Feature Short Story
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                                              The Puppy
                                                                 By Melissa L. Webb

     More than anything, the girl wanted a puppy. She'd listen to her friends talk about their dogs or watch
people taking theirs for a walk, and think, someday, that will be me.

     Every chance she got she’d ask her parents for a dog. “Please, can I have one? I’ll take very good care
of it.”

     But, no, they would not give in.

     “A five year old is too young to be responsible for a dog. We’ll talk about it when you’re older.”

     Day after day, that’s what the little girl heard. She wasn’t old enough. She wasn’t responsible enough.

     Her parents were wrong about that. She was practically an adult. She could take care of a puppy. She
could take care of anything. She needed to prove that to them.

     So, the little girl came up with a plan.

     Every morning, she would get up early and fix a small plate of leftovers. She’d take it out to the
backyard and bring it back empty. She’d wash it until it shined and then put it away, better than before.
She would do the same before bed as well.

     “What are you doing?” her parents asked her.

     “I’m taking care of my puppy,” she replied.

     “Do you think we should worry?” her father asked one night after the girl was asleep.

     “No,” her mother answered wisely. “She’s only doing this to prove she’s responsible. She’ll stop once
she realizes we’re serious about no pets.”

     The little girl did not stop.

     She gathered blankets and stuffed animals and took them outside as well.

     “What are you doing?” her parents asked her.

     “I already told you,” the little girl said dramatically. “I’m taking care of my puppy.”

     “Should we worry now?” her father asked her mother.

     "I'm sure she's only building a fort out there," her mother replied, but inside she was beginning to
wonder. Did her daughter really have a puppy? "Maybe we should check on her."

     The parents made their way out to the backyard, looking for their daughter’s fort. The door to the shed
stood open, light spilling out across the ground. A soft whimper rolled across the lawn from within.

     “Sweetie,” the girl’s mother called as they approached the door and peered in. “Are you in there?”

     “Yes, Mommy,” the little girl called back. “I’m playing with my puppy. Do you want to see it?” Her words
were punctuated by a thin, watery whine.

     Her father frowned. She had gone behind their backs and brought home an animal. He wondered
which neighbor she’d taken it from.

     “Sweetheart,” her mother said as they came into the shed, her eyes scanning the rows of boxes and
shelves. “Daddy and I need to talk to you.”

     “Okay, Mommy. I’m back here. Come see how responsible I’ve been.”

     They silently followed her voice to the back of the shed, each one contemplating a fitting punishment.
She couldn’t go around taking people’s pets.

     The girl sat with her back to the wall. Something small lay across her lap. A blanket covered it from the
neck down. Above that, the girl had tied an old jump rope around its neck as a leash.

     Her eyes lit up, a smile covering her face as she looked at her parents. “This is Cupcake,” she said,
patting the small brown doggy head in her lap. “She’s a good puppy.”

     Her parents leaned down, staring into the puppy’s glassy brown eyes. They held no sparkle, no trace of
life at all.

     “Sweetie,” her mother said, looking back up at her daughter. “This isn’t a real puppy. It’s the stuffed dog
Grandma gave you last Christmas.”

     “No, it’s not, Mommy,” the girl insisted. “Cupcake’s only borrowing its face.”

     The blanket twitched as a whimper came from under the dog head.

     “What do you have underneath it?” her father asked, reaching for the stuffed head.

     “I told you. It’s Cupcake.”

     Her father pulled the dog’s mussel. The head lifted away, nothing more than a hollow mask.

     “Oh no,” her mother gasped as she stared down in horror.

     A baby looked up at them, its large, blue eyes pleading as it made another whimpering sound. Bruises
covered its swollen face and a black tint settled over its neck where the makeshift leash dug tightly into

     “See,” the little girl said, petting the baby’s bald head. “I can take care of something all by myself.”
About Melissa L. Webb

Melissa L. Webb is the
author of the Maxie
Duncan series. She enjoys
all things paranormal. She
currently lives between
the ocean and the
redwoods with her dog,