Flash Fiction Challenge: ‘Dog Sitter’

So this is my first attempt at one of the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenges. As usual, I’m super late to the party, so this was put together on a lunch break and it’s rougher than Glaswegian sandpaper. A lot of editing will follow.

Until then, this was the challenge:

The challenge is simple:

Pick one of the opening sentences below (or choose one randomly), then write. The story that results should be between 1000-2000 words. Post it at your online space and link back here. Due by next Friday, March 4th, noon EST. Note the sentence you choose forms the first sentence of the story.

One of the sentences was actually mine, but I thought it’d be kind of egotistical to do my own. I went with number two, which stood out for me – thanks to HB McCarthy for that!

2. “The clock strikes 12:17 and all I can think is I should have called tails.” (HB McCarthy)

Again, apologies for the relentless roughness of this…

The clock strikes 12.17pm and all I can think is I should have said tails. Any minute now, the car would come round the corner. 13 minutes to be exact. Its bonnet gleaming with a fresh coat of wax, making the obsidian gloss sparkle in the June sun. windows tinted from prying eyes and its wheels high, thick, run flats, because you never know.

Detailing was always the cushy job. making it sparkle like that. Only the lucky ones got something like that. Me, I got heads – I got this. I’d lost count of how many months had gone by since it’d been my turn. My luck must have run out. And there’s only so long you can cheat fate.

The minutes go by like wild horses and all too soon it’s there. Gleaming its usual jet black lustre. A window at the back rolls down in painful silence, gradually revealing a familiar face.

“Mr Thomas – I see you’ve drawn the short straw tonight. Tell me, how long’s it been?” my answer, if it could be called that, comprises a short, half smile and looking at my shoes as if they may transform into ruby slipper and take me away from here.

But they don’t. So I look up, put on my best smile and say “months, sir. Many months. Too many, I believe I’ve lost count.”
He smiles at this. “Oh, well he’s grown since then. You’ll see. You’ve got all night together.

this is the most conversation he lends me. As I sit in the back of his car, my damp, sweat soaked back sticking to the rich leather; he concentrates firmly on one of the several screens in front of him, each lighting up with a striking array of images, charts, blips and notifications.

Enclosed by the plush interior looking around at the wood veneer panelling, the dark, warm leather, the red velvet floors, I think this must be what it’s like to be in a coffin. Travelling to your final resting place. But there was little rest at the end of this journey.

Our slow, silent travel completes outside a tall townhouse, build up from pale bricks, and white details. A tall, gaunt man in a well cut suit greets the car outside the front door, opening my door and pulling me out like I were a bag of groceries.

“I’ve got legs, I can make it out myself” I tell him, but he makes no sign he’s listening and continues to drag me towards the front door. The car rolls off without another word.

I haven’t seen this man before, but staff here changes frequently. To be honest, I don’t blame them. as I enter the hall I look around the walls, plastered across every inch strange icons and symbols, nik naks from every corner of the earth and perhaps elsewhere too. The floors offer the only respite, bright, perfect white marble, stretching deep into the building, while the walls loom across me claustrophobically.

“The master is almost ready. Sit here and wait for Grendle. She’ll be here momentarily.” the gaunt man says. And with that he’s gone.

Feigning the orient child, I do as told and sit in a tall wicker chair in the corner of the hall. As soon as tall and serious is out of sight though I’m up, inspecting the walls, anything to distract myself.
Half way through inspecting a particularly odd looking collection of feathers, some in colours I’m sure I’ve never seen before, I hear it. An unmistakable patter, clip clip clipping at the cold marble floor.

I don’t need to turn around to know he’s only inches away. The smell alone could melt the feathers off a bird.

“You must be tonight’s sitter” a female voice says, husky and thick, with a hint of a West Country accent.

Before I can turn fully, I feel something warm, too warm, on my leg. A puddle forms across the bleached tiles, forming a dirty yellow hallow around the thick, black furry head.

“The master’s been very thirsty today. It’s how he gets around this time.” the lady says, a hint of apology in her voice that only half masks her amusement. “It’s nearly time – here”

Like someone passing a hot plate, she hands me a thick leather lead, which curls down to the floor, half sitting in the fresh puddle of urine. The dog looks up at me, its eyes full of something between knowing and mockery. “Hello, Steve” I say, half-heartedly patting him on the head. “Thanks for the shower.”

“I’ll let you two to it then. You should probably change.” Wendy says, already walking past me to the front door. It was going to be a long night.

