Original fiction: The dogs by Hanif Kureishi

A nightmare scenario unfolds in this short story by Hanif Kureishi.

Overnight it had been raining, but to one side of the precipitous stone steps there was a rail to grip on to. With her free hand she took her son's wrist, dragging him back when he lost his footing. It was too perilous for her to pick him up, and at five years old he was too heavy to be carried far.

Branches heavy with sticky leaves trailed across the steps, sometimes blocking their way so they had to climb over or under them. The steps themselves twisted and turned and were worn and often broken. There were more of them than she'd expected. She had never been this way, but had been told it was the only path, and that the man would be waiting for her on the other side of the area.

When they reached the bottom of the steps, her son's mood improved and he called, "Chase me". This was his favourite game and he set off quickly across the grass, which alarmed her, though she didn't want to scare him with her fears. She pursued him through the narrow, wooded area ahead, losing him for a moment. She had to call out for him several times until at last she heard his reply.

Their feet kept sinking into the lush ground but a discernible track emerged. Soon they were in the open. It was a common rather than a park, and would take about 40 minutes to cross: that was what she had been told.

Though it was a long way off, only a dot in the distance, she noticed the dog right away. Almost immediately the animal seemed bigger, a short-legged, compact bullet. She knew all dogs were of different breeds: Dalmatians and Chihuahuas and so on, but she had never retained the names. As the dog neared her son, she wondered if it wasn't chasing a ball hidden in the grass. But there was no ball that she could see, and the little speeding dog with its studded collar had appeared from nowhere, sprinting across the horizon like a shadow, before turning in their direction. There was no owner in sight; there were no other humans she could see.

The boy saw the dog and stopped, tracking it with curiosity and then with horror. What could his mother do but cry out and begin to run? The dog had already knocked down her son and began not so much to bite him as to eat him, furiously.

She was wearing heavy, loosely-laced shoes and was able to give the dog a wild blow in the side, enough to distract it, so that it looked bemused. She pulled the boy to her, but it was impossible for her to examine his wounds because she then had to hold him as high as she could while stumbling along, with the dog still beside her, barking, leaping and twisting in the air. She could not understand why she had no fascination for the dog.

She began to shout, to scream, panicking because she wouldn't be able to carry her son far. Tiring, she stopped and kicked out at the dog again, this time hitting him in the mouth, which made him lose hope.

Immediately a big long-haired dog was moving in the bushes further away, racing towards them. As it took off to attack the child, she was aware, around her, of numerous other dogs, in various colours and sizes, streaming out of the undergrowth from all directions. Who had called them? Why were they there?

She lost her footing, she was pushed over and was huddled on the ground, trying to cover her son, as the animals noisily set upon her, in a ring. To get him they would have to tear through her, but it wouldn't take long, there were so many of them, and they were hungry, too


Hanif Kureishi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

The Bare Manuscript

Arthur Miller was born in New York in 1915, and began writing as a student at the University of Michigan. His plays include All My Sons, Death Of A Salesman (for which he won a Pulitzer) and The Crucible; he has also written two novels, Focus and The Misfits, and a short story collection, Homely Girl, A Life.

Arthur Miller

02, Aug, 2003 @1:20 PM

Summer short story special: Message In A Bottle by Jeanette Winterson

to tilda

Jeanette Winterson

10, Aug, 2007 @11:29 PM

Original fiction: The white room by Jeanette Winterson

A celebration of moments under the microscope in Jeanette Winterson's tale of desire.

Jeanette Winterson

17, Jul, 2004 @12:35 AM

Astute Fiery Luxurious

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962. She is the author of two novels, Like, and the Orange- and Booker-shortlisted Hotel World; and of three collections of short stories - most recently, The Whole Story And Other Stories.

Ali Smith

02, Aug, 2003 @1:20 AM

Charlie Porter: The inside leg

Charlie Porter: I've just bumped into the acquaintance who I'd heard had bought those longed-for Miu Miu shorts. To recap: it was his reported acquisition that stopped me from buying them.

Charlie Porter

23, Apr, 2005 @10:23 AM

Article image
Jonathan Franzen on his relationship with New York

He fell in love with her - but does Jonathan Franzen still feel the same way about New York?

Jonathan Franzen

15, Nov, 2008 @12:01 AM

Article image
Extract from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami
Author Haruki Murakami loves the loneliness of the long-distance run. Which is how he found himself tackling his 24th marathon. But what about his dodgy knee? Has he trained enough?

Haruki Murakami

06, Jun, 2008 @11:26 PM

Marianne Faithfull, now aged 60, looks back on an incredible life

She was the It girl of the 60s, a teenage pop star hanging with the Beatles, inseparable from the Stones, high on the music and the drugs. Marianne Faithfull, now aged 60, looks back.

Marianne Faithfull

06, Oct, 2007 @10:59 PM

Oliver Sacks on Clive Wearing, the musician who suffered the most severe amnesia on record

In 1985, the musician Clive Wearing suffered a brain infection that left him with the most severe amnesia ever recorded. But two things were unaffected: his love for his wife and his musical abilities. By Oliver Sacks.

Oliver Sacks

03, Nov, 2007 @9:08 AM

Article image
River Cafe Easy Italian, part two: mains, vegetables and puddings

New recipes part two: mains, vegetables and puddings

20, May, 2005 @11:38 PM