Beau and the Twelve-Headed Monster

Beau and the Twelve-Headed Monster

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Beau and the
Twelve-Headed Monster

The bicyclists are clad in black Lycra shorts and tight-fitting, bright-colored jerseys. They ride in a disciplined pace line. Sweat glistens on lean forearms and bulging quadriceps. They talk and joke and laugh as they ride. It is just past six on a warm Sunday morning in July.

A mile ahead at the top of a short steep rise is Beau’s yard. Beau is a heavyset, sinister-looking black Labrador retriever who protects his yard and his family with unswerving diligence and a loud round of barking whenever strangers approach. If the threat is especially menacing, Beau supplements his barking with a swift hard charge that invariably sends the intruder packing. This morning Beau is stationed in his usual place under the porch. It is shady and cool there, and he can see all the territory he must defend.

The cyclists slow as they ascend the hill that leads to Beau’s yard. As they labor against gravity, the only sound is the whirr of the freewheels and the hooosh of hard exhalations.

Beau sees the cyclists as they crest the hill. He has seen cyclists before and takes pride in chasing them from his territory. But this is something new: a dozen cyclists moving as one. To Beau it is a twelve-headed monster with twenty-four arms and twenty-four legs. He has to protect his family. He has to be brave. He explodes from his hiding place under the porch and charges across the yard, hackles raised, fangs bared, barking his fiercest bark.

The cyclists are taken by surprise. It isn’t the first time they’ve been attacked by an unrestrained dog. They usually avoid a confrontation by outrunning the beast. But this dog is unusually fast and is very nearly upon them. It is too late to run for it. The cyclists reach for the only anti-dog weapons they have: water bottles and tire pumps.

When Beau reaches the edge of his yard, he hesitates for a moment. He isn’t supposed to go out of the yard, and the street is definitively off-limits. But this is a twelve-headed monster with forty-eight appendages. There is no telling what it will do to his family. He has no choice—he has to break the rules, and he clears the sidewalk and the curb with one great leap.

Among the cyclists is a man who has a Lab a lot like Beau. Instead of reaching for a water bottle or tire pump, he looks at Beau and says, “Hey, where’s your ball? Where’s your ball?”

A few minutes later one of the other cyclists says, “Man, I couldn’t believe it. He just stopped and went looking for a ball. It was amazing. How did you know he had a ball?”

“He’s a Lab. Labs are nuts about tennis balls. I had a friend once who swore he was going to name his next Lab ‘Wilson’ so all his tennis balls would have his name on them.”

The cyclists laugh and then fall silent. The only sound is the whirr of the freewheels and the hoosh of hard exhalations.

Beau is back in his favorite spot under the porch. He has a soggy green tennis ball in his mouth. If the twelve-headed monster with forty-eight appendages comes back, he’s ready.

John Arrington

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