’ll be here for you.”

As she finished, Misty’s head drooped and eyes closed in perfect contentment.


Mrs. Sackett sat with her sister on the porch. She looked over the front yard mentally replacing the flower beds, uprighting the birdbath, and getting a new latch for the front gate. “Where’s the flowerpot for the key?” she asked.

Jane pointed. “Looks like it’s over by the tree.”

“Oh, I see it. How the heck did it get there, I wonder?”

“Goodness knows. I’ll put it back by the faucet and tuck the key away. I still have it in my purse.”

“No hurry. Just peculiar don’t you think?”

“Somewhat, I guess.” Jane changed the subject. “Toni, are you truly ready to meet that little girl and her mother tomorrow afternoon?”

Mrs. Sackett closed her eyes for a moment. “Yes, Jane. Henny was right. I gotta calm down.” She thought for a moment. “She seems like a nice girl. Brave. I couldn’t stare her down.”

“I noticed that.” Jane chuckled. “I think you are beginning to feel a bit better.”

“I think so. Anyway, let’s think about what we should have for our “tea party” tomorrow. We’ll have to have chocolate chip cookies, that’s for sure.”

And so, the two sisters began to plan a sumptuous tea for their new guests.


Nancy just couldn’t concentrate in geography class. It was the last class before school let out and all she could think about was what would happen at Mrs. Sackett’s tea party. She determined not to be afraid or if she was not to show it. She would just think about was how happy Misty was to be home again. She smiled to herself.

“Nancy McClure!” It was Mrs. Goldfeld. “When you return from dreamland, would you please and tell us the meaning of the word Mesopotamia and where it was situated?”

Nancy flushed crimson. She was a straight A student and this was the height of embarrassment.

“Yes, I –” She scrambled to collect her thoughts. “Yes. Well, the word Mesopotamia –”

Just then the bell rang and the clatter of twenty-eight students exiting Mrs. Goldfeld’s geography class masked her reply. “—means two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates.” Mrs. Goldfeld smiled approvingly above the racket.

Looking back on that afternoon, Nancy felt she had never walked home from school so fast. She was home by twenty after three.

Bursting into the kitchen, she called, “Mom, Mom! We got to go! We said we’d be there at three-thirty!”

Sydney picked her car keys off the rack. “Well, wash your hands and face and meet me at the car. Afterwards we’re going to sign Misty up for dog training.”

Just as she was about to leave, Nancy ran back upstairs and picked up the guitar put it in its case. Breathless, she slid into the back seat. Sydney looked into the rear view mirror. “What are you doing back there?”

“I wrote a song for Mrs. Sackett and if it seems right, I want to sing it for her.”

“Well, that’s lovely, dear. I hope you have a chance to sing it.” And off they went.


Jane looked out the living room window. “Here they are.”

The tea fixings were all set out. Pâté, red pepper feta spread, salmon on toast rounds, grapes, tiny butter pecan souffles, and, of course, a plate of chocolate chip cookies along with tea, coffee and ginger ale.

There was a low bouquet of tuberoses in the center of the coffee table smelling like lace and oranges and creamy peaches. The floral teacups were trimmed in gold and the old ivory linen napkins had hand crocheted edges and a monogram “S” on the outer corner.

Nancy took all this in in awe and the women greeted each other. She was starting to feel like maybe she should courtesy when Jane drew her into the conversation.

“Well, hello again, Nancy. I’m Jane Gardner. Everyone calls me Miss Jane and you can, too.” Jane gave her a welcoming smile.

“Hello, Nancy.” Mrs. Sackett patted the seat next to her. “Would you join me for some tea? Or would you prefer ginger ale?”

Nancy swallowed and tried not to look nervous. She played back all the scenes from Jane Austen’s Emma that she’d read over the summer. “Thank you, Mrs. Sackett. Some tea would be very nice.” She sat down very straight on the couch.

Jane was pouring tea from an elegant footed teapot that matched the cups. She and Sydney began talking about how Crawford had changed – and not changed – since the last time Jane had visited.

That left Mrs. Sackett and Nancy to themselves.

“What’s your full name?” Mrs. Sackett asked.

“Nancy Grace McClure.”

“Do you have brothers and sisters?”

“I have an older brother, Doug, and two younger brothers, twins, Desi and Danny. Rather, Desmond and Daniel. My stepbrother is Sheldon. He’s in college. Oh, and Doug is short for Douglas.”

“I gathered that,” Mrs. Sackett said drily. Speaking of names, why did you name your dog Mischief?”

Nancy gulped. Here we go, she thought readying herself for a stern reprimand.

