Short-listed Entry: Fiction Category
By: Sean-paul Thomas
Benjamin and I entered the woods. It was a brilliant sunny summer afternoon on the outside of the forest, but as soon as we entered the sheltered mouth grasp of the woods only a tiny portion of sparkling fragments of sunlight managed to penetrate through the tree tops.
We walked along a hard muddy footpath which soon adjourned with a small and shallow flowing river with a cow field situated on the other side. The first thing I noticed was a herd of around thirty or so cows who were all swarmed down by the riverbank on the opposite side of the river, each one trying to take turns at sipping and licking up the fresh, cool running water. I couldn’t remember being so close to so many cows before and strangely they didn’t seem to care too much for me at all and minded their own business as I strolled on by, not even flinching. But when Benjamin came strutting along with his tail up and ears perked out, the cows all completely stopped what they were doing and became wildly engrossed and completely and hypnotically fascinated with this alert, energetic and wild eyed German shepherd. Ben finally noticed the cows and came to a sudden halt, just glaring over at the large curious beasts for some time, while every single one of the cows eyes fell upon him. I on the other hand was both fascinated by Ben and the cows reactions to each other and was happy to just stand back and watch what was about to unfold.
Ben glanced up at me for a few seconds as if asking for some kind of permission to approach the cows and I eagerly egged him onwards to take a closer look. I don’t know why I was so keen, but a sadistic streak suddenly took over me and with a sense of danger and excitement of what these unpredictable and wild animals might do to each other, it was quite addictive. So of course I was overcome with eagerness to find out just exactly what the hell would happen when Ben crossed that river to confront them. Would the cows chase him, kick him down, stampede on top of him like he was just some rough and jagged shrubbery bush lying in their way… I loved Ben with all my heart, but the excitement, the rush and venture into the unknown with something that I had very little control over was just too great an urge for me to resist. I was willing to sacrifice endangering his life for my own twisted and morbid excited pleasure.
Ben cautiously approached the cows and quickly a few of them approached him too. Cows to me had always been these dumb, stupid and ridiculous looking creatures that don’t get mad, annoyed or upset by anything in particular, so I was surprised at how forward they were in approaching Ben right off the cuff. Suddenly Ben stopped in his tracks and they stopped too. Ben then etched his neck out closer to sniff the nearest pair of cows closest to him and they in turn lowered their necks out to sniff him too. Suddenly Ben sneezed and the nearby cows jumped back in fright, and then Ben jumped back with the fright of the cows jumping back in fright, setting off a whole chain reaction of cows jumping and moving erratically in fright… and then of course all hell broke loose. Ben barked and snapped and barked and snapped. The cows mooed and rushed backwards towards the open field. Ben then chased some of the nearby cows on his right, right around the front side of the field for a few minutes, barking and playfully jumping about in front of them and behind them. Here I became worried that this was totally out of my control now and began calling for Ben to return to me at once and at the top of my voice, fearing for Ben’s safety as one nervy flying kick from a cow or random stampede by another few could easily result in a bad injury for my dog, my little furry brother from another mother.
After my fifth shout for Ben to return to me he eventually came running back across the river just as some of the more older and bolder cows began to grow tired of running around from an animal a third their size and finally grew some giant cow balls and began to chase him back. At this point I half expected a farmer to come running over the field waving a shotgun in fury at the commotion, but their was nobody else in sight.
So both myself and Ben, who was now wagging his tail excitedly, mouth opened and drooling happily as he sniffed, licked and pissed on nearly every plant, twig and tree trunk in sight, continued our little jaunt into the forest.
Soon I grabbed a long stick and broke it in half, holding two halves in each hand. Ben’s ears and tale pricked up immediately when he heard the snap and he quickly came gallivanting towards me like a crazed wild beast on a mission, his only goal in this moment of his life was to get both sticks from my hands and in no particular order. Why the hell did dogs lust over sticks so much? Why the hell did they want what you held and hid from their view so badly, a thing you pretended to hold so near and dear up high and away from their grasp.
