Earlier, on the trail, they’d seen it. The massive dog. Tugging at its master’s leash, so that the young man’s calves bulged with muscle as he fought to hold the dog back. Grunting what sounded like “Damn, Rob-roy! Damn dog!” in a tone of exasperated affection.
Signs along the trail forbade dogs without leashes. At least this dog was on a leash.
The woman stared at the animal, not twelve feet away, wheezing and panting. Its head was larger than hers, with a pronounced black muzzle, bulging glassy eyes. Its jaws were powerful and slack; its large, long tongue, as rosy-pink as a sexual organ, dripped slobber. The dog was pale-brindle-furred, with a deep chest, strong shoulders and legs, a taut tail. It must have weighed at least two hundred pounds. Its breathing was damply audible, unsettling.
This is the opening to Joyce Carol Oates’ MASTIFF, a haunting short story. I invite you to read it today in honor of the celebrated writer’s birthday.