Beware of Dog
When it happened, I was looking in the back of Nana’s storeroom for boxes of tax information. I heard Milo barking and growling, but I figured it was just some animal in the woods behind Nana’s house. We had been obliged to move Nana to an assisted living apartment in town, and we hadn’t been to her house in months. But Nana was being audited, so here we were, digging through ninety years of accumulated stuff in search of receipts and forms and bills and ledgers. So, even though I figured Milo was barking at some animal in the woods, I turned with relief from my tedious task and went to the back door.
“Milo?” I called, looking out over the wide back yard toward the woods. Milo was standing at the edge of the yard, and staring into the trees. He glanced toward me when I spoke, but he quickly turned back to his scrutiny of the woods, and he kept growling and barking.
I didn’t see anything, but I trusted Milo. More importantly, now that I saw how he was acting, I knew it wasn’t just some animal.
“What is it, boy?” I asked him, but I was barely whispering. My eyes darted from one side to the other, scanning the trees, searching for movement, for anything out of the ordinary. A slight breeze blew air through the screen door, and suddenly I could smell what Milo was no doubt fretting over. “Milo!” I called sharply. “Come!” Milo turned then and ran back toward the house.
The echo of gunfire broke the silence of the summer day, and Milo fell halfway across the yard. He whimpered, his head moving from side to side as he struggled to get back up. Blood appeared on his rump.
“Milo!” I shouted. I flung open the screen door and rushed out toward him, but a man emerged then from the woods, a .22 rifle in his hands.
“Don’t do it!” he bellowed, waving the gun toward me. “Just go back in the house!”
I glared at the man for a moment. The nearest neighbours were half a mile away. My cellphone was in my handbag in the kitchen. Nana’s collection of shotguns was in the basement. And Milo, still whimpering, seemed unable to move. I decided I should probably do what the man said, and go back in the house.
I spun around and ran, diving into the kitchen and flinging the door shut behind me. I thought about locking it, but that wouldn’t suit my purpose. Who knew what this man wanted? I should probably find out before letting him slip away.
The man had sprinted across the yard behind me, and he burst now through the door. We stood facing each other in Nana’s kitchen, the breeze blowing the unlatched screen door back and forth, each of us panting and expectant, our muscles tensed, our gaze unwavering. The man still pointed the rifle at me, but he seemed hesitant to fire.
“I saw the sign on the fence,” he said. “Beware of dog.” He scoffed. “Not much of a dog, I guess,” he went on. He waved the gun menacingly toward me. “This place is big,” he noted. “It looks expensive.” He glanced behind me toward the dining room. “And Mike told me the old lady’s been gone for a while.” He took a step toward me. “Mike said she was rich.” Another step. “I think it’s time for her to share.”
I thought about the tax audit; Nana was not without means, but I knew that her big house was almost the only thing worth any real money. I chuckled at the mental image of this would-be burglar carting off the whole house on his back. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I think if you value your life, you should just walk away now, back where you came from. And warn this ‘Mike’ person to do the same.”
The man was only five feet away from me. “Or what?” he shouted. “Your dog’s as good as dead. And you will be too, if you don’t do what I say!” He glared at me, breathing heavily, scowling, waving the rifle inches from my face. “Move!”
I was still smiling, but the mental image that was amusing me had changed. “The sign,” I said, stepping toward him. “Wasn’t for Milo.” I paused, anticipating the look that would no doubt spread across his face – the look that was always on all of their faces, when they realized what was going on.
I popped my neck from side to side and shrugged my shoulders back and forth.
“What?” the man said again. His hands were shaking as he held the rifle, and his scowl was tinged with just the slightest bit of confusion.
“It was for Nana,” I said. “And now, I guess, for me.”
I allowed myself to transform, my bones and sinews cracking, my skin tingling as the fur emerged. Yes, there it was – the look of … well, it’s indescribable, really, the look they get when they see us transform.
I shifted forward, and my strong claws swept across the man’s chest. The rifle fell from his hands, and he screamed as I sank fangs into his throat.
And then he stopped screaming.
I lowered his lifeless form to the kitchen floor. “Humans,” I murmured. “You tell each other to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing, but you never really expect that to happen.” I sighed, and returned gradually to my earlier shape. “Now I’ll have to clean this up,” I complained. “And then I have to find all that crap for the tax audit!” I sighed again, and stepped over the man toward the back door. Milo had managed to wriggle to a sitting position. “It’s okay, boy!” I called soothingly, and walked out toward him. “Let’s get you to the vet.”