After switching out of the painful and (now) dirty boots I’d pilfered and back into my sneakers, Cleaver and I make our way into the grocery store. I’ve been dying for a steak and I figure it’s time to stop playing coy and actually accept responsibility for Cleaver and grab him some actual dog food.
I almost breeze past the registers on my way to the aisles, but then I pause. After a few minutes trying to coerce the computer and then several more trying to coerce the lock with a crowbar I’d taken from the hardware store earlier, I pry open the principal register. Inside there's probably only a few hundred dollars, and not a one of them can help me in my current situation. But I shove the money in my pockets anyway.
Sighing at the waste of beautiful flowers wilting in their respective displays in the gardening section, I reach into the fridge and adorn Cleaver’s ear with a purple lily. He seems to enjoy it and shuffles towards a broken sack of dog food that lies in an adjoining aisle. I am not in the habit of reading gossip magazines, but today I feel no guilt in gingerly picking some off the stands.
I am about to make my way to the butcher’s area. Although the display meat looks questionable, I'm hoping the freezer holds something that might be of use to me. A dark and massive figure comes flying out the dual swinging butler doors. The Rottweiler from days ago turns his immense head towards me and lets out a growl that might only be duplicated in Hell. Unmistakable deep red blood drenches every single razor sharp tooth that gleams in the fluorescents. For a moment I convince myself that he’s been munching on fresh, bloody meat but then the pit bull from Radio Shack comes to flank him. Barking in sharp yips, I can see gnawed spots covering him, deep gashes where the Rottweiler has penetrated the soft tissue. His left ear hangs grotesquely by sinews only.
Too quickly for me to react, several other dogs wander in from the back. Some are wounded, some are tiny, and most of them are agitated.
Every logical thought that might have fought its way into my consciousness at that moment was drowned out by the screaming realization of one thought only:
The gun is in the truck.
I hadn’t brought my bat either, but as I watch them I realize that neither weapon might save me in this case. I begin backing away slowly but with each step I take the horde inches the same distance towards me. Only a few feet between us and the group. Cleaver has transformed into a hellhound, snarling and drooling with rage next to me. I feel my knees shake and tears well in my eyes as the dogs pursue me at this agonizing pace.
I know that if I run, Cleaver is a goner. I’ve left the truck’s door open, if only I can get him to go there.
“Cleaver!” I say firmly, the other dogs still snarling in front of me.
“Go to the car!” hot tears of fear curling around my eyelids. He keeps growling, unable to interpret my telepathic message.
“CLEAVER! GO!” I point forcefully and to my amazement he begins to back away with me.
I grab the cart I’ve been filling with goods and as fast as I can I tip it in front of us. As I take off I realize that a tipped over cart doesn’t really slow bloodthirsty dogs down.
Seeing the dogs gain on me, Cleaver turns to face them and in a confused moment I sock him with a hard slap in the face. He stands shocked for a moment as I run and then follows me at a gallop. Hurtling over downed stands and children’s carts I see Cleaver break ahead of me and leap up into the truck. I follow him and feel teeth around the rubber heel of my sneaker as I go to slam the door. Suddenly I feel a white hot pain in my calf and around the bone in my ankle. Without looking back I kick as hard as I possibly can, feeling my leg come into direct contact with muscle and bone. My foot freed, I slam the door shut and the Rottweiler jumps up against my window, left open by its previous owner. I leap back into Cleaver, fumbling for the keys in the ignition. The window is too high for the Rottweiler to leap through, but his jagged teeth gnashing just inside the vehicle keeps my adrenaline pumping.
The truck roars to life and I wrench it out of park and into drive. The pickup rolls over something with a bump and this time I know I am the cause of the pained sound underneath us.