Tag Archives: dogs

No One Wants to be Rover’s Chew Toy

I never really know what genre my nonsense fits into. This one starts out as a Slice of Life tale. But then, as in most of my stories, things go awry…which can be said of normal life as well. Give a listen by clicking below, and then tell me what you would call it.
Is is Slice of Life (gone awry)?
Is it Horror?
Experimental?

 

 

Late on a Friday at the end of July in a park somewhere in New England a couple walk their dogs along the footpath that winds its way under great Pin Oaks and Long Toothed Aspens. On one side of the path is a stream with a swarm of mosquitos hovering over an eddy. On the other side is grass, thin and weedy due to the shade of the mature trees. Plenty of people use the park to walk their dogs during the better part of the day, yet the usual land mines one would come to expect are absent due to the poop-bag dispenser right at the entrance. Coming from the other direction, an older woman walks her golden retriever and when she approaches the couple walking their dogs, the man has to reel his charge in because the little pooch has gone temporarily insane—snarling and barking. The man chuckles politely in a bid to minimize.

On one of the park benches sits a man in his late thirties who is aged beyond his years due to nicotine, alcohol, and a seven year affair with heroin. He wears his tattered Boston Red Sox cap backward and in the bag on the bench next to him is his self-allotted buzz for the evening—a forty of cheap-ass beer. He rations what he can barely afford, and sits in the park because its cooler here than in his second floor apartment with the single fan stuffed in the most likely window to offer relief that never seems to be enough. Everyone knows what’s in the bag. Everyone sees but doesn’t see. No one wants a confrontation mainly because it’s just too damned hot for that.

Two boys coming down the path command the attention of Mr. Ball Cap. They are young, between ten and twelve. Well dressed for boys that age, their gait is casual, and their conversation is animated. For them, it appears, the rest of the world has melted away. They are alone with each other and the man on the bench notices this, would like to take advantage of their apparent naïveté. The man would like to bolster his financial situation any way he can and as the boys draw nearer, Mr. Ball Cap decides that two forties might make the night more tolerable and the boys look like they can help the cause.

High overhead a bird calls out to the others that the show is about to start. Mr. Ball Cap doesn’t see another soul around as the boys approach and prepares for the occasion of their meeting by slipping a folding knife from his back pocket and opening it, out of sight along his leg of course, and when they are within earshot he offers his greeting. The boys are understandably wary. They look like the sorts who have been coached about strangers from a very early age. They don’t say anything and avoid eye contact enough to get the point across. During their final approach, the man stands, blade jutting from his hand and says, “Why don’t you boys give me everything in your pockets.”

The boys stop. They look at each other with stoic calm and then turn back to the gentleman with the knife. “We don’t got nuthin’ mister,” claims the boy with the blue tee shirt.

That the boys appear unflappable unnerves the man. He’s used to being feared in such situations. He swirls the blade in the air and a brief stint in a restaurant kitchen comes to mind as a flashback. He says, “Turn ’em out. I want to see those pockets.”

They rabbit ear their pockets, then Blue Tee Shirt says, “We got some money stashed under a rock by that overpass mister.”

Sure, you’d think that would raise some suspicion. But this guy’s used some of his deck in the spokes of his life. He says, “How much?”

The kid in the yellow tee shirt says, “My twenty is there.”

“And I’ve got two tens and a five.”

Mr. Ball Cap scratches at his arm and asks “Why you put your money under a rock?”

“Big kids,” the two chime in together.

That answers everything for Mr. Ball Cap and he motions for the boys to lead the way with his knife. At the overpass, the boys begin looking around like they can’t figure out which rock it might be. Soon enough, they’re on either side of Mr. Ball Cap, heads down and looking all around.

As soon as Mr. Ball Cap focuses on Blue Tee and asks, “Where’s this rock?” Yellow Tee runs at him, pulls the knife-hand into Mr. Ball Cap’s chest and wiggles and jiggles while clamping down on his jugular with a pair of teeth designed to extract a person’s life force in mere moments.

Blue Tee joins in by removing the knife and sucking on the gaping wound.

When they’re done—faces gruesomely red, Blue Tee says, “Rover will love this chew toy. Let’s go.”

They exit through a shimmer in the wall under the overpass dragging Mr. Ball Cap into their where—a place much different than the park it shares a border with—a border that is thinner right there in that spot. Inside—beyond the shimmer—Rover does a happy little jig on six legs that are oddly jointed. His mandibles flex open and closed while sending telepathic barking sounds to a select few.

This is the most anyone has seen of that other place, and we’re lucky—you and I—to be mere ethereal audience participants. No one wants to be Rover’s chew toy.

Heh…

***

I hope you enjoyed this craziness. So what genre would YOU tuck this one into?

