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Excerpt from Villa America by Liza Klaussmann, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

Villa America

A Novel

by Liza Klaussmann
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  • First Published:
  • Aug 4, 2015
  • Paperback:
  • Jun 2016
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Print Excerpt

"You have not shown responsibility, Gerald," Father said. "Since you are unable to manage the dog, it can no longer stay in this house. Animals have a place and once they are elevated beyond that place, it not only makes them dangerous but reflects poorly on the master. From this day on, you are not to go near that dog. It will live in the yard. It can make itself useful by catching rats. You can make yourself useful by learning to live up to your responsibilities. Is that understood?"

"He'll die outside," Gerald said.

"Nonsense," Father said. "It will have a shelter; I've already in structed Harold to make one. The dog, Gerald, will be a dog."

"No, please. Pitz. He's . . ."

"Enough. Don't blubber. You look like Nurse. Do you remember what I told you about seeing something through to the end? Well, this is just one of those times. You must be a man, accept this as a lesson, and see it through to the end. That's the last I want to hear on the subject. You will eat your breakfast in the nursery this morning. Good day, Gerald."

For the next week, every night, Gerald would open his bedroom window and speak softly to Pitz, who sat looking forlornly up at the house. For the first few days, Pitz waited until Gerald couldn't stand the cold any longer and was forced to shut the window before creeping to the wooden shack Harold had built in the corner of the garden. By Friday, though, the dog no longer waited for Gerald to finish telling him about his day, and by Sunday, he didn't even come out of his shelter at the sound of the sash going up.

When Pitz didn't appear Monday evening, Gerald opened the chest-on-chest in his room where they kept spare blankets. He pulled out the oldest one he could find and went and lifted the window.

"Pitz." He kept his voice low and hushed.

The sky was so dark that it was a kind of black-blue. "Pitz," he called again, a little louder.

Finally, Gerald could make out a small head appearing from the shelter.

"Pitz. Come."

The dog moved warily towards the sound of Gerald's voice. Gerald dangled the blanket out the window and then tossed it as far as he could.

Pitz moved slowly towards it and sniffed it. He looked up at Gerald, and Gerald knew what his friend was asking.

"Go on, Pitz. Go on and take it. It's for you."

Pitz looked at him a moment longer and then grabbed one end of the woolen cover, dragged it back to his shack, and pulled it in after him.

"I love you, Pitz," Gerald called across the garden. "I love you."

By the beginning of February, Gerald had thrown three blankets, a couple of pairs of winter socks he thought Pitz could make a pillow with, various tidbits from his lunches and suppers, and a box of sweetmeats that he had stolen from the drawing room. But one night, he had nothing useful to throw down to his friend — he had been so very hungry at lunch that there was nothing left over. So, in desperation, he threw down one of his toy soldiers. Pitz came out and snuffled it, then gazed up at the window. For a moment Gerald thought Pitz was disappointed because it wasn't food, but then the dog nudged the lead figurine with his nose and looked up at Gerald, letting out a small bark. Gerald began to cry.

The next day, after school, when Nurse was busy with Baby, and Cook was running errands, Gerald decided to brave punishment and went out into the garden. He stood in the doorway and called Pitz's name. At first there was no movement, and then a small head popped out of the shelter. Gerald, afraid and elated, moved across the hard ground towards his dog. Pitz emerged slowly and Gerald knelt down and held out his hand. He had brought a bit of biscuit.

"Come, Pitz," he said.

The dog moved closer and Gerald saw that his coat had grown quite matted and was also coarser than he remembered. Pitz smelled the food and cautiously approached, first sniffing from a little ways away, then darting in and scarfing the tidbit from Gerald's palm.

Excerpted from Villa America by Liza Klaussmann. Copyright © 2015 by Liza Klaussmann. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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