Caesar, Mata Hari, and Mirza: Story by Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi
Caesar, Mata Hari, and Mirza By Godot Khan
Translated from Urdu, a story by Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi (1962). Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi is to receive the Hilal-i-Imtiaz in literature from the President in Pakistan.
‘Hai Allah! Why did you get this elephant of a dog?’
‘To guard what?’
‘Yeah! He’s a very clever dog. He can guard a house even if the house doesn’t have anything in it to guard.’
The immediate benefit that came out of this domestic dialogue was that, as soon as I got my next paycheck, I bought all the important household stuff so the dog could guard them. But one needed a heart of stone to keep our innocent children uninformed of the true benefit of a dog that only parents could understand. That benefit was that this dog after all belonged to a Brit. And who doesn’t know that even our illiterate give their dogs English names and talk to and get mad at them in English. So, I immediately pointed out to my wife that our children would learn English because of the dog.
The moment my wife heard that, she patted the dog on the head and grabbed the leash from me just as Lady Macbeth grabbed the dagger from Macbeth: ‘Infirm of purpose! Give me the dagger’¦’
Oh, memories! About twenty years back from this drop-scene, when Aatish was young, nay, adolescent, he saw that blue-eyed, shapely-legged, blonde mame hugging and kissing her pocket-sized Pomeranian in her lawn. And that little rascal deserved it, too. He was so adorable, so cute. Covered all over with cloud-like white hair, until he started to walk, you couldn’t tell at which end was his face. Hai! What great time that was! Everything was young. Everything was beautiful. Everything was loveable. What fragranced and hot were those days: So hot is my breath as if it were heat wave.
I remember that day very well when these sinful eyes saw beauty at both end of the leash. Then, I had a beautiful yearning: after we get freedom from the Brits, and if I get lucky, I’d get a blue-eyed, shapely-legged, blond dog as a pet for sure. But, as Mirza pointed out, first of, dogs of high breed were too expensive and, secondly, our house was so small that it would’ve been impossible for a dog to stay healthy in it. Thank God for Mr. S. K. Dean (Shaikh Khair-uddeen), M. A. (Oxford), who kept fanning the flame of my wish.
Mr. S. K. Dean was a distant relative of mine who happened to be my neighbor as well. He had a strong, pure Greyhound, whom he was raising with the neighbors’ blood. That dog’s body was like a cheetah’s, and a temperament to match it. Although he was an expert in all sorts of different ways of barking, but if it was a full moon out there and he was in a mood, he would get so original that every time he barked, you’d get a different kind of annoyance. Other dogs like him who barked as a hobby would give up fairly quickly. But this dog, as Mirza said, barked in Urdu, that is, he’d bark relentlessly.
People say that Mr. S. K. Dean didn’t think much of his ancestors, but had memorized his dog’s history of the last fifteen generations. He was so proud of his dog’s ancestry as if their pure blood was running his own impure veins. He’d say that, on this side of the river Suez, one could not get a meaner dog. The dog’s grandfather got killed on June 15, 1941 in Pond Cheri battling with a gang of local dogs. It was a full moon. Not a creature was stirring. At the crossroad the battle took place. It was a dog-eat-dog scene. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that, if someone rushed to Mr. S. K. Dean’s house in an emergency to phone the fire brigade, he’d not let him touch the phone before showing him his late dogs’ photo album. A big picture of Mr. Dean hung on his drawing room wall, which he had taken with his dog’s trophies and the dog’s medal pinned on Mr. Dean’s coat. Thinking of my wish, one day, when no one was around, he let me hear the bark of his dog on a tape recorder. He had tears in his eyes hearing it, and I had in mine for his silliness.
I had my wish to get a dog express to Mirza many times. But every time Mirza heard the word ‘dog,’ he acted as if he’d bite me. ‘Let go, it’s a totally nonsense animal,’ he’d say. ‘It’s good for nothing. The only reason dogs were created so that Pitras could write a wonderful essay on them. That happened long ago. This animal has no reason to exist anymore.’ He’d go so far to say that, even if this species ceased to exist, the Urdu sarcastic writers would continue its name. Although Mirza’s knowledge about all animals was quite limited (for example, just last evening he thought that foxes were female coyotes and’”good heavens’”the big ant a male of common little ants!), but he specially disliked dogs. To convince others of his opinion, he’d present logic that made no sense at all. For example, he said one day, ‘A house that has a dog in it not only keeps thieves away, but also the angels.’
