Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Octopod


November 1994



The weather was cool.  We dressed in full suits for the evening meeting and they were black and double-breasted.  The tags went on the pockets and we went out into the dirt streets of San Juan Popoca.

Lazaro walked fast half a block ahead of me.  Stray dogs here slept against the pastel plastered houses, up against the road, or in the street.  I'd seen him pull back and kick sleeping dogs in the ribs and laugh, shaking his head and looking back at me as they coughed and stumbled away.

This Monday two dogs knotted together mating in the street.  He looked back, grinning, and then sprinted toward them.  He planted kicks like a placekicker wherever he found openings.  The shrieking dogs bolted for opposite directions, failing, and he danced around them athletically.  The eight legged beast wobbled in circles howling loudly enough to attract passers-by and a crowd gathered.

Vamos, I said.  Let's go.  He didn't respond, still kicking.  The crowd watched and some of them encouraged him.
Vámonos, I yelled but he ignored me.  I leaned up against the wall of a store and waited.  When one of the dogs started bleeding he stopped finally.  He shook his head again laughing.
¿Listo?” he said.  You ready?  We boarded the bus for the meeting.

February 1995



Months passed and I worked with Gasquez.  A señora who worked behind the counter in a store told us about a young black-suited man like us who bested an eight-legged monster in the center of town.  She saw it with her own eyes.
“Was the jóven a gringo?” Gasquez asked her and winked at me.

She watched me with squinted eyes.  “No. I don't think so,” she said.  “Well, it could be.”  She continued with the tale as if the jóven were the hero.  The monster had either one or three heads but she couldn't recall. 

“It seems like an important point,” Gasquez said. “How many heads it had.”
“To the monster at least.  I think there were two,” I said and told Gasquez about the incident with Lazaro.
Ay, la octopoda, Gasquez said to her.  “Is that what she's talking about?” he asked me.
“I don't know.”

August 1995


I served in the city of Puebla now, nearly an hour from San Juan Popoca.  Others came by in black suits too and we talked about the Chupacabra sucking out the life of livestock all over Chihuahua in the north and even as close as Tlaxcala.

“I just came from San Juan Popoca.  Weird things there,” said Sorensen.
“That was my first area!  It's magical.  Did you hear about the UFOs that hover in the hills there and at the cusp of the volcano?”
“Which one, Iztaccíhuatl?”
“No, Popocatépetl.”
“Oh.  I did hear of that.  They caused the eruption.”
“They landed in the hills while I was there,” I said.
“No.”  He didn't believe it.  I didn't at first either.
“Well, we were in Atlixco that day.”
“How do you know then?”  An accusation.
“They all said so.  All of them.”
There was a moment of quiet.

“Oh!” he said, “You hear about the Octopod?”
“No, what's that?”
“An eight-legged hydra that sprung from the streets by the zócaloThey said a goofy-looking gringo in a dark cloak defeated it with nothing but an umbrella.  Well, some people thought it was Quetzalcóatl or St. Thomas.”

“Bullshit.”
“No.  And watch your mouth.”


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