Poppy crouched in the mud, the hem of her dress skimming the top, hiding her pristine white shoes. The sun was hot on her back and the sound of laughter floated out of the kitchen windows. Glancing behind her, she could see her mummy holding a glass of wine, smiling at all her friends. Poppy gritted her teeth.
In front of her she could see the dog, sleeping in the sun. It was an ugly thing. Auntie Suzy called it a ‘mongrel’ and the other ladies always did silly happy screeches when it wandered in, walking in that uneven way. They thought it was nice for Poppy to play outside with the dog when they had these ‘little get togethers’ no matter how many times she complained to Mummy that she hated dogs, especially this one, and would much rather sit inside with the grown ups.
The dog huffed out loudly, its smelly breath hitting her knee and billowing her dress. She scowled, picked up a stone from the little pile next to her and threw it, hard, at its stupid stubby nose.
The dog yelped and leapt up, its head twisting from side to side, looking for the source of danger. Poppy smiled and lifted another stone, this time aiming for the eye.
She hit the top of his head. The dog yelped loudly, skittering on its lame legs, confusion flickering in its expression. Poppy glanced towards the house to see if she had attracted any attention. Of course she hadn’t.
Again and again, the stones hit, until a low growl started deep in the animal’s throat. One more, thought Poppy, and she took aim.
It ricocheted off the nose. The dog let out one sharp bark and pounced. Poppy felt the teeth sink into her fleshy shoulder, sliding deeper and deeper until they hit the bone. A flood of satisfaction surged up inside her, before the pain hit and real tears sprang up in her eyes.
‘Mummy!’ She ran towards the kitchen, leaving the dog whimpering in her wake, trying to lick its own nose. She could see the blood dripping onto her shoe. As she entered, one of the worst ladies actually screamed. Mummy was pale as she bent down and asked, ‘What happened darling?’
Poppy buried her head in her soft shoulder. ‘The doggy,’ she gulped. ‘It bit me.’
A gasp rippled around the room. Poppy smiled into the blue cloud of Mummy’s jumper. She could hear Auntie Suzy declare, ‘I don’t believe it’, and Mummy retorting, ‘Just look at her Suzy!’ The ladies all hovered, wanting to pet her, look after her, love her. Maybe the day was going to improve.