This is the day where I share short stories, bits of things, or my writing from various prompts.
I played around with ulterior motives. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted them to be good or to be bad, but eventually I settled on one. It may also be worth mentioning that I did precisely zero minutes of research on this particular topic as characterization and motive were my primary working points. And, naturally, most people don’t care what happens to the humans as long as the dog lives, right?
If you find this prompt stirring you to write, share the link in the comments and I’d love to come read!
The prompt is: The owner of an animal shelter has ulterior motives.
Sam Jackson walked confidently to the desk where her receptionist was checking in a new surrender. Her face was framed perfectly by her straight chin-length brown hair and thick bangs. She smiled, brilliant white teeth emerging from behind bright red lipstick. Her heels clacked along the bare floor as she walked around the desk and knelt down next to the muscular, black pit bull sitting at his owner’s feet. The dog growled.
“You see?” the man said, exasperated and kicked at the dog. “What am I supposed to do with his dog? He hates everyone!”
Sam stood and smiled warmly at the man, “I’m sorry he’s been a problem for you.”
The man thrust the leash at Sam as he scribbled his final signature on the surrender forms. He turned on his heel and left, the dog frantically scrambling behind him, unable to get purchase on the smooth floors. The dog whined and barked, but in vain.
“Don’t worry, buddy,” Sam cooed. “We have a place for you.” The dog growled again and fought as Sam dragged him to the back.
“Jerry,” Sam said as she walked into the back room stuffed with small kennels. “We have another one. Get him checked over. I don’t want another mistake.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jerry said, grabbing a clipboard from the wall next to his desk and a large prong collar. Walking up to Sam, whom he towered over by at least a foot, he snapped it around the dog’s neck and clipped a thick leash to the collar. Jerry looked the dog over from under his own scruffy black name, his blue eyes popping. The dog recoiled and Sam walked back out.
“I don’t need another fiasco,” she grumbled under her breath.
“Louis,” Sam said as she walked into another room packed with even smaller cages. The cats were going crazy in here. “Louis!” she shouted.
“Yeah, yeah, what’s up?” Louis had red, curly hair which he was trying to grow out into a fro. Bright green earbuds dangled around his neck, which weirdly matched his eyes.
“Louis, I need a cat ready.”
“Yes, ma’am. I have the perfect one.”
“Good,” Sam said as she eyed him up and down before striding back out of the room.
Sam walked back to the reception desk and thumbed through some reports.
“Amber,” Sam said suddenly.
The rather overweight receptionist slowly turned her chair and looked at Sam out of the corner of her eye. “Yeah?”
“Call Dwayne. We’re ready.”
“Okay,” Amber replied turning back in her chair, reaching for the phone. At that moment, a short, old woman in a teal raincoat stepped gingerly through the door, her white hair thinning. She walked hunched over but held no cane. Amber set the phone back down.
“Hello,” Sam and Amber said at the same time. Sam shot Amber a dark look.
“How can I help you?” Sam said, walking around the desk.
“I think I would like a dog,” the old woman said.
“Well, certainly,” Sam said, smiling. “Let me show you around.”
“Hazel,” the woman prompted.
“Excuse me?” said Sam.
“My name is Hazel. You could have asked, you know,” she said looking up at Sam.
“I am so sorry,” Sam replied. “My name is Sam. I’m the owner here.”
“Need some work on your people skills,” Hazel mumbled and then thrust her arms out. “Show me the dogs. I want a dog.”
“Right this way, Hazel,” Sam said carefully, holding out her arm.
“Don’t need your arm, just a dog,” Hazel said, stepping ahead of Sam toward the hallway.
“Hey Dwayne,” Sam heard Amber say as they walked down the hall. She indicated the first room to their right. “In here are our small dogs. I’m sure we could–”
“Don’t want a small dog,” Hazel said, walking right past the door. Sam was startled and blinked as Hazel kept on walking.
“Excuse me, Hazel,” Sam said, “but don’t you think–”
“Don’t need you to think for me. I know what I want. Show me the real dogs.”
Sam cringed as she heard the new pit squeal from the testing room, two doors down on the left. Hazel walked directly to the door and opened it. Jerry shot straight up to his feet, clutching the clipboard to his chest.
“Heya, Sam,” he said nervously. “Didn’t know you were bringing someone to, uh, look at the dog.”
“She wasn’t,” Hazel spat. “Tried to sell me on those little ankle biters. I want a real dog. What do you have there?”
