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Protective Rubber - Somer Canon

Protective Rubber By Somer Canon

Rubber closed his eyes, but he did not sleep. He was an old dog, the nagging pains of age

kept him down for most of the day lately. But spring had come and he could take his old body out to the large front porch and rest among the wonderful smells of the outside world. He closed his eyes because they didn’t see so well anymore, but his senses were alight nonetheless with the glorious scents carried on the warm breeze. He smelled the family cat before she affectionately bumped him on the snout with her head before going off on one of her adventures, he smelled the coffee the old neighbor man was sipping on his own front porch. The birds were filling the day with their excited conversation and he heard the raucous barks of the younger dogs of the neighborhood.

Rubber huffed and groaned at his aching hips. A part of him longed to join those young dogs in their play and exploration, to run and sniff and see the world through new eyes, but he’d hadhis time and now it was winding down for him. In his day, he’d been more energetic and rambunctious than any of the dogs around him. He bounced around excitedly, trying to sniff and see everything. That was why his family named him Rubber. Once upon a time, but no more.

Mom came out of the house, smelling of the products she used in the shower and she leaned down and stroked his head before taking a seat to enjoy the first warm day of the season herself. Rubber kept his head down and thumped his tail to acknowledge Mom, and they sat in quiet for a while until the cat came back meowing for attention. Mom made room on her lap and the cat jumped up and purred happily. The purrs sounded good to Rubber’s old ears and he began to drift off.

Someone was approaching the porch. Rubber smelled him as his senses came awake, even if it was a bit slow. Over the years, Rubber became accustomed to people coming up on the porch to talk to Mom or Dad, so he didn’t act alert or open his eyes, but he was paying attention. This person was new.

He heard the cat hiss and Mom yip as the feline scurried to get off of her lap. He heard the

frantic clawing and running of the cat as she ran away from the new person climbing the three steps to the porch. The cat was leery of strangers and tended to want to hide, but hissing was not something that gentle-dispositioned animal did to Rubber’s knowledge.

A deep voice greeted Mom gently and Rubber tensed, waiting for Mom’s reaction. When her voice came back sounding calm and friendly, his back legs relaxed and he licked his lips, a small bit of movement to let the new person know that he was there.

As the people talked, Rubber only listened to the tones. He couldn’t follow human speech

and only really knew a handful of words that were said to him. He knew words like cookie, eat, go out, park, car, come, sit, stay, and the worst of all, bad. In his long life, Rubber had learned that if his family weren’t talking directly at him, it was best to listen to other things going on in the world. Like the ruffling of a bird’s wings as it ate at the seed-filled feeder hanging on the porch, or the cat scratching in her litter box, or the myriad of sounds that came from the light-box in the couch room. So he didn’t bother himself much with the conversation going on with the new man and Mom until he caught a scent coming from the man that made his ears perk up and his old eyes open. It was a very faint smell covered by some sort of fragrance the man was wearing, but Rubber caught it and became curious, almost alarmed.

It was a canine scent, not the kind that people wear sometimes when they themselves live

with a dog or have recently visited a dog. No, this scent came from the new man himself. He was secreting the smell. Rubber lifted his head and looked. The new person, a short man, looked down at him and Rubber caught the unease rolling off of the man at Rubber’s sudden interest. Rubber lugged his tired body to an upright seated position and watched the man. Rubber was a French Mastiff, quite a large dog, and he was used to people sometimes feeling uncomfortable around him, especially if they smelled new, so he watched and listened for a change in tone from Mom.

Everything stayed calm and friendly. Mom smiled and the new man raised a hand and waved at her as he turned to walk back down the steps to the brick walkway leading to the street, but Rubber saw the fearful glance the man cast at him as he turned and he let a small “woof” at the man’s back. Not a threat, but a reminder. He may have been old, but the family that lived in that house belonged to Rubber and all new people needed to know that.

Mom got up from her chair and rubbed him behind his ear. The feeling was delicious and Rubber leaned into it, his eyes closed, but his other senses were very much still on guard.

That night, after the family had had their evening meal and were in the couch room watching the light-box, Rubber walked from room to room, as he always did, making sure things were as they should be. The light was dying outside, and the kids had come in for the night and were taking turns bathing and then sitting with Mom and Dad. Rubber joined them when his rounds were complete with no problems detected and the kids took turns sitting on the floor with him and rubbing his back gently. Rubber groaned happily and enjoyed the company of his family.

Later, the house was quiet except for the typical rumblings and creaks that the house made in the night. Rubber’s hips were hurting and he couldn’t get comfortable. He went from the couch to his bed in the kitchen, groaning as he settled into the soft gigantic pillow. The cat had heard him moving around and came in to rub against him, purring softly, as she made her way through to the big front window in the couch room. Rubber closed his eyes and listened as the refrigerator hummed next to him.

Something was moving around outside in the rhododendron bushes by the back door. In their suburban abode, it was rare to get large nighttime visitors. More often than not, it was feral cats, opossums, or even raccoons having a sniff about looking for garbage. But whatever was moving just beyond the kitchen was large, much larger than Rubber. He was on alert and getting to his feet, his joints creaking and painful, but he needed to see what was creeping about his family’s home. The back door was a glass sliding door and he could see almost all of the backyard from there, but he smelled whatever was out there before he saw it, though the two senses were. satisfied within a split second of each other. The thing was pungent and huge, the two senses battered with the greatness of the stink and size. Now that he was close to the door, he could hear the neighborhood dogs barking madly as it was certain that they too were aware of the thing stalking about.