I pretended to throw the first stick and the stupid dog chased after the phantom throw and then stopped dead in his tracks as he slowly realised that the stick didn’t land anywhere and when he turned back to face me with a look of confused bewilderment, he quickly snapped back into crazy beast mode when he saw that both sticks were still magically in my hands. So he came running wildly back to jump up at both me and the magic sticks once more. Again I pretended to throw, but he was growing smarter now and turned right away to see the sticks still in my hands. I then turned in a flash and threw the first stick with all my strength but completely in the opposite direction to where Ben had anticipated the throw. The stick whizzed into an obstacle course of jagged bushes, nettles, thorns and branches which even a SAS trained soldier would struggle to wade through to find, but which Ben, who cared little for such obstacles as he leaped and bounced over and under every jagged nettle, stinging thorn and fallen branch placed in his way, his only objective to find that stick.
‘Dumb mutt’ I muttered to myself. I loved him dearly, but when throwing sticks for him, once again my sadistic side always managed to take over and in the heat of the moment I just had to make getting that stick as dangerous and as hard as I possibly could for my crazy, easily excited, bouncing, but loveable German shepherd.
We wandered along the hard muddied path for a while longer, walking side by side with the shallow river when suddenly out of the overgrown forest path up ahead, I saw her, this sexy looking red headed minx, dressed in a denim outfit, jeans and jacket, walking towards me now, still far off in the distance, but walking with that particular sexy wiggled walk that you can just tell right away and from any particular distance that an attractive and sexually confident woman is coming towards you. This sixth sense of spotting particularly hot sexual women has never let me down yet. It’s like I can just glance the distant figure of an approaching female walking in front of me, even with her body turned from me and walking away at quite a distance, and just by the way she walks and carries herself I can tell exactly how confident she is, how confident in bed she will be, how sexually awakened her body, mind and soul will be to me and of course how attractive she is, well, attractive to me that is. I mean everyone is attracted to different things in this world no and what a boring, mundane place it would be if we were all attracted to the exact same things, people and objects. And this strawberry blonde haired vixen seemingly in her late twenties/early thirties now walking over towards me with her two cocker spaniels, well I was definitely very attracted too, just my type. Not too skinny, but nicely slimmed and toned figure, better ass than breasts as I’ve always been an ass man and prefer my breasts small and firm rather than big and bouncy, but there can be exceptions to the rule.
As she approached, thoughts of things I wanted to say and images of what I wanted to do to her flitted through my mind at a million miles an hour. I prayed Ben would go over right
away and have a good old pervy sniff at her two cocker spaniels so we could get into some brief chit chat conversation about nothing in particular, but Ben didn’t seem interested in those two little cockers in the slightest and went for a wander into some nearby thick jagged bushes to piss and shit on some more twigs and leaves and nettles. Shit, she was gonna walk right on by and all I would be able to do was let out a cheesy assed nice guy grin and mumble out a rather pathetic ‘Hi there… nice day.’ horse shit chit chat. That’s of course if I could even open up my love struck gob Shiite mouth in the first place to sprout out a couple of mumbled words or three.
Okay, so I had to make eye contact and most importantly I had to hold eye contact. She needed to know that I was a sexually confident male and also a sexually aggressive one too and if done right, I could say all this with my eyes.
I’d done it countless times before while out on the pull at bars and night clubs in the past, catching girls gazes, glances and attention with my stare while giving out my own glancing, charming look that said ‘You are mine girl and I am going to take you home and fuck you all night long like it was the last ever crazy, wild and passionate fuck ever aloud by two single wild mammals ever again on this planet and the very existence and survival of our entire human species depended on our complete passion and sexual wildness with each other.’
Of course I’d never tried ‘the look’ out in broad daylight before and never without at least a few drinks inside me, so there was a first time for everything.
