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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A former runner becomes a dog-walker and unwittingly puts himself in harm's way.

Submitted: March 25, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 25, 2016




A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter One



Amelia thought the idea was “simply terrific.’ 

Any supplemental income would be very welcome in their present economic straits; and the fact that dog-walking was not a white collar position, bothered Amelia only as long as it took Mack to tell her how much money they could make.

Amelia, an extraordinarily well preserved seventy-five; a woman of some grace who continued to color her brunette hair with stylish honeyed highlights, accompanied her optimistic husband through the French doors to their redwood deck.

Their sanctuary sat happily before a freshly-mown lawn enclosed by tall bushes and some  finely-manicured flowerbeds, featuring roses and azaleas.

Amelia and Maxwell Burns had retired several years ago and would spend virtually every clear day on their handsome deck, taking up the cares of their lives; or simply enjoying a good chat or an engrossing read.

Today, because of the particularly strong force of the July sun, the happy couple sat peacefully under the huge umbrella of their round white metal table and went over the math of Mack’s latest idea for a new revenue stream.

Amelia told her husband—again—that she really didn’t like that term very much at all; mostly because of the hundreds of times she had seen or heard Mack streaming urine into some receptacle or other during their fifty-two years together, bound within the bands of matrimony.

Over four hundred dollars a day. For only seven hours of work.

“And, I’m out in the open air—and walking around five miles every day as well.”

Automatically, “Mack darling, what could be sweeter." Abruptly Amelia’s smile disappeared and she screwed up her face with half a dozen doubts souring her ‘sweeter’ remark.

“But you’re almost eighty, darling; don’t you think they’ll rather have a younger person to handle all those dogs?”

Mack, laughing with his unbounded confidence, “Don’t think so, sweets; I’m in better condition than ninety percent of those walkers; and most are young women; not really what you need if Bozo gets pissed at—or on—by Fido and all furry hell erupts, eh?”

Mack Evans was exactly right in the self-assessment of his physical condition. 

Six days a week, Mack did his morning exercises and then went for a run or hit the 24 Hour Fitness gym.

He had been a marathoner for over forty years but had backed off a tad when he rang the three quarter of a century bell three years ago last April.

Mack was a big man; six foot five and two hundred pounds; not the build of one’s idea of a runner, let alone a marathoner.

However, he was endowed with an ocean of self-deluding denial, and this, plus running over a hundred miles a week, had kept him competitive for years; especially in his age group where he often placed among the top three.

And so, in truth, Mack presented an enormous presence looming over all Fidosexcept perhaps a mutant Great Dane, or a Newfoundlander.

Mack certainly would be a massive force; and not something you’d think a mere bow wow would want to tangle with.

“But, darling,” with her face half un-screwed by Mack’s reminder to her of his massive size, “I know this is probably a foolish question, but haven’t you been bitten seven times by dogs over the years; on your runs?”

Mack straightened up from tying a lace on his Addidas gels.

He had all of his hair that he wore en brosse, only a few of his teeth, but so far, all of his marbles.

Mack had worked in the City for forty years as an accountant for a shipping firm just off the Embarcadero.

For the two years after Amelia retired from her position as a Supervisor in a large insurance company, they had traveled and visited the three kids and twelve grands spread all over the country, as well as hosting their family and their families at random times throughout the calendar.

With eyes shining with love and deep devotion, Mack looked down at his five foot five wife with a serene smile of confidence, fully meant to soothe any apprehension about the negatives of his new job.

“You’re a peach, Amy; as always . . . hey, I can hardly wait. I just know those mutt owners will be glad to see a mature someone. They’ll fawn over me; tell me how lucky they are to have a trustworthy jailer for their big and little pricks of fluff. 

"And I’ll really work the little bastards too; till their bloody tails are dragging.

"Oh they’ll get a walk alright; a righteous woofer boot camp.”

Mack had been a Marine. He certainly knew how to inflict discipline—and pain. Mack eased his way past the edge of the umbrella to a standing position and extended his arms as a ‘come hither’ welcome for Amelia.

