((Jaipur, India, 1998) (the dogs of India))
(How to fight a dog)
He was the only American at the hotel he knew of, a few miles outside of Jaipur, India (otherwise known as the Pink City). He didn’t know any of hotel guests either, said hello to the grounds-men; they always seemed to be cutting something in the mornings, such as: trimming bushes, cutting the grass, around the hotel, under his window to his room. He also said hello to the hotel security guard, always outside in the front of the hotel, and the female housemaid, the one that cleaned his room, wore a long light green silky dress down past her ankles, per near to her knees, with a dull purple strip to it, and a darker green light shawl that seemed to belong to the dress over her shoulder, which reached down to her knees. She was very thin, a long sharp nose, thick eyebrows, and had skin like rawhide, had she not had such skin, she would have been a nice looking lady for her age, perhaps, thirty or a few years older, hard to tell. He noticed there were a few small groups of Europeans at the five-star hotel, along with a few other groups, and singles and couples. They paid him little attention though, he likewise to them. It would be fair to say, most of the people at the hotel, he’d simply pass them on the stairway give a smile, like him, they were all strangers to one another.
His room was on the third floor, the top of the hotel. His room faced a shanty tent like village, which was beyond the hotel gardens, and ran parallel to a dirt road in front alongside of the hotel.
As one walked outside, through the front doors of the hotel, across the street, and to the right of the doors, was a boxed shrine, there was a statue inside the small red painted box, which a Hindu would approach, open up the two small doors, fold his hands in prayer, and bow his head to the statue inside in solitude, and meditation, then he’d close the box and go his way. He had noticed that the several days he was at the hotel.
Sidney Muller, was his name, from Minnesota; he came a long ways to see the few monuments, within a seven-hundred and fifty mile radius of Deli, to include the Taj Mahal, and in Jaipur, the Palace of the Winds (or, otherwise known as, the Pink Palace). In the sunlight, the Pink Place glistened. The sun seemed to drip like rain over it.
The motor carts and cars, zoomed around the large cows—which are pampered animals to say the least in India, and mostly for religious reasons, whom walked aimlessly from the city square, to side streets, eating whatever they saw, even to the doorways, and doorsteps of cafes and stores, never once got hit by a car, or motor cart. A little miracle in itself, thought Sidney, they appeared to be everywhere and in everyone’s way.
He had remembered looking out his window towards the shantytown, how dark and empty the square was the night before, down in the center of town, a few miles away, with the stray dogs, and a hundred bodies lying about on the lawns and near the Pink Palace. A few police walking to and fro, but not bothering anyone in particular.
“I’ll do it,” he confirmed from the window. “Yes, I’ll go over there!” he reiterated.
Then he sat back in his chair and went back to reading the book, “The Jazz Age,” short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, falling to sleep and waking up near 2:00 a.m., in the morning; whereupon, he washed his face, and headed down the stairway of the hotel to the lobby.
The night manager stood up from behind the lobby desk, bowed slightly to Mr. Muller, greeting him from a distance. He was an old man, very short, broad shoulders, dark skinned.
“Can I help you Mr. Muller?” He knew Mr. Muller by name, perhaps him being the only American there at the hotel, and being there the longest of most tourists, several days thus far, which most visitors came for two or three days and left.
“Sir,” said Sidney Muller, “it’s very hot weather tonight; I’m going to go for a night walk.”
By the expression on the old manager’s face, he liked the American’s dignity, he never complained like the Japanese; and gave tips, unlike the few South Americans that were there; and spoke to him, unlike the Europeans, who only spoke if they were spoken to, or wanted something.
On the other hand, Sidney seemed to like the way the old timer, the hotel manager, felt about being a hotel manager, pride showed on his face. A face that was raw and heavy, with deep carved in wrinkles. His hands were big, and his ears cauliflower, like a boxers.
