(A short story)

By The Zhuu

It’s a mild evening in downtown Houston. The tall white girl in the pink and red dress is seated behind him. He is taking her home to one of the expensive, luxury apartments near Washington street, not far from downtown.

Every now and then the traffic lights stop them. She appears to be irritated, losing her patience.

” I wish these lights would stop changing so fast I want to be with my baby.”

She was leaning forward. The lights turned green. He drove on.

” My baby needs me. Can you hurry up and get me home?”

He felt compelled to say something. So he said,

“You will be with him soon. We are not really that far.”

“It’s not a he. It’s a she,” she countered, laughing softly.

“Oh, your girlfriend, your partner?” he asked. She would be gay, lesbian, he surmised.

” Nope,” she aid. ” My dog. She’s female. She misses me.”

“Your dog?” he questioned, puzzled.

” Yes, my baby.”

” You call your dog your baby?” He was perplexed. He could have said, your “Bingo”, for that was how they chose to refer to dogs when he was a child. Every dog was a filthy, faeces- gobbling ” Bingo”.

“Yes,” continued the young lady. “Every night she sleeps beside me on my bed. She must be missing me.”

She leaned forward again, anxious, as though she would make the car go faster.

He drove on silently, his mind rummaging through a pile of thoughts about dogs.

Not long ago, he had pulled into a parking lot at a shopping mall. A large dog stared at him through the window of a car parked adjacent to him.

He stared back at the dog. The dog barked at him. He lowered his window and returned the bark. The dog gave him a long, steady, thoughtful look and he knew it was imagining all that it could do to him, given a chance.

Well, you will never get that opportunity, he thought, gazing steadily at the dog.

He drove by people walking their dogs at the park. It was unbelievable what people would do for their dogs. At dog shows there were all kinds of breeds of over-pampered dogs. Dogs wore clothes, had hostels, stores, even exclusive burial grounds.

Perhaps some dogs deserved to be treated like royalty and maybe put on actual salaries because they were well-trained work dogs.

They were helpful to the blind, essential to the police and the customs and God knew who else. As everyone knew, dogs were indispensable guards. They were trustworthy, loyal companions too.

He would never forget his strange experience several years ago. His uncle, the oldest man in the family, had just passed away. A family meeting was called.

The gathering of male family members reached a decision that since the old man was not a church-goer, he would receive the traditional, heathen burial rites.

Three of his uncles and he were dispatched to a local, neighbouring village to purchase a male dog. He had never gone to a dog market.

It was startling, rather pathetic, to see so many robust dogs encased in large, metal cages. The poor, petrified animals cringed with extreme distress and uneasiness, seeking some means to escape from their prison. His uncles chose one, a big, healthy-looking black dog.

The deft, agile, elderly dog dealers dog tied it up while it moaned and whined and dribbled saliva in obvious anguish. At the deceased old man’s home, it was slaughtered.

He was told that the blood from its slit throat was dripped on the eyes of the dead old man. On reincarnation, the deceased old man would return as the powerful fellow he used to be.

After the interment of the old man, the family was gathered in the obi, the outdoor, open hut built for family meetings. In the hut, male members of the family chatted, drinking palm wine and beer while they awaited the feast of the dog, well-spiced, seasoned, cooked to a delicious and mouth watering softness.

On a large tray in the middle of the hut, vapour rose from the dog laid on its back. His uncle stood beside the table, a large kitchen knife in his hand. He was about to hand out the dog meat to those in the gathering who were willing to accept their share.

The first offer went to the new head of the family. He respectfully declined. Some of the men turned down the offer. His uncle was undeterred. He seemed dedicated to his unique duty, carving and cutting, handing out portion after portion of the steaming dog meat with an unruffled, constant call of “Next”.

When his uncle was done, he quietly surveyed the excited members of the family who guzzled palm-wine and beer and chatted while munching on the dog meat.

“I could never imagine that so many of you would have such an amazing appetite for dog meat,” he remarked.

“Are we almost there?” asked the tall, white lady.

“After the next light,” he replied, and added, “I’m sure your baby will be very glad to see you.”

“She sure will. I’m gonna give her a lovely kiss,” she said.

He nodded. His father got rid of his once- beloved ” Bingo” after it strolled into the living room with a wet, soiled, stinking baby diaper in its jaws.

” Great idea,” he told her.