I recently had a story performed at the Woodneath Library – Story Center. This story won a Dark Horse award in their scary story competition. Read about it here.
Anyway, as the story was not printed, I am providing it here. (I really want to edit this, but this is the text as it was performed.)
Mom drops me off in front of school. Teachers smile and wave, but across the street, Caleb’s father stands in his door and watches us as we all file into the building. He crosses his arms over his chest, and I wish I was invisible so he could not see me. I run quick into the school, so he can’t see me around the cars and teachers.
A police man visits our class. He tells us how to call if we are lost and to listen to our parents. Caleb laughs at him. The teacher frowns at him and tells him to obey.
At recess, Caleb punches Sara because she won’t give up her swing. When Sara tells the teacher, she sends Caleb to the principal’s office, and he doesn’t return to class.
When class ends, Caleb sits on the concrete steps in front of his door and stares as parents pick up our classmates. He crosses his arms over his chest just like his father. I’d avoid him, but I can’t run inside. I have to wait for my sister to pick me up.
I sit on the brick wall in front of the school, kicking my feet against the bird etched into the stone sign and leaning against the flag pole.
A dog peeks out around Caleb’s house. Its fuzzy ear perks up when it sees me. It crawls forward. Its belly drags the ground, but its tail wags.
I hop off the wall and stand at the road that separates Caleb’s house from the school. Caleb crosses his arms over his chest and stands up.
“Is that your dog?” I ask. I want to pet the dog and maybe run with it or toss a ball for it.
“What’s it to you?” Caleb moves between his dog and me. The dog inches backwards; his eyes now watch Caleb. Caleb looks like he wants to hit me, but he is over there and the street separates us.
I shrug. “I like dogs.”
Caleb turns and kicks the dog. It yelps and rolls onto its side. Caleb kicks it again.
“You shouldn’t kick your dog.” I lean forward, wanting to cross the street. A car honks, and I lean back.
Caleb locks his jaw and glares at me. Watching me, he kicks the dog again.
I want to stop Caleb, but I am not supposed to cross the street alone. My sister turns the corner and walks toward me. I rush to her, and she takes my hand. I pull her back to Caleb’s. With her, I can cross.
She does not look at the house even though I am pointing to it. She shakes her head.
“We have to get home,” she tells me and pulls me the other way.
“We have to stop Caleb from kicking his dog.”
My sister purses her lips and sighs. She still does not look at Caleb or the dog. “That boy won’t stop. If you stop him now, he’ll do it after we go home.”
“But the dog,” I whine.
She drags me home, but I keep thinking of the dog. It sounded hurt. Its eyes were so sad. It just wanted to play. Caleb won’t kick the dog if it’s not there.
Mom fixes dinner and says I can play in the yard when we are done. I stand at the back fence, staring at the school playground where older kids play basketball. Only the fence and the school yard separate me from Caleb’s house, but Mom does not let me leave the backyard.
The back-porch light on our neighbor’s house comes on. I hear a dog howl on the wind, and I know it is Caleb’s dog. It’s a cry of hunger and pain.
I check the kitchen window. Mom is not watching me.
I climb the fence and drop down on the other side. The school yard at night is different. No one knows where I am. The kids playing basketball are old. I don’t know them. They move fast. They are loud.
The dog whines. I can hear it above the bouncing ball and shouts of the boys. I wait. When the boys take the ball to one side, I run across the playground behind them. No one yells for me to stop, but my stomach flip flops. I’ll be in a lot of trouble when I get home.
I stop at the street. I am not allowed to cross it.
Car lights come up the street. It passes. The air pushes at me. The tire and engine are loud. If one hits me, I will be squished flatter than a pancake. Mom has told me. I want to cross, but more headlights are on the street. If I can see them, I should wait.
A dog barks, and time to worry has run out. I dash across the street. The headlights keep coming. The car horn blasts, and I reach the sidewalk as the car speeds past. Its tires screech. The red tail lights look mean, like the lights on a cop car. If it is the cops, they will take me to home. I know I shouldn’t be here, but I can’t let anyone take me away yet. I don’t look back. I run up to Caleb’s house.
I flatten myself to the house, waiting for the bats in my chest to escape. They don’t. They screech and flap their wings harder. It’s because I am doing something I shouldn’t, but I need to help the dog. I sneak around the side where the dog was earlier. It is not there.
The dog whines from the backyard. I tiptoe to the corner.
The dog is tied to a pole. It lays on the ground at the end of its rope. There is no grass, no bowls, no dog house.
The dog’s chest rises and falls, faster than a dribbling basketball. Its eyes shine in the dark. It stares at me.
“It’s ok. I’m going to take you home. You’ll be my dog. I’ll feed you.” I tell the dog, trying to use the voice my mom uses when I have been crying and she tells me not to worry. I reach my hand out.
The dog snaps his teeth.
I pull my hand back. Chills bump up along my skin, and I want to cry, but I have to stay silent.
The dog pulls on his rope, escaping as far as possible from me.
