I never liked Lorraine’s damned dog. The Chihuahua had been a mama’s girl since day one. When my wife was alive, Princess at least tolerated my presence. Now that Lorraine’s dead, the little beast won’t stop chomping on my ankles. I’ve taken to wearing two pairs of socks. Not that it does much good. I swear to God she has a shark’s bite. She draws blood every single time.
I tried to give her away to my neighbor, but the old bag claimed she was allergic to animal dander. Yeah, right. That woman had cats slinking in and out of her house all day. Truth was, she didn’t like dogs. Or maybe she didn’t like Princess.
Couldn’t blame her. My mild dislike of the tiny terror had morphed into burning hatred. I called the local pound to come take her away, but they wanted to charge me an owner relinquishment fee of $200. Can you believe that? Humph. Lorraine committed more than enough financial infractions on behalf of Princess. A pink leather collar with embedded fake diamonds. Monthly spa days for the dog, which included painting the furry brat’s toenails. Special dietary food because Princess has a delicate tum-tum, Harold. I’d be damned if I let my wife’s mutt cost me a nickel more.
My ankles were so sore, I could barely walk. The wounds inflicted by Princess didn’t even have time to heal because she assaulted me daily. I called several dog charities, but they all wanted donations before they’d even consider taking in Princess. Are you kidding me? That’s extortion. I wasn’t going to be blackmailed into getting rid of that horrible little shit.
I decided to leave the gate open in the backyard. I let her out for potties, and I saw her peel around the corner of the house. “Good riddance,” I muttered. “I hope a car hits you.” Trust me, you’d feel the same way about that furry pain-in-the-ass if you had to deal with her.
Lorraine said I wasn’t a “dog” person. Truth be told, I’m not an animal person at all. I don’t get the attachment people have to their pets. You like animals? Go to the zoo. Don’t create one in your house. Dogs blanket the furniture with their hair, they poop everywhere, and they bark incessantly. Do you know how many noise complaints we’ve gotten because of Princess? Her relentless yapping is like listening to a jetliner crash into a glass factory.
The night Princess took off, I’d slept the best I had since Lorraine died. The next morning, I actually woke up smiling.
You can imagine my disappointment when I found Princess in the kitchen, waiting for her breakfast. She had this expectant look on her face. I knew what she was thinking. You’re a sucker, Harold.
“How did you get back in the house?” I marched to the sliding glass doors that led into the backyard and opened it wide. “Go on. Play in traffic.”
Princess ignored me. Instead, she looked down at her food bowl, the ceramic one Lorraine had special-ordered with Princess imprinted on it, and barked.
I slammed the door shut and locked it. “I hate you,” I said. But I still filled her bowl because with her mouth occupied she wouldn’t be using my ankles as chew toys. I skipped making myself something to eat so I could get in my recliner and put my feet up. Princess was too small to jump onto the furniture. My poor abused ankles would be safe for a while. At least until I had to go pee.
I turned on the TV, listening to CNN as I used my laptop to search for ways to get rid of Princess. I found a forum for local dog lovers, and it had a specific thread for re-homing pets. I started typing. Retiree needs new home for pet of my dearly departed wife. Chihuahua is snow-white. Named Princess. Includes dog crate, two dog beds (pink), food bowls, nearly full bag of dry food, and all toys. I paused, wondering if I should ask for payment for all of Princess’s crap. Then I thought better of it. People were cheap. They might not take the dog if I insisted they pony up some cash. After adding a picture of the beast, I clicked “Add Post.”
I looked down and saw Princess sitting next to the recliner, staring up at me. “Your new owner will get everything I paid a pretty penny for,” I told her. “I bet that makes you happy.”
* * * * *
After lunch, I went to take a nap and Princess nipped at my heels all the way down the hall. I did my best to ignore her. I’d owned the one-story three-bedroom ranch-style house for decades and had shared it with three spouses. Lorraine had been my third wife. Before I met her, I’d been divorced and widowed with wives one and two respectively.
I met Lorraine standing in line at the pharmacy. Like me, she was in her sixties, and we hit it off right away. We married less than a year later. When you get old, you don’t really have stringent relationship requirements. It’s more about settling into routines and trying to remember which medications are yours. I only had two problems with Lorraine. First, she liked to spend money on stupid things like craft projects and “updating the decor.” Second, she bought that awful Chihuahua from a breeder without asking my opinion on the matter. Isn’t she adorable, Harold? I just lubs her!
You wanna know how much she spent on Princess? $1200. I wanted a new set of golf clubs, but you didn’t see me going down to the sports store and throwing $100 bills at the salesclerk. I’ll admit I fumed about that dog for months. Lorraine tried to get us to be friends, but Princess knew I resented her, and she responded in kind.
Princess tried to follow me into the bedroom, but I used my foot to shove her away. She chomped down on my big toe, shaking her head viciously, as if she was trying to tear it off. “Ow! Stop it!” I kicked my leg, flinging the demon off me. I slammed the door shut then I limped to the bed and slid under the covers.
