On the 4th of July one quirky canine has had enough of the dangerous fireworks display and now he's out for BLOOD.
A Dog and His Boy by David O'Hanlon
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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Rocko eyed the bags suspiciously as his boy brought them through the living room. He recognized the starburst logo of Discount Demolitions Firework Emporium and shivered slightly. This was his third Fourth of July since the adoption and he’d already decided where he would be cowering for most of the evening. When the big artillery shells went off, he would make his way to Ryan’s closet where he could burrow into the safety of all the extra blankets. Rocko laid his head on his paws and snorted. Stupid humans, Rocko thought. Just because you can’t bark, doesn’t mean you have to overcompensate with the big noise makers. We still love you even though you’re frail and feeble. Rocko climbed down from the couch and stretched away his morning nap in preparation of the coming game of fetch. Ryan always played fetch with him when he came home from school. Rocko wasn’t sure why his human enjoyed throwing a ball or stick so many times, but if it brought him joy, then Rocko would gladly oblige the simple creature. There were more pressing issues to attend to first, however. Rocko dragged his butt across the living room floor all the way to the point the carpet ended and the linoleum began. It was a simple act, but one that required great skill nonetheless. If he misjudged his distance, even slightly, he wouldn’t get the whole itch before he ran out of plush, comfortable shag. Rocko trotted into the kitchen and Ryan dropped to his knees and held his arms open. “Come here, boy,” his human called. Rocko jogged promptly to him and let the ten-year-old hug him and scratch him behind the ears and under his chin. Ryan asked him the usual questions, same as every day. “Who’s a good dog? Did you miss me while I was gone? Are you ready to go play? Would you like a Milk Bone?” Humans matured slower than dogs, so Rocko barked with increasing excitement to each question. And twice as much to make sure Ryan understood his willingness to accept a Milk Bone. There were few things as good as those delicious, bone-shaped morsels. Real bones were nice, but all the flavor was on the outside and Ryan’s mother sprayed him with a hose last time he attempted to acquire some from a squirrel that forgot its place in the food chain. Ryan’s arm stretched up to the kitchen table and the bag of fireworks swung like a clock pendulum in his chubby little fist. Rocko’s head sagged at the sight. Ryan dumped out the contents. “Look what we’ve got, boy.” Ryan waved his hand at the stockpile. “I know you don’t like the loud ones. I got us smoke balls, sparklers, and Roman candles so we can still have fireworks without it scaring you.” The collie’s eyebrow raised slightly. Humans weren’t even polite enough to sniff each other’s butts, but his boy had been considerate enough to get dog-friendly ordinance for his yearly war on peace and quiet? Rocko buried his head into Ryan’s chest and nuzzled him softly. I love my human. Rocko licked the boy’s mouth to a chorus of excited giggles. Especially when he doesn’t wash all the pizza off his face.
Rocko chewed a mouthful of grass under his favorite tree. Two games of fetch and six Milk Bones were playing hell on his stomach. The chocolate Ryan’s mom dropped while making brownies might not have helped matters, either. Rocko shallowed the weeds thoughtfully. He’d never seen Ryan eating those brownies. She kept her own personal stash and Rocko couldn’t blame her. They made him feel great… and hungry. Why do humans eat things that make them want to eat more things? He pondered. Bacon doesn’t make you want to eat anything other than more bacon. Bacon seems much healthier. Rocko vomited precisely as he intended and then sprinted to Ryan’s side. His boy was striking the fire-maker next to a colorful ball. The fuse sparkled brilliantly and Ryan tossed it a few feet away. A plume of smoke rose from the orb with a soft hiss and a horrible stench. “Too bad you can’t see the color, Rocko,” Ryan said. It’s blue, kid. Rocko wasn’t sure who decided dogs couldn’t see colors. He could see all three of them just fine. Ryan throw another of the smoke balls. It was brown. It was also anticlimactic. Rocko appreciated Ryan’s efforts to include him in the festivities, but felt a little bad for him. The other kids were already starting in with their screeching rockets and boom sticks. Rocko’s butt tucked in as he scurried closer to the boy and away from ungodly explosion on the other side of the fence. Heathens. Rocko would try to tolerate it a bit longer so Ryan could enjoy his other goodies. The boy lit a pair of