Fiction

LUCY MAKES MY LIVING

Joe knew a guy is a fool to bite the dog that feeds him, until he met the blonde whose bark was worse than her bite

JACK SHER November 1 1949
Fiction

LUCY MAKES MY LIVING

Joe knew a guy is a fool to bite the dog that feeds him, until he met the blonde whose bark was worse than her bite

JACK SHER November 1 1949

LUCY MAKES MY LIVING

Fiction

Joe knew a guy is a fool to bite the dog that feeds him, until he met the blonde whose bark was worse than her bite

JACK SHER

OSEPH GRAHAM had almost, all of the qualities any girl would want in a husband. He not only had a sense of humor, he was good-humored. He was not only sensitive, he was intelligent. And, in an era when many eligible bachelors are telling their troubles to an analyst instead of to an understanding girl friend, Joe was telling his troubles to no one. He had no troublée. He had one drawback, however; he was genuinely and happily unemployed.

Joe did not believe in working like a dog since he had a dog to work for him. The canine’s name was My Own Lucy, a goldenhaired cocker spaniel. Lucy was a model, the top dog in her profession. Any photographer or agency who wantod Lucy’s services had to scratch up her fee, which was twenty dollars an hour. Since Lucy had not yet learned her way around town, or the value of a dollar, Joe Graham always accompanied her.

One fine morning’ in June, Lucy and her best friend arrived at René Brisson’s studio where the dog was to pose for a new series of Perfect Puppy Biscuit ads. They were late for the appointment, Joe had not had time for breakfast and he was slightly grouchy and sleepy. As he entered the studio and stooped to let Lucy off the leash, he heard a low, ominous growl. He looked up, startled, saw a girl sitting in a chair near Rene’s camera.

“Did you growl?’’ Joe asked.

“No,” the girl said, unconcernedly.

She was obviously a model and Jo Graham’s taste did not run to models. He considered them all of a pattern, fair of face and infinitesimal of mind. This one was small, delicate and unusually fair. Her hair was as blonde and golden as Lucy’s and almost as shining and well-kept. Like Lucy, she also had large, soft brown eyes. Joe bent down once more to undo Lucy’s leash. He heard the growl again. Lucy’s ears twitched and she whined.

“All right, let’s cut out the teasing,” Joe said, straightening up and glaring at the girl.

“It’s not cute.”

“I didn’t growl,” the girl said. “It was Buster.”

At the mention of his name, Buster trotted out from behind a flat. He was the meanestlooking bull terrier Joe had ever seen. Joe scoo|>ed Lucy into bis arms and wheeled on the girl.

“Get that animal out of here!” he ordered.

“Relax,” the girl said, getting up. “He won’t bite.”

“He’ll upset Lucy!” Joe shouted. “Get that mutt out of here!”

“It’s not a mutt !” the girl said, angrily.

As she came toward Buster, the dog darted away rom her and began circling Joe’s legs at a dizzy *peed. leaping up every third trip to get at Lucy. The girl stopped and began to laugh.

“He wants to play,” she said.

“Grab him, or I’ll kick his brains in!” Joe roared.

He tried to push Buster away with his toe, lost his balance and sat down on the floor, still clutching Lucy. The bull terrier pounced playfully atop both of them and the girl made il a foursome, plunging into the tangle of arms and legs to retrieve her dog.

At that point, René Brisson, the photographer, darted out of his office in the rear of the studio and, like the terrier, began running about in circles waving his arms. He was a small, excitable man and the white flouncy dress in which the model was wrestling around the tloor belonged to him.

“Get up! Get up!” he screamed. “The dress! You’re ruining the dress!”

The girl finally got Buster into her arms and scrambled to her feet. The dress had not been the sort of thing to wear to a dog fight, but now it was. It was covered with dirt and ripped down the side.

“Look at me!” she said, advancing on Joe. “This is all your fault, you big sissy!”

Joe got up and backed away from her, holding Lucy up as a shield.

“You’re fired, you’re through, get out, get out!” the photographer screeched at the girl.

HPHE GIRL stormed into a dressing room with -1her dog, banging the door so hard it rattled Joe’s teeth. He sat disconsolately in a chair and liegan combing Lucy, who was a mess. While the model was changing her clothes, to the accompaniment of Rene’s temperamental chatter outside the dressing room, Joe’s anger simmered down to shame. Under ordinary circumstances, he was a kind-hearted young man and a girl’s losing her job

because of his bad temper filled him with guilt.

