The dog looked out of the window staring grumpily at the persistent rain that was now forming murky puddles in the garden. Overhead, the grey clouds bunched, making darker, more threatening clusters. On the lawn, flowers were smashed against the grass. Rufus softly whined, lifting up his back leg and skilfully scratching his crutch, his soft eyes searching for his master. Whenever his master was away for more than three days the old dog began to fret. He’d mope like a disconsolate child, burying his head in his paws, sniffling and mewling.
Rushing figures, wrapped in macs, bearing umbrellas scuttled through the rain tumbling onto the pavements outside. None resembled his master. He began to growl.
“Down from there, boy.” His mistress’s stern voice whipped the air whenever she was annoyed or anxious. Suddenly her voice became lighter. “He’s not coming back for another day, matey. Think of it. We can do whatever we want for another day. Cheer up, for god’s sake! You’ve been staring out of the window all morning! Pissing me off big time too!”
Judith sat before the TV, clutching a glass of red wine. She had just finished applying make-up and its pungent smells filled the room.
“I love it when your master goes on one of his trips. Gives me a chance to do other things, Rufus, old lad.”
She put her lipstick away.
“When the cats away, the mice-or to be specific-mouse will play.”
Judith stood up and went over to the window. She gently placed a hand on Rufus’s head, stroking for a second his glossy brown fur. He suddenly stiffened and began to growl.
Swiftly, she pulled her hand away. Her blood-red finger nails glinted ominously.
“That’s it. I know you don’t like me even though I’m the one that feeds you every day and takes you to the vet when you’re poorly. Some gratitude!”
Rufus growled again, still staring out of the window. The rain was falling down heavier now. Mournfully, the old dog lay his head on his paws, closing his eyes.
“Well, when my new friend comes, you just behave yourself. No barking mind! No growling!”
Judith stood up and looked out again.
She turned back to Rufus.
“Why don’t you get down from there? Leaving your hairs everywhere.” She glared resentfully at the huge animal. “You’re bloody lucky to be here. You know that? If Al wasn’t such a fool I would have put you down years ago. You know what? I’d have enjoyed doing it too! I’d have loved to have seen them poke a needle up your hairy rump, your blank eyes close never to open again.”
She poured herself out another glass and nervously lit a cigarette. Al hated her smoking in the house, but as he was away it didn’t really matter. She’d make sure the odour was gone by the time he got back.
“He’s fucking late!”
She barely remembered Bob, as they’d met only twice. Last Tuesday when she’d left Al at home to work on his accounts, she’d gone into town for a few drinks by herself and to take in a movie. Afterwards, stopping to light a cigarette, rummaging through her handbag in gathering panic, Bob had approached, introduced himself and in a flash lit her cigarette. An immediate connection was thereby made. As she sucked on the long filter, they struck up a conversation, laughed at each other’s weak jokes and from there went for a drink in a nearby bar. After a satisfying hour together they arranged to meet the following Friday.
He picked her up in his company car, a lovely blue Metro, and after a nourishing meal they’d moved onto a bit of waste land for straight forward, no-regrets, no-obligation intercourse. He hadn’t been the first. She didn’t care, as her husband bored her. Al was too interested in his career to spare any time for her.
Irritation had crept into her voice. She returned to her seat, sat down and immediately stood up again and stared out of the window. She went to the door, opened it, looking glumly out through the thick patina of water, throwing her cigarette out onto the grass.
“Maybe he’s not coming.” She snarled.
The rain fell against her face, creating a smooth mask of thin, grimy water. She noisily shut the door. Rufus, his ears curved upward in irritation, turned his long black and brown muzzle towards her. He kept his gaze upon her as if assessing her moral worth. Slowly, methodically Rufus returned his gaze to the world outside.
By early afternoon, the precipitation had grown even more volatile. Water fell out of the sky as if from a huge, barely controlled hose directed by an inebriated giant. Through the resulting blankets of rain, Bob eventually arrived. He parked his car in a deep puddle with the wheels pressed uncomfortably against the kerb. Combing his hair in the car mirror and checking his eyebrows, he leapt out of the car and bound up to her door. Already drenched, with rain hugging his reddened cheeks, he knocked twice. In a second Judith stood before him, a smile irradiating her plump, attractive face.
“Bob! Quick come on in!” She exclaimed.
Checking on her neighbours, turning her head from left to right, she pulled him guiltily inside. She fixed a kiss to his lips, her tongue energetically digging at the walls of his mouth. He broke away laughing. From the sofa, Rufus with narrowed eyes looked Bob up and down.
“My. You are hot today.” He gasped. “Let me take my coat off first. I just got out of the car but I’m already soaking!”
“I can’t wait!”
Placing his coat on the back of the nearest chair he grasped her roughly. Immediately, her hands were all over him, roaming over his body as if in the essential process of oiling a useful machine.
Rufus slowly turned his huge head, lowered it, pricked up his ears and barked.
“Shush.” Judith said sternly. “Shush. “ She lowered her voice an octave.
