Monday, November 24, 2003

vignette: bite

She decided that it was too hot to stay in the house. Besides, her two year-old daughter looked like she needed some air.

So outside they went, keeping to the shade afforded by the various roofs of the compound, hand in hand.

The mother talked to one of their neighbors, the woman who kept dogs. At last count, she had four, all trained and behaved. The little girl squinted at one of the dogs as she held on to her mother’s skirt.

What broke the stillness of conversation was the sudden movement of the dog: running, growling, teeth sharp and bare; followed by the shriek of the little girl, the dog biting deep into her arm, rabid shakes of its head left right left right, worrying with its teeth, merciless and relentless.

Time becomes subjective.

For the mother, everything is too fast, time tripping upon itself as stacked events resolve as quickly as sleight of hand tricks upon a dazzled audience. In the flurry of activity, she has time to only to deny reality, because this cannot be happening, and everyone knows that the first thing to do is to question what’s what in the off chance that it will go away like a figment of imagination.

For the dog owner, everything turns cold as the sweat on her upper lip. History repeats itself and everyone is condemned to perpetuate the cycle. In her mind there is the epiphany, small but as bright as the sun, that no one is safe from repetition, including her dogs. Her second thought, before she raises her hand to shoo her beloved pet away, is how she’s going to explain that she has no money to pay for anything: besides, the child probably provoked the dog – that’s part of the cycle after all.

For the child, everything is slow, like the sluggish passage of the day between the time she wakes up and the time her father comes home to play (sometimes with a treat). She watched the dog run towards her and she thought only to smile before the pain, brilliant and searing, overwhelmed her. Then her arm became the center of the universe, its gravity expanding at an impossible rate, pulling everything within hearing distance of the wounded stars.


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