© J. Francois Barnard - 17 December 2023

Petro's radiant smile illuminated the kitchen as she gracefully poured tea, the comforting aroma wafting through the air. In the adjacent lounge, the lively chatter of her husband, Walter, and their guests provided a pleasant backdrop. Meanwhile, the joyous laughter of her two children and their friends' son echoed from the garden, accompanied by the playful barks of their exuberant puppy.

Balancing the tray with practised ease, Petro made her way into the lounge, where Walter rose to accept the offering. As she approached, a sudden hush enveloped the outdoor scene, prompting Petro to peer through the window in curiosity. The anticipated exchange of the tray with Walter was on the verge of seamless completion when an unexpected, piercing shriek shattered the tranquillity, causing Petro to startle, inadvertently sending the tray crashing to the floor.

In the aftermath of the porcelain's demise, the once-joyful sounds of children at play were replaced by a chorus of howls and tears, painting an unforeseen turn to the previously harmonious atmosphere.

The adults rushed outside, drawn by the sudden commotion. Their eyes widened in shock as the guests' son, his face smeared with blood, sprinted toward them. Reacting swiftly, the parents scooped him up, racing to the bathroom to assess the damage. There, they rinsed the blood away, revealing a deep cut on the boy's cheek.

Papadopoulos"What happened?" the father inquired, concern etched across his face.

"The dog bit me!" the boy howled in pain.

Petro assisted the father in bandaging the wounded boy. A heavy silence hung in the air, and though no words were spoken, the shock and resentment were palpable in the parents' eyes as they hurriedly carried their son to the waiting car.

"He will need stitches," the father remarked grimly.

"He will need plastic surgery," added the mother with a heavy sigh.

No farewells were exchanged, only a terse promise: "You will hear from us," before they vanished from sight.

The following day found Petro in her kitchen, grappling with a sombre breakfast. Papadopoulos, the once-playful puppy, lay on the cool kitchen floor. Contemplating their predicament, she spoke to the canine companion.

"What are we going to do with you, Papadopoulos?" she mused aloud.

The origins of the pup can be traced back to a day when a generous Greek greengrocer bestowed the puppy upon them. Her children adored Papadopoulos, yet the recent incident with the boy raised the thorny question of whether they could continue to keep the dog.

Her children's revelation painted a darker picture: the boy had played roughly, choking the poor dog, who, in desperation, had snapped, inflicting a significant injury. A call from Walter delivered the unsettling news – the boy's father threatened legal action as their son underwent surgery.

"Please, get rid of Papadopoulos," Walter implored. "I have to convey that we've taken action."

With a heavy heart, Petro transported Papadopoulos to a farmer an hour away. The puppy now had a new home, and Petro wrestled with a plan to break the news to her children when she picked them up from school.

"Where is Papadopoulos?" her son queried as they entered the car.

"Let me explain," she began, starting the engine.

Two wide-eyed faces stared at her, and Petro fought back tears, determined to remain strong for her children.

"What Papadopoulos did yesterday was wrong, and we cannot allow a dog to behave so recklessly," she asserted sternly.

Her son suppressed his protests while her little girl cried softly.

"Daddy and I decided that Papadopoulos needs to go to a dog school to learn proper manners. I took him this morning, and we won't see him for a while."

Both children were now in tears, lying on the backseat, and Petro allowed her own tears to flow freely. It was a painful moment of sacrifice for the sake of their well-being.

During the summer holidays, Petro retrieved her children from a lively playday at the pool. Despite their evident fatigue, the youngsters enthusiastically clambered into her compact car. Their animated voices filled the air, recounting tales of their day spent with friends by the pool, relishing hamburgers, and indulging in delectable ice cream.

As the children continued their animated chatter, the radio abruptly interrupted with a surprising announcement: "The Department of Education has unveiled the names of this year's top matriculants. In the Gauteng Province, 37 students achieved six distinctions, 28 earned seven distinctions, 17 secured eight distinctions, 9 attained nine distinctions, and the pinnacle was reached by Andreas Papadopoulos, the top student, with an impressive ten distinctions!"

A momentary silence settled in the car before the boy exclaimed, "Papadopoulos? Was our Papadopoulos a top student at the dog school?"

Petro burst into laughter, joining in the children's amusement. "Yes, it seems he did exceptionally well!"

The children beamed with pride for their overachieving dog, although the question of whether Papadopoulos would return to them lingered unspoken. Petro later shared the amusing incident with Walter, and together they decided to surprise their children with a new puppy.


Editor's note: The above story was the result of an assignment done in the Creative Writing course, Section The Craft of Plot, at Wesleyan University.