Sweet Sue Saves the Day

by Nancy Kopp -

On Monday, Mickey Pickert bullied Annie Rose Kiley like he always did.

“Tell me your dog’s name, Annie Rose,” Mickey hollered after school. An unpleasant grin spread across his freckled face.

Annie Rose’s heart beat fast as Mickey and two other boys sauntered toward her. “Sweet Sue is her name. Sweet as sugar she is. I’ve told you before.” She turned away from the trio of boys just in case she couldn’t hold the tears inside.

Mickey grabbed her thin arm. “Tell me again, Annie Rose.” He glared at his captive while Tyler and Jimmy egged him on. “What’s the mangy cur’s name?” he shouted, his face only inches from hers.

Annie Rose pulled back, but Mickey held her fast. “Sweet Sue is her name. Now let me go!” She jerked her arm, but Mickey only tightened his grasp.

He released Annie Rose’s arm when a growl rose from deep in the little dog’s throat.

“Tell me why such a mutt is called Sweet Sue one more time. Just one more time.” Mickey glanced over his shoulder at Tyler and Jimmy and grinned.

“Sweet as sugar, that’s why.”  Annie Rose moved close to the brown and white dog. Sweet Sue’s tail wagged like a flag in a ferocious wind.

“That’s not a name for a dirty fleabag like her. I think you should call her Stinky,” Mickey said in-between laughs.

Annie Rose bit her bottom lip and kept her gaze on the dirt road. Instead of answering, she walked away, her feet sending up swirls of dust. The dog trotted at her side and neither of them turned around when Mickey continued to call out awful things about Sweet Sue. The laughter of the three boys followed them home.

Annie Rose loved Sweet Sue because the dog never teased like Mickey and didn’t ignore her like her daddy often did. The little dog didn’t make her feel foolish like her teacher, Miss Evans, sometimes did. Sweet Sue listened to every word Annie Rose said and stayed close. She seemed especially loving on the days when Annie Rose was sad.

Mama was gone and Daddy sat in his chair a lot. He never had much to say. He didn’t notice when she tried to do things in the house that her mother had done. Some things she did just fine but others she skipped because they were too difficult for her.

She didn’t look much like the girl whose picture sat atop the TV anymore. No one reminded her to wash her hands and face or put on clean clothes for school. Some days her hair and Sweet Sue’s coat were both uncombed and matted.

Lost in thought, Annie Rose didn’t see Henry Hounder, the dog catcher, until she nearly ran into him...

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