Kayla Tames a Beast, a short short story

Girl walking with a dog

Welcome to Brighton Bits, short short stories about the people, places and things in and around the fictional village of Brighton, New Hampshire. When Kayla arrived at work late and bedraggled, Maeve had not idea why. But Kayla couldn’t let the poor beast suffer.

Kayla Tames a Beast

Even though the Kims’ restaurant, The Golden Pagoda, was doing well, and even though the Kims had created a good life for themselves and their two daughters in Brighton with the proceeds from their business, this menial toil was not the life they wished for their children.

Although their eldest, Kimberly, had enrolled in law school, all she really wanted to do was create cakes. Late at night, after the Kims went to bed, she filmed herself building all kinds of cakes, giving instructions as she went. Then she uploaded the videos onto TikTok where her parents shook their heads at the hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic responses each new cake brought.

“Don’t people have better things to do with their time?” Mrs. Kim asked, looking at a cake that could pass for a real beehive.

“Apparently not,” Mr. Kim said, with a click of his tongue.

At least Kimberly had some focus. Kayla, their younger daughter, seemed to have no ambition at all. She worked a minimum-wage job at the bakery during the day, then spent her evenings giving away her time at the animal shelter.

“If you love animals so much, why don’t you become a vet?” asked Mrs. Kim for the thousandth time. A doctor was always respected in any society. “We can pay for a good school.”

Kayla rolled her eyes at the suggestion. “Because I don’t want to operate on animals. I want to nurse them.” Make them feel loved and wanted and cherished.

Mrs. Kim threw up her hands. “Where did I go wrong with you kids?”

It wasn’t that Kayla wanted to be contrary, that she didn’t want to live up to her parents’ high expectations, it was just that she could feel animals’ sadness and knew just how to love it away.

Which is why, one summer morning, she found herself crouched under a bush on her way to her 10 a.m. bakery shift. She’d spotted a big yellow dog with wire wrapped around its muzzle. She couldn’t very well leave him to suffer. She had to find a way to help him.

She got only so close before the dog galumphed away, tail between his legs, whining as if she was the instrument of his torture.

Her parents thought her foolish with no sense at all. The problem was that she had too many senses. She could feel beneath the skin of people and animals. And sometimes, it felt as if their pain was hers. And this poor dog was hurting deeper than the cuts on his face.

As she crouched in those bushes while the dog sat watching her warily, she remembered the quote from The Little Prince, one of her favorite books. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me—like that—in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”

So, she took her time, offering him water and small tidbits of food that could slip between his bound lips. Slowly, she inched closer.

When he let her within arm’s reach, she waited for him to sniff her hand before she slid the slip leash she had in her backpack around his neck.

But as skinny and as scared as he was, he was still strong and dragged her all around the field and into the creek. He shook off the leash and raced away into the woods.

Kayla looked down at her soiled clothes and decided she could clean up at the bakery. Much easier to deal with Maeve than with her own mother.

As the fox had told the Little Prince, it took Kayla patience to tame the beast. Each morning, she stopped by the bush where he hid. Each morning, she spoke to him in a kind voice. Each morning, she left him water and tidbits of food.

He watched her and kept his distance. But after she left, he drank the water and nibbled as best he could at the chicken or beef.

On the fifteenth day, hungry and tired, the yellow beast surrendered and followed Kayla home.

Want more?

If you want to read more about Brighton, pick up a copy of Christmas by Candlelight , Christmas in Brighton and Summer’s Sweet Spot, or the new cozy mystery, Of Books and Bones. Or sign up for my newsletter.

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