Ralph, the Three Legged Dog
NOTE: Hoppy won First Place in Aspiring Writers Short Story Competition
On April 1, 1946, when I was about ten years of age, my neighbors, Ralph and his wife Joann, took their two children, Sarah and Emily; a neighbor’s child, Bobby; and me to town for ice cream. In those days, store-bought ice cream was a real treat. Probably really not as good as homemade ice cream, but we thought it was better.
Ralph was a joker who loved playing jokes on people, but he couldn’t take a joke. He didn’t subscribe to the adage, ‘turnabout is fair play’.
This was April fool’s day, so Ralph was pulling one April fool’s joke after another. He told his daughters, “You have to share your ice cream with Bobby.” Now Bobby was about twelve years of age, and somewhat overweight. Emily was only six years of age and Sarah was only four years of age. They realized they might not get much ice cream, and started crying, until Ralph shouted, “April Fool.” At the ice cream parlor, he asked me for ten cents to pay for my ice cream. I was so embarrassed to have to tell him I didn’t have a dime. When he saw me blushing, he again shouted, “April Fool.” This went on until he had played an April fool’s joke on everyone in the car.
While he was in the ice cream parlor getting our ice creams, his wife Joann said, “children let’s play an April fool’s joke on Ralph. Just go along with me whatever I say. She then whispered something to Sarah. Everyone agreed, even four year old Sarah was excited and smiling. I wondered what Sarah’s mother had said to her.
Ralph came back to the car and with a long forlorn look on his face and said, “I can’t believe it, they’re out of ice cream.” Sara and Emily started crying – for the second time on the trip. Then Ralph laughing shouted, “April Fool.”
He then went back into the ice cream store to buy the ice cream. Mine was so delicious it was almost worth putting up with Ralph’s April fool’s jokes. Sarah was especially enjoying her ice cream. I thought, Does her happiness come from the ice cream treat or from what her mother had earlier told her?
A neighbor, Max Watts, had a three legged dog, named Hoppy. Hoppy got his name, yes, you guessed it, from hopping around on three legs. Hoppy was a mongrel, scraggy looking, mangy, sort of on his own even though he lived with Max Watts. Hoppy lost his leg in a fight with a panther. Jerry Clower calls a panther, “a souped up wildcat.” No one saw the fight but it could be heard for miles around. Hoppy lost a leg, but gained his name as a result of the fight.
Finally, we all got our ice creams, ate them, and were soon on our way home. “Let’s ride around the neighborhood,” Joann said. “Since its Saturday, we might see some neighbors out, and we’ll visit a few minutes. I hear tell Max Watts bought a new 1946 Chevrolet. The first new car Chevrolet has produced since the end of World War II.”
Sure enough, a shiny new car was parked in Mr. Watts’ driveway. No one was outside, but Hoppy was standing in the yard. Ralph, probably a little jealous said, referring to Hoppy, “Max is looking worse than ever.”
Sarah said, in her little child’s voice, “I thought his name was Ralph.”
We all laughed as Ralph started turning red and was getting madder and madder. Then we altogether, as if we had practiced for hours shouted, “April Fool.”