“What’s with him?” Bob asked staring nervously at the fierce looking dog, its paws on the back of the living room sofa.
“He misses his master.” She grinned mischievously. “But I don’t.”
She took his hand and planted it on her breast.
“I don’t at all.”
Judith grabbed Rufus by his collar and dragged him into the kitchen. The huge dog lowered his old head meekly, his spirit temporarily quenched. Busily, his mistress poured water into one bowl inscribed with his name and opening a can of fetidly aromatic dog’s meat she spooned it quickly into another while averting her nostrils.
“Bloody stinks. Bloody stinks.” She moaned. “I’d so love to get rid of you.”
She looked at him with mild but deliberate hatred as he pushed his snout into the second bowl gobbling up the mashed up horse meat and assorted pulped entrails.
“That will keep you busy.”
Judith noted, picking up a bottle of red wine and two glasses and sliding hurriedly out of the kitchen.
Rufus listened to their laughter from the kitchen, lifting up his head as the mistress’s high-pitched squeals filled the house. He sniffed the air, hoping to detect his master’s powerful scents. Shaking his head vigorously, he returned to shovelling up the meat with his thick, agile tongue. Lapping up the water as well, he heard them climbing the stairs. Tap. Tap. He began to softly growl, following the tapping sound with his empty, unnerving eyes.
When they reached the bedroom, he forgot about his meal.
As the door was ajar, he levered it open with his snout and walked into the living room. Upstairs he could hear his mistress calling out. He once more jumped up onto the sofa and in an agitated state stared out at the rain-soaked neighbourhood. He emitted long barely audible whines. As the noise upstairs increased, now turned into methodical bumping, he became even more agitated, leapt from the sofa and began walking around in circles. Twice he rushed to the bottom of the stairs, looked up and gave several high-pitched yelps.
Judith, having already reached her first coition of that long and very wet day, eased herself off the bed, slipped on her favourite pink slippers and went out onto the landing. There she stood unfettered in her voluminous nakedness, her breasts resting on her pink chest like over-made, over-large cream cupcakes and her hips swaying from the recent effort of love-making. Her tone of voice told Rufus that she was angry.
“What the hell is the matter with you, you stupid dog?”
She stepped down several steps, a single plump finger wagging up and down before him, causing him to back away, saliva falling from his half-open maw. His whines increased.
“Shut the fuck up, you crazy old mongrel.”
She walked down two more stairs.
Rufus turned his head away, cowed by her white, unnatural flesh. He scrambled back onto the sofa.
“One more sound out of you, and I’ll throw you outside. Rain or no rain.” She wagged her finger again. “You mark my words.”
“Hey, hon.” Bob called from the bedroom. “What’s the matter? Ignore the bloody thing. Just come back here. I need you honey.” His voice became lower, although equally loud. “And what’s more, I ain’t finished yet.”
Judith laughed provocatively.
“Me neither.” She shouted back.
Judith turned on her heels, retracing her steps back to the bedroom where Bob was waiting lounging on the rose-patterned duvet. The light scuffling through the heavy clouds fell across his sun-burnt flesh, lingering on his self-satisfied smile. He put out his arms.
“Come here, gorgeous!” He demanded.
Giggling with all the abandoned, startled gusto of a happily promiscuous 16 year old, Judith rushed into his arms.
For the next thirty minutes, Rufus leapt up onto the sofa then leapt off again. He walked continuously around in circles. His whines increased in intensity and duration. The noise coming from the bedroom grew much louder. It grew more intrusive.
Confused and anxious, Rufus began ascending the stairs.
Before the otherwise-occupied couple realised, Rufus was standing in the room, snuffling the air. A jumble of disturbing smells assaulted his nostrils. Judith’s plump arms floated over Bob’s back as his slim rump bobbed up and down above her. His senses jumbled, Rufus began barking. The sound stung the air, reverberating darkly. Bob yelped, echoing Rufus’s much louder, grimmer din, falling off the bed in alarm. Rufus began to snarl, displaying his long canines with the angry purpose of his murderous forbears.
“What the fuck?” Bob screeched.
Judith abruptly sat up, glaring at the stubborn old dog who stared back at her with equal venom.
“My god. What is your fucking problem, you stupid dog?”
She bellowed making no attempt yet again to conceal her nakedness.
She loped off the bed, and strode towards him. The odours she emitted confused Rufus even more. He vigorously shook his head trying to bat away the acerbic smells. Feeling threatened, he exposed even more of his long, curved, yellow fangs and advanced upon her. She stopped. His appearance worried her.
“Get him downstairs, love. Now!” Bob stridently ordered. “What the hell is he doing up here? Get him out!”
Rufus turned towards him. He moved slowly in Bob’s direction. Suddenly aware of his naked defencelessness, Bob grabbed at the duvet.
“Kick him out, Judith! What’s the matter with him?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ve never seen a dog act like that. Where’d you find him? Is he one of those bull mastiffs or something? He ain’t normal. What’s he doing running around loose?”
She shook her head.