Just as I dozed off, Princess started barking. “Shut up!” I yelled. She stopped for all of two seconds, and then started yapping her fool head off again. I got out of bed and looked for something to throw at her. A pillow was too soft. I rummaged in my closet until I found the umbrella. Hah! She hated that thing.
I opened the door and shook the umbrella at her. She yipped in fear, tucked her tail, and ran into Lorraine’s craft room. Chuckling, I shut the door and then put the umbrella next to my nightstand. I now had a weapon to keep her at bay. I crawled back into bed, triumphant.
* * * * *
I didn’t wake up from my nap until almost supper time. I fully expected Princess to launch herself at me, but when I left the bedroom, she was nowhere to be found. Still, I carried the umbrella with me into the kitchen while I fixed myself a microwavable meal and opened a can of beer. I put my dinner and beer on a TV tray, settled into my recliner, and watched Jeopardy in relative peace. Afterwards, I got on my laptop to check and see if anyone responded to my post on the dog forum.
Oh, I got responses all right.
Response 1: OMG. Are you serious? Princess lost her mother, and you want to traumatize her further by booting her out of the only home she’s ever known. That’s downright cruel.
Response 2: What kind of monster wants to give away his dead wife’s pet? You should be ashamed!
Response 3: I hope you rot in hell for trying to get rid of Princess.
Trolls. Every one of ’em. I deleted the post. You’d think people would be happy about getting a free purebred dog with all kinds of accessories. Instead, they were a bunch of bleeding hearts worried more about the dog than an old man’s peace of mind.
Her Royal Highness didn’t put in an appearance all night, even foregoing her dinner. I poured food into her bowl anyway, accidentally spilling it. Meh. I left the pellets on the floor. She’d eat them eventually.
My toe throbbed from Princess’ bite. I popped a couple of ibuprofen before I went to bed. I didn’t want to think about the dog, but I worried she was up to no good. A quiet Princess was a destructive one. She’d ruined my favorite pair of slippers, eaten three of my computer cords, and ripped up several spots of carpet. My only hope was that she was demolishing something of Lorraine’s for once.
I hadn’t gotten around to cleaning out the craft room. Humph. Lorraine didn’t have an artistic bone in her body, but it didn’t stop her from painting and knitting and whatever-the-hell else she tried. I didn’t really care if Princess wanted to eat the yarn or glitter or paint brushes. I hoped she choked to death. It sure would save me some trouble.
As I stared up at the ceiling, Princess gnawed on my mind the same way she gnawed at my ankles. I turned on my nightstand lamp, irritated that I had to check on the furball. I stood up, knees creaking and ankles throbbing, and shuffled across the shag carpet.
The second I opened the bedroom door, the stench rolled over me like I’d been hit in the face with a shovel full of manure. I knew immediately what Princess had been doing. I crossed the darkened hallway and turned on the light in the craft room. The smell was even worse up close. I pinched my nose shut as I surveyed the unholy mess. Princess sat in the middle of it all, staring at me, unremorseful as all get-out. Hot, molten rage surged through me.
“I’m gonna kill you!” I yelled.
Princess bared her needle teeth at me then she darted across the room, barking.
I remembered too late that I had left the umbrella in the living room. I turned and ran. At least, I tried to. My ankles and big toe hurt so bad, I couldn’t move as fast as I wanted. But as soon I got my hands on that umbrella, I was gonna beat that furry snot to death.
I’d only gotten three steps into the living room when I felt her tiny sharp teeth sink into my left calf. I cried out, dragging her along as I limped toward the umbrella leaning against the recliner. “I’ve had enough of you!” I screamed.
Princess let go, but only so she could attack my ankle. I felt her teeth rip through my tendons and suddenly, my foot didn’t work anymore. I fell forward, my forehead smacking against the coffee table. Warm blood trickled down my temple.
Princess went to work on my other ankle, growling as she chewed right through my skin and muscle. I didn’t care about the umbrella anymore. I needed help. I dragged myself to the recliner, using it as leverage to get the cordless phone I’d left on the end table.
My hands shook, but I managed to keep my grip on the phone and dialed 9–1–1. “My name’s Harold Singer.” I screamed in pain as Princess yanked chunks out of my lower thigh. “I’m being attacked!”
“I have your location as 457 Maple Street. Is that correct, sir?” asked the operator urgently.
“Yes!” I heard the weird snuffling noises Princess often made when she horked down her expensive food. I looked at the floor and saw Princess dining on the pieces of muscle she’d torn from my thigh. Blood stained her maw as she chewed and chewed and chewed. She stared right at me as she masticated my flesh, daring me with those beady little eyes to try and stop her.
“Hurry! She’s killing me!”
“Police and ambulance are on the way,” said the operator. “Try to get to a safe location.”
“Nowhere is safe,” I cried.
Princess disappeared right before the police busted through the front door, guns drawn. I could hear her incessant barking, though. She must’ve retreated to the craft room.