Floodlights in backyards were flicking on and Rubber’s eyes had to blink back the severe illumination to better see the enormous, shaggy brown thing walking on two legs

among the bushes and playset in his back yard. He knew the smell. It was the smell of the new person who had talked to Mom on the porch earlier that day, except that wild smell that the man had tried to cover was now the prevalent stench, mixed among a bouquet of blood and sweat. The visage of the stalking thing was no longer that of the man and Rubber, his ears perked up, only took a moment to wonder at the physical change from small, nervous man to enormous, hulking, fur-covered thing.

Rubber sensed the danger in the thing and barked madly, slamming himself against the glass door, startling the thing in the backyard. It looked at Rubber through the door and roared at him, scratching at the glass, trying to get to the enraged dog. Rubber felt hands gripping at his thick leather collar, voices of the family talking to him, trying to pull him away from the door, but he was in such a frenzy of fear and righteous rage that he would not listen to their commands to him to calm down. The thing on the other side of the door slammed its body into the glass, causing the family to scream and Mom to drag the kids away from the kitchen. Only Dad remained, holding on to Rubber and staring out of the door with his eyes wide in shock.

More flood lights were flicking on from the neighbors and the black night that the beast had

relied on for its stalking was now bathed in the cold, harsh intensity of their glow. A shaggy arm raised to shield its eyes and it stumbled back from the glass door, now cracked from the two heavy beasts slamming into it. Rubber, allowing himself to be barely restrained by Dad, kept barking aggressively at the thing as it stumbled away from the family home and into the low weeds that separated the abutting backyards of the family and the neighbors.

The thing was walking out of Rubber’s sight and he stopped barking momentarily when the

first shot rang out in the night. He heard the voices of the neighbors screaming to each other as they converged on the beast as it moved about their normally peaceful neighborhood, causing hysteria and havoc among the inhabitants. More shots rang out, followed by an enraged roar from the beast.

There came a scream from one of the neighbors, one of fear and pain, followed

by more shots. Rubber was still barking, but with long pauses so that he could hear the action going on outside. Strobing, colorful lights further lit the night and people wearing dark clothes with guns drawn ran past the glass door as they made their way to where all the noise was coming from. There were several more shots and men’s voices yelling to each other, and then the night grew still.

Still, but not peaceful. Rubber stopped barking and tried to ignore the frightened voices of the family as they milled about, trying to see outside. He was listening and smelling the air that came into the safety of their home from the chaos of the outside. Gunpowder, smoke, and the mild animal smell of the men were strongest, but Rubber raised his head and kept sniffing at the air, still searching, and he found it. The smell of the thing, the new man on the porch, but it was faint. It was retreating. That was why it had gotten quiet. They were chasing it, pursuing it with their guns at the ready.

Hours went by. The doorbell had rang and Dad talked with both neighbors and men wearing dark clothing. Mom had put the kids back in their beds and she sat on the couch with Dad, talking softly and nervously. They came into the kitchen every now and then to stroke Rubber’s head and try to coax him away from the weakened glass door, but he could not be persuaded. It was still out there, still a danger to his beloved family, and he would not give up his watch until he could no longer smell it among the fresh smells of early spring.

Sometime around dawn when the sky was a light purple streaked with orange, Rubber whined at the door, pawing at it to be let out, and Mom, looking tired and gray, slid open the door. Rubber rushed out, sniffing around, gathering the smells of the night. He could still smell it, but the wild smell was fading and he put his nose to the ground and walked as fast as he could before he lost the scent.

There was an enormous pine tree in the backyard of one of the largest houses in the

neighborhood. The people who lived there had no dogs or children, and they were themselves very old people who went away for long periods. Rubber sniffed and could tell that they hadn’t been home in a while. Their yard was a quiet place and would have been one of the only spots in the frantic neighborhood the night before where one might hide.

He found the scent of the thing again and he tracked it up that huge pine tree, which was taller than all of the houses and was still full and green, but he could see. The thing was again the small man, pink and bloody, draped over one of the large boughs. His breathing was shallow and labored and Rubber could smell the stink of flesh and tinny blood on his breath. Rubber barked once and the man jumped, startled by the noise. He said something to Rubber, but his voice was small and scared. Rubber barked again, warning the man, letting him know that he would not tolerate him trespassing among his family again. The man threw something down at Rubber, trying to make him go away and Rubber put his massive front paws up on the trunk of the tree and began barking frantically at the man.

People were approaching from behind. They saw what Rubber was barking at and the people started shouting. One of the people dressed in all dark came pushing past the neighbors and looked up at the new man in the tree.

Dad came and grabbed Rubber by the collar, pulling him away from the tree as more people milled around the base. Rubber allowed Dad to pull him back just far enough, but not so much so that he couldn’t see anymore. They were talking to the man,

shouting up at him, but the new man’s voice was weak and his answers weren’t heard by the people. When he slipped off of the tree branch and fell to the ground, the people surrounded him, hoping to help.

After a time, people came carrying a long flat thing and they loaded the new man onto it.

They covered him with a blanket and carried him off. Rubber watched as they passed him

closely and he could tell that the man was still alive, his breathing was stronger than it had been earlier. He was going to live.

That meant Rubber, the old dog that he was, had to remain vigilant. Because whatever

stalked about in the night, killing and eating, reeking of blood and death, it was going to come back. The men and their loud guns did nothing to stop it. To protect his family, Rubber would have to be the fatal tool.

To protect his family, Rubber would do anything.

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