My backyard is nice; such a pretty, wonderful place. I love it out here; I can stretch my legs with no one bugging me, especially my family. I love them dearly, but boy, can they get annoying. I like this time of day— “twilight,” it’s called—such a pleasant time of day. This time of year it is summer, and boy, do I love summer. All the squirrels, the birds, the kids, everybody outside having fun…except for that fucking cat.

Oops, I shouldn’t say that, the woman yelled at the boy for that word.

Good times.

Or they were.

Strange things have been happening ever since it got warm this year. Everyone is upset and afraid. I keep hearing talk of bad things happening.

This evening is weird; I keep hearing pops in the distance. Just like the fireworks on July 4th, and that was like a month ago.

And I don’t see sky sparkles and the family isn’t grilling hamburgers and hot dogs.

I like hot dogs a lot!

I walk through the backyard, checking out the bushes, the garden, the jungle gym seeing if there are any unusual going-ons, like weird odors or weirdos about.

I don’t find anything snooping about.

I run along the back fence.

I can hear something scurrying on the other side.

I cock an ear and pinpoint it about 50 feet on the other side.

Damn sure it is that cat.

All is well and good, so I trot to the far corner and take a dump.

That scurrying sound comes back.

Something thumps against the fence and scratches its way up the other side.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” I shout at two glowing eyes at the top of the fence.

“Hiiiisssssssssssss,” he says to me in response.

“Go away, Oliver! Not your yard, mine!” I emphasize with a growl.

Oliver, a big tabby tomcat, narrows his eyes at me and hisses again. “Oh, I see Shit Breath is ‘doing his business’ as usual. By the way, it isn’t your yard, it’s your master’s. You just happen to piss and shit here. Sometimes I do, too. By the way, did you get the little present?”

“No. You lie. You haven’t pooped here in over a week. You cuss too much, too.”

The furball relaxes and says, “You probably ate them. Anyways, how are you?”

I sit my butt down. “Okay, you’re acting frisky. What’s up?”

“Scary stuff, my turd-eating friend. I’ve been seeing a lot of people packing up and leaving in a hurry.”

“It could just be the fireworks,” I say.

“No. They fear something coming. Something that hunts in the night.”

“Nothing scares the people. Maybe a fraidy cat like you.”

Oliver lets out a feline chuckle. “No, this is a thing that eats the people. The human I live with is a city firefighter. He says things about the people are going away.”

“That doesn’t make sense. My people are big and strong. Well, the man and the woman and the boy are. The two girls are too sweet.”

“OLIVER!” a woman calls.

“Well, dumb dog, gotta go. See you in another of my nine lives.”

The tabby springs from the fence and disappears into the evening.


I am going about my job of watchdogging when I hear, “Winchester! Come on in, boy!” I dash in through the back door straight for the kitchen, where my food bowl waits. The house is bright inside. Every light is on and there is a lot going on. The Man, Woman, Boy, and Twins are dressed to go. I chomp eagerly on my food.

I hear the woman talking loudly, “…but John, no one is ordering us to evacuate. And besidesm Cheryl down the street says, ‘Evacuate for what?’ A few killings that haven’t even touched our neighborhood.?”

I prick my ears up; this sounds tense. The Man speaks, “Alice, first off, Cheryl is a simple-ass wine aunt. We’ve got the kids to think about, and when I see tanks and armed troops in the streets, it tells me it’s time to leave. Here,” the Man goes to the front door and throws it open, “listen for a minute.”

It is quiet outside until something pops and the sky sparkles.

“But it’s not HERE!” the woman yells. I don’t like yelling.

I run under the table.

“IT IS HERE! Best idea is we head across the state line to my parents’ place…”

I hear the Twins squeal, “We’re going to Grammy and Gramps?”

The Man tells them, “Yes, dumplings, we’re going tonight.”

I don’t like this. I go to the living room, where the Twins watch a cartoon. I like the bright colors; so nice. I lay at their feet and get petted.

I like petting a lot. Big people can be dumb.

I see the Boy come in and then he goes upstairs.

He didn’t stop to pet me, so I go to the foot of the stairs. I would go up, but my hips ache too much these days.

