Every afternoon, Timothy Malt walked home from school along the same route. Every afternoon, when he got home, he let himself into the house with his own door key. He fetched a carton of orange juice from the fridge, and poured himself a glass.
He grabbed three biscuits from the tin, hurried into the sitting room and sat down on the big, squashy sofa. Then he played computer games until his mum came home from her office or his dad came home from his office.
That day, things were different. Tim found a dog. Actually, the dog found Tim. During the long afternoons at school, Tim always ignored the teacher’s droning voice and dreamed about his computer. After school, he sped home, not wanting to waste any time walking when he could be playing a game.
That day, Tim was hurrying home from school even faster than usual, because he had recently used two months’ pocket money to buy a new game. It was a helicopter simulator. He already owned three helicopter simulators for his computer, but this was much more realistic than any of the others. According to the box, pilots used it to practice before flying a new helicopter.
In the past few days, Tim had managed to master most of the basic maneuvers. He could take off. He could fly across fields. He could slalom round tower blocks. Now, he needed to practice flying through the jungle, avoiding the tallest trees, before venturing on his first combat mission.
As Tim hurried along the street towards home, he tried to imagine the best way to fly through the jungle. He waved his hands from right to left as if he was using the control sticks. He imagined all the obstacles that he might encounter. Trees as tall as buildings. Creepers hanging from the branches. Boa constrictors sneaking up the trunks.
Parrots flying through the air. Monkeys leaping from tree to tree. He was concentrating so hard on imagining all the jungle’s obstacles that he didn’t bother looking where he was going, and tripped over a lump of something on the pavement.
The lump yelped.
Tim fell down.
As he fell, Tim stretched out his arms to protect himself. So, his head didn’t hit the concrete, but his elbows did. First the right. Then the left.
Crunch! Crack! The pain as unbelievable. “Owww,” he groaned. He rolled over, clutching his elbows and moaning softly to himself. “Oh, oh, oh. Ohhhh.”
After a few seconds of agony, Tim felt something soft touching his cheek. Something soft and wet. He forgot the pain throbbing through his elbows, and opened his eyes.
A pair of little black eyes stared at him. A tiny pink tongue licked his face.
Tim rolled over, and sat up.
The dog wagged its tail.
It was a small dog with beady black eyes. It had white fur with black patches and a perky little tail, which was wagging like a metronome.
Tim wanted to stroke the dog or talk to it, but he knew that he shouldn’t. His parents would be furious. His mother loathed dogs. (She was allergic to them.) His father detested dogs. (They made such a lot of noise!) Tim’s mother and father had told him never to touch dogs– unless he wanted to catch rabies, fleas and tapeworm.
Tim didn’t want a tapeworm slithering through his guts, or fleas crawling under his clothes, or a deadly dose of rabies in his blood. So, he got up, tore his eyes away from the dog and continued walking along the street. As he walked, he rubbed his elbow. It still hurt.
When Tim got to the end of the street, he realized that something was following him. He turned around. There was the dog. Tim said, “Go away. Go back home.”
The dog wagged its tail.
Tim said, “Why are you following me? Can you stop following me, please!”
The dog put its head on one side, and stared at him.
Tim bit his fingernail. He always did that when he was thinking. Then, he took a deep breath, and bellowed, “GO AWAY!”
The dog put its head on the other side, and continued staring at him.
Tim shrugged his shoulders. “Okay. Do what you like.” He kept walking along the street. Every few paces, he turned around, and saw that the dog was following him.
After ten minutes, Tim reached his house. He put the key in the lock, then looked down at the dog. “Why are you still here?”
The dog lay down with its head resting on its paws, andlooked up at Tim.
Tim looked into the dog’s little black eyes, and saw an expression that he recognized. Not sadness. Not loneliness. Not fear. In the dog’s little black eyes, Tim saw hunger.
Come to think of it, thought Tim, I’m hungry too.
Tim tried to imagine what would happen if he let the dog into the house. He shook his head. It wasn’t worth thinking about. His mother would be so angry that she would stamp her feet and wave her arms above her head. His father would be so angry that he wouldn’t say a single word, but his face would go bright red and his eyes would look as if they were going to pop out of his head. Tim’s mother and father were good at being angry. Over the years, they had had a lot of practice.
Tim looked down at the little dog, and said, “Sorry. I can’t let you into the house. But I’ll go inside, and get some bread. Okay? If you stay here, I’ll bring some bread. Do you understand?”From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from A Dog Called Grk by Joshua Doder. Copyright © 2007 by Joshua Doder. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.