René came over to him, shaking his gnomelike head.

“This is terrible, terrible!” he said. “I’ll call another model.”

“Don’t do that,” Joe said. “It was my fault.”

He was still arguing with the photographer, taking the blame for the incident, when the girl came out of the dressing room in her street clothes. Joe handed Lucy to René and attempted to stop her. She brushed past him, the terrier tucked under her arm. She rushed out of the studio and into the hall. He would have followed her, but René bustled over and dropped Lucy into his arms.

“Let her go,” the photographer said. “Your dog is the important thing in the picture, anyway.”

“You shouldn’t have fired her,” Joe said. “Maybe she needs the work. Do you know where she lives?”

“I do not give out a model’s address,” René said, stubbornly. “It is not ethical.”

“Neither is a punch on the snout,” Joe said, “so give!”

SOME thirty minutes later, having deposited Lucy at home in his apartment on 8th Street, Joe hiked to the address where Carol Stevens, the model, lived. He knocked on the door firmly. There was a growl from inside. This time he recognized it as belonging to Buster.

The door opened. It would have banged closed again, but Joe had a size ten shoe in its path. As he opened his mouth to speak, Buster began chewing on his foot, working his way up to the ankle. Joe bore the nips stoically.

“Beat it!” Carol Stevens said.

“Let me explain,” he said. “I’ve got your job back.”

“I’d rather starve than pose with that pampered pooch of yours!” she panted, pushing against the door.

“Be reasonable,” he said. “I want to apologize.”

“Get out!” she said, “or I’ll sic my dog on you!”

“He seems to have taken the initiative already,” Joe said, adding an “Ouch!” as Buster ripped away a part of his sock.” “Buster, get away!” she said. “I’m sorry.” “So am I,” Joe said. “Let me tell you how much, while I still have a leg to stand on.”

She picked up her dog and looked at Joe Graham coldly.

“All right, say what you have to say,” she said.

“Can’t I come in to say it?” he asked, smiling.

It was the warmest smile he could muster on an empty stomach and a torn sock. It did not melt her, but it seemed to warm her slightly.

“Okay,” she said, opening the door, “come ahead, at your own risk.”

Joe stepped gingerly inside keeping an eye on Buster. He sat on the edge of the studio couch. Carol Stevens took a chair opposite him, holding the dog in her lap. Behind her was a typewriter on a stand and a card table which held a manuscript and reams of onionskin and carbon paper. Joe looked around, not knowing quit? how to begin. “Writing a book?” he asked, politely.

“Never mind what I’m doing,” Carol Stevens said. “Make your speech and leave.”

“I came to say I’m sorry,” Joe ventured.

“You’ve said that.”

“It was entirely my fault,” he said.

“Keep talking.”

“I was afraid your dog would upset Lucy and she wouldn’t be able to work,” Joe explained. “Cockers are very temperamental.”

“How thrilling.”

“René is also sorry he lost his temper,” Joe said hanging on. “He wants you to come back to work.”

“No, thanks.”

“Look,” he said anxiously, “why should you lose a fee just because I acted like a, well a . . .”

“Like a heel,” she helped, “like a dope.”

“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Joe grinned.

For the first time, she smiled. She inclined her head a little to one side and looked him over carefully. It seemed to Joe that she was no longer displeased with what she saw and even Buster’s eyes began to shed their hostility.

“Did you talk René into taking me back?” she asked.

“Lucy did,” Joe smiled. “What she wants goes. She’s in solid with those Perfect Puppy Biscuit people.”

“How nice for her,” Carol Stevens said, wryly.

“Most l>eautiful model in the business,” Joe said, enthusiastically.

“Simply stunning,” the girl »aid.

“Oh, you’re very pretty, too,” Joe said, hastily.

“Thanks a lot,” Carol Stevens said.

“Will you come back to work?” Joe said, flushing.

She seemed to be thinking it over. “I might,” she said, finally. “I can use the money.”

“Fine,” Joe said, getting up. “Tomorrow morning, same time.”

She nodded. He offered his hand and she took it.

ON THE WAY home, Joe kept a picture in his mind of her candid, brown eyes and the way her hair curled at the nape of her neck. When he opened the door of his apartment and Lucy romped over to greet him, he looked her over closely and decided that she was the second most beautiful tiling in the world.

