[Prompt: After a long, hard day of work, you return home—the only problem is, your front door is wide open, all your lights are on and there’s a sword stuck in the ceiling. The rest of your house looks normal, but you also notice several holes dug in your backyard. What’s going on? ]
“Winston!” I was yelling his name before even stepping across the entrance threshold. My keys were left dangling from the doorknob as I stared with disbelief at the state of my living room. As I stepped forward to survey the damage, they were forgotten all together. It was complete madness. Stuffing from the couch cushions, broken glass, and ripped papers were scattered across the floor. Cussing under my breath, I pulled my bag off my shoulder and set it on the small table next to the door. I noted the new, deep grooves that were etched into the legs, concerned about its present stability as I considered the laptop in my bag.
The sword sticking downwards from the ceiling ended any further speculation about the table. As I stared with an open mouth at the sword hilt, the anger clenching my chest flittered with the uncertainty of danger. Turning my head from side to side, I assured my nerves there wasn’t anyone else in the room.
“Winston, come!” I exaggerated the ’ston’ sound at the end of his name, growling in frustration as I searched for signs of my apparently worthless guard dog. I waited a whole thirty seconds before moving, hoping for some sort of hint to Winston’s whereabouts. It was a wasted thirty seconds.
Stepping further into the room, I reached a cautious hand up to the sword and pulled lightly on the hilt, jumping backwards as I did so as to not be hit by the falling blade. The sword remained stuck in the ceiling. I took a deep breath and straightened up, annoyed by my unsettled nerves. Reaching up once more I tried tugging the hilt a bit harder. I grunted at the stubborn object as it remained buried in my white, pop-corned ceiling, forcing me to abandon my attempts to pull it free.
I resorted to the dependable command. Every pet owner has one. It’s the direction we don’t resort to unless we’ve exhausted all other options, desperate to persuade our furry friends to just look at us, simply take a step in our direction. We plead with our pets like we did with our parents when at the toy store, pleases and promises of good behavior in tow. I had never really considered the connection until this moment.
“Wiiiiinston,” I stretched his name with false admiration, my stomach churned with sickness as I mentally scolded myself for awarding such an irresponsible defender, “cookie!”
The sound of his paws preceded his panting. The unmistakable tone of claws scrapping my beautiful hardwood floors in the hallway met my ears. I turned my head towards the noise and put on my best smile of encouragement, attempting to mask my anger so that Winston wouldn’t be prompted to return to his hiding spot.
Giant paws skidded around the corner, followed by a massive head with long, floppy ears and drool encrusted jowls. Winston was a monster size for his breed. Don’t get me wrong, blood hounds are a large breed of dog, this I know. But Winston was taller than any hound I’d ever met. When he stood next to me, the top of his head met the bottom of my chest. And I wasn’t a small guy, six foot two inches was a respectable height in my opinion. So this in turn leant to my obviously correct conclusion that Winston was some sort of mutant for his breed. But size alone didn’t make him a competent guard.
Winston slid to a halt, sitting obediently when he saw me. He perked his ears expectantly, tongue lolling from his mouth in anticipation. His eyes flickered to my hands, searching for the promise of a cookie. The wagging of his tail slowed when he realized the absence of his treat. His ears lowered, and he pulled his tongue into his mouth, looking to my face with obvious confusion.
I knew this was a pivotal moment, this was the sweat inducing instant that every pet owner dreaded at the dog park. The one where everyone stopped what they were doing, and turned to watch you (a complete stranger and recognizable failed dog trainer) achieve success in summoning your faithful companion to your side. There were two outcomes to this situation, the one where your canine padded to your side, and the one I was about the experience: the bolt.
Winston’s muscles were strained, his weight shifted to his hind quarters, I knew it was happening before I could get more than a partial objection out of my mouth, “Winnie! N—“.
I darted forward, jumping over pieces of broken glass and other mayhem littering my living room. I catapulted over the back of the couch, thankful to land on my feet and a clean section of the floor. I screeched around the corner, heading down the hall after the fading paw slaps. Winston was sure to be heading to his favorite hiding spot, under my bed. As a puppy it had been easily accessible to him, but now it took a certain finesse for him to squirm underneath, which entailed him laying on his side and slowly inching his way into his dark abode.
I reached my room with time to spare. The lower half of Winston’s body was awkwardly wiggling against the carpet, his paws moving rapidly to gain traction. I lunged forward and grabbed his lower legs, at which point he went completely limp. He knew I had won. Tugging, I carefully eased him out from under the bed. Winston didn’t move, he kept his body relaxed, only shifting his eyes to assess my face. My look of annoyance wasn’t that reassuring, but never the less he began to slowly wag his tail.
“Winnie…” I said before letting out a deep sigh.
Winston rolled onto his feet and turned his head to lick my cheek. He slapped his front paws on the floor playfully and then bounded to the sliding glass door of my room and barked. He cocked his head to the side and waited, tail wagging away.
I wasn’t in the mood to play. Winston had completely mangled my home and I had a lot of cleaning to do. Waving my hand at him I remained crouched on the floor, wondering where I should start.
Winston barked again, and when I continued to ignore him, he began to bay, “Ooooooooouuuuuuwwwww!”
Shaking my head I got to my feet and headed to the door. I slid it open enough for him to get through, then opened it further as I noticed several holes that had been dug since that morning…
“What in the—“ Winston barked, interrupting me.
The holes were large, some close to two feet deep, they were spread sporadically around the yard. Winston barked again, drawing my attention to him. He stood next to one of the holes, pointing in regal hound fashion with his nose and one paw. I walked over to see his cache.
A sword sheath stuck halfway out of the ground. Raising an eyebrow, I leaned down and pulled it free. It was silver, gilded with an elaborate design from what I could tell. I wiped it along my pant leg, attempting to clean off some of the dirt. There were jewels along the top and a name was etched into the side. Turning the sheath horizontally, I brought it close to my face and read it aloud, “Excalibur.”
I looked at Winston and laughed. The previous home owner must have had a real sense of humor leaving something like this for a future tenant to find. Shaking my head I tapped the sheath against the ground and knocked more dirt from it, thinking. Excalibur seemed familiar, I knew it was from some fairy tale, but I couldn’t recall which one.
Winston barked again, pointing at one of his other prized holes. I walked over and peered down at a large stone with a slit in the center of it. It was a strange shape for a rock to get from natural circumstances. Pursing my lips I squinted my eyes and looked at the sheath once more.
“OH MY GOD,” I discarded the sheath and stared at Winston as the realization hit me like a brick wall. I dropped to one knee and bowed my head to my dog, “Hail, Arthur!”