The Boy comes back down carrying two bags. I whimper and wag my tail. He ignores me. I wait at the door while he loads the van.

“John, what is Brian doing?”

“He’s getting the van packed. No more discussion. Just get what you think you might need for a week.”

The Boy comes back in and sees me. “Hey Winchester. No, I haven’t forgotten the dog. But I’ve got things to do.” He goes back upstairs. “Hey Dad, I got my stuff, just have to get the bug-out stuff.”

“Brian, get the twins’ bags, I have them ready on their beds.”

“Okay, Dad, got it.”

“But Dad, did you get Snuggles the Dragon?” Casey, one of the Twins, cries.

The Man joins us in the living room, “Don’t worry, Casey, Grammy and Gramps have plenty of stuffed animals. But could you be a good girl and get Winchester’s leash and harness on? He’s coming with us, too.”

“Alright,” Casey says with a huff.

He turns to Lynn, the other Twin. “And you can pack a grocery bag with Winchester’s treats, travel bowls, water, his arthritis medicine, and a few cans?”

Lynn pets me and says, “Okay, Dad.”

“What are you going to pack for him again?”

“Treats, bowl, some water, his medicine, and some cans.”

“That’s my girl. Grab some snacks for yourselves too.”

They said “treats,” oh yes!

I follow the Twins into the kitchen.

I get treats and my harness is ready for me to get a walk.


The Woman is having a fit. The Man and the Boy were at the hunting cabinet.

“No, John. You’re not giving him a gun. If you want to carry your .45, fine. But you are not giving him a pistol.”

“Honey, it is just a single action revolver, the safest handgun in the world. Just in case.”

“No, I don’t like it. He is 15 years old; he doesn’t need to carry a pistol.”

“Quit getting worked up. He’s been shooting since he was ten. You know that. You know he’s perfectly safe with a firearm.”

“It’s illegal; he doesn’t have a permit.”

“Alice, right now I think the cops have bigger problems than some suburban family playing Bonnie and Clyde.”

“Yes, but he isn’t trained to carry a pistol. That’s just your survivalist fantasy bullshit kicking in.”

“Alright, alright. I won’t let him carry it.”

“Oh, come on Dad!” the Boy says.

“Son, take off the holster and put the Ruger in its carry case with the extra ammo and keep it close.”

The Man turns to the Woman. “Okay Alice, does that make you feel better?”


“Awesome. Do we have all our household documents and the kid’s medicine?”

“Yes, and I locked the back and garage doors, so we can go.”


I like car rides; they’re so much fun. You go zoom and don’t have to run.

I’ve rarely gotten to ride at night.

So many other people are riding too.

I get to sit next to the boy; so exciting!

“Here, Winchester.” Casey slips me a treat.

“Casey, dear, save the treats, we have a three-hour ride ahead of us,” the Woman says.

“Mom, can we watch a movie?”

The Man speaks, “No sweetie, we need you all to be very quiet until we get out of the city.”

I see so many cars around.

We stop hard and I nearly fall off the seat. I dig my paws into the seat.

Oh, my hip!

I look out the front; an old woman stands in the street.

“My son! My son!” she cries. The Man moves forward slowly. “My son!” Her hair is wild and her eyes are wide open, so wide.

“Keep your windows up.”

“Dad, are we going to help her?” the boy asks.

The Man pulls alongside the old woman and shouts through the window, “Lady, you need to get off the street.”

“My son, he said he would pick me up an hour ago. We’re going to go to the movies.”

I don’t like this Lady; she smelled awful even through the windows, and her voice growled.

“My son. We go to the movies.”

“Listen, lady, we are full up. But we can get someone if you want. Do you need the cops?”

The Lady chuckles like a deep rumbling. I don’t like her, she’s bad!

“Bad Lady! Bad Lady! Go away! Go away! Get away from my family! Bad! Bad!” I bark.

Her eyes open big.

“You have a devil in your car. I go now. You are an evil family, a family of monsters,” she says. The Lady goes to all fours and crawls away.

I get slammed back into the seat when the Man floors it.

“Son, do you have the revolver loaded and in its case next to you?” the Man asks.

