The dog grew larger every day. Sam thought it would stop, once it got to his knees. He thought it would surely stop when it reached his chest, and he had to keep it in the back yard, and feed it a whole bag of food every day. When it reached his shoulders, he began to doubt, and wondered what would happen if the neighbors saw. By then it was eating two bags. His parents left him enough money in the account – they might stay in Europe an extra few weeks if the notion took them, especially if they decided on Italy. When the dog was taller than him, and could look over the fence while still on all fours, he knew it wasn’t going to stop. It would grow and grow until it was bigger than the whole world, and then what would it eat? It would eat Sam maybe, if he didn’t feed it enough.
Sam began to lose sleep. He couldn’t concentrate. It was a good thing school was out, but he was used to competing on the older Korean teams in WOW, and now he couldn’t play against the little kiddies. His mom was from Korea – he’d been twice – and he’d learned enough of the language for chatting, and more by playing Worlds of Warcraft online. His game sucked. He caught himself shaking a little when he tried to eat something. He held the fridge door for something like five minutes, maybe ten – maybe longer – until the cold air made him chill, even in July. Maybe he should conserve what food there was for Hondo. Sam ordered two pallets of food for the garage, then ordered three more. It wouldn’t be enough. Nothing would be. And Hondo was hungry. Or maybe he was angry. Or maybe lonely and bored. He stood in the yard, almost the height of the swing set, and looked with yellow eyes and open jaw. He looked and didn’t turn away. He looked whether Sam was near the glass doors or not, but Hondo could see him all right. He didn’t move, but his eyes did. And they followed Sam as he paced the room, as he held onto the fridge, as he peered from around the corner. Would he just come crashing through the glass? There was no need. Sam had to carry the bags outside every morning. He was too afraid, to do it at night, when Hondo’s eyes glowed. Not an unnatural glow, just a glow from an unnatural animal.
One morning, it wouldn’t be enough. One morning he wouldn’t make it back to the safety of the house. Or was Hondo smarter than that? You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. That’s when Sam had the idea. He knew he should have told someone sooner. At first it was just surprise. How big would his pet get? He hadn’t told his parents about the dog. His Dad was against having an animal – said they were a waste of money His mother thought they were dirty, and smelled and attracted bugs to the house. He had gotten Hondo from the pound soon after they left. He was big for a puppy. Too big – he knew that now. He was already terrier size when it was too soon for him to be weened. The sign had said 8 months old, but Hondo didn’t eat solid food yet – Sam had to feed him mash – until a week later, when he was twice as big. He hadn’t told, because he didn’t want to get in trouble. They’d see when they got back, how he took care of his pet, how responsible he was, and how Hondo didn’t smell bad at all, and didn’t eat much. But he did eat much. He ate and ate and wanted more, and stood in the yard waiting for an answer to the question of raw instinct that gnawed in his gut and made him salivate in sticky pools on the ground.
He didn’t tell anyone when Hondo was bigger than any dog he’d seen, because he was embarrassed. He’d gotten a sick dog, that was clear. His aunt Betty had a thyroid condition that made her keep growing for longer than she should – that was probably it. The dog was sick. But when Hondo got too big for that to be the reason, mostly Sam didn’t tell anyone, because he was afraid. And that’s what gave him the idea, that and the clear fact that Hondo was looking at him in the same way he looked at the bags of food, when Sam carried them out. He didn’t even have to rip them open anymore. Hondo did that. He gutted them stern to snout, if they had been people, and pulled out their insides, snuffling around between the ribs of the bag for any remaining morsels of flesh. The neighbors on either side were on vacation too. That’s what you did in Sam’s neighborhood. That’s why he had a bank account assigned to him and a debit card that would last all Summer. It was the most expensive, the safest neighborhood in the burbs. Not anymore. Not safe, anyway. Certainly expensive. It was up to three bags per day. And Hondo still looked hungry. Sam had to tell someone. Someone big – big enough that either he’d be able to do something about Hondo, or else Hondo… and that’s when he decided to call Aunt Betty. No one liked her anyway.