Comparing the two again the next morning at the studio, he still favored the girl. As they posed together under the lights, Lucy’s gleaming teeth encircling a Perfect Puppy Biscuit were no match for the glorious smile of the girl who was handing the cocker spaniel the bone-shaped morsel.

“Prettiest picture I’ve ever seen,” Joe glowed, as René Brisson muttered and fumed behind the camera.

“Just cut out the mugging,” René snapped. “Let Lucy sell the biscuits.” “Pardon me, Princess,” Carol said, bowing to her co-worker.

Two pairs of large brown eyes, one human, one animal, met and clashed. Lucy was the first to look away and she whined. Joe stepped on the set, for a moment to comb a stray curl on Lucy’s sleek coat.

“Try not to upset her,” he said gently.

“Oh, I wouldn’t think of it,” Carol said.

“She’s very sensitive,” Joe explained. “She feels it if people dislike her.”

“I think she needs a psychiatrist,” Carol said.

The first series of photographs were taken without further incident. But relations became somewhat strained on the next group of shots when Lucy balked at posing with her head in Carol’s lap. Joe hustled into the scene and tried to reason with his cocker. René became obstreperous. Carol’s comments were caustic. A great deal of time was consumed before Joe could coax Lucy to play her part. It was almost two o’clock before the final shot was in the bag.

WHILE Joe hung around Carol changed her clothes. When she came out of the dressing room, he asked her to have lunch with him.

“Thanks,” she said, “but why don’t you just hop over to a restaurant with Lucy.”

“Don’t be like that,” he said. “I’d rather eat with you.”

“I’m flattered,” she smiled, “knowing how you feel about Miss Fancy Pants.”

“Where would you like to eat?” Joe grinned.

“Anywhere,” Carol said. “I’m starved.”

“Good,” Joe said, happily. “First we’ll take Lucy home and feed her and then—”

He was interrupted by having no one to hear the rest of his sentence. The door banged behind her before he had time to completely close his mouth.

Joe took Lucy home and fed her. The Grade A round steak he shared with his cocker seemed tasteless and unappetizing. He moped around the apartment all afternoon, looking at Lucy and thinking about Carol Stevens.

AT SIX that evening, wearing his best tweed suit, he again climbed the stairs of Carol’s apartment. He knocked. Buster growled. Carol opened the door. He stuck his foot in the door, but, to his surprise, she did not attempt to bang it in his face.

“Don’t look so amazed,” she said. “I expected you.”

“I came to say I’m sorry again,” he said.

Joe stepped across the threshold and took his previous seat on the edge of the studio couch. Buster trotted over and sniffed at his shoe. He wagged his tail. Joe felt everything was going to be all right.

“I’m the one who should apologize,” Carol said. “I always behave badly when I’m hungry.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Joe said. “That’s why I got so upset the other morning. I hadn’t had my breakfast.” “I should have thanked you for getting my job back,” Carol said. “Oh, that’s all right,” Joe said.

“Would you have dinner with me?” “If you don’t mind waiting until I feed Buster,” she smiled.

She fed Buster and Joe fed her at a tiny, excellent Italian restaurant. He learned that she was from the Prairies, wanted to be a writer, augmented the money she made as a model by reading books and plays for a publisher and writing synopses of them.

“Must be a lot of work,” Joe said.

“I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m learning and I’m ambitious. What about you? What do you do?” “I’m the sole owner and manager of Lucy,” Joe said.

“But what sort of work do you do?” she smiled.

“That’s it,”Joe said. “That’s all I do.”

“That’s ridiculous!” she said. “Why?” Joe said. “Lucy and I make out very well.”

“But don’t you want to amount to something?” she frowned.

“Not especially,” Joe said. “What would you like for dessert?”

“Nothing,” Carol said. “I’ve just lost my appetite.”

“You think I’m lazy, don’t you?” Joe said.

“In a word, yes,” she said.

“Not at all,” he smiled. “I read books, I go to concerts. I have all sorts of hobbies.”

“Except work,” she interjected. “That’s right,” Joe said. “Can’t stand it.”

“Everyone should want to work,” Carol Stevens said, her eyes becoming slightly angry. “Everyone should have some sort of goal.”

“Read the newspapers,” Joe argued. “Millionaires walk around feeling depressed, leading politicians can’t sleep nights, writers of best sellers commit suicide. Success leads to unhappiness. I’ve heard that lately from some very reliable authorities.”

“Maybe you need someone to give you incentive,” she said.

