Claudia Morales (Cintalapa de Figueroa, Chiapas, 1988) studied literature at the UNAM and the Complutense in Madrid. This story is taken from her collection Hospitalidad. translation by Allana Noyes. Links to more work by emerging mexican writers below!
Diosas y conchas [goddesses and shells] is a collage series by Mexican artist ANA NOBLE, whose work will be featured in the book Collage Mexico, forthcoming from Mexico City Lit.
The wind and sand ran recklessly through the streets. “Over there, there’s a mutt with rabies.”
The children heard the rumor like a command. They opened their doors and walked gleefully as if it were Christmas time and they were going to play marbles on the church steps—as if the fair was in town and they were going to ride the mad tea cups. The biggest children helped the littlest ones put on their shoes and pulled them along by the arm so that their short steps would keep up with their own.
The mothers watched them leave with indifference and shut the doors behind them. They shook out their table cloths and curtains. One of them saw their son, who had been in bed with a fever, turn off the television, stand up with conviction, and leave the house. “It’s because there’s a rabid mutt out there, past the hill” he told her. The same happened with several girls who deserted the kitchen even though it was time to prepare the beans. They held their little brothers and sisters to their chests and brought them along with them. They walked quickly, carefully adjusting their steps in the gravel path.
At noon, through the foggy and unsettled breeze, appeared the small faces of both the younger children and the stretched figures of those who had begun to grow into adults. They were a thick caravan. Together they climbed the hill. They stopped suddenly. No one took another step, and from there they could see the animal:
He ran bellowing as if being attacked by imaginary creatures that only were visible through his eyes. He barked into the nothingness. A white and effervescent foam welled up around his muzzle.
The healthy dogs barked madly from the roofs of their houses or from inside the bushes, hidden.
The creature hollered and desperately scratched at the ground until it felt the cool wet soil underneath. He stood panting.
A small boy picked up a sharp rock from the empty lot. He explored it between his fingers.
He cast the first stone.
It struck the back of the animal with great force, and immediately, the rest of the children attacked. The animal twisted and contorted. The creature was a knot of violence. At one moment it cried out like a puppy, but no blow seemed to lessen its fury. An ancient wickedness paralyzed its insides, crushed and coiled inside its body like a spell.
The dog had belonged to Don Albino Magdaleno, and although the dog did not have a name, it was well known by all those that were a part of this family. Many had seen this dog lying at the feet of Albino, wagging his tail while his owner drank coffee. Don Albino would then dip a piece of bread in his coffee and place it in the mouth of the dog.
They suspected that the dog had rabies since last week, when a misty rain fell at the hottest hour of the day, and the dog howled in pain under the delicate drops, as if it were raining hot embers. Later, they saw him barking at a wall.
The dog was lost and had been replaced by madness.
The creature backed up, but those from behind continued to stone him with persistence.
The animal was afraid. It had barely been a week since he had been curled up at the feet of Don Albino. He was drawn to the smell of coffee. He lied down next to his owner’s chair. He called him with a snap of his fingers and he dropped a piece of bread for him. He stroked his side. He felt his fur move underneath his palm. He watched him. He saw himself reflected in the round marble of his dark eyes.
He now felt a passion feverish and rampant inside of himself. He tried to charge at one of the bigger children, but it was too late, the mob had grown. There weren’t any children at home, nor at the park, nor in the river. They surrounded him.
The smaller ones ran about wildly collecting ammunition for their older siblings and older cousins. They chose their own stone and threw it as if trying to shatter the creature. The gaze in their eyes was a concentrated dose of rancor.
They saw in detail the blood run over his body, and it was as if they had never been as alive as they were in this moment. They took up a rough rock in their hands and threw it at the animal with a tribal frenzy.
Thunk sounded the first stone that landed on his skull, like splitting a coconut with a machete. The dog swayed on its four paws and fell snorting to its side. One crystalline line of drool flowed from its snout and wet the earth. Soon, a thick pool of blood encircled him. He would have liked to have heard the rhythm of Don Albino’s footsteps on the hallway floorboards, while he waited for them to serve him his cup of coffee. He called to him. He dunked a piece of bread and let him eat the whole thing. He licked the crumbs off the floor.
Pieces of his skin separated and fell to the ground like the scalp of a defeated Sioux warrior. His skin shined like the rind of a fruit split open on the ground. The children approached the animal. They gathered more rocks and continued pummeling the mass of flesh and viscera that lay strewn over the field. The creature, barely living, looked up at the sky with bulging eyes, and his gaze was one of grave suffering. A whimper, like that of a puppy, escaped his disfigured face.
The children wiped their hands on their pants and little by little returned home. Some walked towards the river to take a dip. Others were exhausted and trudged home dolefully. The rest were still full of energy and ran along kicking cans. The little girls skipped along the street giggling shyly. They sang the songs they had been taught at school and scared all the hens as they entered into the corrals in front of their homes.
The dust settled on the furniture just as darkness invaded the evening.
At home, the children drank coffee in front of the television.
The rain began to fall then, heavy and boisterous. It ran over the roof tiles and tore up the earth, creating swirling rivers of mud that twisted like serpents, swallowing the streets whole.
The current swept away the last remnants of the stoned animal from the field. What was left of the heap of flesh fell away like a landslide.
Nothing remained. The madness had gone elsewhere.