Willy tiptoed to his closed bedroom door. It had been quiet for several minutes. He pressed his ear against the door. At first, he heard only his breath, scraping across his Simba poster. Then he heard a crash, and his mother started yelling again.
They were still fighting.
Willy crossed his legs, and squeezed his hands into fists. He had to poo—bad. His belly felt hard and his legs hurt. He didn’t think he could hold anymore. But the bathroom was across the living room, on the other side of his parents.
“I’ll poo in bed,” he whispered.
Sergeant, Willy’s dog, was black, gray, and brown. He was almost Willy’s size, but a lot older. Something wrong in Sergeant’s back made him limp, and he never opened one of his eyes. Willy’s dad said that eye got lost in a fight with a bear.
Sergeant lay under Willy’s red desk. He lifted his head, stared with his eye, and said, “No.”
“Why not? I pee in bed.” Willy waved toward his damp sheets, piled in the corner for washing.
Sergeant made a noise in his throat, it sounded like growling and spitting at the same time. “That’s only piss; it doesn’t matter. But shit you have to be careful of. That’s like a big flashing light.”
Willy frowned. “There are lights in my poo?”
“I said it was like a light. A light is easy to see, isn’t it?” Sergeant shifted to be more comfortable. “Well, Raptus Brisk can’t see, but he has a nose. Your shit will bring him here, and he’ll get you.”
“He will?” Willy lay on his side, to see Sergeant better. “Who’s Raptus Bisk?”
“Brisk. Raptus Brisk is a monster. Part dog and part wolf, and bigger than this apartment.”
“Wow. I’ve never seen a dog that big.”
“That’s because Raptus Brisk is invisible. Unless you hear him, you won’t even know he’s there until he’s eaten you.”
“Why does he want my poo?”
“He doesn’t. But it will help him find you.”
“Yes. Me, you—all of us. Raptus Brisk is mad; he’s after us all.”
“Why’s he so mad?”
“Long ago, before people, we were Raptus Brisk’s pack. We went everywhere together—running, swimming, and hunting. But when we met people, we saw that they needed us. Raptus Brisk is strong and fast, but people are soft. Without us, people couldn’t hunt, or protect themselves. Seeing this, we left Raptus Brisk to shepherd the people.”
“That made him mad?”
“Terribly mad. We took the people and fled. We ran and hid until our trail was cold. But Raptus Brisk didn’t give up. He’s still searching the world for us.”
“He’s looking for you?”
“With his nose, yes. Our trail is too old, but we have to be careful about the shit. Its smell is new and strong. Raptus Brisk can smell it, and use it to find us. Knowing this, we never shit at our den, and always cover it when we do.”
“Cover it like when Goliath digs his holes?”
A chair clattered in the hallway, followed by more shouting.
Sergeant made the spit-growl noise in his throat again. “Goliath will get us all killed.”
Goliath lived in the apartment upstairs. “But he always scratches after pooing,” said Willy, giggling as he thought of it. “He digs a big hole every time.”
“That pup is an idiot, he shits where he sleeps, and scratches in the wrong direction—it doesn’t hide anything. These new dogs pretend Raptus Brisk isn’t after them. Or maybe they’ve forgot, and don’t even know why they scratch. With their jackets and boots, sleeping on blankets—dogs are becoming as soft as people.”
“Maybe Raptus Brisk gave up; it’s been so long.”
“He’ll never give up. We went with the people, and he’ll never forgive that. He’s still searching; he finds those who aren’t careful, who shit in their den.” Sergeant limped over to stand above Willy. “Shit is dangerous, and Raptus Brisk is hunting. Never in your den.”
Willy rolled onto his back and reached up to stroke Sergeant’s neck. “Okay, Sergeant. I won’t.”
Willy stood up and turned the doorknob. As he did, he heard more shouting. But he looked back at Sergeant and went out anyway.