Every night at nine, The Thing arrives in the back hallway, and Jasper goes to drive it away. He barks and growls and bares his teeth at it, never letting it get into the main house.
He doesn’t try to get his people to come see why he’s barking. He knows humans don’t believe in such Things, and wouldn’t even if they could see them. Which they can’t.
But Jasper can, and he knows it’s his job to protect his people, to keep the house safe from beings like The Thing that are even more evil than postal workers and UPS deliverers.
Still, it would be nice if, once in a while, one of his people would recognize his vigilance and tell him he was a good boy for protecting the house or thank him from driving The Thing away every night.
Just one pat on the head, or maybe an extra dog biscuit would make all the difference.
Instead, Jasper has to hear them tell him to Stop Barking, and Be Quiet, and Go Lay Down, when his job has been done again and he returns to the living room to let them know.
And then it happens.
On the very night that he manages to make The Thing become dead – even deader than his stuffy squirrel after he removed the evil squeaker – Jasper’s people join him in the hall.
“Sweetie,” the female person says (he’s not supposed to have favorites, but he likes her just a little bit more than the male person. She was the one who’d picked him up when he was living in the Loud Place and held him against her chest and let him gum her neck until he was asleep.) “Jasper’s barking sounds different tonight. We should check on him.”
“He’s barking at nothing, like always,” the male answers.
And his people join Jasper in the back hall, where he has the remnants of The Thing in his mouth.”
“Wow! Looks like Jasper caught a rat!” the male human observed.
(It isn’t a rat, but humans can’t see the truth of Things.)
“Oh, ugh, take it away. That can’t be good for him,” the female urged “Wait… is it dead? Don’t touch it until it’s dead.”
“Oh, it’s dead.”
Jasper stands with The Thing in his mouth, wagging his tail.
The male human trades him a chewy for it, and the female one kneels on the ground and puts her arms around his neck. “No kisses until I forget what you had in your mouth, Jas. You’re a good boy. You protected the house.”
Jasper leans into her side. She is warm and comforting, and he is glad she feels safe with him. She doesn’t need to know what The Thing really is. He knows that human people see what they think they should.
And anyway, it doesn’t matter.
Because Jasper is a Good Boy.
And his humans know it.
Jasper by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.