This story is by Jean Walker and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“There used to be an older one who lived here,” said Java after drinking from the water bowl. He shook his tan and white body until his fur fluttered like soft gossamer wings and his ears flopped noisily against the sides of his head.
“Oh, yeah? Who?” replied Linus as he laid upon the cool cement.
Java studied Linus. They were both Shetland Sheepdogs but, at 6 months, Linus had grown to the same height and weight as the slightly older, but fully grown, Java. Soon Linus would be taller and heavier. Java realized he would have a tough time keeping this youngster in line. Drastic measures were called for.
“His name was Kermit. He was like us, a sable Sheltie. Lived here since his third month.”
“What was he like?” Linus held his head high and let the variety of odors of the air touch the outer edges of his nostrils.
“He was old, really old,” answered Java. “He was a bit rough, too. Kept yelling at me to stop fooling around. He liked to call me ‘Pup.’”
“Old, huh? I’ve never been around any really old Shelties. Was he big, too?”
“Oh, yeah, he was big. He was twice as big as you are now!” Java’s eyes sparkled as he thought about Kermit standing over him, yelling, “Grow up, little Pup! Let me teach you the ways of the Good Dog!”
Linus stood up and walked onto the nearby grass. He felt the blades tickle his paw pads and the urge to urinate grew stronger. He lifted his left rear leg and began to pee.
“He once told me about the deck over there,” Java tilted his head toward the wooden deck. “He told me about the monster that lives beneath it.”
Linus jerked around and faced Java. “No way, I don’t believe it!” But Java noticed the tiny ripple of fear that crossed Linus’s eyes.
Java lowered his voice. “It’s true. I saw it one night when Kermit was sleeping. The sun had hidden itself behind the hills. There wasn’t much light, mostly just lots of shadows. I was lying next to Kermit, my back touching his back. Something large and dark slithered across the deck.”
Linus’s eyes grew large. “What’d you do?”
“I barked like a mad dog, loud and strong! Woke up Kermit and, boy, was he mad. I told him I had seen the monster. He just growled something and then went back to sleep.”
Linus glanced at the deck. In bright sunlight, it looked like any ordinary wooden deck. He hadn’t heard any noises coming from beneath it. He glanced back at Java. “I think you’re pulling my tail, Java. I don’t think there’s any monster.”
Java chuckled. “Go ahead, my young friend. Think that way. But don’t ever sleep with your back to the deck.”
“Well, let’s just say there IS a monster,” Linus said. “What am I supposed to do when I see it?”
Java walked close to Linus and nudged his nose into Linus’s ear. “Bark … snarl … HOWL … like you’re the wildest and meanest dog on earth,” he whispered. “You can’t ever let that monster know that you’re afraid.”
Linus trotted over to the deck. He poked his nose into knot holes in the wood and inhaled deeply. The scent was damp and musty. He couldn’t tell if something was alive under the deck. The sun warmed his fur and he grew tired. He lay down on his side and dozed.
A few feet away, Java turned in a circle and relaxed his body on the grass. He relaxed and tucked his nose toward his hind legs.
Suddenly there was a rustling noise from beneath the deck, like dry leaves crackling. Java opened his eyes but kept his back to Linus, waiting.
When the slight gnawing noises began, Linus jumped to his feet and snarled. His snarl grew into a roar. He stomped the wooden deck with his forelegs and scratched it with his claws. He paused and listened. The noises were gone.
Linus trotted toward Java, his tail high and curled. “I scared that monster, didn’t I?” he declared.
Java jumped up and ran around Linus wagging his tail. “You the Dog, Linus! You the Dog!”
Linus lowered his head and stretched his front legs. “Come on, Java! Try to knock me down!”
Java ran over and playfully threw his front feet over Linus’s shoulders. They wrestled, growled, and snapped at each other as they played their games.
Java knew only rodents lived beneath the deck. But Linus would never know the truth. If Linus got to be too much for Java to handle, all Java would have to do is remind Linus of the scary monster who lived beneath the deck.