[Being the first in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]
Angsty is sitting on the fence at Number 72, one paw up, cleaning her chest. I stop in front of her and she pauses to look at me. She squeals.
‘You sound like a baby,’ I say, stuffing a bundle of mail into the slot in the fence. She squeals again. I squeal back. Then I scoop up a small handful of star-shaped biscuits from the special bag on my handlebars. Angsty sniffs the tips of my fingers and nibbles the powdery snacks from my palm, using her rough tongue to collect the last two. I dust my hand and scratch behind her ears, thinking about the nine new planets in the sky. I hope they’ve been given interesting names from mythology, not the obscure strings of numbers they give asteroids these days. Nothing worse than choosing XJ-104 instead of Clytemnestra or Ganesh. What if they found life on those planets? Would we call the new life-forms XJ-104ians? I’d much rather be a Clytemnestran or a Ganeshian than an XJ-104ian.
I give Angsty another scratch before standing on the pedals again.
The rain has kept most of the cats inside or under cover this morning, so it’s pretty much just brake, reach, stuff, brake, reach, stuff until I’m parked outside Number 54, patting the chicken breast in my pocket and looking warily at Number 56’s front gate.
I can’t hear Satan. For a ridiculous Warner Brothers cartoon minute I think he must be lying in ambush for me. Then I remind myself that he’s a big, dumb, vicious dog and as such isn’t capable of coming up with a new plan to freak me out. But the silence is unnerving. By now I should have heard the ominous baritone growl. By now his moist and toothy snout should be visible, poking through the slats of the front gate. I push my bike forward cautiously until I’m right in front of the gate. Still nothing. I realise that I’m holding my breath and let out a gushy sigh. I peer through the gate, half expecting the bastard to jump up out of nowhere and make me shit my pants, but nothing happens. Instead I see Satan lying on his side on a beat-up couch on the veranda. I haven’t seen the front yard of Number 56 for ages, because I’m always either flinching, flinging chicken or screaming past as fast as my bike will carry me. The lemon tree is covered in big yellow fruit, and the lawn could do with a water. The tranquility of this scene is as unnerving as the silence.
I take advantage of the ceasefire and slip the mail in the mailbox. Satan still hasn’t moved. He’s probably all tuckered out from a big night of eating children and chasing bulldozers and now he’s dreaming of disembowelling postal workers. I’m just about to push off when I have a premonition that something is wrong. I give the fence a sharp kick, but Satan doesn’t react. Not even a twitch of his ears.
Before I know it I’m off my bike and through the front gate. I walk quickly and quietly up to Satan’s recumbent form. A little man inside my head is screaming ‘run, it’s a trick, run for your life’, but if this is a trick then I deserve to get bitten because this dog is not only a genius, he’s a damn good actor as well. Those dogs they train to bark endorsements on TV ads have nothing on Satan. Hell, Lassie has nothing on Satan if this turns out to be a trick. If this turns out to be a trick I will buy a stack of one hundred TV Weeks and nominate him for the Readers’ Choice section of the Logies.
I gently rest my hand on his flank. He doesn’t move. He’s cold to the touch. I notice what I think is a pool of vomit under his muzzle. Some of it is stuck to his lips. I watch him closely. He’s not breathing. This is most definitely a dead dog.
Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.