Once, there was an old woman who lived on an outlying island. Like many boat people who were carried on their mother's backs as a child, she had very bandy legs. But still, every month, her landlord demanded she travel into the city to pay her rent in person.
On the first day of May, a particularly hot day, the old woman packed some water for her trip and set off to the ferry pier. "Shoo!" she told her dog, her best friend. They had lived together through typhoons and tidal waves and she loved him dearly.
The dog kept padding at her side.
The old woman sat on a rock by the roadside for a drink. Sweat dripped down her wrinkled face. She let her dog lap some of her water then ordered him home.
But at the ferry pier, the dog reappeared, clawing her skirt and yelping.
"Whatever is the matter with you?" said the old woman, waving her walking stick. "You know you can't come into the city with me. Now, shoo!"
She prodded the dog's back, pushed it homeward but it still wagged its tail and barked.
Toot, toot! The ferry was ready to depart. The dog scraped the concrete pavement with its paws and howled.
"I'll be back before dinner," said the old woman.
The ferry bumped across the sea. The old woman's eyes felt heavy but she put on her glasses to count her cash one more time.
Eiya! Where was her purse? She checked her pocket, her bag, again and again, but her purse was nowhere to be found.
When the boat reached Central, she caught the next one back home. On the way, she hobbled past the place where she'd stopped to drink.
And there was her darling dog, straddled across the rock.
Guarding her purse.
This is an adaptation of the story 義犬from聊齋誌異by 蒲松齡.
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