She came closer and was looking right at me. I was moving closer too and was looking at her. I then let a gentle friendly smile loosen across my face and she began to smile back at me too. She came closer still, wow she was a beauty all right, even dressed in her casual dog walking clothes of jeans and matching denim jacket and cute Wellington boots. I could see mother nature had been very kind to bless her genes with such a seductive and sexually appealing womanly figure.
She was close now, real close and within a few seconds she was going to walk right on past me and out of my life forever unless… unless I changed fate, changed the hands of time, changed our destinies and our already mapped out futures by making a quick, instant second flinching decision to speak out, say something, say anything… and change our lives. Sending it on a new path into uncharted and unmapped waters.
She was the female, so of course she wasn’t gonna make the first move, no way hosey. Goes completely against our entire genetic and biological make up. Ever since the days of the cavemen throwing their chosen woman over his shoulder and dragging her kicking and screaming back to his cave. The girl had done her job, made eye contact, held eye contact and by smiling too she had done more than enough of her job for today to let me know that she was open to approach… if I was indeed man enough to make it. Now it was up to me, the man, to do the rest and make his move. To be the sexual aggressor. Step up, man up and take what was mine. My heart was beating so fast. An instant fear gripped me that was more terrifying than fighting on any front line in any war torn country in the world and at any war zone in the history of man. Was it really so true, really, that some men would rather die, be torn limb from limb, jump out from a plane into the unknown abyss wilderness of the darkness of night in a foreign land, fight in a gruesome world or civil war, than just walk up to a strange and pretty woman who they were attracted too and start a conversation with.
Well it was time to separate the men from the boys or else spend the rest of my days thinking and mulling over this single moment in my future timeline, which would no doubt haunt me for all eternity, holding me prisoner to a life full of regrets of why I couldn’t go back to this moment in time one day in my lonely distant future and say just one little damn single bloody word to her… Just one. Who wants to live a life full of regrets… not me, that’s for sure. Finally she walked past me and we broke eye contact… it was now or never… and I couldn’t handle the pain and anguish of coming back here at the same time every single day just in a hopeless hope that I might bump into this beauty one more time, and even if I did I may never ever see her here again even if I came back again and again every single day at this exact time and place until my dying day. And besides what’s the worst that was gonna happen? She doesn’t speak English, maybe she’s married… Maybe she screams out that I’m a dirty little pervert for staring at her so hard before setting her
blood thirsty cocker spaniel hounds upon me. Well at least I would take the risk and time to find out and could then find some inner peace within myself with this particular moment in my life. At least I would always know that I tried… I tried… and that’s really all the best of us can ever do in this world anyway. Which beats an eternity of not knowing… What if.
My adrenaline burst and the fear that grasped my throat and thumping heart suddenly evaporated the moment I turned around to face her and the words came out. Those sweet little words that would release my torment.
She came to an awkward stop, pulling on her dog leads to stop the two spaniels from walking on. She then turned to face me now with that shy gorgeous smile of hers as her dogs began sniffing around the nearby area around her, well an area that the length of their leads would allow them to sniff.
‘Hi…’ She replied unsure…
‘I just wanted to say that you might want to keep your dogs on their leashes until you get past the cows down the path there. Some of them are right close to the river and your dogs might get a bit excited and chase after them… Like mine did.’ I said letting out a smile and light chuckle.
‘Oh… okay… thanks. I’ve only just put them back on their leashes, little buggers ran away from me just now to go chasing rabbits.’
‘Dogs aeh… worse than little kids…’
‘Yeah, tell me about it…’
Then there was one of those lingering pauses, you know that point in a new conversation where your brain tries desperately to search for something else to say and also the right thing to say. A moment where some friendships and relationships can be made or lost. In that pause she could easily have just nodded and thanked me for the kind advice, then turned and left and be on her way as quickly as she’d stopped… But thankfully she was the one who broke the pause and asked me a question. She restarted the conversation and that was when I knew I had her… That was when I knew she was mine. She had a chance to leave, the bullshit chit chat was over… But she was the one who choose to commit further to the conversation.
‘I saw you have a German Shepherd with you… They’re very beautiful dogs.’
