Tentative, Mugsy dug his paw into the shallow divot. He pressed his wet nose inside. The earth trickled in after him, after every hungry snootful. The hideyhole was suffused with the smell of the moldy biscuit, but it was not there. He snorted. A throaty growl bubbled up from him and inside the house Marissa called his name and shouted no. He snuffled and looked up at her washing dishes in the kitchen window.

Mugsy let the smell guide him. The biscuit had been dragged over the yard, back through the fence into the trees that bordered the swingset. He stumbled a little as he stepped into the hideyhole. He didn’t let it bother him. He was on the trail, head bent low after the truant treat. His jowls wobbling, tail wagging, he plunged into the trees, midway between two wood slats where Billy had kicked in the fence. Marissa yelled at his buttocks.

“Get out of there, Mugs!”

He could smell it. He could smell the biscuit. Its moldy fragrance cried out to him like an oratorio, not far, not far at all. He scrabbled in the low green branches of the firs, his legs behind him kicking dirt into the swingset. Marissa yelled again but he squeezed onward.

He snapped a branch and came face to face with it. A squat porcupine, accoutered in a shell of pale quills, held his biscuit in its claws. At the sight of him its beady eyes bugged like mud blisters.

He barked at it. It grasped the biscuit tightly and waddled back against the tree. It oinked, or hissed, or whatever stupid noise porcupines made. He barked at it again. He thrust his body forward, paws outstretched, jaws open, teeth slavered in froth – and felt Marissa’s thick arms encircle his waist. His paws dragged in the dirt and he was lifted backwards into the backyard.

“Mugsy!” the woman shouted, “Mugsy, you bad boy! You get back in here.”

His tail went limp as he was pulled back through the branches. The porcupine oinked and slobbered over his biscuit. Mugsy growled, and Marissa swatted him on his haunch.

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