I wrote this story years ago as an entry for a Twilight Tales anthology called ‘The Book of Dead Things’. It was accepted, and was going to be published, but a conversation with the editors revealed that they were disappointed that their book full of dead things, but was missing mummies and they wished they had a mummy story. I volunteered to quickly kick out a mummy story and wrote ‘For Five Minutes; the Deep’, which made it into the anthology instead of this one.
Subsequently, when ‘The Book of Dead Things’ was published and taken to the World Horror Convention, in Toronto, I went along to help promote the book. We had a block of readings and, instead of reading from the book, I decided to read the “tale that might have been in the book”. It’s a good thing too, because I’d met this intriguing girl the day before and invited her to the reading. She liked me but had decided that she wasn’t going to date someone if they were shit at their art. She came to the reading to see if I was any good and, after hearing this, a story about a mean old man and a dog corpse, decided that I was worthy of her attention. And that’s how I met my wife, Jill!
In honor of that, I’ve not edited or messed with this story from it’s original state since then. If it were any other story there are structural issues I’d fix. But it’s not any old story so it shall remain as it is, just like the first time she heard it.
Emmet Webber knew Zeus was dead the moment he woke up. For fifteen years the great brown eyed beast had always been the first thing he saw in the morning. No matter what time he rose the dog somehow knew and was there before him. But not today. The old man didn’t move for a long time. He just kept in bed, eyes focused on the closet, peering through an empty space where his only companion should have been. When the moist beginnings of tears threatened he threw off the blanket and swung his feet to the hardwood. He didn’t call out; he knew for sure that it would do no good.
The body was lying on the kitchen floor, facing last night’s unwashed dishes, and looking more asleep than dead. Emmet stopped in the doorframe and leaned on it, bony shoulders slumped.
“Aw hell, Zeusy. Why’d you have to go and do that?” He couldn’t see the dog’s face from where he was standing, and for that he was glad. Turning away he left the great hairy lump exactly where it was without going over to touch or pet it.
To say that Emmet was the only man to care about Zeus was an understatement. Most towns have a house with a known mean dog and Zeus had worn that badge proudly, to near legendary status. There wasn’t a person who lived on Carlson Way that didn’t know about the “rottweiler up the street”. For a dozen years the dog had menaced passers with thunderous bellows and bared fangs. There was no fence in Emmet’s yard and no chain on Zeus, but the dog never so much as leaned out into the sidewalk. As if bound by an invisible leash held only by old man Emmet, the hulking dog would pace the edge of the property hungrily, kept at bay only by love for a master who had almost as much malice as he did. Zeus would sit at Emmet’s feet on the porch, quietly waiting, until someone came walking along the sidewalk and then Emmet would mutter.
“Spook em’ boy. Spook em good.” The dog would launch from his prone position, slathering fangs and terrifying barking, headed straight for the unlucky passer-by, only to stop inches from the sidewalk, growling and snarling. In the ten years they’d done this trick Emmet couldn’t recall a time when the victim hadn’t fled in terror. His favorite was mothers with strollers. He would stand on his porch laughing to himself and shout at their fleeing backsides.
“Aww, don’t mind him! He’s just a big puppy inside, wouldn’t hurt a fly!” It never consoled anyone because it was clear that he would hurt much more than a fly given the opportunity.
Emmet’s bad day is about to get a lot worse! See the story unfold HERE on my Patreon.