Stephen’s day started like every other Thursday since the shelter-in-place order started. He stared the ceiling for a few minutes after his 5 a.m. alarm rang, wishing for the days when he could perform his duties in his office. Of course, as he looked over at his wife of 17 years, still holding the school-girl looks that made her the darling of her small southern town, he considered his luck. Yes, the Covid crisis had its benefits. 

As the superintendent of a large county in southern Tennessee, he had to lead six school systems and 19 schools (elementary, middle school, and high school), keeping tabs on technology issues, student progress, school lunch programs for impoverished students, teacher troubles, and a host of other things complicated by the quick transition of government school to home school.

Thursday was his faculty meeting day, and he had seven of them scheduled throughout the day, one every hour beginning at 8 a.m. Usually, he would get up at 7 a.m. during the shutdown days, but Thursdays he needed the extra hours to get ready for the day of meetings. Faculty meetings were never fun in person, but Zoom meetings were especially draining.

Stephen stumbled into the bathroom, lumbered through the living room, and into the kitchen, where made his coffee. He hastily ate a prepackaged pastry and sat in front of his laptop at the kitchen table. He looked out the window and saw Chance, the 12-year-old gray pit bull, sprawled out on the lawn. Chance hadn’t been himself lately, Stephen thought, but he flushed the thought from his mind as he splashed some creamy coffee down his throat.

“No time to worry about dogs today,” he muttered, as he looked through his email.

Nancy had noticed peculiar behavior from the dog for several days, but with the quarantine orders in the state, he kept pushing off taking Chance to the vet. One more day wouldn’t hurt.

Before long, he was lost in emails detailing technology issues, lunch lady absentees (most cafeteria workers were in the at-risk category, elder women who grew up eating and cooking Depression-era Southern food learned from their grandmothers), teacher frustration (drunken teacher Facebook posts were becoming a problem), and a host of other issues he never expected to find himself dealing with.

“Good morning,” a sleepy though charming voice called out to him, interrupting his planning,

He turned to see Nancy, in her early 40s now, and the mother of three children, approaching the table, wearing her night gown. She had lost none of the beauty she had when she stole his heart 20 years ago while walking across the campus of the University of Georgia.

He looked at her short but stunning legs, and thought to himself, “Today would be a good day to play hooky.” Looking out toward the lawn, she smiled. “I heard that,” she said, and turned to give him a wink.

“You always hear my thoughts, especially those kinds of thoughts,” he smiled.

Nancy looked out the window again, and saw Chance slowly rise from his sleep. She noticed some red stains on his jowls, and as she lowered her eyes, she saw some red paw prints on the patio.

“Looks like Chance has gotten a rabbit or a squirrel or something,” she said.

“I’ll look after it later. My meetings are about to start,” came the reply.

Nancy started breakfast, as Stephen moved to his office to find a quiet place for his meetings. His children, ranging from the 16-year-old budding thespian to the 9-year-old baseball afficionado, were good children, but they could be loud, especially from the pent-up energy caused by the forced house arrest of the virus scare.

Stephen just started his first call, where he had to address the moral requirements of teachers, and he started to remind them that the school system took no issue with day drinking, but it did frown on posting names of students on social media while day drinking, when his door was suddenly opened.

He glared at the intruder, and Nancy shuddered in embarrassment. “I know, I’m sorry Honey, but have you seen Jason?”

Stephen shook his head, and he nodded toward his computer screen.

“He didn’t come down with the girls, and when I went to his room, he wasn’t there,” Nancy said.

That got Stephen’s attention, so he looked away from the computer with a hurried, “excuse me” to the assembled educators. “No, he’s not in here.”

“I’ll find him,” Nancy said, portraying more confidence than she felt. “He is an early riser, and he misses baseball. Maybe he tried to sneak out to go play. Don’t worry.”

Stephen put aside a disconcerting feeling as he turned back to his monitor and heard Nancy’s voice fading away, “Jason…JA-son…Ja-SON….”

