From the Desk of the Editor;
Hello and welcome to the 23rd issue of volume three of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this week’s issue we are featuring works about the dog-days of life. Those feelings that make you bark with anxiety and yip with joy.
In news we are moving our offices again back out of the city. This time it we are purchasing a building rather than renting and hope to be completely transitioned by December. As the new office is devoid of a roof we are hoping we will meet that goal (pictures to come soon). We apologize for any delays this might cause.
Thank you for reading and please check out our monthly issues online at Smashwords.com!
Daniel J. Pool
The Boy Who Became a Dog
Lewis J. Beilman III
The Johnsons bring their boy to the doctor’s office. They don’t know what to do with him. Mr. Johnson has the boy wrapped in a white blanket. He uncovers the blanket to show the doctor the boy’s face.
“Doctor,” the father says, “please look at our child. He no longer talks…and he can’t stand straight on his two feet.”Mrs. Johnson is crying. She turns away from the blanket.
The doctor screws up his eyes and shakes his head. He looks at the father, then at the mother. “Are you serious?” he says. The doctor opens the door and calls to a nurse.
The nurse comes to the door. “Yes, doctor,” she says.
“Did you let the Johnsons in to see me?” he asks.
“No,” she says. “They were in the waiting room last I noticed. They said little Jimmy was sick.”
“Take a look at little Jimmy,” the doctor says.
“Oh my,” the nurse says. From behind the blanket a black nose quivers; little Jimmy yelps and his yellow tail pokes out and wags from the other side of the blanket. The nurse giggles.
The doctor tells the Johnsons to get out.
“But doctor…” Mr. Johnson says.
“Get out,” the doctor repeats. “You need a vet, not a doctor.”
The Johnsons go home.
* * *
The Johnsons were worried about Jimmy recently, even before he turned into a dog. A few weeks ago, Jimmy had started kindergarten, and his teacher, Mr. Woodhouse, had called the Johnsons at the end of Jimmy’s first week to discuss Jimmy’s behavior. When the teacher had spoken to them, he had said Jimmy had grown enraged in class at another child who had taken a toy from him. Jimmy had grabbed his chair and hit the child with it. When the teacher had gone to take the chair from Jimmy, Jimmy had thrown it at him. After that, Jimmy had sat on the floor and stared out the classroom window. When the teacher had asked Jimmy to get up, Jimmy had barked like a dog and refused to move.
The Johnsons indeed thought Jimmy’s behavior in school strange. Until recently, Jimmy had been a loving child who had never fought with anyone. Still, the Johnsons chalked Jimmy’s behavior up to him having trouble adapting to days away from home…they chalked it up that way until what happened yesterday morning.
On that morning, the Johnsons woke to the sound of a dog whimpering. Although the sound seemed closer than it should have been, they attributed it to one of their neighbors’ dogs and paid it little attention. As Mr. Johnson remained in bed and read the newspaper, Mrs. Johnson went about her routine of making Sunday breakfast. The smell of eggs and bacon frying in butter permeated the house, and Mrs. Johnson expected Jimmy to stagger into the kitchen with his hands at his face rubbing the sleep from his eyes. When she didn’t see him, she left the kitchen to check on him. It was then that she found the little Labrador in Jimmy’s room. She looked for Jimmy under his bed and in his closet but was unable to find him.
* * *
After finding no signs of Jimmy in the rest of the house, the Johnsons began to call their neighbors. Each neighbor who answered told them that he or she had not seen Jimmy that morning…or the previous night for that matter. The Johnsons were unable to reach the neighbors who lived across the street and decided to go there in person to see if the neighbors’ son was home. The neighbors’ son, Billy, had babysat for Jimmy a few times during the past month when the Johnsons had gone out to dinner or visited with friends. They thought that maybe Jimmy had gone to see him.
The Johnsons knocked on the neighbors’ door. Billy answered it and said his parents were out shopping. When the Johnsons asked Billy if he had seen Jimmy, Billy said no. Billy added that Jimmy would have no reason to see him. “No reason at all,” he said. His pale eyes bore at them from above his freckled cheeks. He closed the door on them. They stood silently at the door for a few minutes before they turned away.
After they spoke with Billy the babysitter, the Johnsons continued their search throughout the neighborhood. They looked through some nearby woods where Jimmy and his friends often wandered. They went to his elementary school to see if Jimmy had ventured to the playground there. They checked an oak tree in a neighbor’s yard where Jimmy sometimes went to rest in the shade or climb to its middle branches. Still, they found nothing, so they went home.
* * *
When they were home, Mr. Johnson said, “Why don’t we call the police?” Without answering, Mrs. Johnson went to get the phone. She thought it was the right thing to do. As she picked up the phone, though, the dog began to bark in the living room’s bay window. She and Mr. Johnson followed the sound and looked outside. The neighbors’ son, Billy, lurked across the street at his mailbox, and the dog raged. Spit flew from the dog’s mouth as he stood, shoulders erect, with his front paws on the sofa’s back. As the Johnsons stood at the window and watched Billy, they knew something was wrong.
