Friday, February 19, 2010

A Short Story: A moment that lasted minutes, but left me thinking about it for days after


I slowed to a walk, breathless and sweaty under my layers of clothing. I turned around the corner to my small, paved street where my house sits second on the right, situated between a tiny, stucco house with long grapevines out front that swallow the building, and a massive two storey house that sits abandoned, only visited by the large colony of pigeons that nest in the tin roof. I took out one of my headphones and turned down the blasting music, my self-defense against the catcalls of the farmers along my running route. Squatting down, with his rear end hovering millimeters above the dirty street in a position that I know I will never be able to comfortably perch in, was one of my students. He was calmly talking to a young stray dog, trying to coax her over to him. At a young age, puppies learn not to trust humans, and they cower and run away with a slight raise of your arm. Very young puppies will look you in the eye and their tails wag as they scurry towards you. They are na├»ve and still trust that you won’t hurt them. When full grown, the dogs are either constantly terrified and scatter at any noise or quick movement, or are ferocious and want to attack anything that moves. My student understood that he had to be very gentle and calm for the puppy to come towards him. He continued to make little noises and saying “good dog,” but the puppy remained seated on her haunches and didn’t seem fooled. His back was facing me, so he didn’t know that I was watching him. Whenever he would stand up the dog would skitter backwards and he would squat down again, and the puppy would mirror him and sit back, too. I could tell that he didn’t know what to do next. I circled around and squatted down next to him, in my clumsy, wobbly squat that immediately gives away that I grew up in a culture that often uses chairs and couches. He looked over at me and said, “Annie teacher, can you help me get this dog because my dog died and I want to take this puppy home.” He stared up at me, his eyes, pleading eyes of a boy much younger than his age, looked at me searching for answers. His dirty, baggy black hat was much too big for him and it touched the top of the scar that runs along his cheekbone and up to his temple. From working along side his father in the fields, his skin is dark and tough. His tiny frame is consumed by the frayed and stained coat that has been rolled up at the sleeves but still occasionally slips down to cover his hands. I pat my hand against my shin, in my attempt to call the puppy over and she notices. He pulls back his coat sleeve and mimics my movement. In English I say, “come here girl” over and over in a singsong voice. Her ears perk up, her tail begins to wag, and shyly she starts to make her way over to me. She rolls onto her back to let us pet her soft, but dirty belly. I gently pick her up in my arms and she clings to me being so far from the ground suddenly. I tell him to hold his hands out, but instead he looks at me and says, “Annie teacher, I don’t know how to hold her. Can you take her for me?” I tell him that it isn’t hard and that he can try for a minute to hold her. “Meh,” is what I say next. There is no translation for this word, but it can mean something like here. “Meh,” I mumble again as I put her in his arms. He awkwardly holds her with two legs sticking out that he forgot to include. He looks down at the puppy and then looks up at me with a wide smile that makes his scar curve into a crescent shape. “Annie teacher, we did it!” he beams. I tell him to hold her tight until he gets home and I watch him as he walks slowly up the road a ways and then squats down to readjust his holding position. He takes a quick glance over his shoulder to check if I am still there and I wave back. He jiggles his head back and forth as he laughs, and continues on his way, leaning back to offset the weight of his new puppy.

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