The Whistle That Wouldn’t Work

By Lois I. Fisher

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    Teddy tried blowing on his shiny new whistle all the way home and all the way up the three flights of stairs to their apartment. But the only sound he heard was the barking of Winkles, Mr. Collier’s huge German shepherd.

    “Hello,” Teddy’s mother greeted him at the door. “Winkles is certainly upset about something. Did you see a stranger in the hall?”

    Teddy shrugged. “No, Mom. I didn’t see anyone.” Then he added in disgust, “Boy, is this ever a dumb whistle.”

    “What’s wrong with it?” his mother asked.

    “I spent all of my money at the school fair for this whistle, and all I got was a dud. It won’t even blow.”

    Teddy went to his room and tossed his schoolbooks onto the bed. Holding the whistle up to the light, he tried to see if something was blocking the holes where the sound should come out. “It looks OK and just like an ordinary whistle, only it doesn’t work,” he said, shaking his head in puzzlement.

    Teddy ran his fingers through his hair then tried the whistle again. Nothing! He stuffed the whistle into his pocket and went into the living room.

    “Hear that barking?” Mom asked, shaking her head. “I wonder what’s gotten into Winkles?”

    Teddy’s eyes brightened a little. Maybe he could play detective and find out why Winkles was barking! That sounded like a lot more fun than trying to blow on a whistle that wouldn’t work. “OK if I go over and see what’s going on?” he asked his mother.

    “It’s fine with me. Just don’t stay too long.”

    Teddy dashed out the door. He liked to visit Mr. Collier and Winkles anyway. Mr. Collier was a retired fireman who often wore faded blue overalls. Teddy wanted a pair just like them.

    As soon as Teddy neared the door, Winkles gave a familiar woof. He’s the best watchdog in the whole building, Teddy thought.

    “Who’s there?” came a deep voice from the other side of apartment 3C.

    “Me, Teddy. I mean, Theodore,” Teddy said wrinkling his nose. Only Mr. Collier called him by his full name.

    The door swung open and the huge dog bounded out, still barking and with his tail wagging wildly. Teddy knew that he had to let Winkles calm down before stepping into Mr. Collier’s apartment. Suddenly, the dog stopped and trotted back into the apartment. “He thinks it’s OK for me to come in now,” said Teddy.

    Mr. Collier nodded his head in agreement and smiled. “Hello, Theodore. Nice to see you again.”

    “Hi. Mom and I heard Winkles barking. I came to find out what’s wrong.”

    Mr. Collier scratched his pointy chin. “Mmm, I can’t figure it out, Theodore. He starts barking all of a sudden and then quits.”

    Teddy glanced at the huge dog that was now stretched out on the floor, panting and looking content.

    “Doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything now,” Mr. Collier said. “But you don’t look happy, Theodore. Didn’t you have a good time at your school fair today?”

    “The fair was fun, but I sure got cheated! I spent my money on a whistle that doesn’t even work!” Teddy told him.

    “Doesn’t work?”

    “That’s right. I blow it and nothing comes out but air.”

    “Maybe I could fix that whistle for you. Why don’t you go back home and get it,” Mr. Collier suggested.

    Teddy beamed. Mr. Collier could fix anything. “I’ve got it right here,” Teddy said as he pulled the shiny whistle from his pocket.

    The old gentleman examined the whistle carefully and then asked, “Theodore, have you tried that whistle since you’ve been home?”

    “A lot of times, and it just doesn’t work. Listen.” And Teddy blew it again as hard as he could.

    Winkles suddenly pricked up his ears. His bright golden eyes were alert. Suddenly, he leaped up and began barking again. Teddy quickly took the whistle from his lips and gulped.

    “All right, Winkles. Quiet, boy,” said Mr. Collier.

    The barks became woofs and finally Winkles flopped to the floor again. Mr. Collier turned to Teddy. “Remember once when I told you that a dog’s hearing is more sensitive than a human’s?” he asked. “That’s why Winkles is such a terrific watchdog. He hears people and noises before we ever hear them. And it’s the same with your whistle. Winkles can hear it even if we don’t.”

    “But it doesn’t work at all!” exclaimed Teddy.

    “It works fine, Theodore. Only the pitch, the sound it makes, is higher than a human ear can pick up,” Mr. Collier explained.

    “You mean Winkles has been barking because he hears the whistle?” Teddy asked, plopping down next to Winkles and stroking the dog’s head.

    “That’s exactly right,” said Mr. Collier, chuckling.

    Illustrated by Len Epstein