“That dog knows something,” Mr. Johnson said.
The Johnsons looked at each other, he into her blue eyes, and her into his brown. They both thought the same thing. They named the dog “Jimmy” to acknowledge what their son had become.
* * *
To make Jimmy feel more at home, the Johnsons bought a crate and set it up in Jimmy’s bedroom. The Johnsons had owned a dog before Jimmy had been born and, from that experience, they knew the crate would bring Jimmy comfort. The crate was made of polished wood, and the Johnsons placed Jimmy’s favorite blanket and his favorite stuffed animal, Mr. Rabbit, in it. They also furnished his room with chew toys, rawhide bones, and a cedar-chip dog bed. The Johnsons fed Jimmy beef tips from a local delicatessen. Jimmy leaped up, pawed at their thighs, and tried to lick their faces as they bent towards him. There wasn’t a happier dog in the world.
They went to bed that night and slept well. In the morning they realized that Jimmy must have slept well too. They had not heard him whine all night. Mr. Johnson called in sick to work that morning, and he and Mrs. Johnson had coffee in the sunroom and then took Jimmy outside to walk around the backyard. After Jimmy irrigated various trees and shrubs in the yard, the Johnsons took him around the front. The school bus came northward up the street, and Jimmy’s fur on his shoulders stood on end. Billy the babysitter walked out of his house to board the bus. Jimmy snarled and bared his teeth.
The Johnsons watched the rage build inside Jimmy. Mr. Johnson bent down to pet Jimmy, hoping to calm the dog. The Johnsons loved the dog, but they missed their son. They resolved to bring Jimmy to the doctor’s office that morning to see if anything could be done to reverse his transformation.
* * *
After having visited the doctor’s office, the Johnsons know that no one will be able to bring Jimmy back…at least not the way he was before. They know, too, the school will soon call, or the neighbors will contact the police, and people will start to ask, “Where is your son? Where is Jimmy?”
The Johnsons sit that Monday afternoon, in the kitchen, with two cups of coffee and a bag of liver treats on the table. They savor the taste of the cream-and-sugar coffee, and Jimmy savors the taste of the chicken liver. The Johnsons smile at each other because they know these may be the last moments they share before the calls come or the doorbell rings. They reach down and tug gently at Jimmy’s ears as he licks their hands. Mr. Johnson stands and walks to the window over the sink that looks into the backyard. Mrs. Johnson follows him and puts her arm over his shoulder. He kisses her on the forehead.
When the doorbell rings…and it will…the Johnsons will stand side-by-side and answer the questions put to them. All the while Jimmy will pace at their feet and growl, not at the interrogator before them, but at the shadow of the boy across the street. And, over the hullabaloo of the barking dog, the Johnsons will answer, “No, our boy is not lost…our boy is not gone. He is right here…right here with us.”
About the Author;
Lewis J. Beilman III lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with his two cats, Elvis and Rico. He writes short stories and poetry in his spare time. His story, "The Gator and the Ibis," appeared last year in Larks Fiction Magazine, and, last month, Red Fez published his story, "Exposure." In 2009, he won first prize in the Fred R. Shaw Poetry Contest for his sonnet, "When They Leave."
By Michael Andrew Tate
The smell is what I noticed first. That fresh yet repulsive odor that finally registered in my nose only after I caught my breath and had a glass of cool water from my kitchen tap. It didn’t take long for me to locate the culprit, finding the source on the bottom of my left running shoe.
I took it off and held it out in front of me, trying to keep the foulness as far away as possible. Proceeding back towards my front door where I could toss the shoe onto my porch, I was careful not to step in the evenly spaced brown smudges in my carpet. My brand new carpet that I spent hours and hours of my time on finding the exact, perfect one. How could I have been so careless as to walk on it with my shoes? Shoes that had been outside for the love of god.
I tossed my shoe onto the concrete slab, and there, from my vantage point, traced my tracks down my steps and sidewalk to the origin in front of my neighbor Amber’s door. There it was, yet another clear violation of Section 6 article 14 of of the townhome association’s bylaws. That woman and her dog, Smokey, had done it again to me. Ever since they moved in they had eroded away the peaceful enclave I had grown to love, and each little incident like this was just another drip of acid onto my rapidly fraying patience.
I slammed my front door shut.
On cue, Smokey started yelping again. Even from across the extra thick, sound proofed walls I paid so dearly for, I heard that devil clear as the night sky from the middle of the ocean. I had been led to believe that the larger ones barked far less frequently, but not Smokey. And not only was it incessant, but he had recently began howling like a wild wolf every time I wanted a moment of quiet. That dog itself was a violation I swear. I would have bet my entire life savings that it was above the forty pound limit established by the bylaws.
