Mikey stood there, head cocked, watching. This wasn't his first time, and he felt a familiar smile tug at the corners of his lips as he regarded the thrashing forms. They squeaked and yipped, and would not stop.
He wanted them to stop.
The water wasn't deep. If the annoying things stood on their hind legs, their heads poked just above the surface, high enough so that their constant whining—a terrible buzzing wail—rattled throughout Mikey’s head. And worse, because of the shallow water, they still lived.
Determined to put an end to their taunting cries, Mikey knelt down, leaned forward, grabbed the fattest of the three—its soft body twisting in his grasp—and thrust it under the surface.
Mikey’s eyes widened and he sucked in his breath as the puppy tried to break free. He squeezed even harder, until blood darkened the water. The other two bumped and clawed at his forearm, trying to climb their way to freedom, while the one in his clutches continued to squirm. Then—finally!—it went still. A silver bubble rolled from its mouth, floated to the surface, and vanished amid a small ripple.
One down, two to go.
His heartbeat quickened, his skin grew warmer, then hot. A tremor of excitement passed through his body. It was like when the ice cream truck would come slowly down the street, its bell ringing, ringing, ringing, its music playing, and he would run into the house, screaming for a dollar. It was that kind of feeling, but more insistent, stronger. And he almost did scream. Instead, he giggled and clapped his hands in elation.
The remaining puppies went under together, one in each hand. The feeble things writhed between his powerful fingers. One of them fought hard, took longer to die. But in the end, Mikey won.
He felt strong.
Satisfied, Mikey rested his arms on the cold toilet seat, nestled his head on his shoulder, and stared at the lifeless things below the water, now thick with blood. He blew a strand of hair away from his forehead. He stirred the water with his fingertip in hypnotic circles. As his body cooled, pulse slowed, and the excitement of the moment seeped away, Mikey felt his eyelids grow heavy.
"Bye-bye, little doggies," he whispered.
He didn't hear the door open.
"Mikey, what are—" His mother gasped in shock, her nostrils flaring like fish gills. "My God! What have you done?"
Her voice had dropped so low Mikey could hardly hear her. He tried to look confused, afraid. "I don’t know," he replied.
She stood next to him, looking down. She just stared for a time, her face slowly turning red, like an oven burner. Mikey was in trouble, the really bad kind of trouble. He knew it. He cleared his throat, readying an apology, but then his mother turned away, walked to the door, and shouted, "John! Get up here and deal with your son. Now!"
Time slowed. Mikey sat there, hands folded in his lap, quiet. His mother's heavy breathing the only sound in the small room.
Ascending the stairs from the living room, Mikey's father asked, "What the hell has he done now?" Entering the bathroom, his father looked around and wrinkled his nose. He folded his arms and chewed on the corner of his bottom lip, trying—and failing—to bite back a smile.
"Oh, it’s a real knee-slapper, isn’t it, John?" Mikey watched his mother's face turn a deeper shade of red. "This is your fault," she continued.
"My fault?" His father chuckled, rolling his eyes and shaking his head at the same time. "He’s six years old. He’s just a boy!"
"Do all six-year-olds play with shit?" she shouted. "Do all forty-year-old men constantly forget to flush the goddamn toilet?"
"Sometimes," he said, looking back toward Mikey and the toilet. "Obviously." And then he laughed again, long and loud.
Mikey's mother inhaled sharply through her nose, fists clenched at her side. She stood motionless, saying nothing, just glaring at his father. Mikey knew that look. His father was in trouble, too. His mother then stormed out of the bathroom. Down the hall, a door slammed shut. The noise thundered through the walls and floor, up through Mikey’s legs and into his stomach, as if the big tree out front had fallen onto the roof. The water’s surface shivered.
When silence returned, Mikey's concerned but clearly amused father sighed, reached down, and flushed the toilet.
Mikey smiled as he watched the dead puppies swirl round and round and disappear.
Thoughts: This is an old story, but one I've always liked. Its original purpose was to simply work with flash fiction, which I'd never done before. I never intended to publish it when I began working on it. I just came up with an idea and rolled with it. Thus it's gone through a million rewrites. I tried all kinds of different things: voices and styles, extended endings, more characters, and so on. All of which I've saved. To my disappointment, this caused a bit of confusion down the line. More on that in a bit, though...
"Bye-bye, Little Doggies" is more than it appears to be. It's a story that many people have loved; but it's also a story that just as many have hated and actually been angered by. Without scratching the surface, one may find it to be little more than a joke story, a setup for a punchline. It's not. In fact, that which some people find to be nothing more than a punchline is really secondary, if not tirtiary or irrelevant, to the meat of the story: a young child destined for terrible things. It's the everyday serial-killer-as-a-child story, only before real animals are the victims (a cliché, I know, but again it was an "exercise in writing" kind of tale...plus I thought it was a sort of different take on the subject by going back to an earlier age). On the flip side, you have the parents, totally oblivious and, like many readers find it, they find it gross and amusing, the mother and father, respectively. I was going for disturbing, and with such a love/hate split between readers, maybe I achieved that.
Publication Note: To my surprise, this was included on the Necon 30 Audio Horror Collection—featurning Rick Hautala, Althea Kontis, Weston Ochse, Bev Vincent, and 13 others—and passed out to all those who attended this year's Necon. As cool as that is, upon listening to it I quickly heard lines that were from a long-ago version of the story. In fact, I think it's a version that was in mid-edit, like I began to change things and then abandoned it. Basically, crap lines. No pun intended.
Mistakenly, I sent an older, far less enjoyable version. If that's not a tragic lesson in properly syncing your saved files, I don't know what is. From what I was told, though, far more stories than those that appear on the CD collection were submitted. So maybe it's not as bad as I think. What you read above is the final, much better version.
Click here to listen to the older version of "Bye-bye, Little Doggies," read by Gard Goldsmith.