Nine

The crack of Brian's door in the morning thundered like the tumult of a glacier torn asunder. Big seemed the paper. Big seemed the house. Big seemed the street Brian lived. Tiny sat a car at the curb, against which all the bigness did contrast.

"Where's the dog?" said the mismatched bluff of a man who caught Brian spying into the car.

"Excuse me?" said Brian.

"The dog," said the mismatch. "The ad gave the number to the local police. And the police gave us your address."

"Who are you?" said Brian.

"I'm King Tuffy," he said. "See the get up? See the crown?"

"He's not here," said Brian. "He ran away yesterday."

"That dog better be here when we return, polar toad," said Tuffy. "Or else."

"Or else what?" said Brian, whom Tuffy left baffled, as competent bullies do. Brian glimpsed many eyes in the tiny car as the mismatched bluff of a man climbed in and drove away.