A good dog, part 2

929 words

I wanted to continue on this one. And since I make the rules with this challenge, I’m allowed to (as long as I’m still writing 750 words). The new writing prompts will be moved to different days.

She made no reply or move. “I’m heading west,” he said. She looked at him, not sure if that was an invitation or a distraction.

“I’ve been there,” she said. Her hands stayed where they were, as did her dog’s ears.

“Anything there?” he asked.

“There’s a reason why I’m heading east,” she said.

He nodded. “Well, good luck to you. You sure you’ll be okay on your own?”

She laughed, a high-pitched yelp of scorn. “Me and Banshee will be fine.”

His eyes dropped to the dog. She was still on high alert. “God. You named it,” he said, shaking his head. He was still shaking it grimly as he walked past them, and noticed both heads turned to watch him leave. He guessed they stood there for a while after he left, in case he decided to charge them from behind. She didn’t look stupid. And he supposed if you were a woman, a dog wouldn’t be a bad thing to have around. That one did look like a good dog, still mostly tame, but with a little bit of fierceness that could be called upon in desperate times.

But this dog—this skinny, gangling dog with the perfect ears—did not look like a good dog. It had a sharpness to its eyes that gleamed with brashness. Most of the remaining dogs had come equipped with a healthy dose of fear of humans; this was their defense mechanism. This one seemed to lack that characteristic. “Rabies, maybe?” the man thought. There had been outbreaks, he’d heard. But this one didn’t look mad. It looked dangerously intelligent.

The man stopped his work on the can. “Pssh!” he hissed, and swept his arm above his head. “Go on! Go away!” The dog did not make a move to retreat. Instead, it minced forward, as if it were walking on glass shards. The man noticed the dog’s yellow eyes were focused on the can. It had learned, the man supposed, that food comes in cans. Or when a human’s attention was focused on an item, it was probably something to eat. The dog had probably been watching him for a while.

“No way!” he yelled. “This is mine. I found it. Go on!” He picked up a smooth stone, twisted his body toward the dog, and hefted the rock. His awkward seated position provided no momentum, and the rock dropped feebly at the dog’s large paws. The dog did not so much as twitch, its eyes hypnotized by the can. The man began to get nervous, but knowing  dogs can smell fear, tried to swallow it down. His right hand found a larger rock and he grasped it, but he kept his left hand firmly attached to the can. His eyes on the dog’s face, he stood up slowly. The dog’s eyes followed the can, but still it made no move.

The man cocked back his right arm as far as he was able then shifted his weight forward, arcing his arm in one swift motion. He let the rock fly. It hit the mark: the rock connected with the dog’s visible ribs with an audible thud. It had struck hard enough to hurt, the man knew, but the dog made no sound.

And then the dog was on him.

It had happened quickly. The dog closed the gap between them in three leaps and launched, slamming his paws squarely into the man’s chest and knocking him on his back. The dog’s teeth clamped tightly around the man’s left wrist, and he could feel his tendons shred and snap. He grabbed the dog’s scruff and bicycle-kicked weakly at its concave belly, hoping to make contact, but from his prone position he couldn’t gain enough leverage to wield a damaging blow. He was dimly aware he was still holding the can, and the dog was shaking his wrist like a long-extinct game bird. He removed his hand from the dog’s neck and grasped at the ground, his fingernails scraping sand and dirt, trying to land on anything that could be used as a weapon. But before he found a rock or a stick, his left hand opened involuntarily. The can rolled away from his bloodied palm. The dog snatched up the can and ran from the shore. The man could hear crunching metal between sharp teeth.

The man sat up on one elbow and surveyed his ruined hand. The fingers were left in tact, which was a mercy, he supposed, but his wrist was so badly damaged that his fingers were almost useless. He tried to move them; his thumb and forefinger were still responsive but the middle and ring finger barely moved. The pinky didn’t twitch. He was surprised to see how little blood there was. It had missed the arteries, but the puncture wounds were deep. There was probably nerve damage. Even if the dog didn’t have rabies, or if—very unlikely—he didn’t contract an infection, this hand was no longer available for service.

“Closed for business,” he said, looking at the red-muddied palm. He walked toward the water, looking behind him to make sure the dog wasn’t coming back for seconds, though he doubted it would. He dipped his forearm in the water. The water wasn’t clean, he knew, but he wasn’t wasting what little drinking water he had. Even with clean water, with no proper bandages or dressing, he understood the punctures would invite the germs and parasites that would kill him. He’d rather save his clean water for drinking.

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