Flash Fiction Friday: The Dog Who Stared
by Jeff Burk
I believe in the dog.
“Brutus is still out there. He won’t come in. I shook his food bowl but the little guy wasn’t interested.”
Arthur stood up and walked across the kitchen to join his wife, Dorothy. They both looked out the window over the sink to their dog, Brutus, in the back yard.
Brutus was a west highland terrier. A small white dog with pointed ears that weighed, while wet, fifteen pounds. He was what some would call an “ankle biter.”
He was sitting in the center of the backyard staring straight up into the sky.
“What do you think he’s looking at?” asked Arthur.
“I don’t know.”
Arthur went out the back door and into the yard. They lived in the woods, so the yard was just a large grass clearing surrounded by dense trees.
Arthur clapped his hands, “Brute. Hey, Brute.”
The dog ignored him.
He clapped and called again but the dog paid no attention. He walked over to Brutus and stood next to the dog, looking down. Brutus stared up into the sky, right past Arthur.
Arthur turned and looked up. Where the dog was looking there was nothing but clear blue sky. He wasn’t looking at some squirrel high up in a tree or a bird in its nest.
“Hey, come on,” Arthur patted the dog on the head. “It’s time for dinner.”
Brutus still ignored him.
Arthur shrugged and went back inside.
“He wants to stay out, I guess,” Arthur said to Dorothy. “He’s got a dog door. He’ll come in when he’s hungry.”
“He’s still out there,” said Dorothy.
Arthur and Dorothy were standing at the kitchen window the next morning. They were both in robes, holding their cups of coffee.
Brutus had been outside all night instead of in his normal place at the foot of their bed. He was still in the same spot outside, sitting and staring.
“What is he doing . . .” Dorothy wondered out loud.
“I don’t know,” said Arthur. “But I have to get ready for work.”
“What’s with your dog?”
“Huh?” Arthur looked up from the engine. It was Friday and Arthur’s buddy, Brad, had come over to take a look at the latest improvements to Arthur’s 1950 Chevy Club Coupe. The two were going to take it out for a drive later.
“He’s just been sitting there . . . staring,” said Brad.
“Yeah, he’s been doing that lately.”
“Why do you think? It’s kinda . . . weird.”
“He’s a dog. Here, take a look at this.”
Brad didn’t respond. Arthur looked over and saw his friend staring at Brutus.
“Hey,” Arthur shouted. “Can you take a look at this?”
Brad shook his head like he was coming out of a daze. “Yeah. Sure. Sorry.”
“I didn’t know your friends were coming over today.”
Dorothy motioned towards their backyard. “Brad, John, Frank, and Stan are out back. They’ve been here for at least an hour.”
“Really?” asked Arthur. He had made no plans with them.
He went out into the backyard and his friends really were out there. They were sitting in lawn-chairs around Brutus, who was still staring into the sky. His four friends had a cooler of beer and they were slowly sipping on drinks, silently watching the dog.
“Ummm . . . hey guys,” said Arthur. “What’s up?”
Brad looked at him but the rest of his friends didn’t respond at all.
“Hey man,” said Brad. “I just told the guys about Brutus and they all wanted to come over and take a look.”
Arthur looked them over and asked, “Why?”
Brad shrugged. “Dunno. Seemed interesting.”
When Arthur and Dorothy got back from work the next day there were two dozen people in their backyard. Some they recognized—there was Gary from the post office and some teenage girl from the grocery store. The crowd was mostly standing. Some people sat on folding chairs. Everyone was facing Brutus.
Arthur pushed through the crowd to Brad, who was still sitting in his chair in the front row.
“What the Hell is going on?” demanded Arthur.
“Some people wanted to have a look.” Brad replied, never looking up from Brutus.
Arthur, frustrated, made his way back to Dorothy.
“What do they want?” she asked.
“They just want to have a look.”
“Well . . . they’re being quiet.”
Arthur and Dorothy went inside and watched TV.
“How many people do you think are out there?” asked Dorothy.
Arthur shook his head. “At least a hundred is my guess.”
Dorothy pointed. “They have a hot-dog stand.”
Over the past few days, more and more people had been showing up in their backyard. They joined those already gathered in watching Brutus.
Brutus, who was normally a very excitable and friendly dog, paid no attention to the people. Arthur and Dorothy had been growing concerned with how long he’d been outside and without food or water—both his bowls remained untouched since the day he started staring. But he seemed no worse for wear and he still ignored their calls.
“I’ve had enough, let’s get going,” said Arthur.
Arthur and Dorothy had gotten tired of the craziness that was now their backyard. They had decided on a weekend getaway camping outside of town. Their bags were packed and in the car. They could deal with all of this later.
Three days later, they had almost forgotten the insanity in their back yard until they turned onto the narrow dirt road that led to their house.
The street ended only a few hundred yards after the turn-off to their home and it began only a half-mile before. In total, there were only seven homes on the road. Normally it was very quiet and they rarely saw their neighbors.
But today, there were scores of cars and hordes of people. Rides, carnival games, and food carts were set-up.
Arthur pulled over and parked the car next to a Ferris wheel.
“What is this all about?” asked Dorothy as they got out of the car.
“I have no . . . oh, God . . .” Arthur lost the sentence when he saw the T-shirt vendor. A line of people waited to buy screen printed shirts with the image of two intense staring eyes and the slogan: I KNOW WHAT THE DOG SEES!
It was impossible. There was no way all these people were here because of their dog—because of Brutus. But as Arthur and Dorothy made their way through the masses of people and got closer to their house, the crowd just grew thicker. All attention was directed towards their house.
There was no denying it. All these people were here because of Brutus.
When they reached the backyard, people were taking pictures of Brutus, cheering him on, and waving signs that read: STARE, DOG, STARE. NEVER GIVE UP. I BELIEVE IN THE DOG.
Arthur stumbled out of the crowd of people, finally finding himself in open space. He turned around to see his dog, still in the same position. Staring. His four friends still sat in lawn chairs, sipping their beer, and watching Brutus.
“Hey man, nice to see you again,” said Brad raising a beer.
“What is going on? Where did all these people come from?” shouted Arthur, struggling to be heard over the noise of the crowd.
Brad shrugged. “Dunno. Guess they wanted to see your dog.”
A man can only take so much before he finally breaks and this was Arthur’s breaking moment. He moved in front of Brutus and turned to the crowd, waving his arms in the air. “You people are insane! Why are you here? It’s just a fucking stupid dog for God sake!”
The crowd immediately went silent and for one brief, wonderful moment, Arthur thought he had gotten through to them. But he quickly realized that the crowd was not paying attention to him but to Brutus. He looked down at Brutus and saw that the dog had moved aside. He was no longer sitting and staring but hopping around and wagging his little white tale.
The crowd was watching Brutus with fascination. They turned as one to look up the sky behind Arthur, the exact same place Brutus had been staring.
Arthur slowly turned around and looked up. The sky was a clear pristine blue with not a cloud to be seen. But there was a fiery ball hurtling straight towards him.
He had no chance to register the oncoming object. The soccer ball-sized meteor hit him in the chest and tore straight through his body, splattering blood and organs onto Brad and his three other friends.
The meteor hit the ground and bounced over Brad. The crowd parted for the extraterrestrial object in hushed reverence. The meteor bounced two more times and Brutus tore off after it. Bouncing along and barking and throwing his paws into the air, Brutus had finally gotten his new toy.
Jeff Burk is the author of Shatnerquake, Super Giant Monster Time, and Cripple Wolf. He is also the head editor of Deadite Press. You can stalk him on the internet here.