When going to the anti-war march previously reported here, to avoid the South by Southwest traffic I took a route thru an old neighborhood where I used to live. It is close-in to downtown Austin. Gentrified now. It was a bad neighborhood when we were there, not so many years ago. Actually, it was a good neighborhood, in the sense that we liked living there, until we got careless, but that's another story.
What Austin has gained in international cachet in the music biz, it has lost in a certain grittiness, signified among other things by significant numbers of poultry in Mexican neighborhoods, as well as lawless loose dogs.
At the outset of our story I am asleep:
Bam! Bam! "Hola! Hola! Yoohoo!" Bam! Bam! Bam!
"OK, OK, dammit!"
I went to the door and opened it. I had been awakened so suddenly I had a hard time focusing my eyes. The two small, angry Mexican ladies, hopping up and down on my porch, began pouring out their story before I could say anything. My dog had seized one of their chickens and had run with it down the street to my house as they followed in pursuit. The dog and the chicken both had disappeared underneath the house only seconds ago. Without my shirt, I went out and called the dog, a scruffy cur named Foxy who might more descriptively have been named Coyote.
"Foxy, Foxy, HEEEEER Foxy!"
Foxy came out from under the house, which was on a pier and beam foundation, evidence of the crime visible around her muzzle, but no chicken. At this point the two women burst into bitter lamentations, mostly in Spanish, that they were widow ladies and poor, and used to have a whole bunch of chickens plus the rooster, that the neighborhood never used to be this way, that dogs had come in the night and killed all but 3 and that now this dog had run off with their most prized remaining hen in broad daylight, Mother of God, as they watched, and they were going to call the police. My offer to pay them for their loss only redoubled their outcry, until finally one of them said there is no point in discussing this with someone like you, and they marched home.
I got a flashlight and crawled under the house and sure enough at the furthermost end from the access hole was a large white chicken with a big bloody gap chewed in its side.
Oh shit, I thought, crap, mierda, God damn it to hell. I crawled on my stomach elbows and knees 20 or 30 feet back to where the bird was squeezed into a space under floor joists inches from the ground. It was dazed from the wound, I thought, but in actuality it was only hypnotized by the flashlight; when I grabbed it with the idea of putting it out of its bleeding misery it exploded into a horrible struggling flurry of wings, gurgles and squawks blurred with blood so that I had to drop the flashlight to try to choke it to death--shit, why am I doing this?--while I was stretched out flat on my belly. Eventually I emerged from under the house covered with blood and feathers and dirt and spider webs, carrying a big limp dead chicken by its leg; I hid the evidence of my deed in a plastic garbage sack like an axe-murderer hiding the evidence, and shamefacedly dumped my victim into the garbage can by the alley.
After about an hour I went to the house down the street where the women lived and offered again to pay them. They were not so angry now and said they would accept ten dollars, which I forked over. "The police won't come about stuff like this," one of them said as she took my money. "There ain't no justice anymore for poor people like us."
Now, as then, that's true.