The challenge today – go to a public area and chronicle the scene; the twist – use no adverbs.
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I peer across the way. The gates of Hades are guarded by the hellhound Cerberus, a three-headed dog monster with a serpent’s tail and a lion’s claws. He or she keeps the dead in and the living out.
Screams from beyond the gates pierce my ears. Perhaps I can trick this wicked beast into letting me traverse the expanse for the purpose of rescuing a human who is there by mistake. Mistakes are made on occasion, I suspect.
I approach and am greeted with a snarl. Nearby, I see a golden haired hound on his back, twitching back and forth. Is that agony – or ecstasy – on his face? And . . . they have a dog?! Surely no dogs are consigned to this hellfire and brimstone. Dogs have an innocence and purity that allow them direct entrance into the pearly gates, of that I am sure.
Cats on the other hand – well, cats earn their hellish afterlives.
I advance closer and the snarl becomes a low growl; I peer into the deadened eyes of the anti-Christ as I reach out to pet it. I murmur “Nice doggie,” and in a flash, it snaps its tremendous jaws (all three of them) shut.
But I’m quicker than this satanic minion, and in that flash, as the jaws go left, my right hand unlatches the gate. And as it whips around the other way, its serpent tail gets stuck within the metal gate’s fencing.
The Cerberus howls a howl that melts my bowels to jelly as it flails to and fro.
I hear the keening of tortured souls within. I can only imagine the scene straight from Hieronymus Bosch.
“I am here to rescue you!” I call out.
The hellhound grins. Its lion claws are still within striking distance of my face. I am stock still and close my eyes, sucking in my last breath, when I hear, “Hey, back off her, Maximillian.”
The golden hound lopes over with a chew toy and a ball. He lifts his head and accepts my hand to stroke his fur. At his feet, a small dachshund mix, miniature pinscher and some variety of Heinz-57 mutt are jumping up, trying to get the golden’s attention without success.
“Joey, Minerva – down!” she commands.
“Here’s the retriever’s ball,” I reply as I scratch under his chin.
“Oh you silly willy! You are such a silly willy aren’t you, Baby Huey?” the woman babytalks to the golden retriever who laps it up, along with the ear wiggling.
“Don’t mind the other three – they’ve got the devil in ’em! Don’t you, Joey, Maximillian and Minerva?”
“Yeah,” I concede. I back up towards the fence’s gate, watchful of the three little dogs crowding Baby Huey.
I turn, opening, then closing the gate behind me. I release my pent-up breath in a long sigh.
In that moment, I glance backwards as the woman turns into a pillar of salt.
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No salt was spilled in the making of this assignment. But there were four dogs, three of which were little nasty ankle-biters and the fourth was a big dopey golden retriever. And yes I witnessed just about everything I’ve described.
It’s the truth, so help me . . . well, you know the rest.