The Cast: Erich (the Confused), Myself (the Terrified), Richard (the Deceased), The Dog (a Killer).
When you make your best efforts to be a real-life superhero, you don’t always realize the risks you end up taking. Or the things, or the people, that might be lost. In What a Pane, I briefly began the lesson of the undertaking of why Erich, Richard, and myself became would-be (more wanna-be) superheroes. In Drunk Bill I, II, & III I attempted to inform about some of the perils that we faced. And while it was a game for us, in the beginning—despite the number of close calls, there was one night that made the daydream become a nightmare.
Over the years I have worked hard to maintain my mind. Sometimes the realities blur a little and other bits fade, so the picture isn’t as clear, but there is a part of one Friday night that I can never forget. The night Richard was killed by a dog.
How the evening got to where it did, is unclear, how the evening ended, is also a little fuzzy. What is sharp and focused in my mind’s eye are two things: One, the moment of the attack—I saw it first-hand. And Second, what we discovered the next morning.
Friday nights where I lived—as a teen—were typical Friday nights for most teens. Adolescents roaming about in packs like wild animals trying to find some fun. In my little farming town, that usually meant hanging out at the local gas station, or Dragging Main, or Night Games at the park (a total blast for those of us who wanted other alternatives besides drugs or alcohol). But, if you’re a crime-fighter, well then, the shadows are your bailiwick and ally.
In order to maintain our covert crime-fighting operations, we needed to know things. Where the alleyways were. Which yards had fences. Where The Crick ran (we knew that one very well). And other bits of safety (our safety) information like that. Surveillance was easy. With no car, you walk. And in a small town, walking about is quite nice. As we would meander the mews of roadwork, we would just glance about to see what was new (if anything). And if we thought there was something new, then we would just stop and talk for a bit, all casual. Maybe ‘tie a shoe’ or something else that wouldn’t draw suspicious attention to us. All that effort was made for the most important discovery we had to make: New dogs.
We had to know if a new dog came to a home! We didn’t wanna get bit on our bums (or anywhere else). In our community, farming dogs were common and they could be medium to large dogs, and could easily be of either the herding or guard variety. The former usually being safer than the latter.
So, there we were, late into the eve of yet another Friday night, in the midst of yet another one of our costumed/vigilante heated chases… If I recall correctly—and I don’t (I believe I have already mentioned that)—this particular chase once again involved Bill and his cronies. And quite honestly, it really doesn’t matter, because the whole reason for telling this tale is because Richard dies. Oh, poo. I’ve spoiled the ending. Well, nevermind. I’m going on.
So, there we were, late into the eve of yet another Friday night, in the midst of yet another one of our costumed/vigilante heated chases, this particular chase once again involved Bill and his cronies—they were chasing after us, again. It was just sad, really. We were just sad, really.
As we darted and dodged-about amongst the dark compartments of urban backyard containment, we discovered it most difficult to outrun them while we were on foot and they were not (they had a car). This was becoming most distressful and we were getting tired. There are only so many times you can run past someone’s window—at night, while they are watching television—and they not get suspicious. Our town was pretty patient about childhood shenanigans, but there is a breaking point for farmers (and they have guns—that are within reach, that are loaded). Ahhh… Good ‘ole mid-West U.S.A.! Love it! Sorry, off-topic.
After ducking into a particular patch of shadowy nighttime, we three wanna-be’s hatched a plan. A plan that would ensure our superherodom and force Bill and his flunkies to think a little different about us. Within my hip-pouch, I had stashed a new addition to my personal arsenal—one which had yet to be tested. In theory, they should have worked, but for what we were about to attempt, we couldn’t be sure.
The barge full of angry teens, that were the mindless minions of Bill & Crew, was moving about the block searching for us (there wasn’t a brain among them, they were all henchmen, no mastermind). My latest gadget was counted out and divide amongst Shadow and myself. Tiger went without. He was the bait. While Bill hated us all, he loathed Tiger (don’t feel bad, it was mutual).