I had brought that up to the board as well at the last meeting, and once more they took no action. After that final dismissal by those seven tyrants who held sole jurisdiction over the matter, I realized that the next time I would be on my own, especially since my candidacy this year for the afore mentioned board was once more a complete failure. I had never considered myself to be the type of man to resort to vigilantism, but then again I had never considered that in this world, the justice system could fail one of its citizens so egregiously.
I retrieved a small box of dog treats from the back of my closet. I kept them for Dixie, a schnauzer my neighbor Doug watched for his parents a couple weeks a year. She was safely under the size limits and whose temporary guardian, I am quite confident, adhered to Section 6 article 14. I suppose it wasn’t dogs that really bothered me. They were, after all, only animals. Their owners on the other hand…
I put a handful of the treats in a plastic bag and opened up the cabinet under my sink. I reached in deep to where I kept the rat poison. I never had any need for it since I moved in, but I kept it in case I had a pest problem. The small white chunks ground up with little effort, and when I poured the powder into the bag and shook it up, it evenly coated the treats.
For the next two hours I scrubbed my carpeting with the aid of no fewer than six different cleaners. My therapist would have told me that the stains only existed in my mind — That’s what she always says — but I swear that they were still there. It wasn’t that I could see them: it was the smell that lingered. With my hands wrinkled from all the water and chemicals, I looked out my window. The sun was dipping below the horizon and the neighborhood was blanked in the soft yellow glow of porch lights. I supposed that this would have to do for tonight.
By the time I had put away my cleaning supplies, it was already 7:58pm. If anything, Smokey was reliable, and at 8:33 plus or minus thirteen minutes at one standard deviation he would want to go out. I put on a dark coat I no longer wore and proceeded outside towards Amber’s door. I carefully stepped around the violation still on the sidewalk, quickly glancing into her front window. Her television lit her living room with a flickering blue and white light with Amber herself hypnotized by the picture while she reached into a bowl of popcorn.
I scanned the street once more to be sure nobody was out. Thankfully, they were all inside like Amber. I placed a small handful of the special treats on the corner of Amber’s porch. As soon as Smokey came through the door and smelled them, it would only take one bite for the white powder to enter his body and send him back to hell where he belonged. And Amber, that irresponsible young woman, might be inspired her to re-think her behavior over the last year. In the end, she would become a better person.
With it being garbage day, I strolled down the block and discretely disposed of any evidence that would point to myself, including the jacket, treats, and rat poison, in another resident’s bin. Granted I’m sure with my record of complaints to the board, I would be a lead suspect, but if there was no evidence, then all the motive in the world made no difference.
I walked past my house to my other neighbor’s door. Doug had so far been the best neighbor I had ever had. Despite the excitement that evening, I had to make sure I was conscientious of our weekly movie night lest I jeopardize our friendship. He let me in and his parent’s schnauzer ran up to me and barked a couple times in excitement; a bark so similar to Smokey’s that the rage it conjured urged me to kick the thing.
I steadied myself and pet her, gliding my hand from the top of her head all the way down her back. Once more she barked and once more I struggled to restrain myself. I wondered if Dixie could have been the dog I had heard that evening, but I was confident that the sound came from Amber’s side. It had to have been. I scratched her under her chin and she settled down, curling up next to me on the couch.
“I didn’t know you were watching her this week.”
“Folks dropped her off last night.”
“Very good. What’s on the docket tonight?” I asked.
Doug held up a copy of Taxi Driver. “Ever see this?”
My soul smiled. “I have. Excellent choice.”
Throughout the movie I noticed that the main character, Travis, and myself were quite similar. I had never considered this before, but the more I analyzed, the more it made sense. By the end, while Travis gunned down the pimps and thugs I fantasized that I, myself, was the one pulling the trigger. We we both heroes in our own worlds. We both did the right thing. We both made the world a better place.
Before the movie concluded and the credits could splash across the screen, a knock came at the door. I stood up, reminding myself to act casually with the police, who would inevitably come canvasing the neighborhood for the culprit. I would tell them nothing, and they would in turn never find out it was me. However it was not the police. It was Amber, and she was crying.
Doug ushered her in. He motioned for her to sit down on the couch next to me.
“What happened?” he asked.
She took a couple deep breaths between sobs and said, “It’s Smokey. My friend Mary was dropping him off. She was watching him while I was away.” Amber collapsed into the couch. “Some sick bastard poisoned him.”
“What? How? Who would do that?”
“I don’t know. Somebody left some doggy biscuits on the…he ate themand just…fucking bastard!”
On the screen, Travis drove off to a smooth soprano saxophone in the background while Dixie jumped down from the couch and began to howl
About the Author;
Michael Tate is an author based in Minneapolis Minnesota. He has been
active in the flash fiction community since 2010. This is his first published short story.
active in the flash fiction community since 2010. This is his first published short story.
Thank you for reading this issue of Larks Fiction Magazine! Please join us next week for more great tales of indie fiction or see one of our other great editions.