Welcome to Tuesday's Tales! A place where books are born. Thank you for stopping by. This week's word prompt it bite. I apologise for the length of this week's offering ahead of time, but this is an unedited complete short story.
“Your mother has agreed to give Rusty a permanent home. Why do you keep pushing to bring him here?”
Mark swallowed his rising anger towards his new wife. They’d been arguing about Jodi’s Retriever dog for several months before the wedding. Thankfully she’d dropped the subject during their honeymoon, but now…? After one day in their new home she’d started badgering him again.
“Why don’t you explain why you refuse to let me bring Rusty with me? We’ve never been apart and he’s getting old, and will fret if he stays with my mum.”
“He’s just a dog, for heaven’s sake. What’s so special about him?”
After a quick glare in his direction Jody turned her back on him. “You could say he saved my life.” The livid white scar across the back of her neck glistened in the ray of sunshine, and as ever Mark cringed and looked round the room. Reluctantly, she’d agreed to the black and white theme he wanted in their living room.
“But I get to choose in the bedroom.” She’d countered with a grin.
The three-seater black leather settee took centre stage in the room, while the white walls off-set the hanging sixty-inch TV screen. At the far end of the room Jody had installed a neat looking black desk and thrown his whole design into disarray with her soft furnished red chair, and computer.
Refocusing his irritation from the red chair back to his wife Mark stepped forward and placed a placating hand on her shoulder. “You never told me that before.” Hard as he tried, he failed to keep the accusation from his voice.
“Well, of course I didn’t. You have always refused to go near any dog, even the smallest dog that passes us in the park. I may not have commented on it, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t noticed. Now I think you owe it to me to explain why you refuse to have anything to do with dogs. And it better be good, because I had Rusty before we met so you’ve always known I’d want him to be with.”
The anger drained out of him. Jody only spoke the truth. Like a selfish fool he’d hoped she’d give in and leave the dog with her parents. He’d even demanded she leave him behind. How arrogant could he get?
And how could he save his two-week old marriage if he didn’t try to explain why he wouldn’t go near dogs.
“I need a drink.” When he reached the wet-bar he held up a second glass. Jody shook her head, looked over her shoulder and watched him beneath her lashes.
“Come and sit down,” Mark asked and patted the settee beside him after he placed his snifter on the coffee table. “I’ve never talked about this before, so I don’t know how much sense I’ll make, but I do see I owe it to you to explain why I can’t have a dog in the house.”
He waited with baited breath while she studied him for several minutes, her eyes dark and troubled, her brows drawn together and her hands clenched at her sides. He released a breath when she nodded and dropped down beside him.
“Go on,” she prompted when he hesitated. “I’m listening.”
Needing the comfort of Jody’s touch, Mark gripped her hand and held it on his lap. He couldn’t look at her and focussed his attention on the shiny new wood-panelled floor.
“I was sixteen at the time when dad and I took Bitzer to the park…”
“Bitzer? Who was Bitzer? And why have you never mentioned him before?” Jody shifted in her seat to cast a bewildered look at him.
“Don’t interrupt, otherwise I won’t be able to tell you.”
A slight squeeze on his hand gave him the courage to continue. “He was our dog.”
He ignored her gasp and willed himself to let the memories in.
“My dad called him a bitzer. – A bit of this and a bit of that. The people at the rescue centre told my dad he was just a puppy. I remember thinking ‘bitzer’ was a cool name, so that’s what we called him. Bitzer.”
He swallowed, gripped the hand that somehow now held his, and took a long deep breath.
“He was black and tan, and even then he had shoulders on him like a quarter back. In all the time we had him, he never showed any sign of aggression- until that day…” His voice trailed off and he looked up at Jody, noted her pale face, and that her eyes were like saucers.
“Go on,” she coaxed, her voice little more than a whisper.
“We don’t know what triggered his behaviour that day, but there was a young girl playing with the ducks, her parents had just given her a slice of bread and I remember hearing the sound of their laughter.
“My dad had Bitzer on a loose lead and didn’t expect him to act any differently than usual. But this time Bitzer broke away from my dad, ran straight for the girl and caught her by the throat and shook her like a doll.”
He couldn’t stop the shakes running through his body. The child’s screams echoed in his head as clearly as if he was back in the park. Her parents’ cries for help, and his father’s curses as he attempted to pull Bitzer off the child.
“I can’t remember the details. Lots of people arrived, some may have been police, in fact I’m sure at least one was a policemen, because eventually he shot Bitzer, but not before another dog hurled itself into the furore. Everyone thought the new dog's pack instinct was kicking in, instead it positioned itself in front of the girl and attacked Bitzer. It saved the child’s life.”
Saved a life?
What had Jody just said about Rusty?
Saved a life?
What had Jody just said about Rusty?
The words rattled in his head and he shot an agonised glance at Jody. “Please tell me I’m wrong,” he begged, as he watched the tears track down her cheeks.
“That second dog wouldn’t let anyone near the child for more than an hour,” Jody said in a broken voice. “Not my parents, not the medics, no one until the policemen shot your dog. That’s why he had to shoot him, Mark. I’m so sorry.”
He swiped a hand across his face. “You’re sorry? How can you look at me and not be repulsed?”
“Mark, until this moment I didn’t know you were the boy who begged the policemen not to kill his dog.” Jody wrapped her arms round his neck, drew him close, and kissed him. “I love you, Mark. For better, for worse, I love you. And I’ll tell Mum to keep Rusty permanently.”
“No!” Mark shot to his feet. “You must bring him here, but first perhaps he can stay with your Mum till I get to know him.”
“Oh Mark, I do love you. I promise Rusty won’t bite you. He has an instinct about people and I know he will accept you for who, and what, you are. Just as I do.”
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