The second chapter of "Cynophobia".
"Heymans, Beata, could you two come in here for a moment," Martina called.
Heymans rushed from his room, determined to beat Beata downstairs. She was at the top step and rushing down the stairs before he reached the end of the hallway. Damn it! He slapped his hand over his mouth, afraid he had cursed out loud. If Mother heard that, she'd wash his mouth out with soap for sure. After he was certain she hadn't heard his thoughts with her mother senses she claimed she had, he darted down the stairs after Beata.
"Ha! Beat you! You're slower than a snail, Heymans!" Beata, two years younger, gloated.
"I bet my fist isn't slower than a snail!"
"Mama!" Beata cried, running into the den. He chased after her.
"Heymans, Beata, stop fighting!" Gregor ordered from behind his newspaper.
"Yes, Father," both children chorused.
Heymas took a seat on one end of the sofa while Beata sat at the other. He glared at her and she stuck her tongue out at him. He opened his mouth to say something mean to her, but Gregor shook a wrinkle out of the newspaper and neatly folded the section.
"Your mother has something she wants to tell you," he announced gravely. "Dear!"
"I'll be right there." They sat in silence until Martina returned from the kitchen, flour on her apron and a smear on her jaw. Heymans sniffed the air, but didn't smell any desserts baking. Maybe it was for tomorrow.
"Go ahead, honey."
"Thank you, sweetheart." She smiled at him and Heymans wanted to make gagging motions. He hated it when his parents got all mushy. She turned to her children. "You two have been fighting a lot lately. Your father and I decided that it was time you learned responsibility and how to get along."
"You're not making us weed again, are you?" Heymans blurted. Last summer had been horrible-his hands felt like they were constantly covered in scratches and dirt and the sun had been merciless.
"Don't interrupt your mother."
When he had settled down again, Martina smiled. "No, you're not weeding again, although I do expect a certain amount of cooperation. A friend of your father's has a dog that recently had puppies."
"We're getting one?" Beata exclaimed.
Their mother nodded. "But you two have to brush him and feed him and make sure he has plenty of exercise."
"Oh, we will!" Heymans exclaimed happily. "When are we getting one?"
"Your father told Mister Christianson that we would go to his farm on Saturday. Do you two think you can behave until then?" They nodded. "Good. Now wash up for dinner."
They rushed to the bathroom, both fighting for a place at the sink. "I think we should name him Killer," Heymans said, lathering the soap on his hands.
"Don't be silly. We're gonna get a girl and we're gonna call her Princess."
"Yuck! That's a terrible dog's name!"
"Coming!" they said in unison and raced to the dinner table.
Heymans craned his neck, trying to look at the entire farm at once. "You have horses?" he asked excitedly.
Adam nodded. "Three of them. Maybe when you get older you can go riding sometime. With your parents' permission, of course."
"Mother?" he asked hopefully.
"We'll talk about it later."
"They're Great Dane-St. Bernard puppies, so they're going to grow up to be pretty big. Do you think you can handle that?" Adam asked.
He nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Are there a lot of puppies?" It was the first thing Beata had said the entire afternoon. She felt shy around the tall farmer and clung to her mother's hand the entire time.
"Six of them. All very healthy."
"Six? That's a lot! How come you don't have that many babies, Mama?"
Before Martina could think of a suitable answer, Heymans pointed to the barn. "Hey, Mister Christianson, is the door open?"
"Yeah. Why don't you two go take a look at the puppies."
"Race you!" he cried and took off running.
"No fair!" Beata cried, but she chased after him anyway.
Heymans beat her through the open barn door. There were several puppies playing on the floor and several others just outside the barn. The bitch-Breda laughed silently at a naughty word being used for a mother dog-had given birth in an unused horse stall, but now she watched her young from outside of it. She growled as the children ran up.
"Hush, girl," Adam said and she immediately lowered her head.
"I like this one!" Beata cried, picking up a black one with a white spot on its chest.
"I like this one," Heymans countered, picking up a brown puppy.
"Why don't you play with them for a while?" Adam suggested. "Maggie won't bother you." The adults moved to stand outside and have their own conversation.
Heymans petted as many puppies as he could, scratching their bellies when they rolled over. He giggled. It was too bad they couldn't take all of them home! He picked up another one and hugged it as it squirmed in his arms, trying to lick his chin. Its tongue was soft and wet. He'd have to ask Mister Christianson which ones were boys and which ones were girls.
"Hey, quit hogging the puppies!" Beata exclaimed.
With a start, Heymans realized that the puppies were surrounding him. One nipped at his fingers and he snatched his hand back. "Go away. Shoo!" He tried to nudge them away, but they crowded around him, sniffing him.
"Stop that!" He pushed one away with his foot and the puppy grabbed a shoestring, untying his shoe. Another began chewing on the toe of the same shoe and he tried to push them away before they did the same to his other foot.
He stood up and a zealous puppy leapt up, wagging its tail and whining. He pushed it down and it leaped up again, this time sliding down his legs as it tried to keep its balance. Its short nails dragged down the tender flesh of his shins.
Tears of pain stung Heymans' eyes and he tried backing away, but they followed. Beata was no help as she stood there giggling at him. He tried running away, but stepped on one, causing it to yelp. He stumbled and fell and they leapt at him, certain he wanted to play. He covered his face and they nipped at his ears, yipping excitedly. He moved his hands to his ears and started to cry, afraid they were going to bite his neck. They began to lick his face, leaving trails of saliva in the place of his tears.
Strong arms snatched him up. "It's okay." His father's voice. "They just wanted to play."
"They-they hurt me!" he wailed.
"Shh. Come on, let's go back to the car."
"Can we still get a puppy?" Beata asked.
"Not right now," Martina said. "I'm awfully sorry about this, Adam."
"No, I should apologize. I should have watched them more closely. Will it be okay if I stop by later to apologize to Heymans?"
"If he's up to it."
"All right. I'm really, very sorry."
His family was asleep, but Heymans couldn't sleep. He kept on feeling those puppies around him. He shuddered. They wouldn't go away, even though he told them too. He didn't understand what was wrong-James' dog down the street would leave him alone if he told it to.
The door swung open and he pulled his blanket over his head. They had gotten a dog anyway! He waited to hear that barking again. Would it jump on the bed? Would it bite him again?
He slowly lowered the blanket. "Beata?"
"Can I come in?"
"Yes," he said cautiously. She was being polite.
She sat down on his bed. "I'm sorry I just laughed at you. Mama said it must have been scary for you."
"It was." He fought back tears. "Are they getting a dog?"
She shook her head. "Not unless it's all right with you. Is it all right?" She looked at him hopefully.
He shook his head. "No! I hate dogs!"
Now she burst into tears. "I hate you, Heymans Breda!" she exclaimed and ran out of the room.