Monster is a good boy. Yes he is, yes he is. Monster knows he is a good boy because his master told him so all the time. His master told him he was a good boy when they went outside and Monster would strain on his leash to show the other dogs that Monster was in charge. Master never let him go, but when his barks and growls made other dogs and their masters move away, his master, the best master, would pat his head and tell him he was a good boy.
Sometimes, another dog would not get out of the way and get too close. Monster would charge down the other dog, snarling and biting until it lay down belly in the air. The ones who did not lie down got bit harder and shook until they whined and whimpered that Monster was the top dog. Their master would shout at his master but then Monster would bark, growl and run at them until Master yanked him away. When the other dogs and masters went away, his master told him he was a very good boy.
Monster was curled up on his warm, dry bed inside. He was not with master but that was ok because he had plenty of food and water and master would be back, because Monster was a good boy and master came back for him every morning to tell him he was a good boy for protecting inside. No one was allowed inside except for Master.
He was hungry, and he needed to make sure that no-one was trespassing master’s outside and inside. Most of all, he needed to pee, but not here. Pee was always outside or master would be very angry.
The dog stood up, stretched a long stretch that felt so good he grunted with pleasure, and shook his stub of a tail. Another stretch and Monster padded across the smooth, slippery ground and pushed his wide, flat head against the flap covering the little door to go outside.
The wind pushed back his ears, blew sharp drops of rain into his eyes and took all the warmth from being curled up in his special place. Monster eyed the wet ground and knew it’d be cold under his feet, but Master would shout at him if he peed inside and Monster did not like to be shouted at by Master. He left his warm place, stepped into the grass that rose far above him, and lifted one of his back legs. He forgot the cold and the wet and even the food waiting for him inside because it felt good to pee and pee and pee.
The wind bent the long grass one way, then another as it surged and retreated through the overgrown back garden. Every movement flashed smells past Monster’s nose with an undertone of wet grass. Content in his relief, the dog absentmindedly checked each familiar smell that added to his feeling of wellbeing, of everything being right with the world.
The wind whipped a new scent into his face, then tore it away. Monster stretched forward on three legs seeking more information, but his own scent rose warmly around him, drowning out the strange smell. Finished, he stepped further into the garden, looking for the source of the unfamiliar scent. He circled the boundary automatically, cocking his leg on its bushes to leave a warning to others to keep out. He injected his claims with added threat so that everything would know that to come here was to face Monster, but he hoped no-one wanted to face him tonight.
Another dog barked far away. Monster stopped and listened but the other dog wanted to make noise not fight, but the scarred guard dog was hungry and cold and didn’t want to make noise. He wanted to go back to his special place, eat, and go back to sleep. He padded away from the bushes, out of the grass towards the door back inside. A tingle went down his back at the thought of his warm blanket waiting for him.
Away from the cover of the overgrown garden, the wind slammed into his face and flooded his nose with the unfamiliar smell. Monster caught it this time. The wind finished its swirl that started quiet, surged up into big loud gusts that flapped his ears everywhere until it ebbed down to quiet again. His powerful short legs pressed his paws into the soft ground, his body trembled.
Scents came into focus to tell him what had happened and what was happening. The usual smells were there, including the faint stink of stupid cats. They were out there but not too close since Monster had made them go far away. Monster hated cats with their screeching, spitting and sharp, sharp claws and being too fast for him to catch. They came into his outside every night yowling and scenting and making fun of him for being too slow and too stupid to catch them, but Monster wasn’t stupid. When Master left him alone Monster went outside and waited, waited, waited and waited, never moving so the stupid casts would not see him.
One night like this he lay so still that a sly, stupid cat parted the long wet grass and bumped its nose on Monster’s muzzle. The cat, the stupid, scared cat arched its back, hissed and spun away, back legs bunched up to launch into an escape. Monster lunged and snapped as soon as he saw the cat’s eyes. It was close; the cat was so fast, and it almost got away. Almost.
The cat’s back paws left the ground, almost completing its spring away until Monster’s teeth clicked shut on the tip of its tail and brought it crashing back down to the ground. It screeched a screech louder than Monster had ever heard. It was only Monster’s mighty bite that saved the cat’s life. His teeth, sharpened every day against a fresh bone, snipped off the end of the cat’s tail.
The trespasser’s side thumped onto the ground, it screeched again and shot back into the air away from the dog. Monster charged through the long grass after the cat, the piece of tail fallen behind him and forgotten as he barked threats and curses at the fleeing enemy. With blood in his mouth, the dog challenged the world, each bark so powerful it made the cat run faster. He knew he couldn’t catch it; he knew it was too fast, but every bark made the cat’s injured tail spurt fear drenched blood as the darkest of warnings to other cats.
The wounded animal clawed over the wall and away into the night beyond. Monster scrambled and howled about what he had done and dared others to come, dared everyone to come until Master grabbed him from behind, hit him on the nose and said,
“Be quiet, stupid dog.”
Monster did not like it when Master called him a stupid dog. Monster would whine and stay away from Master until he was not angry. Master pulled his collar and pushed him through the small door so hard that Monster slid across the smooth floor and fallen over. Monster stayed in that same place all night, not making a sound.
This new smell wasn’t cats. There were other scents, ones he knew from other dogs or people who passed by, but this smell was wrong and it was close. Monster sniffed in a decreasing semi-circle to track the scent before the wind tore it all away again. He felt it grow stronger and stronger, telling him a story about where it had been and where it was. Saliva poured into his mouth, a line of hair sprang into a ridge on his back, and a low growl rumbled in his throat.
The smell was coming from inside. Monster bared his teeth and bolted towards the door. He would get rid of this intruder the same way he got rid of the stupid cat. The growl died in the dog’s throat even as his legs picked up speed. He would get rid of this new smell, but this time he would be a quiet boy, a good boy. His flat head slammed the little door open and Monster skidded to a halt, his claws scrabbling on the floor.
The unfamiliar smell was rank, bitter and angry. This was no cat or rival dog, this was a wrong smell, wrong and too big. Monster hunched down, fighting the urge to roll onto his back. He thought of Master, pulled his lips all the way back to show his sharp glistening teeth, and summoned a growl to build to a bark to warn Master and bring him here now.
Blue light flashed, hurting his eyes. A bolt of pain shot through the side of his head, lanced down his spine, and buckled his legs. Monster was a good boy, and as everything went dark, he died a good boy.
Copyright © 2021 Stephen Gordon