Friday, December 05, 2003

Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but, waking, no such matter.

- Sonnet 87



In Guatemala, we live in a hootch in the jungle, and I am reading the news. It is in Spanish, which I read at about a first grade level, but reading a Spanish newspaper is no stranger than living in a Guatemalan jungle.

The story I am following concerns two students who have devised an elaborate experiment involving a donkey. They have outfitted the beast with a pack featuring a battery, and on a swiveled pod above is mounted a Kalashnikov and a four-power videocam, each with a 360 degree swivel. A sensitive aural device was included in the package, together with a GPS. This was the best-outfitted mule in the universe, and he was tracking through the jungle alone for all that.

The two sat in a cabin, monitoring the path of their beast, which they named “Ramburro.” A large monitor showed what the cam saw, and they heard what was local to the burro, and they watched and heard in shifts all day and night, even when the mule slept.

At first of course the little one was afraid of the wild, for anything might be expected to harm her. And then she was very frightened of the sound of the automatic rifle going off about two feet above her back…until she noticed and remembered how threats seemed to disappear with the roar of the rifle. Her stride became more assured then, and then even jaunty. She foraged and she slept where she list, and went where she may.

The experiment, were it to prove successful, (and there was ever reason for optimism thus far), would be expanded to include all beasts of prey. A tame deer with magnificent antlers would be taught to carry the pack, and when the hunters came…

The two in the cabin could find in their reading or in their philosophy no basis for human arrogance and cruelty, for how should the deer or the rabbit be considered worthless but as feed for the gullet or the pride of these swaggering bipods? It would be shown how the luster of killing would tarnish when the prey became the hunter. Fat men would leave the woods in droves, but first some of them would be left as forage for the beasts. It is best to begin this experiment in a land where a corpse found in the woods or out was not considered shocking.

I rose up off the bed then, and I was lumbering like a beast myself. I carried with me unintentionally a huge robe of whatever make, and sought to replace it. I was stumbling about, bent, lumpen. I was going to the bathroom.

These calls in my dreams were intricate and frustrating, designed of course by my waking state as a hedge against enuresis. In the night, through the walls, from another cabin somewhere, I heard a muted scream, someone wailing about something of the child’s dripping on his feet. I endeavored not to notice.

I see a dark facility, and I lumber about. The section I intend for my purpose was not so designed. I press on. There is a sink and a urinal and a line before it. I wait.

I must squeeze in behind a counter featuring a proprietor and his wife and two small children. I make to do that, realizing I am by rights afforded this place, and so are they. The children laugh and remark and I make to keep their hands away from me.

When I leave, there is someone, a young guy, portly, gray, moving with me. I think, he will follow me, but he very deliberately strides off at an oblique angle. I am left to return to our cabin, where I have left Niki J asleep.

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