Corpse Carrying Dog

We were asleep early enough, and up by eight-thirty. Supposedly Walter gets up at five, but he was sleepy looking when we finally stirred out of the truck. Silvio had a coffee with Walter, but I was more interested in seeing more ruins, so I went into another part of the village. I could see Silvio in the distance, and could hear him calling me to accompany him into the theatre, but I was more interested in places I hadn’t seen, like the communal kitchens and garage. I went through a few of those buildings, and then joined Silvio, only to have Walter come to meet us with his truck.

As Silvio said, “Does he walk nowhere?” Walter asked us if we wanted to see more of a tour, so we went with him around some of the same places we saw before. Once we had gone through most of the village, and stopped in the quincho of the big house of the owner, we toured the places where people break in to steal wood. Wood is at a premium in the desert, so people come to steal the Oregon pine left over in the buildings. Most of it is gone already. After, we went to the cemetery which was hit hard by flooding in the past few years. There Walter lifted the lid on a box which held the bones of a little girl, and encouraged us to look. We looked at the tiny backbone of the kid, and then Walter slapped the cover back on the box. We looked around the rest of the cemetery, which Walter told us is one only for children. I walked to the far end of the cemetery and took a few photos of crosses which had names, but for the most part I tried to discern what the crosses and the gates around them were made of. In one of the tiny mausoleums there were bones scattered around, which looked like small human bones.

The most macabre sight waited for us when we left. One of the dogs, the one we all liked the least, grabbed a portion of a ribcage of a child and was running up the road beside us to chew on it later. Walter stopped the jeep and then threw rocks at the dog in an effort to make it drop the bones. The dog merely went further away and then walter got back in the truck and drove away quickly so the dog would get tired of carrying the parts of a child and drop it. He informed us after a few minutes that the dog had given up so it could run better, but we all knew that Walter was not going back to pick up the portion of the body and return it to one of the graves.

I couldn’t help but think about the parents and how they felt when their child died, to not only to have the body treated with such disrespect that they had placed so gently in the ground. If my daughter were to die, and some dirty dog were running with her in its mouth, I certainly would be less than pleased.

We left Walter soon after. We refilled the water tank, and then left Walter to his empty village while we drove many hundreds of kilometres. I did most of the driving in the late afternoon into evening, although we stopped a few times to take photos of the abrupt and violent green of a river valley. We’d seen only a few trees, and most of those were planted and tended by humans, but soon more trees and bushes began to appear. At one such stop, at the bottom of the river valley, Silvio took the drone into the air and filmed the surrounding and I went exploring into the shrubbery along the bank. It is easy to forget how great green growing things smell when you are in the dry dust of the Altacama. The desert here has nothing, not a single green thing and no insects other than the odd fly which I am at a loss to explain how it eats.

As the sun dropped it tore aside the last of the clouds and unfortunately, as dark settled over the land we dropped into a huge valley. It was too dark to make much out, but I drove the winding roads for at least twenty kilometres into the valley bottom and perhaps ten kilometres coming back up to the plain after.

We are now in Arica where we found a gas station we are parked at. Silvio chatted with an older retired couple from Argentina and then brought them back to the truck, of course, where they gave us lots of advice about how to get to Cusco and Machu Pichu. We talked to them for about forty-five minutes and then went across the street for an empanada. I wanted to try the local food. I cut up some veggies to go with it, and then we ate until it was time to work on our respective projects.

About Barry Pomeroy

I had an English teacher in high school many years ago who talked about writing as something that people do, rather than something that died with Shakespeare. I began writing soon after, maudlin poetry followed by short prose pieces, but finally, after years of academic training, I learned something about the magic of the manipulated word.
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