The Biter Bit

by Arthur Mackeown


I cannot resist a well-turned ankle. Come to think of it, I cannot resist any ankle. But permit me to introduce myself before I tell you how this noble, single-minded passion led to my downfall.

My name is Chang and I come from a long and distinguished line of ankle connoisseurs. My forefathers were Pekingese, the royalty of the canine world and privileged favourites of the imperial courts since time began. Their fame and prestige were such that the world’s greatest metropolis was built just so it could be named after them. In their heyday my ancestors wagged their tails for no-one but the emperor. They were bred for one purpose only — to serve as the proud guardians of the Forbidden City. And they were equal to the task, fearlessly biting the ankles of kings, grand viziers, ministers of war and even the odd foreign ambassador.

One of them bit Confucius. Legend has it this was the only occasion it was thought best not to record the great man’s remarks for posterity. Genghis Khan himself claimed that with a few hundred of my ancestors at his command, he’d have taken China in a week.

* * *

But those great days are now only a forgotten chapter in a dusty history book. All I ever got to defend were the ten miserable yards of pavement in front of our house and yet, true to my heritage, I was determined to repel boarders from my little kingdom at any cost.

Made no difference who they were: tinker, tailor, postman or bobby on the beat, I’d see them off in double-quick time and if they didn’t move fast enough... better still. How I loved to see them scuttling fearfully across the road when they heard my warning yip! I thought myself invincible, and so I was... until I met that vampire. Making his acquaintance wasn’t all that difficult; I just bit him, and I’m proud to say I gave him quite a fright. I don’t suppose he’d been bitten by a Peke before.

You may think biting a vampire on the ankle was perhaps not the smartest thing I could have done, but how was I to know he’d take it personally? It was simply business as far as I was concerned.

I mean, sneaking around other people’s back gardens in the dark when there’s a Peke on duty is asking for trouble; everyone knows that. He had only himself to blame. Sportsmanship, however, is not a vampire’s strongest point. He does not take kindly to receiving a dose of his own medicine. It’s a question of pride, you see, and a vampire’s pride is an awful thing.

For the sake of my more sensitive readers I shall draw a veil over what happened next. It goes without saying that I defended myself with honour against my terrible foe, even catching him again on the same ankle, but I was up against a predator even more fearsome than myself.

Chang had finally met his match.

* * *

The stroppy poodle from across the road was blamed for my demise and shipped off, howling pitiably, to languish forever in the pound. How I wish I could have seen that!

Unfortunately, I was being buried at that very moment in a simple but touching ceremony at the bottom of the garden. Everybody came. Even the postman was there to shed a tear over his courageous old adversary.

They wrapped me in a little woolly blanket and placed my favourite pink rubber doggy biscuit beside me so I’d have something to chew on in the next life; a kind thought, but hardly necessary under the circumstances as I would soon have other things to chew. A marble stone was then erected above my head, bearing this simple message in letters of purest gold:

Beneath This Stone Lies Poor Chang,
Brought Down Low By Poodle’s Fang
His Race Is Run
His Battle’s Done
His Light’s Unlit,
The Biter’s Bit

* * *

You probably think you’ve heard the last of me, but I wouldn’t bite — sorry — bet on that, if I were you. Poor Chang may be no more, but in his stead the dread Undog hungrily wanders the night at the side of his new, dark master for all eternity...

So if we should meet... hurry on by. Don’t you stop to pat my silky head, else He’ll reward me with your bones.


Copyright © 2010 by Arthur Mackeown

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