Liking Sidney, the manager hurried around the desk and opened the front door for him, after looking out it, “Be careful,” he garbled in a serious tone, “there are many stray dogs, and don’t go near the shantytown, let the guard know you are walking about the grounds, please do that sir, okay?”
Sidney shook his head up and own, confirming a yes, but he did not have intentions of course to not explore the village, the tent city of sorts, it was the reason he was leaving the hotel at 2:00 a.m., in the first place.
The manager stood in the doorway of the hotel, observing Sidney talking to the guard. Sidney on the other hand, saw this from the side of his right eye, he could see the old timer watching him from behind the glass doors; a different maid, one he had seen before but wasn’t the one who cleaned his room, she was behind the manager, folding towels, ready to clean, and re-supply empty rooms. She had a vacuum cleaner underneath her cart, some rags tied to its handle, and spray cans most likely to scent the rooms, as she clean them.
“You must stay away from the road, who knows the danger out there?” said the guard, middle aged, tall and thin, had a blue shirt on that said, ‘Hotel Security Guard.’ He looked to Sidney a dutiful, if not pious like man. Then he walked over to the red box where the shrine was secured—as Sidney walked the opposite way, towards the tents of the shanty village. He had a light jacket, more like a windbreaker (incase of rain), wrapped around his left arm, he walked up to the roadside, more of a gravel path, at this point neither the guard nor manager could see him, and across the road was the village.
The tent village was open to the sky in many places, there was a horde of people sleeping on cots, and under cots, and dogs sleeping under cots, and stray dogs walking about in the near and far, sniffing, and smelling for food.
He looked about, a dog opened its eyes, under a cot, near him, he murmured, “Boy there’s a lot of dogs here…” and he could smell the sweat of humanity all about him, it filled the air.
Another dog must had gotten his scent, it was different, perhaps sweet from the soap of the hotel, and he whispered, just under his breath, “not another one…” then he looked back at the dog under the cot, its eyes wide open, his eyes caught the dog’s, and that wasn’t good. Then to distract the moment, a cat ran past one of the other dogs approaching from a distance, which allowed the dog under the cot, to appear in front of Sidney unnoticed.
“Yes,” he said in a low tone, adding, “I should be getting out of here,” he was afraid to glance toward the hotel, which he apparently wanted to do, but forced himself not to do, not allowing the dog to attack him unnoticed again.
He could feel the inside of his inners; go topsy-turvy, with an odd feeling of tightening. The dog studied him, pacing in front of him, as not to allow him to run towards the hotel, without confrontation. And now two other dogs were approaching.
The brave dog, the one from under the cot, was but several feet in front of him now, the other dogs nearing twenty-feet or so.
Sidney saw the other two dogs, “Yeah!” he said, as if he had expected them; in any case, he stayed in this position.
There were a few arc lights, up and down the road, a few over by the hotel, the moon was near full, so visibility for both the dogs and Sidney for a night was kosher, for a battle.
The mass of humanity, sleeping remained so, notwithstanding, and the few loud shouts Sidney made to the dogs didn’t seem to disturb them, if indeed they were disturbed, perhaps more like waiting for the dogs to do their thing, so they could take off of him whatever was left: money, a ring, a gold chain.
Sidney got to thinking: for some reason, having traveled in the third world countries as much as he had, the poor often felt, being poor gave them the right, to take at will, if it be to their advantage, what does not belong to them, in the name of justice, since mankind, the world, God, and nation, had had abandoned them, and made them poor to start with. And this was his momentary comment to himself, why the sleeping folks would not wake up and come to his rescue. Injustice would get its revenge.
The young man shouted something once more, instead of lowering his voice, to sooth the dog, or sit down low, to not over tower the dog, he enraged the dog. Now the two other dogs were right behind the brave one, as if they were his sentries.
