Beast in the House can be found in Magazine Entry


September/October 1954

Volume 1, No. 4


Beast in the House

by Michael Shaara

THE DOG walked out of the trees on the far side of the mountain and paused for a moment in the sun. Betty was on the porch, knitting. Her head was down and she did not see it. The dog's head swivelled slowly, gun-like, came to rest with the black nose pointed up the. hill. The morning was clear and cool, the grass was freshly wet. After a moment the dog began to move.

It came on across the meadow and up the long hill, moving in a steady, unvarying line toward Betty and the house. It broke through the bushes down by the garage, came up the gravel path with stiff even strides, until the shadow of it blotted the corner of her eye. Startled, she looked up.

At the front steps it stopped and waited, watching. Betty dropped her knitting in her lap.

"Well, hel-lo," said Betty, smiling. She leaned forward and held out a hand toward the dog, making coaxing, clucking noises. But the dog did not move. It stood motionless on the gravel before her, watching her silently with round, brassy eyes.

"Whose dog are you?" said Betty, clucking again cheerfully. These silent mountain mornings were often very lonely; with the baby asleep they were lonelier still. She rose up from the rocker and walked down the porch steps, her hand outstretched. It backed stiffly away.

"Oh, come on," she smiled. "I won't hurt you."

The dog continued to back away, stopped when she stopped, but did not turn its eyes. After a while she gave up trying to say hello and went back up onto the porch. The dog kept watching her gravely and she was forced to laugh.

"Coward," she said coaxingly, "fraidy cat."

The dog did not move.

It was not a neighbor's dog. Even though she knew very little about dogs she was certain she had never seen this one before. It was a big dog, larger than most; she hazarded a guess that it was what they called a police dog. It was long and trim, sleek, with high, stiff pointed ears. Deciding that perhaps if she fed the dog it might begin to cotton up to her, she went inside to the icebox for some cold scraps of chicken. While she was inside she heard the dog come onto the porch. But when she returned it ran quickly back down the steps. It resumed its position on the lawn, watching.

She set down the chicken on the lawn, but the dog wouldn't touch it. It seemed preoccupied with her. For several moments she smiled and asked it questions, but it never even sat down, and it never moved its eyes from her face.

Presently she felt a slight annoyance. There was something odd in the dog's stare, something nerveless and chill and unvarying, almost clinical, as if the thing were examining her. She shrugged and bent to her knitting, forgetful and relaxed for a moment.

But she couldn't help looking up. The dog's eyes, like balls of cold metal, were still on her. It was a peculiar, ridiculous thing, to be stared at like this by a dog. She began to grow irritated.

"All right," she said at last, peevishly, "if you won't be friends, then shoo!"

The dog did not move. She went down off the porch and tried to chase it. But it only retreated as before, silently, watching. When she tired and sat down, it took up its place on the lawn again and waited.

Well, I never, she said to herself. She had no idea what the dog wan...

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