Sam could see Jerry trying not to shrink away from a woman half his size.
“Well, uh, this one, he, uh–”
“He’s not ready for adoption yet,” Sam cut in, glaring at Jerry behind Hazel’s back.
“No? What’s wrong with him?”
“We just got him in today. He needs to be personality tested to see what kind of a home he would fit in the best.”
Hazel walked right up to the dog.
“Hazel-” Sam began but stopped as she watched the pit’s tail begin to wag and slide down into a submissive posture. She pursed her lips. “Hazel, you can’t have this dog.”
Hazel ignored Sam as she knelt down and petted the dog on his belly.
“Why not?” Hazel finally answered.
“Because he’s not, he isn’t up for adoption yet.”
“I’ll wait then,” Hazel said. “Do your tests.” She gingerly rose and the pit snapped up onto his feet and stayed right at Hazel’s side.
Jerry stood frozen and Sam’s brain wouldn’t think fast enough for her. “Hazel,” she said, taking a step toward the old woman but stopped as the pit bared his teeth at her, “we can’t do the tests with you in here. It would skew the results.”
“Oh?” Hazel said, her steely gray eyes seemed to pierce right through Sam’s soul. “Well, then, I’ll just wait in the lobby.” Hazel patted the dog on his head. “You be a good boy, now.” Pulling the door open, Hazel walked out with the dog right on her heels.
“Jerry!” Sam snapped and he jumped and rushed to grab the dog’s leash before it vanished out the door. After struggling to get the dog back into the room, Jerry looked at Sam.
“Nevermind that,” Sam snapped. “She can’t have the dog. Amber has already called Dwayne.”
“So what should I do?” Jerry said. “I can’t keep testing with her in here.”
Sam crossed her arms and paced, glaring at the dog as it cowered by the door. Long minutes passed as she thought.
“I will go take care of this,” Sam said. “Get that dog out of my way.” Jerry grabbed the leash and hauled the dog away from the door. Sam slammed it behind her. She walked into the cat room with Louis. “Don’t. Be. Late.”
“Hey, I won’t.” Louis shook his head at Sam. “I’m never late.” He shrank back as Sam glared at him.
Fuming, Sam knew she needed a few more minutes before she faced up with Hazel again. She walked out the back door of the shelter. Seeing all the crates and cars ready made her feel much better. “Everything is going to work out just fine. Who is she anyway? Just some old woman. Who am I? Sam Jackson. That’s who. I am Sam Jackson.” Turning around, Sam pulled open the door and strode up the hallway to the front desk. She stopped short.
Three police officers milled about in the entryway of the shelter.
Shaking out her hair, Sam gathered herself and with as much confidence as she could muster, Sam approached the group.
“Hi. Can I help you?”
“Are you Samantha Jackson?”
“Yes I am.”
“I need you to step over here, please.” One officer indicated the reception desk.
Sam carefully stepped up to the reception desk.
“Turn around please,” the officer said. Turning to one of the other officers he said, “shut it down.”
“Yes sir,” he said, walking back out the front door.
Slowly, the realization of what was happening dawned on Sam.
“Samantha Jackson, you are being placed under arrest for supplying animals for illegal animal fighting. You have…” Sam stopped listening. Actually, she couldn’t hear over her heart pounding in her ears. This was not happening. This was NOT happening!
“Samantha!” the police officer’s voice broke into her thoughts. She turned her head. “Do you have any questions?”
Unable to speak, she slowly shook her head. The officer guided her toward the front door.
“Ronnie!” Hazel called. The officer stopped and Sam turned to see him look at Hazel. “I want that black pit bull in the back.”
“Of course, Grandma,” he said, smiling as he turned back around. His face darkened as he saw Sam looking at them. “Let’s go,” he pushed her forward just as four plainclothes walked in the door with empty boxes. In the parking lot were a dozen cars, four of which were police cars. “You’re sunk now, lady. We got you this time. You and all your sick friends.”
Sam swooned as she got into the police car. She was sure she would faint. She watched as they led out Jerry and Louis. Jerry was already bawling. She could hear on the police comms as the word trickled in as they closed in on various locations. They really had gotten her. Them. All of them. What had gone wrong?
Just as Sam tried to figure it out, Hazel walked out with that black pit bull right by her side. She opened the passenger door of a silver Buick and the dog hopped in. And Sam sat as Hazel drove away with the dog that had undone them all.