Ch. 30: New York City Heart

New York City was always brightly lit at night, not thanks to the stars in the sky - those couldn't even be seen - but to the shining lights from the city's thousands of buildings. With the lights left on all night, there was no way that the city could ever sleep, and Dodger preferred it that way.

The mutt was back again in his least favorite part of town, but he did have a reason to return to the Bronx. Dodger had come to play on his rooftop piano, just as he had done when he was young.

When I was a kid, I'd come play here whenever I was feelin' lonely, Dodger thought as he sat atop the piano, gazing out at the city skyline. I guess I've come full-circle, from a pup on tha' streets to a dog on tha' streets.

Except now, I'm playing this piano 'cause I'm happy... happy that I'm not alone anymore.

Unlike New York City, Dodger needed to sleep, and after he had played music to his heart's content, the mongrel fell asleep on top of his great piano.

Once it was morning, Dodger woke up with a big yawn and a stretch. He took the fire escape down the building, then jumped off onto the sidewalk. Dodger looked back up at the roof where his piano stood, glad that he had some good memories of his puppyhood to treasure. Maybe the Bronx wasn't such a horrible place after all. At any rate, he was glad to finally be able to put all the feelings of abandonment and anger he had been harboring to rest.

A little later in the day, Dodger had left the Bronx for the streets of Manhattan. As the Dodge strutted down the street, humming his "Why Should I Worry?" to himself casually, he passed by an alley. Dodger noticed that in the alley, a large male dog was harassing a smaller female.

Closer up to the two, Dodger could hear the big male laughing at her. Sneaking up even closer, Dodger got a better look at him - he was a mutt, but he had Labrador in him, his scruffy fur a muddy, dark brown shade.

The Labrador mutt sneered, "...Name's Duke. And you, baby, are intruding on my turf. Luckily for you, I think you're kinda cute..."

"P- Please, leave me alone!" the girl begged him, but Duke just laughed even more.

"Leave you alone? Where would the fun in that be?" Duke sneered, edging closer and closer to the poor girl.

"Ya' may wanna' start seriously considerin' tha' lady's suggestion, Dukey, 'cause fair warnin', ya' really do not want ta' move any closer ta' her. Got it?"

Duke was startled by Dodger's intrusion, turning around to snarl at the red-scarfed mutt, "And I suppose you're gonna stop me, that right?"

"You suppose. I know," Dodger growled menacingly.

Duke leapt at Dodger, and the two dogs fought furiously. However, one of them had been getting into fights on the streets ever since he was a puppy, so the scuffle didn't last very long. Duke, sporting several new, Dodger-induced injuries, soon ran off with his tail between his legs.

"Are ya' alright?" Dodger asked the girl. She nodded gratefully and smiled at him.

"Y- Yes, I'm fine. Thank you so much for saving me from him."

"No problem. I'm a sucker for tha' ladies, after all," Dodger said, putting on his best, cockiest grin for the girl, "And see, I was thinkin', ya' probably so grateful ta' me that ya' would love ta' get ta' know me on a more personal level. Whaddya' say, sweetheart?"

She looked indignant at his little suggestion. Huffing loudly, the girl shoved past him and ran out of the alley. Dodger snickered at her reaction, then yelled out, "How ungrateful can ya' get? I rescue ya', an' this is how you repay me?"

He laughed as he walked out of the alley, amused but also very relieved that he had saved the girl - even if she was completely ungrateful.

Remembering that he had promised to visit Oliver again soon, Dodger started off towards Fifth Avenue. Car surfing his way there, the mutt was at the Foxworth mansion before too long. Dodger went around to the side of their house and climbed the fire escape that led up to Jenny's bedroom. Outside her bedroom window, Dodger spotted Oliver lying on her bed, and he barked to get the cat's attention. Happy to see his friend, Oliver went over to window and greeted the dog.

"Hey, Dodger! Jenny's dad put a doggy door on the back door of the mansion yesterday. You can get in there from now on," Oliver told his best friend through the window.

Dodger nodded, then went back down the fire escape and around to the back of the mansion. Sure enough, there was a doggy door for him to easily get inside.

He did so, then ran through the mansion and up the stairs to Jenny's room, where Oliver was waiting for him. Dodger grinned, "That door sure makes things easier for me now, huh?"

"Yeah. I think Jenny's dad figured that if you were going to be coming in and out of the house whenever you wanted, you'd need that doggy door," Oliver explained, then asked him, "So what've you been up to on the streets as of late?"