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Eulogy for Sunny

This is a rare bit of non-fiction from me. It’s about Sunny, who has been with use since we lived in East Bridgewater. The pictures below can be viewed larger by clicking on them; they’ll open in a new window so you won’t lose the audio feed.

Let me read this to you by simply clicking the arrow below.

***

Shopping for another dog back in 1997, we came upon a Shih Tzu we named Sunny because that was the effect he had on our family.

Our other dog, Dutch, already the most facially expressive dog we had ever owned, raised one eyebrow—then the other, performed a lot of head tilting, and smiled with that long collie beak of his. All the rest of our dogs over the years showed some measure of jealousy at the arrival of the newest, but Dutch was just happy to have another buddy. His name morphed from Dutch to Dutchie-kins to simply Kins.

Sunny and Dutch played together quite a bit, and in the beginning we had to remind Dutch he was much bigger. Sometimes Sunny would stand under Dutch and taunt him by tugging on his chest fur. While Sunny was doing that and matching his moves to escape, Dutch was careful not to step on the little guy. That collie would look all around himself, trying to find a way to stop the young Shih Tzu we took to calling Punk Boy.

Once, Dutch simply laid down in exasperation while Sunny was under him tugging on his chest fur. A smile grew on Dutch—like a face being unzipped—with the realization of his unplanned success.

Our house always had toys laying around for the dogs to play with and Dutch had a hard time discerning the difference between his toys and the Barbies my daughter played with. He decapitated quite a few of those. Every dog has a favorite. Sandy—our first—had a particularly pliable parrot, green with a squeaker in it. Dutch, of course had Barbies.

Sunny loved to chase balls around.

His favorite type of ball came from those displays you see in stores; a hundred or so balls, a foot in diameter, held in a plastic framework of heavy rubber bands so you could just reach in and grab the one you wanted. Sunny loved those big rubber balls.

He’d heave his chest at it or try to bite it and the ball would start moving. He’d give chase like a soccer star all around the house. Dutch would play spectator as Sunny moved that ball around, barking as if heckling it, or goading it on. Dutch would just smile and sigh.

If you tried to take the ball from Sunny, he’d zig to your zag or he’d stop and gather the ball up with his front paws trying to hide it under him, which didn’t work as it was twice his size. The exercise would get him panting, tongue extending from his mouth impossibly long and curled upward.

We moved to Plymouth when Dutch was an old guy and the place didn’t have a stockade fence like the house in East Bridgewater. I’d like to think it was Dutch reminiscing about the adventures he had after escaping the confines of that fence that got Sunny going on his own escape attempts. We’d let Sunny out and stay with him till he had done his thing. He’d walk away from you, peering back furtively every once in a while. He’d wait until you were distracted and looking away and he’d bolt from the yard. He never got far; his little Shih Tzu legs didn’t stand a chance against his owner’s. Or our neighbors would give us the heads-up if it came to that.

One day though, just as the sky was darkening, he took off. Tail down and in a trot, thunder began to rumble in the sky above. Sunny was frightened of loud noises. Motorcycles, loud cars, fireworks, and thunder claps all scared the crap out of Sunny. Literally. I’ve seen him run off down the hall of our house after a really good thunder clap and he’d leave little tootsie rolls in his wake.

That day he got away, there was a lot of thunder and lightning. He was gone for hours and a frantic search during the storm came up empty. I can only imagine the journey that took place during that deluge. Between trying to not be caught and running from the thunder, he must have gotten enough adventure to last a lifetime. When we got him back, he was soaked to the skin, dirty as though he had hidden under every car and in every garden between us and the two young girls who brought him to our front door. They recognized him.

He was quivering uncontrollably. And he had been changed by the ordeal.

We had an invisible fence system installed so he never got out again. For years, we played loud music whenever a storm approached so he wouldn’t have the crap scared out of him.

We loved Sunny so much that when we got another dog to take the place of Dutch, we chose another Shih Tzu and named him Teddy Bear—or Ted for short. He’s my reading buddy. Later, we came across another and named him (Six-gun) Sam because he has a bunch more toes than is the norm. He’s the new soccer star.

None of the dogs we’ve had over the years has equaled Sunny for his soccer abilities, or for his stealth at escape. Sunny is fourteen now. He is blind and suffers from dementia. And now, a tumor presses against his cranial wadding, spazzing out the little guy.

The young, playful, escape artist is still in there. You can see him come out when dreams are full and the legs start moving. He runs still, if only in a world he conjures.

My greatest hope is that he goes to look for Dutch when his time comes—and that time is near. Those two, Punk and Kins—an escape artist and his mentor, have a lot of catching up to do.

***

 

Modus Operandi

With this one, I plunge into the dark again. I wanted to call it a ‘slice of life’ story, but not everyone would get the pun. Feel free to shout out if you recognize the setting…

A gray cat wends a figure eight around his legs. As the unnoticed feline scampers off, it fades into obscurity.