‘I can understand the thieves, but what are the angels afraid of?’
‘That’s because dogs are unclean.’
‘But you can keep the dogs clean. Look at the Brits. They give bath to their dogs every morning and evening.’
‘If you washed the dung with soap every morning and evening would it be clean?’
‘But the question is why the dog is considered unclean?’
‘Some should learn illogic from you! My grandmother used to say that dogs have swine’s saliva in their mouths.’
‘You’ve found a unique reason for unclean!’
‘My brother, I’ll tell you the clear recognition of a clean animal. Remember, all those animals that Muslims can eat are clean.’
‘Considering that, goats have suffered a great deal in Muslim countries for being clean.’
‘Let them say whatever they want to. People have always called dogs, dogs, and have not addressed them with big peoples’ names.’
‘What do you mean by big peoples’ names. Haven’t you heard that all dogs were once wolves; living with people their wolf-ness went away, but people on the hand’¦’
‘Look, now you’ve started to talk literature. Stop it.’
The root of Mirza’s problem with dogs goes back to his childhood, so I didn’t want to argue with him any further. But I secretly kept wishing for a dog one day. Finally, that day arrived. My British officer, with a heavy heart and with even heavier steps, was leaving for his country. Before he left, based on the same relationship I had with him and he with his dog, he inquired with me, ‘If you want you can keep my dog as a remembrance. It’˜s an imported Alsatian. He’s thirteen months old. Call him Caesar and he’ll come to you wagging his tail.’ You cannot imagine the secrets a weak person harbors in his greedy little heart. Without a doubt, there was nothing better to remember him by. Every time the dog would bark, I’d think of this officer. Not only that, it was an Alsatian: Sometime I look at him / Sometimes I look at my house! I was so happy with this small gesture of him that, as Mirza put it, if I had a tail it wouldn’t have stopped wagging. Whatever hesitation I had was gone when I heard the word ‘imported.’ In those days, anything that was not produced in our dear country was looked upon with respect. That’s why every rich and spoiled Muslim was bent on proving that his ancestors were pure imports; that they arrived in Hindustan with only swords in their hands.
What importance is accorded an imported dog in our society can be understood just by the events that took place before my very own eyes about two years ago. Four houses down from ours lived certain Barrister Khilji. His father left a few rare dogs (he left a few rare books as well, but because they were also about dogs, I left them out of this story deliberately.) One of those dogs was a crossbreed bitch (about whom Barrister Khilji proudly claimed that her maternal grandmother, Josephine, had an affair with Rasputin, a Great Dane, and, moreover, he had acquired a certificate of that affair from Shimla Civil & Military Kennel which hung on the wall in his bedroom that provided pleasure to his eyes and heart.) He named her Mata Hari. Once her thick and loose ears hung low, but he had them straightened-up like an Alsatian’s through an operation performed by the city’s best surgeon. Her skin color was like a light brown toasted slice of bread.
Barrister sahib’s Anglo-Indian wife (a well-filled woman herself) would spray Eue de Cologne on Mata Hari, put a collar made out of crocodile skin around Mata Hari’s neck, and take her for a walk. She would also color Mata Hari’s skin with a toothbrush to match her shoes: sometimes black, sometimes bright copper. This was the routine during the summer evenings. In winters, Mata Hari would gulp down a glass of French brandy and, like her mistress, would sit on the Iranian carpet in Italian silk underwear to guard sleeping or awake. Mata Hari looked like a wolf but was more like a lamb from inside. I say a ‘lamb’ because her despite eating English biscuits and canned meat (or perhaps because of it) she ran away with the neighborhood butcher the night of Bakar Eid. Walking provocatively, she returned three nights later with a dozen dogs following behind her. Turning back every now and then to glance at her lovers, she walked as though a Quraitul-ain-Haider’s story. Every alley had a story about her. Cleverness, however, had passed her by completely. As Mirza put it, she was an absolute donkey. It is he who said that stray puppies would drop by and suck all the milk from her breasts while her own pups would be left wagging their tails or sucking on plastic bones. But, to tell you the truth, she was not a bad guard. Other than her honor, she could guard everything else quite well. When Barrister sahib saw what Mata Hari was up to, he hired a chowkidar to guard her.
