“When the Bishop Started Killing Dogs” by Steven Peck was a finalist in the 2012 Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest. It was originally published online at Everyday Mormon Writer on October 19, 2012.
It’s funny what makes a man go crazy but one thing is sure no one expects it to be the Ward Bishop. It was Sunday morning and I noticed the police cars down the street at the Mullers’. Liz and I ran over to see what was going on. In our town when you see a police car at a neighbor’s yard you zip over because you know who it is that lives there. Plus we are all in the same Ward. When we got there it was plain to see what had happened. On their front lawn was their dog dead and with an arrow stuck in its chest. The officer was pulling it out and we could all see that it had a target tip and not a hunting tip and I think we were all a little surprised. It popped into our heads that this must have been teenagers because who else would have used a target tip when you want to take something down? The Muller kids were all crying and Sister Muller was crying too but she was evil faced and angry and was yelling Who would have done this?
Well if truth be told any of us could of done it because that dog barked all night every night. It was the Bishop that actually done it. But we didn’t know that and up he walked. Sorrowful and full of concern. He put his arm around Sister Muller and then squatted down on his haunches and talked to the kids. The police were asking if anyone had heard anything like squealing tires or seen kids out and about late but no one heard or saw nothing. Then Sister Keeling came over and said it’s about time someone silenced that damn dog. The officer looked at her lowly with narrow eyes but then realized if she was the one that done it she wouldn’t be so vocal and that it was just old lady talk. He just steered her back to the sidewalk because she was upsetting those that just lost the dog.
Animal Control came. The same ones that scoop up the raccoons and deer that meet up with traffic. They picked up the dog and placed it tenderly in the back of their covered 4×4. I don’t think they really cared but they made a good show of it for the kids and said they would make sure it got a proper burial but we all knew it was heading for the dump.
We shook our heads and chatted and wondered who would have done such a thing. The officer asked who had bows but of course we all had bows or at least a good number of us had one for the kids to shoot birds and squirrels with. And he acknowledged that an animal death would not be the kind of situation that would allow much manpower put to it. The Bishop came up to Liz who was the Relief Society President and asked that she see that someone brought them some meals for the next couple of days. It was an upsetting thing for someone to murder your dog and a hot meal might be mighty appreciated at such a time.
What happened was this. The Bishop who had been up for several nights cause of the barking dog and the worries on his mind for the Ward’s troubles couldn’t stand it no more. He lives just two houses down and what with all the people’s sins he carried in his heart with no way to let them out and that dog barking barking barking set his mind on fire. He could not tolerate it anymore and got up grabbed his grown up kid’s old bow and snuck out in his PJs and pegged the dog from up close.
Of course it wasn’t but two days later that Mullers got themselves a beagle puppy. And damn it wouldn’t you know but they set that thing outside and it whined and cried all night. It’s like the Mullers are stone deaf. But the Bishop having done it once did it again. On the third night they awoke to find dog number two shot through the eye with another target arrow.
Now the neighborhood was in an uproar. It was one thing for a bunch of wild teenagers to do something unbecoming one time random like but now people were kind of scared. Terrible rumors were arising about the last days.
The Mullers got themselves another puppy but this time they got a little terrier and kept it indoors. If you got close you could hear it whining inside the house but you had to get close so the Bishop didn’t kill this one. Without the Muller’s dog barking it was downright peaceful.
Except for Brother Wain’s old German shepherd lab mix. Now it was a little more sensible dog and didn’t really bark except when it suspected there was mischief about. Still it seemed like there was mischief about often enough. Especially on Fall nights when the wind blows out of the southwest. The skies are clear and it seems a little warmer than is proper for autumn. Something about all the trees knocking together and loose things people kept about their porches clanking and clicking would set that good dog to warning folks of the dangers it sensed riding in on the weather. We had quite of spell of this sort of thing and it seemed like that dog was sounding off four maybe five times a night for nearly a week. And the Bishop having given into temptation before succumbed again. But this time he didn’t use a bow.
Brother Wain told me he woke up to find his dog hardly able to catch its breath and dry heaving and choking. He tried to give it some water but then thinking something was really wrong drove it to the vet. It only survived about two hours. Brother Wain said the dog vet wasn’t there being on vacation and the cow vet didn’t really know what to do. He tried some things but they didn’t work and the dog died. When the cow vet opened the poor thing’s stomach he told Brother Wain that it was clear as water what happened. There was a chuck of hamburger and bacon all balled up around a center of D-con rat poison.
Now three dead dogs was too many and folks got serious. I myself would get up three or four times a night and peer out the windows to see what was afoot. I never saw anything. We took to letting our dog sleep in the utility-room .
On Sunday the bishop stood up and with a smile welcomed us all. You would never guess what he was about at night. He told us that these were troubled times. He told us that the last days were here and that we should expect trouble. He told us also that he had a feeling though from the Lord that things were settling down and that we ought not to worry. The Lord would protect us and our animals. This I must say brought a measure of peace to the whole Ward. I quit getting up at night and for all winter and most of the summer there was no trouble but of the usual kind.
By then the Mullers had kicked their terrier outside and them people who don’t hear their own dog barking did not notice their dog was again keeping people up all night. Then one night we heard a ruckus. A bad wounded dog is a frightful thing to hear and even a little terrier can make a hellacious noise such as to make your teeth bleed in sympathy. All the kids were out of bed crying and I looked out the window and every house in the neighborhood was lighting up. It was 4:34 am. I remember cause I looked at the clock. Then I seen him. Running low down. Bow in hand. White as a ghost. The Bishop stealing from bush to bush his big pot-belly and his bow legs making him easy to recognize. I threw on my pants and ran down stairs and made myself to the Mullers where a group of neighbors was gathered. I wasn’t alone in seeing the bishop. Brother Hassenbach saw him too.
The terrier had been gut shot. This time with a four-sided hunting arrow which the bishop had picked up special showing how premeditated this round of death dealing was. The arrow had not hit the heart or vitals and had just spilled the poor dog’s guts on the ground leaving his lungs free to mount the agony we had all heard. Brother Fisk put it out of its misery with a shot from his .357 Ruger Blackhawk.
Well the police came. Me and brother Hassenbach told what we saw and they arrested the Bishop. He confessed to the whole thing and was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty him being friends with the judge and the prosecutor on account of his paint business. But the Stake released him from being bishop even though besides killing the dogs he had been mostly a fine bishop.
I’m the bishop now. I’ve got troubles keeping me up at night and the new mutt the Mullers have brought home is barking up a storm. I’m thinking about it.
I’m thinking about it.
About the Author: Steven L. Peck is a writer and an evolutionary ecologist at BYU. For science, he studies tsetse flies in Africa and the philosophy of computer simulation models. He blogs at BCC. His writing can be explored at stevenlpeck.weebly.com. He lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah.*
*Author information as of the publication of this story.