Tag: torture

The Dogs of Guanajuato

A friend who is a recent resident of Guanajuato said she had needed to talk to us, to someone, anyone. She had looked over her balcony and watched an adolescent Mexican boy strangle puppies, one by one, that had been kept in a bag. She had screamed down that he should stop it. He ran away, past our house. We saw none of it. We don’t know who it was, though we have ways of finding out.

A lot of people in my town treat dogs as beloved pets when they are small and love to carry puppies through the streets as some kind of cultural statement I don’t really understand. It would be like a culture that got a kick out of carrying parrots around on its shoulders. We occasionally see that here, but it’s rare.

A lot of other people in my town place dogs on their flat concrete roofs to scare away thieves. Often there is no shelter from sun, rain, heat or cold. The dogs are prisoners; and that why Guanajuato is famous for its howling by night—prisoner dogs seeking connection—and for its crowing roosters by morning—or perhaps all day long. For us, both sounds have become white noise and we don’t hear it.

Once, a few years ago, I was looking for a place to paint behind the Olga Costa Museum beside a lovely shaded creek when I came across a large dog hanging by its neck from a tree and very dead. It had taken two people to perform the execution: one strong person to hold the dog up and another person to tie the green string around its neck. The dog must have trusted them enough to let them hold it up in the air. Then they let it down, so that its feet didn’t quite touch the ground. And then watched the results of their work while the animal struggled and died.

What do we call that? Cruelty? A perverse, sick curiosity to see an animal die of asphyxia. I think it is like a hanging. Murder by sociopaths. We know that people do this, and some of us find it horrifying. I have a piece called “The Darkness in My Stories” which addresses this elemental horror in me.

I also wrote about the dog and the green string in my novel Playing for Pancho Villa. I quote the passage below.

“Frank climbed down from the boxcar. Doña Mariana and Manuelito were coming back from their walk along the arroyo. The boy spoke to her in short bursts and kept watching her, as if expecting a response. Doña Mariana answered him, but did not look at him. She saw Frank, but gave no greeting. Frank descended the slope and helped her up to the tracks.
“We  saw  a  dog,”  said  Manuelito.  “It  smelled.”  They walked  toward  the  passenger  car.  “It  had  a  green string  around  its  neck,”  he  said.
Doña Mariana gave Frank a look. They climbed the iron steps at the front end of the car. She made a pillow out her canvas riding hat and had the boy lie down on it. She and Frank chatted a bit about the village, its poverty, the dusty paths and the possible reasons  for  the  train’s  stopping.  The  boy’s  lids  grew   heavy and soon his mouth relaxed, and he was asleep.
The  señora’s  eyes  rested  on  Frank.  “How  is  the   wounded  man?”  she  asked.
“He  needs  a  doctor.”
“I  think  he  has  one,”  she  said.
“He  needs  a  hospital.”  Then,  after  a  pause,  “You walked up the arroyo?”
She said, “Yes,” then looked out the window and said nothing else.
“And  the  green  string?”  Frank  asked.  Then  he   looked out the window toward the arroyo, as if he might see the dog.
“Farther  back,  at  the  base  of  an  old  wall,  there  are trees and shade and pools of clear standing water. I listened  for  the  train  whistle.  We  didn’t  want  to  get   left behind. The place reminded me of arroyos when I was a child. Peaceful, enchanted places, out of the hot sun, with just the barest sound of water. We always looked for pools to swim in. The perfect pool, in a spot of sun to warm us when we got out.
“When  we  started  back  toward  the  train,  we  saw   the dog. A large dog. And probably friendly, because someone had been able to lift it up and hold it while someone else tied the rope, string really, to the tree. It took two people to do it, at least one of them strong. Its rear feet were able to touch the ground. The green string tightened. The creature struggled to hold itself up, but left alone, eventually slowly choked  to  death  from  its  own  weight.”
Frank looked at her.
“There  were  two  men  watching  us  from  up  above, where the houses are. As if they were waiting for our reaction. I looked back at them longer than I would have ever done with strangers, let alone men. I wanted  to  see  if  they  were  the  killers.”
She paused again.
“I  could  not  tell.  There  was  nothing  in  their  eyes  to   indicate  whether  they  had  done  it.”  She  stopped   again, as if considering.
“That  is  what  troubled  me.  That  you  couldn’t  tell   one way or the other. All you could see was indifference. I called up to them and said there was a hanged dog and that they should bury it before it brought disease to the village. There was no reaction at  all,  as  if  that  didn’t  matter.  At  that  point,  I  did  not   want  to  be  there  any  longer,  so  we  left  quickly.”
Frank  didn’t  know  what  to  say.  Instead,  he  took  his Winchester from the corner by the window and laid it across his lap.”

