The Scent of an Angel by Nancy Springer

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When a dog discovers that he can't be a witch's familiar because he's white, he sets off on a quest to be the faithful aide to an angel. As his sense of smell leads him from one person in need to another, will he find the ethereal being he's looking for or will his nose, in fact, lead him to the last place he'd ever expect to find his real purpose in life? A short story.


To my eyes at first it was just another village where I might beg a scrap of bread to eat—but then, I did not yet know why, my heart trembled and began to howl. And then I saw—that cowshed, it was—yes, it was where I had suckled at my mother’s belly before she had stuck her hungry head into the bear trap after the bait. Before she was killed. And that was the very farmhouse where the fat woman had given me many curses and a few scraps. And that cottage…

That was the cottage where the witch lived. On the breeze I smelled soot and lavender.

On the breeze also, I heard the sound of weeping.

I wanted to trot on to the cowshed, for it was home of a sort. I knew I would never see my mother again, but my heart yearned for…something. Perhaps I might find some of my litter mates still there?

But—that soft, weary, sobbing—who was weeping?

That tired, muted sound would not let me pass the cottage by. My heart would not let me. Limping with soreness from the stony road, I turned and trotted that way.

On the grassy hill behind the cottage, under a huge oak tree with its limp leaves hanging, I found the bent old woman on her knees, hunched over something that lay on the ground, black.

I whined, and she looked at me. “They—killed—my Precious,” she sobbed.

The black cat lay there, looking not nearly so smug in death, its fur no longer sleek, now a bloody mess from a blast of buckshot.

“They killed her. Now I have nothing.”

Still crying wanly, like a baby crying itself to sleep, the crone wrenched at the sod with a hand trowel, trying to dig the cat a grave.

“They hate me,” she said, talking to herself, the grass, the oak, me.

She wrested from the ground a teacup’s worth of sod and a thimble’s worth of earth.

“They killed my sweet Precious just because they hate me.”

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