Mongrel Excerpt

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Mongrel Excerpt:

They call me Mongrel. I don’t mind. It’s true. My blood is mixed like vegetables in a soup. I’ve lived in so many different places, and I never belonged to any of them. But the other homeless don’t know that when they tease me. Say I waste food on my mutts. That I reek of dog.

So what? I like the smell of dog. Better than people. Better than the others I hang with. Not that I enjoy their company, but they’re useful at times. Warned me about the police raid a few months back, let me know when the soup kitchen opened and the women’s shelter—not that I would live there without my pups, but a hot shower is a hot shower.

As long as no one messes with my stuff, I don’t care what they say. It’s mid-January and I need everything I’ve scrounged to survive. My spot is near perfect. I sleep under the railroad bridge and I share my blanket with five dogs. The term hot dog has a whole new meaning for me.

The others huddle around a campfire on the broken concrete slabs of the abandoned parking lot. We’re all trespassing on railroad property, but the owners only send the police about once a year to chase us away. So far, never in the winter. Nice of them. (Yeah, I’m being sarcastic).

That night, snarls and growls wake me. Animals are up on the bridge fighting. My lot is awake with their tails tucked under and their bodies hunched low. A yelp stabs me in the chest and I’m running toward the sound. Something rolls down the side of bridge, crashes into the brush, and lays still. Something large.

A wounded animal can be dangerous, but I’m next to him before my brain can catch up with my body. It’s the biggest damn dog I’ve ever seen. He lifts his head, but the fight is gone. He’s panting and bleeding from lots of cuts. I yank off my gloves and run my hands along his legs, searching for broken bones.

He’s all black except for the tips of his hair. They shine with silver like he’d been brushed with liquid moonlight. No broken bones, but a knife is buried in his shoulder. Up to the hilt.

I spin around and scan the bridge. Sure enough a figure is standing there, looking down at me. My pups catch the stranger’s scent and start barking and baying. I don’t hush them, and soon the person leaves.

From RUNNING WITH THE PACK,
EDITED BY: EKATERINA SEDIA, APRIL 2010, PRIME BOOKS

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