Nico’s Mission

11 Jun

((Nico is a canine on a mission.  He’s been to the house before, but is he ready?))


It had been hot. Possibly one of the hottest dog days in Australia’s history and dry as peanut butter in the mouth. But the sun was ending its slow arc in the west. Nico moused from yard to yard, careful not to be seen by any humans or their pets that may alarm at his presence. There weren’t many to watch at this hour, so he made good time, but he was still cautious. No point in being kicked at or chased off before he could make it to his home. On that note, it was also best not to be witnessed in the area period. Not everyone was welcome to have him here.
As Nico neared the yard of his house he slowed. He wanted to approach from the front, but it was probably better to take the back way this time. He slinked along a fence bordered by half-baked gardens and gravel still swayed with heat. He maneuvered over the dirt as best he could, so as not to burn his paw pads. This was also a good crossing place because he was almost the same sandy-brown as some of the plants were wilting into, which gave him a nice cover. Nico came to a hole dug beneath the planks of the fence, just behind some of the taller plants, and crawled in. Stopping halfway in, he checked for spying eyes or out-of-place cars.
The grounds and periphery were clear.
Nico approached the house, covering the empty yard between the fence and the back door quickly so as to minimize being seen. He then hid behind a bush just around the corner, by the side of the house. The key now was to wait.
Inside he could hear the lady of the house walking back and forth near a window almost directly above him. She was talking on the phone. Mostly. She also had a man-child with her who was still young and needed scolding a lot. He was in that “terrible two’s” phase, as the humans called it. Her other child was an infant, so it was only as fussy as infants came. Yet its schedule was somehow more lenient. In fact, it was probably sleeping or laying quietly in its bassinet presently.
Nico stood on hindlegs and peeked into the home. The young mother was placing the phone back onto the receiver so he ducked down again. He heard her calling to her boy as she chased him to somewhere further in the house. Then everything was quiet for a while. Nico waited.
Once the sun had descended more and the night shadow became dusky, Nico crept along the side of the house towards a worn trampoline that sat mournfully neglected about twelve paces from the nearest wall. The trampoline’s bouncing sheet had torn loose in one end and the cloth dangled limply to the ground. This made perfect cover for sitting behind. It blocked a view of Nico from the street, the trampoline blocked eyes from above, the fence behind blocked eyes from the rear, and yet he still had a well enough view himself of the front of the house. Or, at least, he could tell when the door was open by the light flooding out, and that was the crucial thing.
It wouldn’t be much longer now. The lady would gather her trash and bring it outside, then she’d head back inside to collect her brood and they’d then leave to visit the lady’s mother in the house on the opposite side of the home. She wouldn’t be there long, maybe half an hour to help with some chores the older woman needed. Then the lady would take out the mother’s trash and return to her own home, man-child riding her hip in tow. This gave Nico a very small opening for time, but he’d only need a fraction of it if all went well. He licked his lips. It was so close.
The driveway lit up with light and Nico reflexively shrank smaller. The lady came out carrying her bulging, plastic bundle one-handed and put it into a can at the end of her driveway. Nico could smell the leftover meat and table scraps it held from where he sat. It drifted casually on the air and tickled into his wet nose. The little boy came bounding out of the house after his mother and, to his delight, she then swooped him up and spun him through the air. She tossed him lightly, she niggled their noses together, she squeezed him to her. They shared in braying laughter for what felt like forever before she finally planted the child on her hip before closing the front door and heading to her mother’s.
Nico licked his lips and listened for the sound of a second door opening and closing, then waited a shy moment longer. He needed to make sure the mother didn’t come backtracking for anything before he darted out, or everything would be wasted.
She didn’t come back and no further sounds came, so Nico crawled from his hiding place and rounded to the front of the house. A quick survey turned up no witnesses. As he neared, the smell of the trashcan grew stronger. It burned rank and decayed in his sensitive nose and made his saliva a bitter sludge. He licked his lips and nose and turned for the door. After checking one last time for onlookers, Nico settled up onto his hindlegs and wrapped a paw around the doorknob. Unique in the canine kingdom, dingoes have revolving wrists—like humans. A useful tool for opening unlocked doors. He turned the knob, pushed the door open just enough, and stepped inside.
The house was cool and quiet, with a few lights still on since its owner planned to return soon. The scent trail of the trash still lingered, but faintly. Nico pushed the door closed behind him. He didn’t want the light to give him away.
A quick jog past the kitchen, the laundry room where the freezer hummed, the bathroom. . . and then you came to the nursery. This is where she kept the other man-child settled down for naps and sleep. Where it lay presently, left behind so as not to disturb its downtime. Its door was closed also. Unusual.
Nico opened that door as well and entered. The nursery room was dark, with the only sources of light coming in from the window. Also not a problem for Nico. He was nocturnal by nature and, in fact, thought there was too much light in the place.
The baby stirred and Nico’s ears perked to the tiny, helpless sound. He sniffed the air and picked up the deliciousness of tender, pink flesh and soft powder. He stood against the side of the frilly bassinet and looked in. It lay on its belly, but Nico’s sudden presence startled it, so it poked up its head to look. It cooed and bobbed, then dropped its too-heavy head. That was like humans, so fat and unable. Nico bent down to pick up his prize—
The room filled up with bright moving lights and Nico froze. The lights danced and grew and shrank from the walls before disappearing as suddenly as they’d come. Nico heard the car, though. The mother’s mate had returned early and parked onto the driveway. Nico had forgotten about that one. Great.
Nico didn’t want to leave what he came for. He snatched up the bundle around one of its fat thighs and hauled it from the bassinet. The attempt was clumsy and he dropped the child. It thudded against the floor. That’s when the crying started. Nico picked it up again and shook it, then ran for the back door. It was locked. He ran for the front door, but could already hear the mate rattling keys just beyond the wooden barrier. There wasn’t any place else to go. The infant still gurgled and twitched in his jaws.
A key was pressed into the knob and turned with a click. The man tried to open the door, but had locked it since it had already been open.
“Fair Dinkum?” the man said. The keys rattled again, “Bloody door was unlocked. I tell that sheila—” The man went on as the door knob jiggled and clicked again. Nico crouched along the wall, making himself as invisible as the dying infant would allow. Surely the human would smell the blood. Nico could taste its copper across his tongue and the smell was loud enough to summon death. Nico’s heart slammed in his chest. His legs contracted and released, contracted and released; springs with nowhere to go.
The door swung open.
“Eh, Sophie, you in here—?” Nico wiggled between the man’s legs, nearly knocking him to the ground. “What the. . . My baby!”
Nico tangled in the welcome mat before catching his feet and spurring off into the night. For several undecided seconds it looked like the mate would catch Nico by the tail, but a few pulled hairs later proved the difference. Nico cut across several yards before turning a different way. The man’s yells grew further and further with each bounce of step and stretch of body. And with that growing distance, Nico returned to his packmates with the hard-won catch, far from the interference of humans. At least, perhaps, until another mission.



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easy reading is damn hard writing

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