He sits on a bench facing the marina, the docks, and the boats. A voice, distant and indiscernible, sounds familiar to him. He turns toward the voice casually and seeing no one there, scans the area for the source in a more aware and frantic way. His eyes—falling on no one—feel tired and bloodshot and he worries they may not tell the truth.

When he turns back in frustration, an ethereal woman is standing some ten feet in front of him. He thinks it is number two.

They always find him now. He squeezes his eyes shut and counts to three adding one-thousand before each number. She laughs as he opens his eyes again, but she is gone. The laugh fades to an echo, reverberant in the canyons of his mind.

He claps his hands over his ears and hunches so his elbows are on his thighs. He stands suddenly, hands tight fisted at his sides and he yells.

“Gaaagh, fuck off!”

Alone with his fears and his guilt, he came out to the waterfront for the air to clear his head. “Nothing helps,” he murmurs as an exhalation.

He marches west, back to Brewster Gardens—back the way he came. The voices whisper, a plotting fraternity of his own creation. He can’t tell what they say, exactly, in their sharp frenzied tones. But he knows they’ve found each other somehow.

He wonders what they want. Exposure? Revenge? He feels like an animal being tracked, hunted for sport. He hates it as much as he hates himself and he turns to walk backward for a few steps. Focus slow, he feels he might have missed a lurker darting for cover. Under the overpass for Main Street, he stops and waits to see if anyone is following.

He doesn’t see them, all shot through with moon glow, walking slowly at the top of the grassy hill and looking down at him.

He hates this. All those people. He wishes there wasn’t a first, doesn’t have to close his eyes to see her. She banged her head on the doorframe with the first thrust. The mirror finish of steel tainted red with gore; when he held it up he could see himself reflected back. He buried that reflection again and again hitting something different each time; bone, meat, muscle. His mind raced through the possibilities with each thrust as if tallying some weirdly wicked dart match. He remembered panting like an athlete, breathing spatter and cold air.

Past the Grist Mill and into the parking lot, clouds opened up to let the moon shine down, spotlighting the only vehicle there at this time of night—really early morning. It is an old Ford Econoline with cancerous fenders and a magnetic sign telling other motorists he is Plymouth Pool Services.

As he runs toward it he thinks he is running from the voices, but their volume never dims. The frustration of it turns to anger as he fumbles for the door key. He throws himself into the driver’s seat and closes the door at the same time. He slaps the door lock and feels instant relief—insulated from the outside. There is no dome light to time out; he removed that long ago. He sits in the darkness, eyes darting about and afraid to move. He is trembling with a fear noted in his breathing.

He has always known fear. His father instilled that emotion in him long ago and he wears it like a long coat. It occurs to him that maybe he should have passed that fear around instead of keeping it for himself. He could have dealt in fear instead of death. The idea relaxes him for a moment as if it is a revelatory bit of therapy.

Motion in his rearview mirror has him spinning around to see. Eyes pierce the darkness, staring in at him. He realizes he cannot run anymore, he cannot hide. They always find him, just like he found himself in the reflection of his favorite kitchen knife. He found temporary comfort in the neat certainty of stainless steel.

How can he run from the ones he has already slaughtered? They hunt, they plot and he hates them. Most of all, he hates himself.

He knows he is a vile murderous creature. He knows.

Killing all those people never assuaged his fears. They still come for him and he can only kill them once.

His eyebrows rise in realization of the final answer. If he kills himself…they’ll have no one to hunt.

“Ha haaah,” he mutters, and then thoughtfully rakes his upper teeth across his lower lip. “I know how to end this you fucks.”

But the idea of plunging his favorite knife into himself is, at once, repulsive. Leaving it dirty and discarded, while he bleeds out in pain is not an option he can live with. The irony of that thought process eludes him.

Another plan jumps to the head of the line and he acts on it. He uses a bungee cord to hold the rear door of the van closed on a hose running from the exhaust pipe. The drone of the engine lulls him, its exhaust slowly asphyxiates.

All of them, solemn as funeral attendees, surround the van. There are several dogs and cats in the group. One ferret chases another down the windshield.

The somewhat pink luminosity of the distant eastern sky hints at a morning he is glad he will never see.

As he flickers out of consciousness he feels he has won—feels they can never catch him now.

It occurs to him that he has changed his modus operandi and he smiles. He feels hands grabbing at him and it gives him a start.

Eyes open and outside looking in, he releases a scream that may never end.

 That’s it and thanks for hanging on to the end. I hope you enjoyed it.

Did you recognize the setting? Did the story make you skin crawl at all? Let me know what you think and please—do tell your friends about FlashTold.