Once she was up, Mack immediately grabbed her to him.

“Amy,” lifting her up into his arms while carefully guiding her head past the umbrella, “this can get us back in the black real fast—even a cruise or two,” laughing, “this is just another sign of our continuing luck and we’ll milk it for all it’s worth,”

He hugged Amelia very tightly and kissed her ear. “and I better get going here or I’ll be stuck in the pound.”

Mack laughed all the way from his toes to his grey head, and walked through the French doors and headed for the entrance hall where he picked up his football Letter jacket that still fit, and eased out the front door.


Amelia slid the lock behind him and began to cry.

She hadn’t told her husband about the hideously nauseating dream that she had barely endured last night.

Her nightmare had been so ugly; so vivid in its gory detail that she had been woken up while the hideous flashes of the carnage, the blood, continued to form stark afterimages of repulsive colors and soundless screams. Then she had gone and vomited.

Mack was breathing smoothly when she returned to her covers and electric blanket, and after almost an hour of trembling away the stubborn afterbirth of her inner-eye horror film, she fell back into a very deep sleep and was spared any revisitation of the earlier horror.


Amelia returned to their redwood deck with the hand-lathed pickets and flat rails. She pulled a chair out from under the umbrella into the full fury of the sun and sat, offering her face to Ra.

However, she continued to cry.

The minutes dripped by and Amelia began to despair of her tears ever ceasing; on and on; and her trembling increased as well, despite the blistering heat of the high sun of noon on this Friday the thirteenth of July.


Mack, through some very clever advertising, as well as his innumerable friends, acquaintances and former work mates, soon had more curs than he could accommodate.

He quickly dropped the ‘cheaper-rate’ canines, and after four weeks, his contingents were thirteen dogs in the morning and twelve in the afternoon.

He had fudged a touch when owners asked about the size of the packs as well as the number in ‘the pack’ with their furry numbers.

The largest pack that Mack had observed was eight; but he had no problems whatsoever those first four weeks and beginning his fifth week, Mack had two collections of mostly smaller dogs and a few monsters that no other walkers wanted to walk; even though they had muzzle guards.

Mack removed the guards as soon as he had the pack on the ground out of the used white van. He had bought his doggie-mobile for three grand with a thirty thousand mile guarantee. He later had a former army buddy paint blue markings and “DOGS WALK” on both sides and the back doors. His phone number was on all three areas.

During the morning sessions, Mack would unmuzzle the very larger dogs. Immediately after the behemoths were unmuzzled the other dogs cringed and scooted behind Mack.

This almost exact pattern—and the behavior of both the huge dogs and the large gaggle of smaller dogs—was repeated with Mack’s afternoon contingent.

That particular rabble of twelve woofers had only two massive mutts.  

From his days as a Marine, days that included being a Drill Sergeant, Macklearned to read the moods of his men. He believed that he was able to read the minds and moods of his dogs.

Amy had looked at him with an unnerving stare after he had told her of this conclusion. But she held her peace.


Yes, Mack was positive that he could sense the mood of the three unmuzzled mammoths in his morning pack and directed his full attention right into their faces while he held them on a very short leash.

“Look here you guys; the first one to cause trouble gets a kick in the ass; got that?”

The stunned-by-freedom dogs stared meekly and silently into the blazing orbs of this huge dog-man and appeared—at least to Mack’s discerning eye—to have clearly understood him.

He reached up and patted each one on the head with a soft but firm hand. “And the first time you cause me or the little ones—or each other—a moment of grief, you get a kick in the teeth; understood?”

Mack saw all three nod slightly and a look of freedom and being-understood- by-the walker raced back and forth across their black somewhat-fathomable eyes.


That first afternoon, before letting all the dogs out and unmuzzling the two giants, Mack had heard the scraping and clawing noises made by the dogs’ nails on metal. He did not hear a couple of low growls.


End of Chapter One

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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