The Woman inside Me

I woke up more than once last night to consider who was speaking inside me. Three men had been walking out along a point of land, toward a drop-off. It is rainy and cold. The men wear jackets. Two of them hold a woman between them. She is dressed in a long T-shirt—nothing more. Her hair falls across her face. She stumbles, barefoot, over things that hurt.

It is a garbage dump, at night, perhaps an hour before dawn . Depending on your understanding of the world, at some point you realize they are going to execute her. She is slender and young and at a time in her life when she could, if she wanted to, start a family. She has already suffered. I am wondering how long it will be before a she realizes what they are going to do. Her two escorts release her arms and drop back away from her. She picks her way forward, unsteady, docile. She reaches the edge of the place where trucks, by daylight, puffing diesel, stop backing up and dump the city’s waste.

I want her to jump, dive over the edge, take her chances, roll, fall, plunge this way and that, down, down, head over heels, too far down, behind too much debris, maybe buried by a wall of rot, old beer and diaper shit, and out of sight.

And she lies still, and the three men—with skin brown like hers and speaking the same language—decide, “Fuck it, we’re not going to ruin our clothes going down there.” And so they fire a few bursts with their AK 47s at the spot they figure she is, then walk back to their pickup, vowing to do it differently next time.

“Arrodíllate,” says the one man coming along behind her—almost gently. Kneel. But she turns around instead and faces him. The T-shirt clings to her body, to her private breasts and a her private belly. She pushes the hair out of her face. She is already half destroyed. “Okay,” says the man, “it’s alright”—and stands sideways, as if it’s Saturday morning and he’s at the shooting range. Except that he’s standing six feet away from her and lifts a .45, .38, .32, .22 or 9mm, pointing over her head, then brings it down, starting to pull the trigger just as the Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Colt, Glock, Springfield, Remington, Mauser, Browning, Walter, Ruger, or Luger is almost level with the top of her head.

Nothing happens. Perhaps he is reconsidering, reading her blood- and snot-smeared, non-reacting face. She reaches up to wipe her mouth. Her hand trembles too much. She brings it down. Maybe he tells her to jump backward over the edge of the garbage drop-off. Save yourself, girl.

The gun jumps instead, there is a black hole in her forehead like blackberry crushed flat, without juice. She leans backward, a gymnast starting a backward flip. The man lowers the .45, .38, .32, .22, or 9mm. She arches—a summer girl letting herself fall backward off a warm rock into a clear river pool.

She lies on her back, floating on garbage. The shirt no longer covers the dark hair where her legs meet. I know if I walk closer, after the men leave, I will see they have destroyed her twice-over.

I roll over and rest my leg on the woman I live with and love. She sleeps deeply, floating on her back. The weight of my leg does not interrupt her sleep. She is warm, and smooth, and as troubled as the rest of us. If I try to switch positions and move my leg away, she reaches up out of her sleep and holds my knee where it is—above the dark hair where her legs meet.

I try again—having the young woman awaken from her stupor and leap over the edge. She tumbles down through the shredded plastic and soggy cardboard and pig shit, down through the fleeing rats and styrofoam and rotten vegetables, that have not yet been found and eaten. The bullet sends her reeling backward, and I turn, carefully, so that I don’t pull the covers, and lay my leg over my love. The pigs listen. There may be more to eat.

The horror is deep, my love is warm. I almost fall asleep. He still hasn’t reached her. I urge her to save herself, but when they have you, there is seldom any escape. “Wake up,” she mumbles, as if she has rocks in her mouth, weeping. “See the moment of my extinction, see the dark stump of the tongue they have cut from me…and the mouth below—made for love of my choosing—ripped by their anger and triumph. Watch how they raise the gun, bring it down, and take my summers away from me forever.”