“Yes, Dad.”

“I mean right next to you.”

“I do now.”

“Good. Keep it there.”

We keep driving. I hope we don’t see any more people like that nasty Lady.

There are more strange smells in the air. Fire, smoke, faint gun smoke, like when I used to go on hunting trips.

“What is this?” the Woman says.

Out the front of the van’s window, I see black and white cars, with flashing lights and sparklers on the ground.

We slow down.

“Cop cars and a Humvee. But where are the cops?” the Man says. “How are we supposed to get to the highway?”

I see a man in black covered up like a big bug, then another. I bark, “Hey, look!”

“Dad, to your left,” the Boy says.

“What’s happennning!” one of the Twins whines.

One of the bug men waves a light. The Man stops the car, “Everyone stay calm and quiet.”

The bug-man approaches us. I bark again. He has a rifle slung across his chest.

“John, are they pointing rifles at us?”

“Be calm, Alice, everyone be calm.”

The bug man shines the flashlight on me and looks for a couple of seconds.

“Hey! Who are you!” I woof. He smells like gunpowder and sweat, very sweaty, like when Dad and the Boy work out.

The bug-man raises his hand and gives a thumbs-up, shouting, “It’s clear! They’re okay!” More bug-men come forward, some in black, some in brownish gray.

One has a big wolfy dog with him.

The bug-man circles his hand at the Man. The Man lowers the window.

“Sir, are you leaving the city?”

“Yeah, we’re going to my parents. Is there a problem?”

“No. But the highways in town have been blocked off by the army. You’ll have to take Draeger Avenue out of town.”

“Okay, am I being detained?”

“For the moment, yes, you have a few other cars behind you. We have to check them out when they get here. It’s a good thing you had the dog with you.”


“They hate dogs, and dogs hate them. Are you armed?”

“Yes, I have a permit.”

“Good. I don’t care about the permit. One word of advice: you run into them, you shoot the head. Don’t waste ammo on body shots; at best, it slows them down.”

“What is going on? Who are ‘them?’”

“Honestly, sir, we don’t know. Our best guess from what we’ve seen? Vampires.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Not kidding. Remember what I said. We’ve got other cars showing up, hold on,” the bug-man says and turns to a greenish bug-man. “Corporal, fill him in on what to do next.”

The bug-man leaves, shouting at the other bug-men.

“Hey, you’re army. What’s going on? Why did you guys shut down the highway?” the Man says.

The green bug-man says, “I have no idea. I’m National Guard. I got the mobilization call a week ago, but then the regular army shows up and tells us to stick to crowd and traffic control. Us weekend warriors got no idea what’s going on. Me and my team are following our last orders. But here’s what you’re going to do: once we give you guys the all clear, you are going to drive down Draeger Avenue for three miles. At State Route 12, you will head southbound until you get to a state police blockade who will direct you to a staging area at the arena. It’s pretty much a straight shot. And do not, I mean DO NOT, stop for anything. Go around it, go through it. We’ve cleared most of the way, but the good guys are stretched thin. These cars behind you will be instructed to follow your lead. You got that?”

The Man answers, “Yes, Corporal: Draeger Avenue, straight until I get to Route 12 southbound, keep going until I see the state police, then we go to the arena. Don’t stop for anything.”

“Got it in one. I’m going to back these guys up. Take care, okay? Take care, kids: you have a good dog there.”

Then I hear the wolfy dog bark, “We got one! We got one! Get ‘em! Get ‘em!”

“Hands up where I can see them!”

“Don’t move!”

“I said don’t move!”

There is a roar from behind us.

The Man yells, “Twins, get down!”

The Boy takes his revolver out of the case.

“Brian, keep the twins down.”

The Twins start screaming.

I look to the rear to see the bug-men with rifles leveled at a car. Something inside the car is roaring.

The green bug-man runs back to us.

He slaps the hood of the van. “Take off! And good luck.”

We speed off and I see to the rear flashes of light. I hear blasts. Lots of blasts, wolfy dog brays, “Die motherfucker! Die! My pack will destroy you all.”

The howls die into the distance.


For all installments of “Cave Canem,” click here.