He cleared his throat and said, “Sorry for the interruption. A little truancy issue here (he paused vainly for the courtesy laughs). Now, where were we? Oh yes, we may teach our students about Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, but we must leave the gin in the liquor cabinet until 3 o’clock. (A few more courtesy laughs, barely audible) You English teachers may read ‘The Casque of Amontillado’ in the morning, but don’t drink it until the afternoon. (Stifled groans). You math teachers—”

Here he was cut off by a scream from the kitchen, followed by a crash and a barrage of barks. Without a word of apology, he left his desk and with one motion was out the door of his office and into the kitchen. He saw a frantic wife leaning against the kitchen door, trying desperately to keep a bloody-faced Chance from coming inside. He leapt to the door, throwing all his weight into it, and forcing the lock.

Nancy fell to the floor, a pale, gasping mass of bewilderment.

“What happened?” Stephen shouted over the incessant snarling of the family pet, combined with the tearful sobs of two terrified teenage girls no longer interested in their waffles.

Nancy struggled to breathe, “I went out to look for Jason, and Chance…” her voice cut off and her eyes widened as a horrible thought crawled down her throat and into her breast.

With twin realizations, the couple turned their heads toward the window in the kitchen door, where Chance’s ferocious face was clearly seen. “JASON!” they shouted in unison as they saw the bloody teeth in the demented dog, no longer the pet they cherished all these years.

Nancy’s eyes filled with tears as she rushed to the door. Stephen saw her intent and threw his shoulder back into the door just as Nancy turned the knob.

“My boy! My boy!” she screamed as she saw the bloody paw prints in her mind again, but in a different light. She pushed with all her weight to get past Stephen, but he stood firm, blocking her path.

“Take the girls up stairs,” he said. “I’ll go around the front door and look for Jason.”

Without even stopping to change out of his pajama bottoms (online meetings are less formal, after all), he bolted out the front door, around to the chain link fence that traced the perimeter of the back yard.

Chance must have anticipated the move, because no sooner than Stephen turned the corner, a gray mass of fur and teeth flew over the fence, throwing Stephen to the ground. Chance struck quickly, planting his teeth into Stephen’s neck. Stephen fought, punching, kicking, pulling, trying to turn over Chance, but the dog’s iron grip latched tighter and tighter.

Stephen felt the sharp teeth tearing his flesh, and his breathing grew shallower, as his windpipe compressed. Still, the dog wouldn’t relent. Flesh gave way to blood vessel, and Stephens could feel his blood pouring from his neck. His fighting grew slower and feebler, and his breath grew shorter. Finally, he surrendered to the dog, feeling his body go limp. He felt darkness closing in, and the final thing his eyes saw was a bloodied baseball glove lying behind the chain link fence.

Back in the office, the voices of several upset teachers and administrators could be heard. “Why does he call this meeting and just disappear?” “I don’t have time for this; I have to grade my students’ work.” “Big boss can’t be bothered with us little people.” The noise continued for a while, until slowly the people signed off.

One second-grade teacher, Tiffany, posted to Facebook, “I’m so tired of being pushed around by the important people in the school district. How are we supposed to follow when they won’t lead? Oh well. Time for a coffee break. #notworththehastle #its5oclocksomewhere.” She then sat back from her table, twisted the lid off her bottle of Scotch and filled her coffee cup.

April 24, 2020 14:50

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Ana B
05:30 Apr 30, 2020

Oh man! I never expected a rogue dog in this prompt! But really, it was something reading about a demented dog mingled with the usually boring matters of faculty meetings. Just imagine the teacher's faces when they get to know what happened! Stay safe and healthy, Ana


Micah Lewter
18:35 Apr 30, 2020

Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks a bunch. :)


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Holly Pierce
23:43 May 02, 2020

Whoa! I love how the dog just ate people and the teachers don't know. It's funny how they're complaining when Stephen left the meeting. I can see Nancy walking into the meeting and telling them that her husband and son were eaten by their dog. Awesome story!!


Micah Lewter
09:38 May 03, 2020

Thanks Holly. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


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