“I’ll get him downstairs before he does something stupid. I’ve never seen him like this before. I don’t understand it myself.”
“I don’t like the way he’s looking at me, I can tell you that!”
Now close to him, she grabbed at Rufus’s collar. The dog twisted his head backwards jerking her off her feet. She struck the floor with a loud slap, her legs up in the air. Against his better judgement, Bob began to laugh. High-pitched, the sound rose incrementally filling the room. Even more confused by all the noise and movement, Rufus closed his jaws on Judith’s leg. She screamed. Lightening cut across the darkening sky.
“Get off! Get off!” She screamed as Rufus gnawed through the flesh, blood covering his jaw. “Bob, get him off me.”
Rufus shook her leg as if she were prey that he’d stalked and taken down in a distant forest, intent perhaps on eating it alive. His eyes were stubbornly focussed on her fat, yielding flesh. Judith’s blood began to spurt, covering the bed and floor, as Rufus’s teeth dug in deeper.
Beating at her pet’s head, Judith screamed:
“Help me, Bob!”
“I’ll do what I can.” He replied in a state of panic himself, fixed on the ugly sight before him. .
With trembling hands, he grabbed at his trousers, draped on the back of a chair, and hastily slipped them on. He’d had brief if terrifying visions of emasculation.
“Hold on!” He shouted hopelessly.
Although a muscular man, in the fashion of the day, he spent most of his time behind a desk sorting out figures and invoices. Physical challenges, a fight, a near accident, climbing mountains, travelling through jungles and gorges, occurred rarely in his life. His reactions were confined to a habitual absorption in interesting TV programmes, brief excursions to the gym and evenings in charming restaurants. Although adultery was one of his recreational passtimes, it seldom involved him in unusual activity. Fighting feral dogs was new to him!
Bravely, he grabbed Rufus’s head. In response, the angry dog bit down deeper, now reaching bone. Bob, drenched in Judith’s thick spurts of blood backed away.
“I’ll get a knife. Kill the bastard!”
He immediately rushed out, ran downstairs and into the kitchen. Pulling open the drawers one by one, he found a long, serrated kitchen knife. He ran back upstairs, raising the knife in the air for immediate use. Once there, he saw that Judith’s eyes were closing. Hesitating for several seconds as he had never killed anything before, he plunged the knife into Rufus’s hunched shoulders several times.
Rufus refused to let go even as his right side weakened and collapsed. He again bit into the bone. At that very point, Judith passed out.
Al arrived home earlier than expected. His company had decided to change his flight, booking an earlier one so he could deal with problems in the office. Worn out, he was pleased to be back. Berlin was even wetter and colder than London at that time of year. Snow flurries had seen him off from the airport. Rain had greeted him upon his arrival at Heathrow. Picking up his car in Heathrow carpark, he sped home eager to see both his dog and his wife. He loved them equally, but, sometimes, perhaps Rufus a little more.
Light dripped from the front of the house, filling every window with white, blank lustre. Al glanced at his watch wondering why at 11 there seemed so much activity. He could hear the TV even while standing in the garden fiddling in his jacket pocket for his keys. Opening the door, he was immediately curious as to why Rufus wasn’t rushing to greet him. He couldn’t even hear his semi-permanent whine. For such a vast animal, Rufus could be so infantile in his attitudes and behaviour. Always demanding affection! Always moping!
Entering the house, he was met with silence.
He took off his overcoat, threw it on the sofa, and looked around. The stillness was strange and bewildering.
“Judith!” He called.
There was no reply. He scratched his head and strode into the kitchen where he expected to find Rufus at least.
“Rufus!” He called.
Rufus’s bowls were empty with fresh food clinging to the rim of one and a tiny pool of discoloured water in the bottom of the other.
Clang! Something crashed against the floor in the room above. Startled, he quickly left the kitchen and rushed to the stairs, peering up. There was another sudden clang and a low mewling sound.
“What the hell’s happening? Where are they?”
Slowly, nervously, he walked up the stairs and onto the landing. Once there, he was struck by a bitter smell coming from the bedroom. A cold breeze swept over him. With moist hands, he stepped cautiously into the room. At first the fierce lights affected his perception, objects congealed into one, then he saw his wife, her inert body lay by their bed surrounded by web-like rivulets of thick congealing blood. The colour drained from his face as swaying he grabbed hold of the door to steady himself. His stomach churned like a man caught in a powerful storm, rolling repetitively on an uneven turbulent sea. He turned, throwing up onto the landing. His vomit, a lurid mixture of undigested pork and pasta, sank into the carpet, clutching at each fibre.
“Oh, fuck!” He screamed.
From the other side of the bed came a steady, purposeful shuffle and Rufus’s bloody snout emerged from behind the duvet. Drops of red dripped from each nostril, surrounding his huge blank eyes.
“Rufus boy.” He cried, briefly relieved.
He stepped forward to grasp him.
Rufus looked up at his beloved master, crawled nearer and deposited Judith’s half-eaten leg at his feet. He snorted, and put out his tongue to lick his master’s hand.