sparklers and danced about merrily, twirling patterns into the dimming sky. Rocko watched the devices spit gouts of color changing flame and found himself impressed with the show. It seemed a useless invention, but it was making Ryan happy so Rocko thought it was great. Almost as great as cartoons. Rocko’s tail wagged excitedly. If Ryan had pizza at school, that meant it was Friday. Which meant tomorrow was Saturday and that meant it was cartoons and Lucky Charms day. It also meant he got to sleep on the bed all day. A sudden explosion brought him back to the present and he yelped, before curling into a ball at Ryan’s feet. Ryan knelt next to him and stoked his ears. “It’s starting to get loud now. I guess, that means it’s time for the big finale, Rocko. Let’s do some Roman candles and then we’ll go inside where it’s quiet and safe.” Rocko sprang up and danced in a happy circle. The sooner they went inside the sooner it would be tomorrow. Ryan lifted one of the long sticks and pointed it into the air. Rocko observed the rest of them in their cellophane packaging while Ryan tried to light the fuse. The collie cocked his head at the tiny, human words written down the side. He looked up at Ryan and then back at the warning. I’m pretty sure this says not to hold it, kid. Rocko barked to get his attention. Really, it says it right here in plain human. Rocko picked one of the tubes up and poked at Ryan’s leg. “It’s not for fetch, silly.” The boy laughed and struck the lighter again. The fuse sparkled to life. I’m not trying to play fetch. Rocko growled urgently. You’re not supposed to—. The bang wasn’t that loud. It was muffled by Ryan’s closed fist. Rocko whined mournfully as his boy collapsed to the grass. Rocko sighed. Damn it. Ryan’s mom came running outside to answer the child’s screams. The shattered carboard tube sputtered and smoked beside him. She scooped her son up and ran back to the house. Rocko started to follow when he remembered something that seemed important. He turned back to retrieve Ryan’s thumb and bolted after them with the dismembered digit clutched gingerly between his teeth. The backdoor smacked him in the nose and he toppled off the steps. A series of explosions made him cower and he turned his eyes up to the fiery sky flowers blossoming overhead. He laid Ryan’s thumb gently on the steps and scampered to his tree. He was locked out. His boy was injured on his watch. He failed to keep Ryan safe and now he was trapped outside with the fireworks. It was a fitting punishment. He looked at the finger with its scorched knuckle and whimpered. Please be okay, boy. Rocko curled into a ball beneath the tree’s canopy. I don’t have thumbs and I do alright. I’ll teach you how to read human so it never happens again.
It was well past dark and the fireworks were coming faster than Rocko could count. Even the squirrels, the mental half-wits that they were, knew to hide from the human thunder. Rocko took it upon himself to personally destroy the remaining weapons of mass destruction. They tasted horrible, but it was a small price to pay to protect his boy. Ryan only had one thumb left, after all. “Hey, look-it,” a shrill, adolescent voice said through the knot hole in the fence. “It’s that stupid dog with the girly hair.” Rocko recognized the voice. Rocko hated Timmy Treadwell as much as he hated those damned Roman candle things. It’s a mane, you simpleton. Like a lion, but better because I’m not a cat. “I saw that little wimp and his mom leave a while ago,” another boy said. “Let’s have some fun.” If Timmy was outside, that meant Bud and Lenny were with him. After all, you can’t have a dick without two balls hanging about. The high school trio was a scourge to the kids in the neighborhood. They chased Ryan home on more than one occasion until Rocko managed to get over the fence. A warm fuzzy feeling hit the collie’s stomach as he fondly remembered Bud urinating on himself. They knew better than to mess with his boy after that. “Let’s have some fun,” Timmy said. Rocko heard the telltale hiss of a fuse lighting just before the whiz of the rocket-propelled firecracker shot overhead. His ears rang from the sharp explosion. Another one came streaking through the knot hole a second later. Rocko snaked around his tree as the teens laughed maniacally on the other side of the fence. “Go with something bigger,” Lenny cheered. “The big bad wolf is scared of a little pop-pop,” Timmy goaded. You know what, kid? You’re right. We should have a little fun. Rocko stretched out behind the wide trunk of the tree and steeled his nerves. I’ve had it up to here with you stupid, sniveling, hairless fuck knuckles and your thumb-wrecking firecrackers. Enough is enough. The Rising Phoenix Freedom Rocket with red, white, and blue effects screamed through the hole