YOU CAN READ
Persuading Captain Mac
APTAIN MACOMANGUS’S classified ad in the Babbington Reporter said
Bay Way was a stub of a street that ran from Bolotomy Road to a canal that led to the bay. There was only one house there, a tiny white one that had to be Captain Macomangus’s. A low white picket fence surrounded a front yard no bigger than my bedroom at home. Rambling roses grew along the fence.Unfortunate circumstances force me to sell the most beautiful boat presently afloat. Captain Macomangus, Bay Way, Babbington.
My mother brought the car to a stop in front of the house, but she left the motor running. I was sitting in the back seat, and Patti was riding in the front passenger’s seat, the sidekick’s seat. A fine drizzle had begun to drift lazily down from the gray sky, and a chill was in the air.
“It’s like a doll’s house,” said my mother.
“Yes,” said Patti, exhaling the word, pressing her nose to the window like a girl in front of a toy store. Her breath condensed as a circle of dew.
“Do you think he’s home?” my mother asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, “but I’ll find out.”
I walked to the front gate, which came no higher than my knees. I swung the gate open, and in two strides reached the front door. A length of string extended from a hole beside the door, and I pulled it. I heard a tiny tinkling sound from inside, as if I’d rung a bell made of glass. I waited for someone to come to the door, but no one did. I rang twice more, and when no one answered the third ring, I returned to the car.
“I guess he’s not home,” I said.
“He’s looking out the window,” Patti whispered. “I saw him. He looks kind of frightened. Maybe he thinks we’re burglars.”
I looked over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of a man watching from behind a raised curtain. Then the curtain fell and he withdrew.
“Come with me,” I said to Patti and my mother. “Maybe he’ll feel better if he can see all of us, instead of having you in the car.” Together, we went to the door, and this time I knocked.
“Hello!” I called. “Anybody home?”
The door opened a couple of inches, and a short man with a worried look peered out at us.
“I guess you didn’t hear the bell,” I said.
“I heard it,” said the man, “but I thought you might go away.”
“Most of ’em go away, if I just wait ’em out.”
“People who come about my Arcinella.”
“But your boat is for sale, isn’t it?”
“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe not.”
“Aren’t you Captain Macomag—” I tried, consulting the ad in the Reporter.
“Yep, that’s me,” he said. “Cap’n Mac.”
“Did you place this ad for the boat?”
“Well, then we’d like to see it,” I said. “My mother and I and—” I saw an opportunity to give myself a harmless thrill, so I took it. “—my girlfriend.”
“Don’t get carried away,” muttered Patti.
“Sorry,” said Captain Mac, eyes downcast.
“You mean we can’t see the boat?” I asked.
“I just don’t want a lot of strangers poking around my Arcinella.”
“There are only three of us,” I said, “and we’ll be really careful.”
“I—I just don’t think I want to sell her to you,” he said.
“What’s wrong with us?” I asked, hurt.
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” he said gently, “It’s just that, well, maybe I don’t want to sell my Arcinella at all.”
“But you advertised it—her,” I said.
“I did, but I don’t see as how that obligates me to sell her. I’ve had a change of heart.”
“At least let us see Arcinella,” I said, “after we drove all the way down here.”
“Maybe some other time,” he said.
He began closing the door, but I put my foot in the opening, as door-to-door salesmen were said to do under similar circumstances. I turned away from Captain Mac and gave Patti and my mother a wink. “Can’t we at least come inside so that the ladies won’t have to stand in the rain?” I asked the captain.
“Oh, my goodness!” he said, apparently quite embarrassed to realize that he had forgotten his manners in his anxiety over the fate of Arcinella. “Of course you can come in. Get in out of the rain and dry off and I’ll make you some tea.”
So Captain Mac took us in. He fussed over us. He made tea for us. He told us stories about Arcinella, stories about himself, stories about bygone days in old Babbington, and legends of life on the bay. He told us, several times, that he considered Arcinella the most beautiful boat afloat, and he got misty-eyed when he told us that his age and failing health meant that he really did have to sell her, and finally, after nearly an hour, he allowed us to persuade him to let us have a look at her. By then, we had persuaded ourselves that Arcinella had to be ours.
Dying to support this work, but at a loss
about how to do it?
Copyright © 2001 by Eric Kraft
Inflating a Dog is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
Picador USA will publish Inflating a Dog in the summer of 2002.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail Kraft’s indefatigable agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.