One summer when Barrister sahib started to get ready to go to Murree with his family and Mata Hari, his grandfather refused to go with him, saying that he cannot be in the same car as that ‘unclean bitch.’ So Barrister sahib left him at our place. All those days that old man stayed with us, every night after the Isha namaz he would raise his both hands in prayer and say, ‘ Ya Parwardigar, make Mata Hari die during her annual pregnancy, that bitch.’ Like precious stones, curses of every size and color were part of his daily conversation about Mata Hari. He would curse Mata Hari all day long sitting on the namaz cot. Spontaneously, he would say the same things in his namaz prayers as well. Mirza thought that, if the old man forced himself from cursing Mata Hari in his namaz, his prayers would lose all the effect; that is, how can a prayer be effective if it does not come from the heart? If it weren’t time for the namaz, he would complain to everyone about his grandson. The gist of his complaint was that he is also a living being, how come he is not treated like a dog.
My purpose in recounting this delicious tale of that imported granddaughter bitch is to let you know that the word ‘imported’ from that Brit destroyed the wall, which was never that high to begin with, of my hesitation about dogs. One does not get an opportunity like this everyday. In the end, my useless wish overcame my natural fear and, before the ship’s anchor was lifted, I found myself the owner of a lucky dog.
But I wasn’t ready for it, not only mentally but physically as well. When I heard ‘thirteen months old’ I imagined an innocent and pretty little face. I figured the dog must be just like that of a thirteen-month old little baby: giggling, smiling, beautiful. The truth is, no matter whose child it is, it always looks very sweet. And this after all was a child of an Alsatian. Yes, a child! Actually, I was so impressed with the word ‘imported’ that I felt ashamed calling him a puppy.
But Caesar turned out to be far more than what I expected. By sketching his body I do not want to waste the reader’s time. You can figure his physique just by knowing that the entire thigh of our dear friend Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos could be held in his mouth. And it was the Professor who told me, ‘Good Heavens! Thirteen-month old Alsatian is a grown dog. The books say that one shouldn’t get an Alsatian that’s more than three months old.’ And on top of that Mirza rubbed the salt on the wound by saying that, as an eyewitness, he can testify that if a dog’s breed and health is better than the owner’s then the owner cannot look into the dog’s eye and get mad at him; and this dog seems uncommonly mean. ‘You are afraid of nothing,’ I said to Mirza. ‘If a man is not afraid of dogs I question whether that man is born legit,’ Mirza responded. ‘Mirza,’ I said, ‘what’s the use if a dog if it’s not mean. Why not get a goat instead.’ ‘Yeah!’ he said, ‘A goat is a lot better than a dog. You can cut him up and eat it whenever you feel like it.’ The argument took us off the track. Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos finally interfered and ended our argument by saying that if you took the jaws out of a dog then a dog is a pretty decent animal.
Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos wasn’t wrong when he said that a grown dog is not easy to train. For Caesar, after all, it was a new house, new faces, new smell. In the first night, neither he slept, nor he let us sleep. He kept barking all night. Next night was not any different. Little training that he got from us in the twenty-four hours, however, made some difference. Those who fell asleep before the Fajir namaz, he woke them up for the namaz by licking their faces. The third night I gave him a sleeping pill. No use. Fourth night I gave him two pills. But, sir, he won’t shut up. Frustrated, I consulted Mirza. ‘Listen to me, don’t give him any sleeping pills tonight, you take three.’ I followed his advice. That night he didn’t bark at all.