“Shoot her,” I demanded as the policemen entered the living room. “She’s out of control!”
“Where is the assailant?” asked the shorter of the two police officers.
I pointed to the hallway.
They looked at each other and I heard the taller one say, “Good God, it smells bad in here.”
“It’s all her fault!” I yelled. “Go get her!”
“Stay where you are, sir.”
Like I had a choice. I rolled onto the floor and lay on my back. My head hurt worse than my useless feet. Blood smeared the carpet. My socks were in tatters and so were my pajamas. I put my hand against my thigh, pressing against the blood spurting from all the wounds Princess had caused.
I felt like all the air had been pressed out of my lungs and I broke out in a cold sweat. “Help me…” My voice was a mere whisper. My heart beat faster and faster as the edges of my vision grayed. Dear God. I was having a heart attack. I heard the cops run into the living room and yell into their radios. Then everything turned black.
* * * * *
I woke up to a weird acrid smell in my nostrils and the unfamiliar countenance of a young man wearing a red shirt with EMT embroidered on the left side.
“Get that outta my face,” I said. “What are you doing? Trying to kill me?”
“No, sir. These are smelling salts.” He put a white tube into the opened satchel next to him.
Confused, I looked around and realized I was lying on my couch.
The EMT took his kit and rose, making room for a new person. The man who squatted next to me was dressed in a suit. He had short brown hair and serious blue eyes.
“I should be at the hospital,” I said, outraged. “I had a heart attack!”
“The paramedics assure me your heart is fine,” said the man. “It seems you had a panic attack and fainted. My name is Detective Gary Monroe.” He lifted a black wallet from the interior pocket of his jacket and flipped it open to show me an ID and a silver badge. “Do you know why I’m here?”
“Because I called the police for help.” A shiver wracked my entire body. I squinted at him. “Well, did you kill her?”
“The dog! I can’t hear her barking anymore, so you shot her, right?”
He shook his head.
I sighed. “Too bad. I guess you muzzled her and took her to animal control.” I shook my finger at him. “You put her to sleep, you hear me? She’s dangerous.”
He stared at me, brows furrowed, and I knew he didn’t believe me. Princess is too cute to hurt anybody, silly. That’s what Lorraine always said when I confronted her about Princess biting me. “Well, wait are you waiting for? Take me to the hospital.”
“You want to go to the hospital?”
“I’m wounded.” I pointed at my thigh. “See?”
His gaze flicked down. “I don’t see, sir.”
What an idiot. I put my hand against my thigh, expecting to feel ripped cloth and sticky blood, but… I looked and my pajamas were intact. I didn’t have any wounds.
“What about my feet?” I lifted them and saw that the doubled-up socks were pristine. No blood. No holes. No nothing.
“I don’t understand. She… she chewed through my ankles. I couldn’t walk! I fell and hit the coffee table.” I reached up and touched my skull. I felt a bandage on my forehead.
“You had a small cut above your eyebrow, sir. Not even deep enough for stitches.”
“It’s still her fault!” I yelled. “She tried to eat me!”
I saw him look to his left at a uniformed patrol officer. “Get the dog.”
“She’s still here?” Panic burbled and I sat up, swinging my feet off the couch and planting them on the floor.
“Mr. Singer, can you tell me why we found the decomposing corpse of your wife in the back room?”
“Well, she died,” I said. My nerves were shot. I was worried that the policeman wouldn’t be able to contain Princess. She was vicious. She’d find a way to bite me, I just knew it.
“It looks like Mrs. Singer died from severe trauma to the head,” said Detective Monroe. “We found copious amounts of dried blood on the umbrella near the recliner. Did you kill your wife, sir?”
“Of course, I did!” I yelled, impatient with the detective’s questions. “She got mad me at for disciplining Princess. That horrible dog bit me. Again. Princess is scared of the umbrella — that’s why I got it out of the closet. Lorraine just got in the way, is all.”
The policeman returned, carrying a wrapped bundle in his arms. “Detective Monroe?”
He leaned down and lifted an edge of the white blanket. I recognized the knobby little head of Princess, though her eyes were closed and she was unusually still.
“What’d you do?” I asked. “Knock her out?”
“She’s dead, Mr. Singer,” said Detective Monroe. “I think you killed the dog first.”
I couldn’t keep my eyes off Princess. I swear I saw one of her ears twitch.
“You got mad, grabbed the umbrella and struck the Chihuahua. Your wife tried to protect the dog and you used the umbrella to beat her to death. Is that about right?”
I definitely saw her ears move. Princess wasn’t dead. She was faking.
“I didn’t kill the dog,” I said, pointing at Princess. “See that? She’s moving.”
“The dog is dead, sir. And so is your wife.” The detective grasped my forearm. “I’m arresting you for capital murder.”
Princess’ eyes popped open and she pulled her lips back to reveal those sharp little teeth. She growled.
“Do whatever you want, Detective,” I said, staring at the snarling face of Princess. “Just keep that damned dog away from me.”