I sneak up to the pole. The pole has a loop on one end where a kick ball might be tethered. A metal chain hangs off the loop. It only has four links, and a rope is tied to the fourth link.
I tug on the rope to untie the knot. The dog jerks at the rope, tying the knot tighter, harder to get lose. Each jerk clinks the metal chains on the post.
The house creeks, and I freeze. Too many bad things could happen. Caleb could find me. He could come out and kick his dog. He might yell. If he yells, his father might find me.
Caleb’s father scares me the most. He is silent, always staring at us before school. His arms always cross his chest. He scowls. Even my sister will not look at the house. There is something wrong with Caleb’s father. That must be why mom tells me not to cross the street. Why my sister walks me home. Why the dog seems so sad.
I stand at the pole frozen, scared.
The dog stops yanking the rope.
No other sounds come from the house, and I take a deep breath before working at the knot.
It takes a long time. The basketball sounds fade. It gets dark, and still I push at the knot. Soon my mom will look for me.
A light turns on in Caleb’s house. I can’t see anyone in the window. A blueish glow of a tv flickers in another room.
The dog pulls at the rope, a long steady pull which tightens the knot. His eyes stare at the back door. Its tail tucks under its butt. It whines softly.
Something is coming.
The knot is too tight.
I don’t want to get caught.
I run to the side of the house and hide.
I watch the dog. It watches the house.
The dog shivers.
Light spreads across the dirt.
“Get over here,” Caleb demands.
The dog inches forward, nose to the ground.
Something thumps inside the dirt ring.
The dog scrabbles against the dirt. His paws digging in as he races forward.
The dog looks mean like the evil dogs on movie posters. It wants to bite. It wants to tear. It could. It will, and I am scared. I duck down small and grab my knees.
The metal links slide along the pole as he races past.
His teeth snap at the object.
Caleb’s foot kicks out.
The dog yelps. His teeth click. He snarls. His paws knock the thing.
I want to run away, but I cannot move. I want to stop Caleb, but I am not supposed to be there. I want to help the dog, but I don’t want to get bitten.
“Stop that,” Caleb shouts.
The dog sinks down, laying on top of the object.
Caleb reaches out to the dog.
It growls and bites at the hand, same as it did to me.
“I hate you.” Caleb kicks his nose again and leaves.
I wait and watch.
The dog stops growling. It bites at the bone.
I sneak back to the pole.
The dog growls at me and watches me. It stays on top of its prize.
I wrap the rope around my wrist, pulling the dog closer. I watch him, but he does not run at me. He does not show me his teeth. Tugging harder on the rope, it loosens at the knot. It takes a long time, but the knot comes undone.
The dog stays still as I pull the rope back toward my house.
“Come on.” I whisper the words, but he does not move.
I yank harder. His lips pull up, and he has lots of sharp teeth.
He is faster than me. If I run, he can catch me. If he wants to bite me, he can. I want to run or throw up, but I don’t. I keep the rope tight, but I wait to see if he will attack.
Finally, he grabs the bone in his mouth and follows me. I have saved him like a hero or a policeman. He stays at the end of the rope.
The street is empty. No headlights come from either way, and he follows me across.
Our fence has no back gate, so I walk him home the way my sister and I go after school.
A police car is parked outside my house.
I run home. The dog follows me.
“Mom!” I shout for her as I get to the door.
A big man blocks me. His arms cross his chest, and I look up. I know him. It is Caleb’s father.
Mom pushes him out of the way and opens the door.
“Oh my gosh. Baby, where were you?” She hugs me. Her arms are warm. She smells of strawberries. The fear and tingles float away because mom is safe and home is warm.
“Where did you get the dog?” Caleb’s father stands behind mom and stares down at me. He wears a police uniform and a gun hangs from his belt. Light bounces from his badge.
I want to run away, but mom holds me tight. My voice shakes. “I-I rescued him.”
Mom holds me back and shakes her head. “You stole him.” Her lips flatten, and she is about to tell me something bad. She wants to send the dog back.
“Caleb kicks him,” I whisper to her because she can’t let Caleb’s father take him back. She needs to know.
She shakes her head. “He is not yours.”
Mom takes the rope from me and holds my hand. We face Caleb’s father together. I want him to take the police uniform off. He makes me think of a villain, and police are heros.
“Thank you.” She offers him the rope.
He takes it, and tears blur my vision.
“But Caleb is mean to him.”
The officer crouches down. “He is not your dog. It is wrong to steal. Do you know that?”
He is big, and he stares directly at me. Mom’s hand stops me from running away. I am caught as much as the dog had been. I don’t want to be hit or taken away, but I don’t want the dog to go back to Caleb either.
I nod and slide behind mom’s leg. I don’t look at him.
He pulls me around so I have to look at him. “Thieves go to jail.” He lowers his voice until he growls just like the dog protecting its bone. “I’m watching you.” He leaves. The dog follows behind.
The next day, mom drops me off at school. Caleb’s father stands in his door, watching us enter the school. Beside the house, the dog curls into a ball and shakes.