Una stood under the willow tree, next to the mound of earth where Scoundrel was buried.
“It’s hot,” said her father, who’d never liked dogs. “We should head inside.”
“Maybe you’d like to say something nice about him first,” said Una’s mother. “Something you remember.”
Una wiped her nose and thought. “I liked throwing him sticks,” she said. “And rubbing his belly.”
“Anything else?” her mother asked.
When Una didn’t respond, her father cleared his throat impatiently, which was something he did more often than he should.
“He stayed with me all day when I had chicken pox.”
“I remember that,” said her mother.
Just then Una heard a humming noise, and when she looked up she thought she saw something hiding in the branches of the willow tree. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to the thing.
Her parents looked up.
“Probably just a bird,” said her father, already turning away from the small funeral for a dog with a crooked tail.
But that night, when Una was trying to sleep, she heard the humming noise again.
“Don’t be afraid,” said a small voice at the foot of her bed. A gnarled creature the size of Una’s hand hopped forward, aided by the fluttering of delicate wings, splintered at their edges. “I’m only a froll,” it said. “Half farie, half troll. I live in the woods behind your house and I wanted to say that I was sorry about Scoundrel. He was a good dog.”
The creature took another step forward. “Being a froll,” it said, “I can do magic. If you wanted, I could bring your dog back to play with you again.”
Una threw her aside her covers and sat up. “Could you?” she cried, and then, realizing her parents might hear, she whispered, “Could you really?”
“Yes. But I’ll have to ask for something in return.”
“I take memories—just a few,” it said, holding two grizzled fingers a worm’s breadth apart, from people with good childhoods and give them to people with bad childhoods. To even things out, you see. If you’ll give me your memories of Scoundrel, I can have him back barking at your door.”
“Promise.” The froll beat his fractured wings again, managing the ascent to her shoulder. “This won’t hurt a bit,” it said. Then it reached into her ear and pulled out a slick thread that smelled of wet dog. “I’ll have Scoundrel back by dawn.”
“Who?” asked Una.
The froll smiled. “You’ll see,” it said.
The next morning Una woke to the sound of barking and scratching at the front door.
“Una!” cried her mother. “Come see!”
Una got out of bed and went to the door.
“Doesn’t he look just like Scoundrel?” her mother asked. “It’s amazing. He has the same spots on his paws—even the same crooked tail!”
But Una didn’t remember ever having a dog before.
The animal dropped a stick at her feet.
“I think he wants you to play,” said her mother, reaching her fingers through the thick fur under the dog’s neck. “But he doesn’t have any tags. We’ll have to bring him to the police to see if he’s lost.”
“I’ll take him,” said Una’s father.
Her mother turned in surprise, as if the man in behind of her had materialized out of thin air.
Una’s father was smiling. “Scoundrel always reminded me of a dog I used to have when I was a kid.”
Una’s mother looked at him funny. “You never mentioned having a dog before,” she said.
“Didn’t I? He stayed with me the whole day when I had chicken pox.”
“I thought your parents never let you have anything?” pressed Una’s mother.
“They didn’t,” Una’s father agreed. “Except that dog.”
Then he picked up the stick and threw it out the door even though he’d never played fetch with Scoundrel. “Come on,” he said to Una, taking her by the hand. “If we’re lucky, maybe we can keep him.”