“I don’t know about that,” Joe smiled, “but if you’d care to try—” “Don’t be so flip,” she broke in. “When Lucy loses her looks you’ll land in the poorhouse.”

“I’ll bet I go in whistling,” Joe said. “Like Crosby.”

“For an intelligent person, you can be very stupid,” Carol said exasperatedly. “You think that’s easy?” Joe laughed. “You’re making me lose my temper again,” she warned.

“Go ahead,” Joe said. “You have to like someone pretty much to get very sore at them. I ought to know. You’re the first girl who ever caused me to blow my top at first sight.”

OUTSIDE, it was a soft June night, a gentle breeze blowing. Joe walked her home, letting her set the pace. She strolled along slowly, which he considered a good sign. She allowed him to take her hand in his. Since she had refused dessert in the restaurant, he bought her a sundae in a drugstore and told her amusing stories about the people in an advertising agency for which he had worked.

“So you did have a job,” she said, slipping an arm through his as they left the drugstore. “What did you do?” “Nothing important,” Joe said hastily. “I was a messenger.”

“Did you try to get ahead?” she asked, accusingly.

“Slaved,” Joe said. “Couldn’t make it.”

They had reached her door and Joe took a deep breath and asked if he might see her again.

“I don’t know,” she said. “You’re a man who needs thinking over.” Joe put his arms around her and kissed her.

“Think that over too,” he said, and turned and walked quickly up the street.

HIS DOORBELL rang at eleven o’clock the next morning. When he saw who it was, he opened the door wide. His smile was wider. She marched into the room, a newspaper under her arm.

“I’ve spent all night thinking you over,” she said in a businesslike manner.

“I couldn’t sleep a wink, either,” he said. “What’s the verdict?”

“I think I could learn to love you,” she said, “if you’d get a job.”

“One thing at a time,” he said, “let’s start with love.”

He attempted to take her in his arms, but she moved quickly out of reach and thrust a section of her newspaper into his hand.

“Those are want ads,” she said.

“But Lucy has a booking this afternoon,” he protested. “That’s money in the bank.”

“I’ll take Lucy to work,” she said, firmly. “Put on a tie and get going.” “She’s not used to you,” Joe whined, whined. “She’ll be unhappy.”

“She’ll get used to me,” Carol said firmly.

Lucy whined. She crept close to her master and looked up at him hopefully.

“Do you realize,” Joe said impressively, “that Lucy averages around a C note a week?”

“So could you,” Carol said determinedly. “Lucy doesn’t make it sitting on her tail. Get moving!”

“Let’s not be hasty,” Joe said, halfheartedly putting on the tie she tossed him. “There must be some alternative.”

“There is,” she said, moving toward the door, “I leave quietly and never come back.”

Joe pulled his tie rapidly into position, put on a coat, told her where to take Lucy for her appointment that afternoon. He was still giving her instructions on the care of a cocker when she kissed him soundly and pushed him out of the door.

He spent what remained of the morning at the Museum. That afternoon, he saw two double features. All four pictures were terrible. He arrived home at a quarter to six to find Carol cooking his supper.

“Any luck today, darling?” she said, kissing him.

“Nope,” Joe said cheerfully. “I think there’s a depression going on. Where’s Lucy?”

“In the bedroom with Buster,” Carol said.

“Buster!” Joe yelled, running for the bedroom. “What’s he doing here?”

“They’re having fun,” Carol called.

Joe found them standing nose to nose, pulling on one of Lucy’s rubber bones. He picked his dog up and stomped back to the kitchen.

“I don’t want her around other animals,” he said to Carol. “It spoils her.”

“Don’t be silly,” Carol laughed. “All work and no play makes Lucy a dull dog. By the way, she was fine at the sitting this afternoon.”

The meal was excellent and Lucy, Buster and Carol spent a wonderful evening listening to records. At ten o’clock he walked her home and spent twenty marvelous minutes saying good night to her in the doorway. She and Buster were back again at nine the next morning and they chased him out of the apartment with another edition of the want ads.

IN SPITE OF the numerous and terrible movies he endured during the afternoons, Joe adapted himself to the new routine and found many aspects of it completely delightful, particularly the evenings with Carol. It might have gone on forever, if he had not made the mistake of taking her out to dinner one night at an old hangout of his called The Layout. As they were sipping their coffee, he proposed to her for the tenth time.

“Yes,” she said, for the tenth time, “I’ll marry you the day you get a job.” “Nobody’s hiring,” Joe complained. “Things are as tight as a fist.”