I’ve never been a dog person. Or a cat person. Or even a people person. I was a me person. Sitting, reading, playing the occasional Xbox, lots of peace, plenty quiet and, most of all, not getting peed on. But the bills had to be paid somehow. And this gig paid a whole lot of bills.

For the past hour, Steve had sat opposite me in a grand living room. Motionlessly staring at me. I knew dogs didn’t like to blink, but this was going for some kind of record. As if keeping time in a sequence I could quite grasp, he’d bark in intermittent groups, saliva flecking the nearby sofa.

Around this time I was wishing id brought a book. Considering the facilities in boss’ car, the house itself was notably lacking in any technology. No TV, radio, videos games or anything that might help me pass this time. Though that was the whole point. I wasn’t supposed to be occupied by anything other than steve. “your full attention. at all times. else.” They are the instructions. We all know them.

So that’s where my attention went. That and my rapidly cooling trouser leg.
See, there are three things about Steve the are key. Firstly, no one likes him – not even Boss. Second – the second thing was about to happen any minute, soon as the last of the light went.

Through the windows I could see the sky has transformed from navy to coal. One transformation over, it was time for another.

Steve let out an almighty howl, louder than any of his curious barking from the past hour. It pierced every fibre of the room and made my ear drums want to take early retirement.

With a clonk to the floor, the dog’s lower jaw fell to the floor, and with a pitter patter of clattering, his claws pinged off and scattered across the floor.

Piece by piece the dog fell apart, soaking the floor in we flesh and unwanted bone leaving in its wake a scrawny, shivering, bloody mess of a boy.

“He’s grown” he said. It must have been some kind of joke. The boy before me was no more than 5”2 and about 50kg at a push. In the mess on the floor his body fitted and contorted, as he emitted low groans.

Then as if none of it had happened he sat up and turned to me. “Hey, tom. Sorry about the shoes,” his voice, high and nasal, sounded perpetually amused with itself. “Only they looked like they could do with some improvement”
The third thing about Steve was that he was a complete dick.
Steve had always been a dick. Even as a baby, and I know it’s bad to speak ill of baby’s, but the first time Boss showed us him, still in nappy’s, he threw up all over Carl’s brand new beetling. There was something in his eye that betrayed the innocence the rest of his face implied.

As he grew, he simply got less subtle about how much of a dick he was. Then he got turned into a dog, arguably, because he was being a dick. Again.
Having found his way into his dad’s study, the one room in the house forbidden to anyone, he rummaged where he wasn’t supposed to. Eventually he toyed with the wrong thing.

No one’s certain what it is, no one even really knows what was in there. All we know is one day boss had a son and no pets, the next he had a big, black bastard of a dog and no son. Almost no son.

But once a month, on the new moon, he reappears.

Cleary being a dog every other hour of the month has had its toll on him because when he emerges he upgrades her personality to become an exquisite prick.

That’s why I’m there. Damage control. Boss can barely look at him any more – preferring the dog to the boy. But he’s still his son. Once a month we gamble on who’s duty it is. And as I’ve mentioned, many months, I’m a pretty lucky guy. But not tonight.

Returning to the room with a full slice of pizza hanging from his mouth, Steve eyes me, still half naked but no longer covered in blood.
“Ready for a monopoly tournament?” he say through am mouth full of cheese and crust.

I’d forgotten his penchant for board games. Once I’d head he’d lost at buckaroo and broke every window in the house. The guy sitting that night really caught it from Boss.

“I’m not much of a game player. Why don’t you just draw, or something?” While his personality was certainly lacking, the notes said he was a keen sketcher, though most of the sketches turned out to be graphic and sexually violent. Most were quickly discarded.

With a shrug he left the room, no doubt looking for more pizza. Or hopefully a top. Either way he’d taken the lack of games well. This wasn’t going to be so bad maybe I thought.

Optimism never got me far.

Returning with more pizza as I’d assumed, he walk passed me, munching loudly with thick, smacking sounds.

I was loath to give him too much attention, but the trickling sound of no good forced me to turn. There he was, pizza in one hand, penis in the other, urinating against the back of the sofa.

“What do you think, my latest masterpiece is quite something, isn’t it?”
With not unimpressive dexterity, he’d managed to pee a crude ‘fuck off’ into the undoubtedly now ruined fabric of the sofa.

2now, get the monopoly board or I’ll make you clean this up with your tongue. My dad says you’ve got to do what I want. This I my night.”
Deciding that it was probably easier to endure the world’s most tedious game over cleaning up piss, I went over to the cabinet in the corner where the board games were held.

“And I’m the boot.” This was going to be one really long night.