The kids in the street were feral. They broke windows, slashed car tyres, lobbed bricks at pigeons. They persecuted strangers too, anyone who looked or sounded different. Richard, a Londoner, was targeted from the day he moved in. Obscene graffiti appeared on his door, long scratches on his car.
Richard lectured the kids from his doorstep; they parroted his posh voice. One child spat. Richard called the police, who shrugged, insinuating that a man like him, moving to a place like this, deserved all he got.
His neighbour, a heavily tanned woman whose empty lager cans lay strewn across the pavement, told him they weren’t bad kids really, they were just bored. Richard said coldly, “I’m not a babysitter,” and installed a CCTV camera over the door. An airgun pellet smashed its lens the first night. A second pellet broke one of his new windows.
One morning a large wooden box with airholes, and LIVING SECURITY SOLUTIONS printed on the side, was delivered to Richard’s house. From across the street, the kids stared. Richard sat at the kitchen table, reading the owner’s manual.
The smart alternative to a guard dog, your gryphon is extremely low-maintenance and only needs feeding once a week. Loyal and benign, gryphons have been protecting homes and families for centuries. Its ‘hard skills’ may never be required, as your free window sticker will act as a deterrent to would-be intruders.
When Richard opened its box, the gryphon slunk into the understairs cupboard and curled up, apparently sulking. He offered it raw hamburger; it clacked its beak in disgust.
“What happened to benign?” Richard asked. The gryphon opened one fierce gold eye but said nothing, though the manual said it could talk perfectly well. When Richard asked it to light his new wood burning stove, it snapped, “What do you think I am, a fucking dragon?”
This was exactly what Richard had thought. He considered denying it, but had just learned that gryphons are mindreaders. He said, “I suppose you don’t even breathe fire?”
“Pur-leeease,” said the gryphon, tucking its head under one bronze-feathered wing.
As gryphons prefer to hunt their own dinner, Richard drove it down to the canal side one night, to the dank space under a railway bridge. It crouched, lion-tail lashing; pounced; gulped. A bellyful of rats seemed to induce a mini-hibernation cycle; it slept for almost a week, and could not be roused. Sleepy, contented clucking, came from the cupboard.
The Gryphonwatch window sticker had already been defaced with magic marker, and another window broken, when the beast woke. Richard suggested this might be a convenient moment to deal with his own vermin problem.
“How old?” the gryphon asked, yawning.
“Ten or eleven.”
The gryphon glanced at its belly. “Have you seen the size of me? I’d never digest one of those, I’m not a boa constrictor. How about I scare them instead?”
“It won’t be easy,” Richard warned, but the gryphon got up, stretched, and waited for him to open the front door. Tail waving, it sauntered into the street.
When its owner looked out of the window ten minutes later, the beast was stretched out on the warm tarmac, surrounded by children. Two were bouncing on its tawny back, a third was feeding it a mangled and bloody pigeon.
Patience Mackarness lives and writes partly in an elderly VW camper van, partly in a cottage in Brittany, France. Her stories have been published or accepted by Lunch Ticket, Dime Show Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Coachella Review, Flash Frontier, and elsewhere. Her work can be read at https://patiencemackarness.wordpress.com/7