“Well, when she was a puppy, she was very curious. She wanted to know about everything. Like she wanted to be the best beagle the McClure family could ever have. But sometimes, well, actually, a lot of the time, she went overboard and got in trouble. Like she did on Friday and ruined your garden.”

Then all in a rush, Nancy blurted out, “I’m so really sorry that your garden got destroyed and that you were hurt because of my dog. It was all my fault. I didn’t have a good grip on her leash and she just took off. I apologize for all the inconvenience and pain and disruption I have caused.”

About halfway through her apology, Jane and Sydney had paused their chat and Nancy’s voice rang out in the room.

So did Mrs. Sackett’s. “At first, well, more than at first, I was very angry. I guess you must have sensed that. But this episode has slowed me down. Since I’ve been back from the hospital, I’ve been thinking. For some people what happened would have been unfortunate but they wouldn’t have acted so mean and called you names, made fun of your friends, and disliked your dog just for being a dog.”

Mrs. Sackett took a sip of tea. In the silence, she continued. “Some people would have come up smiling. Been hopeful. Been forgiving. And having thought about it these past two days, that is what I want to do. Apologize to you for being mean and hope we can be friends.”

Jane realizing that she was now eavesdropping on a private conversation motioned to Sydney, “Would you like to help me serve up the ice cream cake? This way to the kitchen.”

Left alone the old woman and the young girl sat quiet. Nancy was the first to speak. “Mrs. Sackett, when Misty got lost, I missed her so much that I wrote her a song. I’ve made new words for that song hoping we could be friends. May I sing it for you?”

Mrs. Sackett nodded. Nancy ran out to the car for the guitar. Mrs. Sackett was just sitting down on the porch when she mounted the steps. “Play your song here where we can enjoy it without interruption,” Mrs. Sackett said gesturing towards the living room and Jane and Sydney.

Nancy began to sing softly.

If I could be your friend
If I could be your friend
I could make amends
If I could be your friend
If I could visit you
If I could visit you
I’d stop by after school
If I could visit you
If I could learn from you
If I could learn from you
I’d help with what you do
If I could learn from you
I know Misty’s been bad
I know Misty’s been bad
She’s learning to behave
She knows that she’s been bad
So please don’t be too mad
If I could be your friend
If I could be your friend
I could make amends
If I could be your friend

Antoinette Sackett felt her heart touched in much the same way as when Hennie held her hand at the hospital. She remembered being a young girl of twelve or thirteen, having a dog she loved dearly, being unsure of the world around her, yet sure of herself. Like Nancy Grace McClure was today, singing her song of apology.

Nancy finished singing. Suddenly she was overcome with shyness and anxiety about how her boldness making the song might be received. She looked up as Mrs. Sackett was looking into her eyes and smiling in a gentle way.

“Thank you, Nancy. I’d like to be your friend. Have you visit after school.” She warmed to her theme. “I can teach you to make chocolate chips cookies with my secret ingredient — you promise not to tell anyone!”

Nancy shook her head.

“And one more thing. I’d like it if you would call me Mrs. T. T for Toni, short for Antoinette. Like my Henny used to do.” Mrs. Sackett started to laugh. “And it sounds just like Misty, doesn’t it?”

Nancy smiled her yes, then began to laugh, too.


So, what happened after that?” Doug asked on behalf of the rest of the family who were gathered in the TV room after a classic McClure spaghetti and meatball dinner.

“We had tea! It was like a meal, not like a snack at all. Finished up with homemade ice cream cake.”

“Did you bring some for us?” Desi was the ice cream addict of the family.

“No! It wasn’t like going to the Crawford Diner at all. It was all very proper and all. And fun!”

Sydney had taken Jane Gardner aside and explained about paying for the garden. Now she made her report to the family. “Jane thought that Mrs. Sackett would welcome having help repairing her garden but insisted that her sister have full input on what to do.”

“Oh, brother,” Sanford sighed.

“No, it’s not like that. Not this time. Something’s changed in her. Maybe it’s the realization that you just can’t fight everything. Especially as you get older. Maybe it’s meeting our Nancy,” she added.

“I can help with the garden, if she’ll let me. I’ll ask,” Nancy volunteered.

“Well, is this a happy ending?” Sanford looked around his family, then frowned. “Where’s Mischief?”

Cue a crash from the kitchen. Doug got there first to find Misty on the counter having moved a chair to do so, knocking a tray of leftover meatballs to the floor for a snack.

The twins were paralyzed with laughter. Sanford and Sydney looked at each other. Nancy shook her head. “When are you going to stop being Mischief and become Misty for real!”


Story by Caroline Meyers, 2020

Photo 181780291 © Przemyslaw Iciak | Dreamstime.com