“You’ve only been trying for three weeks,” she said.

It was then that Joe felt the pressure of a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see the large-jowled, jovial face of Harry Wentworth. Harry’s hand seemed heavy enough to push him right through the floor and Joe wished it would.

“Well, well!” Wentworth boomed. “How’ve you been, Joe?”

“Just fine,” Joe said weakly.

“That’s bad news,” Wentworth said. “1 was hoping you’d be broke.”

“I don’t think he’s going to introduce us,” Carol said to Harry Wentworth. “I’m Carol Stevens.”

“Harry Wentworth,” the man said. “Joe used to work for me.”

“Is that so?” Carol said sweetly. “Joe’s looking for a job.”

“Are you kidding?” Wentworth said, sitting down beside her. “Listen, I’ve been trying to get this guy to come back for a year! He was my top copy writer. Best in the business!” Wentworth added enthusiastically.

“Speak up. messenger boy,” Carol said, kicking Joe in the shins.

“Messenger boy?” Wentworth said. “Say, that’s a hot one. This boy had a great future until he went to the dogs. Say,” he laughed, “that’s pretty funny, isn’t it?”

“It’s a screamer,” Joe winced.

“Stay and enjoy yourself, liar,” Carol said, angrily, “and don’t try to follow me.”

She almost upset two tables as she breezed out of the place. Joe put his head in his hands and sighed deeply. When he finally raised his eyes, Harry Wentworth was still at the table, look-

ing at him with concern and curiosity.

“Did I say something wrong?” he asked.

“You did,” Joe said, feeling miserable. “She’s off me for good this time.” His former boss studied him for a moment, then he leaned back in his chair and chuckled.

“I get it,” he said. “She wants you to go to work. Well, your job’s still there, Joe.”

“No, thanks,” Joe said, suddenly getting angry. “No dame is going to make a wage slave out of me. I’ve still got Lucy.”

“I’d rather have that girl,” Wentworth said. “She’s a beauty.”

JOE DID not hang around to hear any more of Wentworth’s observations about Carol. He left the restaurant and returned to his apartment. Lucy wagged happily over to greet him, but somehow the place seemed empty and her affection was lost on him. He slumped in a chair and stared moodily at the floor. Lucy came and sat near him. He looked at her. Then he looked away. Lucy seemed a little out of focus. He looked back again, quickly. She was not out of focus. But she was slightly out of shape.

“Luce!” he said, jumping up. “What’s happened to you?”

Lucy wagged her tail.

“Oh, no!” he said, horrified.

The veterinarian was just closing up shop when Lucy and her hysterical master barged into the place. The vet confirmed Joe’s suspicion. He took Lucy back to the apartment, muttering savagely all the way. He put his dog on the couch, tenderly tucked a blanket around her and set off in the direction of Horatio Street, still muttering insanely. When he reached Carol Stevens’ door, he pounded on it furiously. “Come in!” she called. “It opens!” She was sitting in a chair, a smile of triumph on her face.

“You double-crossed me !” he thundered.

“Let me guess,” she grinned. “You love me and you took the job.”

“Lucy is going to have a baby!” he yelled.

“She is?” Carol said, sitting up straighter in the chair. Then she smiled. “Darling, dogs don’t have a baby, they have puppies.”

“This was your doing!” Joe stormed. “Lucy won’t be able to work for two months. Maybe longer.”

“Someone in that family will have to work,” Carol mused aloud.

Joe began to pace the floor. Carol sat quietly and watched him. He finally sat down on the studio couch. Carol came and sat beside him. She patted his hand. His anger was gone, but he suddenly felt very dejected.

“Do you really hate the idea of going to work again, darling?” Carol said. “It’ll be a dog’s life,” Joe said.

“I’ll bet you’re a wonderful copy writer,” she said.

“I’d rather not talk about it now,” Joe said grumpily. “Do you think Lucy will pull through all right?”

“Of course,” she said, kissing him. There was a low growl from the corner. Buster raised a sleepy head, stood up and shook himself.

“There’s the culprit!” Joe said, leveling a finger at him. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”

“Oh, be quiet,” Carol said, kissing him again. “He happens to love her very much.”

Joe Graham and Carol Stevens were married the week Lucy’s puppies were born. They gave the pick of the litter to Joe’s boss, Harry Wentworth, who debated long over the miscegenated pups, then chose a black and white mutt with long, silky ears which hung from a bull terrier face. ★