Nobody in the shantytown saw Sidney, and if eyes were on him, he didn’t notice, and at this point, he told himself: what difference does it make, I’m on my own. Then the two dogs started barking, and the brave one growled, snarled, showing his teeth, his upper gums. He was hungry, and he knew now, he had the advantage, the edge. And not one soul of the many, perhaps a hundred sleepers, woke up.
The first dog, the brave one, the one that came out from under the nearby cot, walked in a half circle around him, across his path, as not to allow him to escape. The other two remained behind him, abreast of each other, with much knowingness, so it appeared.
Part of the time, at this time (intermittently), Sidney was talking to the dog—now, in a lowered voice, but the dog of course didn’t understand a thing and it appeared it was not really comforting; his focus was completely on the kill, the attack to be.
“You damn young fool,” he called himself, “of course I got to fight you dog now!” he added to his shout, “Go back!”
They turned sharp towards him, to a stand still position, and the brave one growled, while the other two behind him, yelped, half hazard.
There was no wind blowing, he threw a hand gesture to the dog, as if it was a sign for attack, Sidney was a defensive fighter, therefore, he needed the dog to do his attack first, so he could counter it, and attack on the rebound, leaving the dog open, and vulnerable for a second, and that is all he figured he’d need.
The dog leaped towards Sidney, it was about two and a half feet from toe to the top of its head, about the same size as it comrades, but thin, he hit him a square blow, hard blow a smashing thrust onto the nose of the beast, a powerful smash, with a tight fist, like a rock, his knuckles extending outward tight against his skin. Then came a kick, a millisecond after the punch, it was as if it was next to being simultaneous, automatic on Sidney’s behalf. And his sharp shoes wedged into the ribs of the dog, snapping one, and the dog fell backwards, lost its wind.
The dogs were frigid behind the brave one, they looked as if they were near starvation also, and Sidney knew they were desperate for a pound of flesh, his flesh, but also he knew they were weak, their fur was of a rustic dirty color, you couldn’t really tell what natural color it was.
Also, Sidney knew his neck was safe, the dogs were too short to jump that high unless they dragged him down to the ground, therefore, he didn’t protect it. On the other hand, it was too late to play dead, plus that wouldn’t work with these dogs they were too hungry. It was all up to his courage, and skills in karate.
He wrapped his coat tightly around his forearm, and dangled it in front of the dog somewhat, and the dog took his second leap, his jaws clamped onto and into the jacket, and forearm, and Sid now lifted the dog up a few inches, allowed his body to stretch, to where he had no leverage, power or force, he now took a hold of the dog’s loose ear, and with a solid grip, twisted and pulled on it, jerked it as if it was a thread, and he was trying to rip it apart to make ends, and he did rip the ear three quarters off the dog’s skull, and looking into the dog’s eerie like eyes, he took his two fingers and poked them straight and hard into those glossy marbles, the dog dropped to the ground whimpering, blindly. He moved about in the dirt trying to get his equilibrium back, as the other two dogs prepared to attack.
And just at that moment, the guard showed up, picked up some stones, and threw them at the two dogs, and they ran off (and still everyone around on those cots slept as if they were dead).
“Young gentlemen,” he called to Sidney, “we best get back to the hotel, in case the dogs find more courage and return.”
Meeting both head on, they turned sharply and quickly headed on across the pathway to the hotel, within a minute Sidney could see the lights of the hotel, the front door, where he had left the Manager, it brought to him some consolation.
Once by the hotel doors, the Guard started walking over to that little Hindu shrine, opened the box, as Sidney was behind him, and the Hindu put his hands in a prayer position, as did Sidney, and they both gave thanks to their God.
“The sun will be up in a few hours, Mr. Muller,” said the Night Manager in the hotel lobby, as Sidney walked through it, worn-out, pale as a ghost, sweating like a hog, “should I wake you up at your regular time, say, 7:00 a.m., sir?” he asked.
“You kidding,” said Mr. Muller, and they both laughed as Sidney slowly and with much effort, climbed those steps to his third floor room, and crashed on the bed.