I quickly glanced over towards Ben who’s black and golden top half was poking out of the bushes as he continued to sniff whatever scents were distracting him in there.
‘Yeah, he’s a good dog.’
‘How old is he?’
‘He’s ten and getting on a bit in his old age.’
‘Wow, he looks in really good shape for ten.’
‘And your dogs? Boys girls, they young?’
‘Yeah, Bella is three and Jacob is four.’
‘Bella and Jacob?’ I said half confused, half smiling.
‘Oh don’t ask.’ She rolled her eyes.
‘No, I wasn’t… I didn’t mean… I mean Bella is nice, but Jacob?’ I let out a little chuckle.
‘I’ve never taken Jacob for a dog‘s name before.’
‘I know, right!’ She said agreeing. ‘They’re actually my little sister’s dogs. I’m just dog sitting for her while she’s away.’
‘Cool… So where did she go? Anywhere nice or adventurous?’
‘Paris? Wow. I’m actually going there in January for a weekend. I’ve never been before, but I’ve heard some amazing things about the place. And my favourite writer use to live and work there.’
‘Oh God…‘ She replied thinking deep and hard to herself.
‘I think I know who you’re on about…’ Wow I was loving this girl even more, she knew writers, she knew books
‘…Fitzgerald?’ She finally spurted out.
‘Hemingway actually. But yeah, Fitzgerald use to live and work there too, so good call.’ I smiled.
‘Oh, cool, Hemmingway, yes. I love his Old man and the sea novel. Have you read any of his short stories?’
And so it began… We were already away into an engrossing conversation and catching up like old school friends in the middle of the dark forest. I stood there and spoke with Kate for another thirty five minutes before time suddenly caught up with us and she realised that she had to get back to work and soon at that. She was a nurse and just recently out of a long term relationship. So we exchanged numbers and arranged to meet up again for a coffee or even another, but longer, dog walking adventure. Wow, what an afternoon and what a turn up for the books. Two lives changed forever because of one simple word… Hi.
Part 3: Conclusion.
I continued to walk Ben through the rest of the forest and eventually came across a middle-aged couple who were out walking their two yappy little Yorkshire terriers. Little dogs like this who look more like yappy little giant rodent hamsters on leashes. I absolutely fucking loathed these kind of dogs, can’t stand them and neither could Ben. Ben saw them and wanted to investigate further at their constant yapping. The old couple saw big bad Benjamin the bear coming towards them and immediately bricked their pants, quickly picking their two little yappers up in their arms to protect them from the big bad bear as if their little furry romo lives depended on it. I had to laugh it was so ridiculous. I mean what the fuck is wrong with these people, dogs are dogs. They will sniff, lick, bite, hump and piss on other dogs for shits and giggles, it’s just their way. It’s the only way they know… So leave them be and let them get on with it for Christ sake.
The couple eventually mopped and groaned off, carrying their little yapping hamsters in their arms, moaning under their breaths that dogs like Benjamin should be kept on a leash at all times. I just laughed it off and kept walking onwards through the forest. I knew Ben would eventually get bored and come after me. He hated it when I moved out of sight, but it was best way, in fact it was the only way, to get him away from anything he found remotely interesting… just disappear out of his sight and boy o boy would he come running.
Eventually we both headed back down the main hard muddied path and back down towards the forest exit and nearby cow field and of course that magic spot where I had first saw and met Kate… Ah Kate! As we reached the cow field area beside the river I was still glowing with a great feel good factor as I reminisced over my recent conversation with Kate and fantasising over our future dates together. But so caught up in lala land I was, that I didn’t even notice Benjamin sneaking back into the cow field once again. Obviously remembering that he already had my approval to do so from the last time, before it was too late and he was back to chasing any cow that he could find, running them ragged and in wild circles around the cow field again. The frantic moos and playful barks from Ben quickly ripped me down from my cloud nine fantasies with a massive thud and I began screaming immediately for Ben to get the hell back over to me. Running away from him now wasn’t going to cut it this time… well it would, eventually, after a few minutes when he got bored and quickly found a moment to glance around and look for me to see where I was, and if I had a level head at the time then I might‘ve just deployed that tactic. But I was raging and I couldn’t shake this grim, dark and awful feeling that had suddenly engulfed me and I felt that I absolutely needed to get Ben away from those cows right now, right this very second.
