The preacher was sitting in the living room, working at the little foldout table. He had papers spread all around him and he was rubbing his nose, which always means he is thinking. Hard.
"Daddy?" I said.
"Hmmm," he said back.
"Daddy, do you know how you always tell me that we should help those less fortunate than ourselves?"
"Mmmmmm-hmmm," he said. He rubbed his nose and looked around at his papers.
"Well," I said, "I found a Less Fortunate at the grocery store."
"Is that right?" he said.
"Yes sir," I told him. I stared at the preacher really hard. Sometimes he reminded me of a turtle hiding inside its shell, in there thinking about things and not ever sticking his head out into the world. "Daddy, I was wondering. Could this Less Fortunate, could he stay with us for a while?"
Finally the preacher looked up at me. "Opal," he said, "what are you talking about?"
"I found a dog," I told him. "And I want to keep him."
"No dogs," the preacher said. "We've talked about this before. You don't need a dog."
"I know it," I said. "I know I don't need a dog. But this dog needs me. Look," I said. I went to the trailer door and I hollered, "Winn-Dixie!"
Winn-Dixie's ears shot up in the air and he grinned and sneezed, and then he came limping up the steps and into the trailer and put his head right in the preacher's lap, right on top of a pile of papers.
The preacher looked at Winn-Dixie. He looked at his ribs and his matted-up fur and the places where he was bald. The preacher's nose wrinkled up. Like I said, the dog smelled pretty bad.
Winn-Dixie looked up at the preacher. He pulled back his lips and showed the preacher all of his crooked yellow teeth and wagged his tail and knocked some of the preacher's papers off the table. Then he sneezed and some more papers fluttered to the floor.
"What did you call this dog?" the preacher asked.
"Winn-Dixie," I whispered. I was afraid to say anything too loud. I could see that Winn-Dixie was having a good effect on the preacher. He was making him poke his head out of his shell.
"Well," said the preacher. "He's a stray if I've ever seen one." He put down his pencil and scratched Winn-Dixie behind the ears. "And a Less Fortunate, too. That's for sure. Are you looking for a home?" the preacher asked, real soft, to Winn-Dixie.
Winn-Dixie wagged his tail.
"Well," the preacher said. "I guess you've found one."
I started in on Winn-Dixie right away, trying to clean him up. First,
I gave him a bath. I used the garden hose and some baby shampoo. He
stood still for it, but I could tell he didn't like it. He looked
insulted, and the whole time, he didn't show me his teeth or wag his
tail once. After he was all washed and dried, I brushed him good. I
used my own hairbrush and worked real hard at all the knots and
patches of fur stuck together. He didn't mind being brushed. He
wiggled his back, like it felt pretty good.
From Because of Winn-Dixie. Copyright (c) 2000 Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
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