Perritos by Evan Coleman

It lay there, there, where the crumbling sidewalk was cast in shadow, the darkness hiding its features, dim light blending its fur into the matted backs of others, giving the illusion that with the right whistle it would rise from the stained cement, and perhaps bark, perhaps walk nimbly away with tail tucked between legs. Our white legs were stretching long and lucid, cutting the burning Nicaraguan air with our strides, pulling our bodies and minds past the tragedy of the dog in the dark.

But an eye takes a second look as the legs pass on, quizzically, catching the wet pinkness of decaying organs, blinking at the curled worms intertwined. Its lid closes in thought, and its thought travels the smooth span of the dog’s consciousness, wondering where it began and how much longer the slope could continue before hitting the shadow on the cement. Seeing dogs slither past, staring straight ahead, tails tucked, heads bowed in fear; they notice the death, but are far more used to it than the white man, the white man who is saddened by this meaningless death; he hasn’t seen the beatings, he digs for something past what is truly there on a dark sidewalk: a dead dog, a sidewalk, a shadow.

The dogs walked on; it was as if another creature was pushing out from within their stretched and drooping skin, like tiny fingers digging into fur, scraping for air, clawing to breathe when there was no oxygen to inhale: only shadows, the fumes of trash fires, the last few feathers of a missing chicken, “Chingada!” and the boot of a dull teenager. There was no pack, just stray dogs, walking with tails tucked, passing other dogs, passing shadows and worms and intestines, not looking, but walking, not mourning but grinning, clinging to their thin ribs under the hues of a setting sun.