Using his particular skills to our advantage, Shadow slithered across to the other side of the street. While no darkness descended directly upon him from overhead, it was his backdrop. And in that state, he was invisible. I remained in the comforting cloak of our friend: The Shadowy Pine. Erich advanced into the open. Next came the car. We had them—hook, line, and stinker (I know what I wrote).
“Are you sure this is gonna work?” Came the whispered concern from the about-to-be-crash-test-dummy that was Tiger.
“Su-ure.” I tried to be smooth and confident. He bought it. At least I think he did. It was hard to read his face while he wore his mask. Anyway, too late now.
The motor revved and the modern, mechanized battering ram that was Bill’s car sped toward Tiger—confidently standing his ground. Then it all happened. To anyone who witnessed those events from the safety of their home, what took place next was a spectacle unlike any other. To hear our personal narration of the same moments: Luck. Sheer, dumb luck.
Bill was about to make Tiger into the latest roadside pizza when Tiger burst forward into the air. Toward the car?!? Oh, no!!! Tiger’s left foot hit the hood of the car mid-leap, his right foot found security on the windshield as his body curled forward, at that same instant both swords were drawn from the scabbards positioned on his back so that now he was deadly from any angle. There would be no attempt to grab at his arms from the car’s windows now. Tiger’s head tucked into his chest and he flipped himself onto the top of the car, skillfully somersaulting over it, unfolding onto the trunk, then to the ground with feet planted firmly only inches from where he stood moments ago. With swords still in hands, Tiger was once again ready for battle.
Myself and Shadow, at the instant of Tiger’s leap, moved forward to drop the foot spikes (now tire spikes) I had so recently made under Bill’s tires. I got the idea from one of the many ninja movies I had been watching since around 1980-something. I had sharpened the ends of a set of jacks and you were supposed to toss them under the feet of those hunting you. They would pierce through the hunter’s shoes and they should stop running after you. These would not work on steel-belted radials. Or so I thought.
I had begun my assault of the car, simultaneously with Shadow on the other side, I could not make out his motions clearly, I just saw a hand as sparks flew from his fingertips. And then it was gone. I was low to the ground and it was a good thing too. As I did my best to get those pointy parts under a tire without losing my own hand, I heard a ‘whoosh’ from Tiger’s blades as one of them swept through the space above my head, as he executed his tuck-and-roll over the car. Some of the spikes must have worked their way into the ‘sweet spots’ as both the front tires exploded, followed by the sparks that flew as the wheel hubs scraped across the asphalt before the car eventually stopped—inches from a tree.
Bill had focused on Tiger and didn’t see Shadow or me. So, when we came out of our night-time shrouds Bill freaked out and began to swerve about the road going off it and almost hit a tree. Combine that with balding tires, and sharp pointy things on the road, well… (later when Bill would try to pin the spikes and car damage on me, but all he had was flattened, unrecognizable metal bits with no fingerprints on them).
Tiger’s maneuver was more of an accident. He had intended to roll to the side but forgot Shadow and I were there, and so, last-second jumped onto the car, tripped and gracefully fell over the top. In a brief moment of panic, he had tried to draw his swords to attempt to stab them into the car, but there wasn’t enough time and so he just rolled and happen to land on his feet. I had rushed in to try and save Tiger, but when the swords came out I jumped out of the way, making it look like the movements were planned, but it just got me out of the way of the swerving car. Shadow thought it was planned and just moved back into the darkness and watched.
And now back to our story: With the car’s gang visibly shaken up (they were freaking out inside the car, yelling and swearing… it was funny), my allies and I decided it was time to depart. We ran like bugs after you lift a rock: In all directions and just looking to get away. The three of us were basically headed the same direction, Shadow had moved deeper into the darkness (off the road), I was staying nearer the road so as to not run into a fence I thought was coming up. Tiger was on the other side of the street and could be seen leaping over the lawn obstacles of our fellow townspeople. A sudden movement to my left made me turn my head and I witnessed the end of Richard.
