This is me playing with fiction. I wrote this as a class assignment, in response to the writing prompt “Kill the Dog,” exercise 71 on page 181 of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. I haven’t attempted fiction before, and I highly recommend this book for companionship in that.
The King Is Dead
The only dog I’ve ever hated lives next door. We first met when walking on our shared rural road shortly after my wife and I moved here almost two years ago. A handsome mix of labrador and husky and in his prime, he leashlessly commanded his owners’ pace along the gravel. As the breathless young couple stopped and effervescently introduced themselves, their gorgeous dog came closer to inspect me. Immediately and correctly sensing a dog lover, he circled behind my legs and stopped along my right side, positioning himself so as to allow my hand to easily drop down and stroke his gleaming fur. Which, being a seasoned dog lover, I of course did. As the people bubbled on, I dropped my gaze to the dog as he slowly turned his head into my hand. And as he steadily looked me in my eyes, he pressed his teeth into my skin, hard.
“Oh!” I yelped. The dog released me just before drawing blood, and as I staggered back a step he pranced over to his owners.
“Ooohhh, puppy,” the couple crooned as they immediately crouched around him, their soothing hands moving all over. “There, there. Everything’s okay. Shhhh, baby. This man didn’t mean to scare you; see, he’s a new friend!” They beamed up at me, all smiles. I was stunned.
“Your dog just bit me,” I clarified.
“Oh, that’s not possible,” the husband smiled. “King just loves everybody, he would never even think of doing that! Ever!”
“That’s so true,” laughed his wife. “It’s just not in his nature!” That dog sat there staring at me, and then he winked. I swear it. Standing up, he continued his march down the road as his owners glowed their goodbyes and bounded after him.
Stunned, I rubbed my hand as I watched the couple speed-walk after their pet. King was a perfect name, I thought, as his entourage was completely in tow. I turned and continued home.
Since that first meeting, King has made his presence known regularly. His reign expanded to include my homestead, notwithstanding the quarter mile between our driveways. He began with sitting in the middle of the road downways a bit from our driveway, just waiting for me to come and get the mail. Not unlike a turkey vulture circling over roadkill. At first it was curious: why was he surveilling me in the middle of the road? What about the uncommon and sporadic traffic? How long was he waiting there, anyway? Then it turned creepy: after I would retrieve the mail and close the box door, he would deliberately stand and walk away. He always stared down any approaching cars, which would slow and crawl around him as he remained in place. I would alter the time of day that I retrieved my mail, yet he would still be there waiting for me. No, he was never there on Sundays. Yes, I checked. Repeatedly.
Sundays brought a whole new madness to King’s perceived reign over us. On those days of the week he would trespass on my wife and I much more directly.
It began with him leaving his piles in our yard. Our own dog did her business in the woods, never in the mowed grass (good dog, Molly). We also knew these yard dog-bombs were not from our smaller-sized rescue dog, and no other dogs lived in the area.
King’s weekly decrees intensified into creative destruction. He dug up my wife’s variegated hostas, the ones that had been started from shoots belonging to her great-grandmother. He crawled under my pickup and gutted wires with his teeth. The trench alongside our house foundation that filled with rainwater and seeped into our basement? Yep, that was his handiwork too. We began calling these events “King’s Sunday Projects.”
Over the past week, King has escalated his onslaught. He has left “presents” for us right on our welcome mat, on any day of the week. The first, predictably, was a personal pile of poo. I pressure washed my shoe treads in the driveway while my wife stood silently by my side. Next he left us a freshly dead skunk. With clothespins on our noses and rubber gloves on our hands, we rolled the body up in the mat, stuffed the package in a black plastic garbage bag, and disposed of the evidence with the rest of our trash at the free county dumpsters. We returned home to a decapitated rabbit and its head placed in front of our door. My wife sobbed hysterically in my arms on our doorstep as she sang the line from that Aerosmith song, “…’cause the rabbit done died.” Our Sweet Emotion at how she then shared that she was pregnant.
Today when I opened the front door to let our Molly back inside after her morning woods routine, she was laying at my feet with her throat ripped out. My wife has been rocking in her chair ever since, hands over her belly and round eyes following me in my pace of grounded fury. I stopped in front of her to cup her face, look directly at her, and inform her, “I’ll be back; I’m going to the neighbors’.” Through a clear gaze, she slowly nodded.
Wrapping our Molly’s body lovingly in her traveling blanket, I eased her onto the passenger seat of my rewired truck and headed down the driveway. Turning left at the mailbox and heading down the road, King reigned as usual in the middle of the gravel, staring me down as I continued forward like every other vehicle, every other time. Except today. He predictably remained in the center of the road as I approached, and made a satisfyingly solid thump off of my left front fender. As he then rolled under my left front and rear tires, I marveled at the comfortable ride my shocks delivered over such an obstacle.
A neat three-point turn pointed me home, and although it wasn’t necessary I drove over the lifeless body again. In the driveway, I power-washed blood and gore off of the truck while my wife stood silently by my side and showed me her smartphone.
The new welcome mat that she had picked out online was perfect.