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tales of terror // Doggone close

My small hand closed around the silver chrome handle of the garage door, which was quite heavy. I was 7 then, and I had a difficult time opening it.

After a few moments of straining, I heard the satisfying screech as the large door slowly gave way to my efforts. With a sudden jolt, I flung the massive brown door up.

I cautiously backed my 16-inch bright red bike out of the garage, being extremely careful not to scratch my father's. On the open driveway, I climbed up on the seat and put my feet to the pedals, taking off.

Suddenly I heard a noise to my right, a sort of jingling sound. I thought perhaps it was my neighbor with her keys merrily ringing behind her, so I wasn't worried. Then I heard a slight rustling on the same side.

So I turned and looked. To my terror, a large, jet-black Lab hurtled out of my neighbor's yard. Although it probably just wanted to play, my mind raced through all kinds of awful and morbid thoughts. I could see this dog eating some bloody mess.

I felt a sick sour taste developing in my mouth. Suddenly, as if a spell was broken, I dropped my bike and stumbled backward. Then, before I could think, or even control my motions, I was running as fast as my small legs could carry me.

The thundering feet of the dog not 3 yards behind me rang in my ears, blurring my thoughts. I glanced behind me _ unwisely, as it turned out, because the thorn bushes that separated my yard from the next yard were just a few feet in front of me. When I turned forward once more I realized my mistake and was now trapped between the bushes and the wall of my house.

As the dog closed in, with an almost sinister look on its face, I had to think quickly. This was not particularly easy, considering I was frozen with fear.

My fingers crossed, I faked a lunge to the left and bolted to the right, wearily eying the galloping dog. Fortunately for me, this dog didn't seem very intelligent. I dashed across the far side of the lawn and rounded the corner. Ducking under the branches of a magnolia tree, I propelled myself in a slant across the yard. With a running start I cleared a good 3 feet of fern and began digging my sneakers into the thick mulch of our side yard, which we also use as a driveway.

I was suddenly appreciative I had done so much vigorous biking for I was thin enough to slip quite easily between the parked car and my house. My hand trembling, I grasped the cold metal handle of the gate and tugged hard, pausing only momentarily because the gate was unlocked.

I scrambled through the gateway and slammed the gate behind me. I didn't think the large animal could jump the 7-foot fence, but I wasn't positive. After making my way through the back yard, I swung the screen patio door open and slipped into the enclosed pool area. I lay back against the door, relieved after hearing the satisfying click of the patio door's lock. I waited a moment to catch my breath and then strolled over to the sliding glass doors, the rear entrance to my house. I knocked and my mother let me in. I immediately plopped down on the couch, exhausted.

For weeks after the incident I wouldn't go outdoors without an adult, and for months after I would not go by myself. Even now I get a little worried when I hear a jingling sound in the bushes.

Joseph is a student at Seminole Middle School.

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