I screamed his name over and over, but he was having none of it and too much fun chasing all his new friends around. So without thinking I waded into the shallow river water which came up to my knees and just as I was scrambling up towards the riverbank edge onto the cow field side I heard it… and my heart completely sank. The noise and echo of the gunshot BOOM followed by another BOOM… The first one threw me and scared the shit out of me to tell you the truth with this loud and ferocious firework bang that completely broke the beautiful and tranquil forest silence all around… and with the second, well I just kinda new what was happening up there in the field and I prayed to god that these were just some kind of warning shots to scare my Benji.
I quickly scrambled up onto the cow field and looked all around, firstly glancing every which way for Ben and then looking for the source of the gunshots second. I saw some Wellington boots behind the legs and bodies of some scattered cows for a brief unfocussed second in the close distance, then as my eyes desperately scanned and scanned and scanned the bottom of a nearby grassy knoll… I caught it. I caught the image I was searching for but had been dreading and praying to never find. It was a blur at first, but it was there and my eyes focussed on it harder and stronger and yes, there it was. That undeniable sight of that black and golden fur lying down and stretched out upon the green, green grass. But now that golden black fur was smeared and tainted with red, a deep, deep red that was unbeknown to me in real life, but a deep, deep red that I knew right away was something very bad.
A rage and fury I had never felt before spread over and through me like an uncontrollable electric power surge powering and bolting it’s way through every living blood cell and vein in my entire body and all I could think was to run now… run, run, sprint and charge straight for the hidden Wellington boots behind the cows. The cows saw me coming like a crazy wild madman on a mission and mooed and trotted out of the way to reveal the source of the gunshots and cold blooded killer of my beloved brother. For the brief few seconds I caught a glimpse of him he seemed taller than me, wider than me and even much stronger than me. A big bulky middle-aged farmer who could no doubt under normal circumstances more than handle himself against most things in life which mother nature could throw at him on his lands, but these weren’t normal circumstances anymore. And I don’t think in all his days he had seen anything like me in those last few seconds coming towards him, a raging bull, a wild madman containing the rage and anger of a thousand wild crazed madmen. Consumed by the rage and emotion of revenge and retribution as I flew at the man, launching myself into him, a mid waist rugby tackle to end all rugby tackles. By the time he saw me and knew what was happening he was on the deck, winded beyond his control and gun flying off into the air and landing metres away. But it didn’t end there, not by a long shot. The rage had devoured me and as soon as I gathered myself I sprung on top of the floored, winded farmer and began to lay punch after punch into his bearded face and skull. I was a man possessed, completely and utterly out of control, angry with the man in front of me, angry at myself for taunting Ben in the first place to get into this situation. I couldn’t stop the punches if I tried and neither could the farmer. He was gone, we both were gone in our own little worlds, defeated. There was blood all over his face now, chunks of flesh flapping down his cheeks. His nose flattened down to the roof of his mouth and ozzing more and more blood by the second, pulp and mashed up bits of bone and puss. I couldn’t stop… I couldn’t stop, I just couldn’t… And then eventually… I stopped. The adrenaline was gone. I was exhausted… I couldn’t lay one more punch even if Benjamin’s life depended on it… I was spent.
After a few more seconds I rolled off the beaten and broken farmer and lay back… tried to process the situation… access this madness… but I just couldn’t think… couldn’t think at all… Until I suddenly remembered her… the strawberry blonde beauty in the woods… Her name slipped my mind and then it came back to me… Kate, yeah Kate, that was her name. And it calmed me. It relaxed me so much, calming me right down and I smiled… let out a little gentle smile and thought, just thought, that for a slight little second that everything… everything in my world, might just be all right…