Back with Cantinflas: Ahi está el detalle, 1940 by José B. González

Ahí está el detalle.  The details. Like picking the small rocks out of a pile of beans.  A
small detail can make a difference between hopping on a bus and getting killed by a bus.

Picture a dog. A spot on its nose.  No collar, wandering the streets.  It wants a bone.  A
turkey leg, a greasy rib, a lamb chop.  It doesn’t know the difference.  Could be a
dinosaur bone, a chicken bone.  It’s hungry. So hungry it could choke on any bite. 

Picture a dog barking.  Begging for a bite of a bread crumb, it wanders. Scurries from
side to side, door to door, street to street, town to town.  It chases pigeons, butterflies,
lizards, cars.  It’s been chased side to side from doors, streets, towns.

Picture a hot day. Sweat on your forehead trickling to your ankles. Sweat weighing your
feet down.  The concrete pulling your heels.  Your head bowed down, arms at your sides,
ready to surrender to the sun.

Picture your grandmother holding her purse to her side with both hands. On a street full
of traffic, horns.  Beggars and bottles on the sidewalk.  She tells you not to stop at the coo
of each pigeon. That you’re going to miss the bus. 

Picture the dog again shifting between cars and buses, dodging. That dog. Remember? 
The one that was chasing pigeons, butterflies, lizards, cars?  The one with the spot on its
nose.  The one without a collar, wandering the streets. That one. It’s still hungry.  And it’s
still wandering. It’s limping a little as it nears the bus. Your bus. The dog snarls a little at
the back tire, but on a hot day, when you’ve been chasing pigeons, butterflies, lizards, and
cars, wouldn’t you do the same?  The dogs puts its head down, the way an obedient dog
would after a snarl.  Your grandmother looks back, smiling that you didn’t miss the bus,
but shaking her head because you still haven’t caught up.  You move past the back tire. 
And at that moment.  No, actually, at the moment that you remember the film.  How
Cantinflas’ girlfriend asked him to kill the dog.  Because it was rabid. How he refused at
first. But she begged. So he took a gun, closed his eyes, and fired. Cantinflas shot it.
Killed it. That Cantinflas. And no barks or laughter. Now come back to the street.  The
one with beggars and bottles on sidewalks. The one with the dog without a leash.

Picture that dog snarling again.  Except this time, the dog sneaks up behind the back tire.
You run at the same instant that he lunges in your direction. The dog looks taller up close,
its head up to your chest, a breath away.  The spot on its nose the size of your head.

Picture the dog’s bite on your leg.  Little red dots . . . . . . . .  around your calf . . . . . . . . A
man wearing a blue bandana kicks the dog in the stomach.  Someone says something
about not touching the dog. It is drooling.  It may have rabies. The dog sprints, leaping between cars and buses. Your grandmother grabs your hand. Stares at the little red dots
. . . . . . . . The bus exhales black smoke into the sidewalk. You don’t scream because you’ve
been taught that big boys don’t cry.  But you whimper. Because it’s not just a few dots
. . . . . . . . The dog was hungry. Remember? It wanted a bone.  A turkey leg, a greasy rib, a
lamb chop. It found a bone.  The left calf. 

Picture two weeks later.  The rabies shots on your stomach . . . . . . . . Your bite wounds
haven’t healed . . . . . . . . . Your grandmother is taking you home from the last shot.  She
makes sure you’re at her side before getting on the bus home.  As you board it, you look
at the back tire to make sure no dogs are hiding on the other side. On the way home, you
go back through the same streets.  The ones with beggars and bottles on sidewalks.  You
see the dogs without leashes. You notice that they all look like the dog that bit you.  You
see the wounds on the streets ------. Then you recall the dog’s snarl as it was about to bite you.  You recall the sharpness of the teeth.  The dive of the snout.  The rise of the ears. 
Then that detail that no one else could see. But you. The teats on the dog’s underside ::::   

Picture the memory: :::: a mother, the streets ------, the details of rabid hunger . . . . .

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Contributor Notes

José B. González is the author of Toys Made of Rock. A Fulbright Scholar, he has been a featured speaker at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. His poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies including Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry and journals such as Callaloo, Calabash, and Palabra. A member of the Macondo Writers Workshop, he is the co-editor, with John S. Christie, of Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, and is the editor of LatinoStories.Com.