The corpulent gentleman always sat at the corner table where he could enjoy his tea, almond croissant, and mushroom omelet, and look out of the window in both directions. He always brought his dog, Uncle Wigglesworth, a waddling English bulldog, with him. Uncle Wigglesworth would settle under the table while the gentleman would surreptitiously feed him bits of pastry. Edna would bring him free strips of bacon.
A good arrangement all around, Edna thought. She liked the gentleman. He tipped well. She had no official policy at the cafe against dogs, and the worst thing Uncle Wigglesworth ever did was scratch himself from time to time and drool. After they left, she’d have to wipe up the puddle, but she didn’t mind.
Soon a few other customers began bringing their dogs. Tiny Mrs. Winkler brought her gray Teacup Poodle in her crocheted handbag. The actor with the soulful eyes brought his Basset Hound. The quivering lady who always gazed around the room in panic before she chose a table brought her Italian Greyhound. Edna always found a way to slip the dogs a treat.
Edna began to bake what she called “Delicious Doggie Delights.”
Her business grew. Her cafe was written up in three magazines, and she was thinking about expanding. She even asked her friend Dominic to carve a dog totem out of wood to stand in the window. Even though it was a rather abstract dog, it was her good luck charm, and Dominic needed money. Edna told her customers that the totem represented all dogs.
Then it happened.
On a particularly crowded Saturday, a white limo pulled up to the curb, and a man exited with two Great Danes. Edna recognized him immediately from the pages of The New York Times. Ignoring the line, he pushed his way through the door. She listened to the scratching of the Great Danes’ nails across her newly polished floor.
“I need a table at once,” he said.
“I’m sorry, there’s a line. You can take out, if you’re in a hurry.”
“I don’t do take out. Do you know who I am?”
Edna put her hands on her hips. “Yes, I do. You the man whose bank said I wasn’t good enough for a loan. Said I was too high a risk. Then y’all tried to foreclose on my house when I never missed a payment. Now you come in here all high and might and treat me like a servant in my own shop? I don’t think so.”
The Great Danes growled.
That’s when the dogs came. First it was Uncle Wigglesworth. Then the Basset, then the Italian Greyhound, a Rottweiler, two black Labs, three mutts, and the teacup Poodle. They all bared their teeth.
“Call them off,” the man said.
Edna shrugged. “They’re not my dogs.”
She heard the growling of other dogs waiting with the customers in line. The Great Danes looked around uneasily.
“I think you best be going,” Edna said.
The man turned purple, but he left.
After he was gone, Edna filled bags and bags with free doggie treats; she thanked the owners. When she finally closed up shop for the day, she patted the dog in the window.
Her totem. She picked a good one.