with the ferocity its name implied. Rocko was too sick of it all to care. He bolted from behind the tree, dipping under the boisterous bombardment as the device detonated overhead. An eye flicked in from of the knot hole. Rocko ran straight at it and then angled to the left, scurrying up the incline of Ryan’s slide and launching himself into the air. Rocko’s hair blew in the wind like the cloak of some masked avenger as he flew through the sky and landed on the sidewalk next to the three delinquents. I’ve always wondered which part of human tastes like bacon. Rocko lowered his head and growled. I’ll give you a head start. He barked once and sent the boys running. Rocko watched them sprinting along the sidewalk and wished he could laugh like Ryan. Teenage humans were by far the most awkward and uncoordinated prey he’d ever seen. He remembered when Ryan adopted him from the animal shelter. There were no needles or diodes or kooky old men in white coats like his old home. Those men weren’t nice to him like Ryan. They never let him watch cartoons either. And ‘Rocko’ was a much better name than Domestic Infiltration K9, or DIK, as the old men called him. Even if he was named after an animated wallaby. But as bad as the old men treated him, they did let him hunt. Three years was a long time for a dog. He hoped he still had it in him as his claws scrapped across the concrete in anticipation of the kill. Lenny had gained weight since their last encounter. He would be well-marbled and it seemed a shame to not enjoy the spoils of the hunt so Rocko decided to give him a momentary reprieve. He sprinted past the portly youth and focused his pursuit on Bud. Bud’s hip chain swung wildly as his fought to keep his wide-legged jeans up over his hips. He failed miserably and fell on his face. Rocko slowed down a little and gave him some hope. Bud kicked his pants off and abandoned them as he shot across the street. Rocko hurdled the hood of a passing car to the bleating of its horn. Even their conveyances needed something to make up for their inability to bark, it seemed. Humans were such self-conscious animals. Bud ran around the corner and made a beeline toward the playground. Rocko never realized how close Ryan’s school was to home. He could have been coming to see him this whole time. He’d do that when Ryan came home. And they had a merry-go-round too. Rocko loved riding the one at the park with his boy. Focus! You have work to do, he reminded himself. Rocko watched Bud clamor over the fence and spill, bare-assed, into the playground. The dog stopped at the gate. “Stupid dog! You can’t get over this fence as easy, can you?” Rocko lifted the hasp with his nose and sauntered through the gate. This Bud’s for me, Rocko thought with an amused bark. “Oh.” As far as last words go, Bud could have chosen better. The chase was over right there. A quick lunge. A quicker bite. Fireworks bloomed overhead as Rocko worked his muzzle inside the hoodlum’s ribcage. He pulled his head back and licked his lips. Smoker lungs. Yuck. He sniffed the air. Where’d you get to Lenny? “Bud? Where’d you go, pal?” Lenny called out in his nasal whine. Don’t make it too hard on me or anything. “Come on, Bud. Quit goofing around,” Timmy added. Rocko looked at the corpse and grabbed an ankle, dragging it into the culvert. Tiny lights shimmered in the darkness of the man-made cave. Rocko barked at the critters. The rotund little bandits scampered from the darkened corners and gathered around Bud’s remains. Rocko vocalized some more and the creatures chittered happily. Racoons and dogs have a similar language. And similar tastes. They went to work disposing of his garbage while he returned to the hunt. Rocko crept along the houses trying to avoid the streetlamps. The cacophonous celebration of independence made his ears ring and his head pound. He sniffed the air, trying to ascertain his quarry’s direction. The sulfurous fallout of the firecrackers drifted across the neighborhood in a fog that masked their pungent stench. He was sure they were near. A tube rolled across the sidewalk. Rocko looked at it quizzically. It looked just like the rolls Ryan’s butt paper came on… except it had a fuse. Oh. The homemade firecracker detonated with a ferocity the drowned out everything else in the neighborhood. Bits of concrete pelted Rocko’s fur and the force of the blast made the street swirl chaotically before his eyes. He slumped over in the grass and stared up at the mulberry bush leaning over him. The sent of his smoldering mane drifted across his nose. “We got him, Lenny!” Timmy hollered. “Go make sure he’s dead.” Lenny slid a long cardboard tube from his backpack and held the lighter close to the fuse. Roman candle. Rocko suppressed a growl. Sons-of-bitches brought the Roman candles. Rocko played