We’d always wanted a family pet. To say that Mom and Dad weren’t pleased with what we brought home would be an understatement. Mom’s crinkled lip and Dad’s blatant disgust spoke louder than their objections. But it only made us want it more.
We named him Spud. At least, we think it was a he. We weren’t really sure how to tell. With all the fur and spikes, we didn’t want to dig around and find out. So, we just guessed and gave him a name.
At first, he slept in the shed. But Dad got mad one day when he opened the door to find Spud sleeping in the wheelbarrow and splinters of wood all over the ground. He’d chewed through the bench legs and eaten most of the scraps.
So, we moved him into the basement one night. Shelly said Mom was going to lose her head when she found out, but I insisted that we’d be careful. We locked him in the closet by the laundry room and pushed scraps under the door before bed.
Mom’s scream woke us the next morning.
Spud had eaten the door and lounged across the hall. He blocked Mom’s path to the laundry room, and by the time we’d run down the stairs, she’d already thrown the laundry basket at his head.
He didn’t care though. He pushed the clothes into a pile with his nose and flopped onto his new bed and yawned.
“Get this thing out of my house!” mom shrieked.
We rolled his snoozing form into the laundry basket and carried him back outside without waking him.
We have to get rid of it. The point was moot, but we weren’t ready to crush the kid’s hearts. They clearly loved the beast for whatever reason. But it had to go.
One day it would wake up and realize it wasn’t a dog or a cat and bite one of their hands off. The thing had enough teeth to do it.
We called animal control. But they asked too many questions about what it was, and we couldn’t give them good enough answers. They thought we were crank calling and disconnected after a few minutes.
One day after the kids left for school, we tried to lure it to the car with a steak, but he wasn’t interested. All he seemed to want to chew on was the porch or the lawn furniture. So, we tested the theory with a piece of plywood from the shed.
The damned thing practically skipped into the back of the car. He happily gnawed on the wood all the way into town. But that was as far as our plan had gone. Where could we possibly drop this ugly thing?
The kids had said they’d found him by the swamp, right? So, we turned that direction.
Deeper into the trees we drove until the road ended and only a mud path lay before us.
We let him out of the back, and he splashed into a puddle with an expression that could only be described as delight.
We got back in the car and waited for him to chase, but he plopped into the wet ground and rolled around. So, we turned the car around and drove back home.
Spud was gone. Mom and Dad weren’t talking. They said he’d run away, but we knew it was a lie. Spud would never do that to us. We’d rescued him.
So, we stopped talking to them. And we could see how much that frustrated them.
“It wasn’t even a dog. I don’t know why you’re so upset. We’ll get you a dog next weekend.”
“We don’t want a dog!” Shelly cried and ran to her room.
She was right. We didn’t want a dog. We wanted Spud. He was special.
Three nights after we’d dumped the thing back at the swamp, we woke up to hear scratching at the back door.
Shelly and Tom followed us down the stairs into the kitchen, and we peaked out the window over the sink to try to see what was out there.
“It’s Spud,” Tom said without a thought. “I bet he found his way back home.”
We exchanged a glance. What if he was right? Would the thing be mad?
The scratching came again.
Tom went for the door and opened it before we could stop him.
And outside our door was Spud. And six other things that looked just like him. But they didn’t look happy this time. They growled and their eyes glowed red.
And before we could close the door on them – not that it would do any good – they pounced.