Runner-Up, August 2012 KidPub Writing Contest
“Hurry up Cocoa Muffin! We gotta get back to the house in time for the--” I cut myself off. I wasn’t ready to think about the hearing just yet. Cocoa Muffin, my incredibly adorable wiener dog refused to move. He was sniffing something copper and shiny on the sidewalk. Something that I was almost sure wasn’t there a second ago.
I bent down to take a closer look at the penny, but all of a sudden Cocoa Muffin started growling like crazy and pulling on the leash. He was usually a mellow dog, and he was pretty old, but there was something wild in his eyes right then. I brushed him off and looked at the penny to see if it was heads up or heads down. It was tails. I picked it up anyway. I still needed a penny from 1953 to complete my collection. I was just about to turn it over to see the year when Cocoa Muffin gave a furious bark and bit my outstretched pinky. The pain only lasted a second, but my hurt at what Cocoa Muffin had done lasted the rest of the walk home.
My family got Cocoa Muffin when I was four, a year before my dad died. My mom owns a pet shop, so she had been considering which pet to get me. It was a tie between Cocoa Muffin-- because a dog teaches great responsibility-- and a parrot-- because it could say Juliet’s balcony speech from Romeo and Juliet. In the end she brought me in to pick which one I wanted. I thought the parrot was cool until it called me Romeo. When I met Cocoa Muffin, it was love at first sight. He licked my hand and wagged his little tail and that was settled.
The Cocoa part of his name comes from his shiny brown fur. The Muffin part has a story behind it. After we got Cocoa Muffin my mom made muffins to celebrate his arrival. One fell on the ground and I was about to pick it up and throw it in our compost when Cocoa Muffin gobbled it up. Thus the name Cocoa Muffin was born.
As I opened the door to my house, a thought occurred to me. Could Cocoa Muffin have rabies? I decided no, or at least I didn’t want to go all Old Yeller on my darling dachshund.Taped to the door to my room was a note.
“Anna: Gone to get milk. I hung your dress in the closet. Be good. I’ll be back in time for the hearing. Love, Mom.” The hearing! In all the excitement with Cocoa Muffin, I had almost forgotten. I had to get ready!
Here is a lesson for you: Don’t skip school. Not even one day of it. If you do, it goes on your report card as an unexcused absence, and how are you supposed to explain to your mother that the outdoors is way more fun than being cooped up in school all day? Plus, once you do it once you have to do it again. It’s like smoking. It’s addictive, and bad for you.Once you get enough unexcused absences on your report card, you have to go to a hearing. Try explaining that to your mom.
Speaking of moms, mine was making me wear a dress made out of a reeeally thin green fabric. It came down to my knees, where it ended in a crescendo of frills. I hated the dress. It made me feel like I was naked.
I suddenly remembered the penny, which I had pressed into my hand so hard it left a mark. I turned it over in my hand, and saw the date. 2007. No big deal. I was about to put the penny down on the desk when I looked at it again. I did a double take. I had misread the tiny numbers. It didn’t say 2007, it said 2017! No way. Last I checked it was still 2012. Let’s see, if I was born in 2000, and my last birthday was in November. . . Yes, it was still 2012! I studied the penny, looking to see if there was a futuristic quality to it. It seemed perfectly normal. Maybe it had just been a misprint. Maybe it was from 2007 after all. But it had seemed to just appear out of nowhere.
I was being ridiculous. I must have overlooked the penny. Even people who have been collecting pennies since they were five missed things every so often. Or I was just stressed about this hearing business.
I left the penny on my dresser and went downstairs. Cocoa Muffin was there, just as happy as he had been before he found the penny. Wait. Was it possible. . .? I had to check. I ran back upstairs and got the penny. When I got back to Cocoa Muffin he was growling again. Weird.
I was about to put the penny back in my room when the door opened and mom came in. “You look beautiful honey,” she said, putting the milk in our fridge-- Yes, we do have our kitchen right by the door-- and taking off her coat. “You’re going to do great at the. . . the hearing.” My mom doesn’t like to admit that our family isn’t perfect. “Put Cocoa on his leash. We’re walking to the courtroom.”
I wanted to say that I’d already walked him, but I didn’t. My mom’s the kind of person that makes you swallow your words. So I reluctantly put his leash on-- again-- and we set off. It wasn’t a short walk to the courthouse, but my mom didn’t talk to me much. She strolled ahead on her longer legs leaving me behind with a wiener dog who kept snapping at my pocket.
We finally arrived, and we went inside. We took Cocoa Muffin with us, which obviously caused quite a stir, but eventually they let us take him in, and even rustled up a dog carrier. My mom can be very persuasive.
We entered the courtroom, and it was basically like what you see on TV. My mom and I sat up front, on a bench, and there was a judge, and the jury box, and my school’s principal on a bench like ours. Once everyone was in the room, the hearing started.
I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. I did what my mom told me to do, and I looked around attentively while everyone was talking, but I was mostly daydreaming and worrying about the penny. It was getting hotter.
At first I didn’t really notice it getting warmer. I figured it was because my hand was sweaty. It was only when Cocoa Muffin started growling again that I realized that the penny was actually getting hotter. It got steadily hotter and hotter, and I had to keep switching hands to keep from getting burnt. At that point, Cocoa Muffin shook the carrier so hard that it fell off the bench with a loud clatter.
Everyone stopped talking and stared at the carrier. I got permission to go and let Cocoa Muffin outside and tie his leash to the handrail. I went gladly, happy to be let out of that stuffy room. Once I got outside I let Cocoa Muffin out of the carrier. He didn’t even run around like he usually does after he’s been cooped up for a while. He just eyed my hands, and jumped, trying to get the penny.
I don’t know why I had to keep the penny. I guess because it was so rare. Now I wish I had thrown it away so that I could prevent what happened next.
Keeping the penny in one hand for so long hurt. I tried to keep it in that one hand for as long as I could. Finally, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I switched hands. Or at least, I tried to. Cocoa Muffin grabbed the penny in his mouth and swallowed it. I sighed, upset at having lost my prize penny. Dutifully, I tied Cocoa Muffin’s leash to the railing and walked up the stairs. At the door to the courthouse I turned and looked back. I could practically see steam coming out of Cocoa Muffin’s ears. Wait, I could see steam coming out of Cocoa Muffin’s ears!
I ran back down the stairs and knelt by Cocoa Muffin. He was panting, but he licked my hand. Tears stung the corners of my eyes. Cocoa Muffin’s tongue was extremely hot, but that’s not the reason I was crying. My dog was literally spontaneously combusting before my eyes.
I stayed with Cocoa Muffin until the end. I got burns on my hands from petting him even though his skin was unbearably hot. I told my mom he had run away, so he never got a proper funeral. She would never have believed me if I told the truth.
I managed to get away from the hearing with only a week of In School Suspension. I wouldn’t have cared if I had gotten a month. After the hearing I didn’t miss another day of school. Even when I was sick I pretended I wasn’t. I didn’t want to go back to the courthouse.
I don’t collect pennies anymore. I threw my entire collection into the river, listening to their sounds as they clinked together. It made me feel better.
One day, as I was walking home from school, I saw a brown kitten. It was messing around in some families trash can. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought if I hadn’t seen what it was doing.
It was eating muffins.