dead and watched the teen draw closer. He waited for the moment to move. The porchlight kicked on and the screen door’s aluminum frame banged against the house as the homeowner came storming outside. Lenny looked up at the shouting old man wearing nothing but an open robe and froze in place. Rocko’s head popped up and his lips curled back away from his fangs—well maintained and pearly white thanks to his special dental treats. Lenny yelped and struck the lighter. “You little bastards want to shoot your dagnabbed bangarangs at my house? I’ll learn you something,” the geriatric shouted with his fist pumping in the air. Rocko lunged forward. Multicolored fireballs blasted from the tube in sequence. Rocko juked left, then right. He zigzagged between the pyrotechnic pummeling of the handheld terror. Lenny dropped the tube before it even finished expending its payload and turned to run. Another explosion filled the air and Lenny howled in pain before collapsing to the ground. Rocko stood over the sobbing boy. His butt was bleeding and the subtle scent of salt tickled Rocko’s nose. Jostling human manhood wiggled next to his head. The collie looked up slowly to see the homeowner standing next to him with the shotgun resting on his shoulder. “That’s a good boy. This mean little crotch dumpling was chasing you with those stupid old fireworks, wasn’t he?” The old man patted Rocko’s head. “A bum full of rock salt will learn him right quick. Yes, sir.” Rocko wasn’t sure how he felt about the sudden turn of events, but Timmy was getting away. He licked the old man’s hand in gratitude and the bitter tinge of Ben-Gay made his tongue go numb and loll from the side of his mouth. “You’re a sweet boy. You better get on home before your kiddos start missing you.” Shit. He gave a bark of agreement. Good call, crazy, naked man. Ryan will be home soon. Rocko dashed along the sidewalk honing in on Timmy’s cologne and the bag full of high explosives. They didn’t smell like Ryan’s fireworks. They were more pungent. He remembered his time at the lab. Sometimes the hunts were augmented with different smells. The crackpots made him chase a group but he could only attack the guy that smelled like drugs and bombs. Hey, wait a second. The memory of the scents came crashing back to him. That’s why those brownies smelled so familiar. _ Rocko decided not to worry about the ingredients in the baked goods and to focus on the scent of gunpowder instead. He ran longer than he anticipated. Timmy was fast for a human. The gravel driveway led him to the quaint little house and the odor of odious ordinances hung heavily over the yard. Rocko looked across the expanse for any sign of his prey, but it seemed as empty as it was vast. There was a shed sitting closer to the house and he eased toward it when the silhouette of a backpack caught his eye. Rocko observed the shed again. A heavy lock hung from the door. _No, that’s not right, he realized. Timmy couldn’t lock it back from the inside. He turned away and went to the bag. A structure rose from the middle of the yard a dozen feet away. Rocko circled the round, stone tube sticking out of the ground. He put his paws on the lip and peered over the edge into the well. Timmy Treadwell hung over the edge and cried loudly at the sight of Rocko’s mane blowing in the midnight breeze. The dog’s dark eyes glanced at Timmy’s hands, clinging desperately to the stonework. Not just at his hands. His thumbs. Rocko clamped down on Timmy’s opposable digits one after the other and the boy slipped away with a screech that disappeared as the water engulfed him. Gurgles and frenzied splashing echoed up the shaft—until they didn’t. Oh no. Somebody help. Rocko trotted away jolly. Timmy’s fallen down the well.
The blue sedan pulled into the driveway shortly after sun up. Rocko looked up expecting another false alarm, but saw the puffy plume of hair bobbing on top of the driver’s head and knew it was Ryan’s mom. He gave the air a sniff to verify and found the stench of her Aqua Net a welcome torment. He discarded his bone over the side of the porch. The best part was on the outside anyway. She opened the back of the car and Ryan stepped out with his hand tightly wrapped in an oversized bandaged. His face was sad, until he saw the ball of fur running to meet him. Ryan dropped to his knees as Rocko rushed into his arms. “I knew you’d be worried, boy.” Of course, I was. You’re my human. I’ll always worry about you. “We’re never having fireworks again.” Ryan kissed the dog’s snout. “I love you, Rocko.” _I love you too. _ Ryan’s mom screamed and it made both of them jump. Rocko spun quickly and relaxed. She was starring down at the thumbs he’d brought home to replace Ryan’s. One of them was sure to fit. The End
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