Shadow suddenly leaned far backward, almost bent in half. As if a great weight had dropped upon his chest, crushing him. I slowed to see what was happening, fully aware that Bill and his boys might be after us (we weren’t about to take the time to look back to verify if they were chasing us on foot, those guys were crazy, we wanted out of there). I heard Richard scream. A scream of both terror and pain. Oh, no! A million possibilities flashed through my mind, including Bill shooting Shadow in the back with a bow and arrow—it would be quieter than a gun. Then, as if those last few seconds had not occurred, Shadow righted himself and continued to run.
What just happened?!? I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood there and looked around. Sure enough, there was Bill, loading a bow with another arrow. $*#$^#!!! RUN!!!
After the three of us reached a safe location, I told Erich what I had seen as I inspected Richard—who was none too happy about my groping about his backside.
“I saw you get hit with an arrow!” I quietly yelled as I extricated myself from the folds of Richard’s cape.
“What?” Was Richard’s response.
“Wait. What?!” From Erich.
“I wasn’t shot. I was almost eaten by the biggest dog I’ve ever seen!” Was Richard’s clarification.
“Bigger than the horse-dog?” Both Erich and I asked in amazement.
“Yes. Far bigger.”
Author’s note: Now real quick, the horse-dog was a dog, that for many years, was only seen at night. Roaming about the streets, and it was massive. The size of a horse. Not a small horse. A regular horse. I don’t care if you don’t believe me. I know what I saw.
It was clear we had missed something important. A dog that large had to be verified. So, the next day, we would check it out.
Early Saturday morning found Richard, Erich, and I purposefully retracing our steps from the night before. But as we approached the potential home of a new and possibly deadly beast, we slowed our steps and looked all about. We listened for any sounds of ‘dog’. You know, chains dragging, sniffing, snarling, barking, screams because a big-mouth was biting our legs off. Those sorts of sounds. None. There were no signs, sounds or otherwise.
As we got closer to the target home, Richard retold us of the events and explained what had happened. The dog had struck as he had entered the yard. It had stood up and placed its front paws right on his chest (that’s what bent him backward). The dog had begun to bark and snarl inches from Richard’s face, almost biting it off (I didn’t doubt him, but I hadn’t heard anything—maybe terror-related). The flashing fangs… Richard had, reflexively, brought up his bo-staff to protect himself when he saw the dog lunge at him, and the dog had accidentally pinned the staff to Richard’s chest. So, Richard just shoved hard and knocked the dog away. Then ran so as to not get eaten. Well, that’s reasonable.
Now at the home, the three of us just stood there looking about for a mighty animal of terror-inducing magnitude. Nothing. Then a door opened and out came one of those teeny-tiny little dogs that live forever and yap at everything. It was cute. Erich bent down to pet it and quickly changed his mind as Satan’s Little Helper launched itself at us with terrible force. This little critter jumped 5 feet into the air and landed on Erich’s back (remember he bent over), then it lept straight up (STRAIGHT UP!!! Like a standing long jump kind of thing, but vertical not horizontal) 5 more feet and landed on Richard’s chest (Richard had leaned back to see what the $#*! was going on), barking and snarling the whole time.
There is sat, on Richard’s chest barking and snarling, snarling and barking. The owner was outside at this point apologizing for her dog. We were just laughing (and a little terrified, I mean come on, what kind of normal dog can execute a 5-foot vertical leap? That’s a just a little creepy). As we walked away Erich and I went into Richard without mercy.
“Oh, wow! What a mighty beast he was!” “Oooo… So Scary!” “Oh no! Lookout it’s a killer washcloth!” “No, no, no! Get him off! He’s so big, he’ll crush me! Noooo…!” And stuff like that.
“It was dark and the thing was inches from my face! I just saw teeth.”
“The Terror Hound of… What street are we on? The Terror Hound of 300 West!”
“It was dark, and it scared me. Alright?”
“Watch out! Here it comes again! Cujo’s little cousin! ARRGHH…”
Truly one of our finest moments.