"Nothin' much. Playin' piano, snaggin' snacks, rescuing' damsels in distress - just tha' usual stuff."

"Oh, is that all?" Oliver laughed.

"Yeah, that's about it," Dodger grinned, then playfully whacked Oliver on the head, "Oh, an' I'm visitin' my little brother right now, so that's somethin'."

Oliver smiled, then snuggled against the scruffy mutt, "I'm really glad you're happy now, Dodge. When you were angry with the gang, you just weren't… you."

"I guess anger didn't really suit me, did it?" Dodger agreed with the ginger cat, "I know I was wrong. I don't like bein' angry an' I don't like bein' alone."

"Luckily for you, you're neither," Oliver reassured the mutt.

Dodger was amazed that Oliver somehow knew him better than he knew himself. Oliver always believed in the best of Dodger, even when Dodger didn't.

Guess that's what a little brother is for, Dodger thought with a smile. Rita told me a while back that I've changed, an' she was right. But that change is for tha' better, an' it's all thanks ta' Oliver.

The little cat really had changed his life, and Dodger was happier for it.

"So, Dodge… did you really save a damsel in distress?" Oliver asked slyly.

"Sure did. But, man, she was so ungrateful! I'm tellin' ya', kid, girls are just too much trouble. Ya' better off without them," the mutt advised Oliver, "Oh, speakin' a girls, I just remembered that I'm supposed ta' meet this babe in front a' tha' Metropolitan!"

"Can't be late for your date, Dodger," Oliver laughed teasingly.

"Meh, I can always stand her up. She wasn't a very pretty beagle anyways," Dodger shrugged, then thought back on the matter, "…No, I think she was a mastiff… or maybe a retriever…"

"Don't be mean, Dodge. You better go," the cat chastised him.

"Alright, alright, but I'll be back here later," Dodger promised.

"I've kind of grown to expect you to just show up at random times," Oliver told him with a smile.

"That's my style," Dodger grinned, then pushed down the handles on the window, opened it, and leapt out onto the fire escape, "Check ya' later, kid."

He took off down the escape, jumped off onto the sidewalk, and strutted out onto the city. His city.

Walking down the city streets, Dodger decided his day could be better spent enjoying all the adventure and excitement of New York than with some girl. So, unfortunately for the random babe he had promised to spend the day with, she was officially being stood up. Who was she to him when he had New York City Heart?

He breathed in, smelling the fresh, clean air of the city. He paused a moment, quiet so he could hear the million sounds all around him that blended together like a song.

The streets of New York City were always alive - bustling crowds, sizzling street food, obnoxious drivers, the City that Never Sleeps had it all. And all of it, from the snob-hill uptown to the hard-rocking downtown, was his. His playground. His kingdom. His city. For he was, of course, the undeniable King of New York. The Artful Dodger.

Dodger jumped up on top of a car, riding freely through the city, feeling the tempo, the rhythm. The city had a beat, and once he hooked into it, he could do anything. And whenever he listened to the beat of the city, Dodger just had to sing to it.

Why should I worry?

Why should I care?

I may not do it all right

But I got street savoir faire!

Why should I worry?

Why should I care?

Now I know I'm not alone

An' I got street savoir faire!

The rhythm of the city

And the tempo of the street!

The love of friends an' family

That's what makes my heart beat!

Why should I worry?

Tell me, why should I care?

Yeah, I know I cross that line

Oh, but I got street savoir faire!

Why should I worry?

Why should I care?

Now I know I'm not alone

An' I got street savoir fare!

The rhythm of our lives

If we can toss our anger out

Brings us all closer together

Yeah, that's what it's all about!

Why should I worry?

Why should I care?

With the help of the ones I love

Oh, I got street savoir faire!

Why should I worry?

Why should I care?

Now I know I'm not alone

An' I got street savoir fare!

Why should I worry?

Why should I care?

With the help of the ones I love

I got street!

Yeah, I got street!

I got street savoir faire!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: And the story is finished. I know that ending song was pretty cheesy, but it's all I could come up with. I'm not a songwriter. Anyways, Dodger unknowingly gets to avenge his mother by beating up Duke, who, if you'll remember, is the father of his new brothers and sisters. Well, I hope you all enjoyed my first-ever story, and I'm absolutely honored that you read it! Thank you so much!

Thanks for reading! Reviews are always appreciated.