But, surprisingly, at ten next morning, my deaf neighbor, Khwaja Shams-uddeen (Importer & Exporter), who had recently moved to our neighborhood, rudely woke me up to complain. ‘Your dog barked all night facing my house,’ and, fixing his hearing aide, continued, ‘you listen, he’s still barking with all his might.’ ‘Your radio also plays very loud all day. God as my witness, I’ve stopped listening to my radio shows. And I do have a license for my dog,’ I retorted. Like an eggplant’s, the color of his face turned from dark to deep purple the moment he heard the word ‘license.’ As a result of my retort, him and his radio kept quiet for the next three weeks. I found out from his chowkidar, however, that every night he would get up in the middle of the night and, fixing his hearing aide, would try to listen whether my dog is barking or not. I also heard through the grapevine that he’s been telling others that some low-life get a mean dog just to get away from those who’ve lent them money. People also heard him say that Caesar is not a kind of a dog that belongs to decent people. His wife was so suspicious of Caesar that if Caesar ever looked at her, she’d immediately hide her face in a dopatta.
About three weeks later, I saw him, puffy faced, walking towards my house. In response to my loud ‘As-salam-ail-e-kum,’ he said, ‘Look, what that swine’s child did to me.’ ‘Watch your tongue, mister, it’s a dog’s child,’ said Mirza. I was about to say something nasty to him when Mirza, who was playing ludo with me at the moment, nudge me and moved his bushy eyebrows to Khwaja’s left leg that had his pajama-leg missing from down his knee. With the corner of my eye I noticed the wound that could have been closed with a long zipper.
Ashamed, and with deep human sorrow, I asked, ‘What happened? A dog bit you?’
‘No. I bit myself!’
‘Aray sahib, horses are no less cruel!’ Mirza spoke again.
That spontaneous attack from Mirza was so severe that Khwaja was completely tak
en aback. Forgetting his external pain, soothing his internal pain, and blurting out mother-daughter curses to horses, he faded out. Actually, what had happened that his ancestors came from the other side of the Khyber Pass to sell horses in Hindustan, became very rich, and never left. The very horses destroyed the succeeding generations of those people. Khwaja Shams-uddeen had gambled every single penny of his ‘black’ income on horse racing, and his family members were left out of the money looking like complete idiots just like the income-tax people.
Caesar turned out to be exceedingly lazy. Instead of running around and performing little daily chores, he’d lie under the heavy Bougainvillea vine, which had beautiful bright-colored red and purple flowers in it, by the arched gate and turn over all day. Although a tailor’s needle goes through every type of cloth, I never saw Caesar bite a wrong person. It’d be completely wrong to say that he was wild. He was trained all right, but only fifty percent. That is, if the children ordered him to go after someone, my tiger would run after him and grab him by his tie, but if ordered to let go, he’d never.
Now, Mirza is a very cautious and suspicious person. I’m certain that, even if it were the holy water A’ab-e-zum-zum, he won’t drink it without boiling it first. Because of his this cautious nature, ever since we got Caesar, he’d visit us so seldom that if he dropped by at our house, we’d treat him so grandly that he’d suspect we’d ask him for a loan. One day, on our insistence, Professor Abdul Qaddoos sat down with Mirza and had a pep talk with him. ‘Look,’ he said to Mirza, ‘a dog is such a great animal. No other animal would thank his master after eating food. Think about it. A dog is the only animal that wags his tail for his master. Other animals use their tails just to get rid of flies. A lamb cannot even do that; his tail is good for human consumption only. However, one can use a bull’s tail as an accelerator, but you are not going to race a bull-cart (hitting on Mirza’s thigh) hai! a female French writer said it so well: the more I see men, the more I like dogs! (changing his tone) It’s cowardice to be afraid of dogs, especially the British dogs.’ Then he started to swear on Mirza’s uncombed head that the British dogs have fake teeth: the show-ones are not the same as the chewing-ones. When it seemed all that swearing is not working, he pointed to me and said, ‘Following this guy, I’ve also gotten a Cocker Spaniel.’ (You can tell a Cocker Spaniel in that his ears are longer than his legs, and his legs are so short that they cannot even reach the ground.) ‘The kids tried to teach him how to bark for two weeks. But now I keep him away from the kids. Just last Friday, one of the kids bit him; the poor pup is still getting the penicillin shots as a result.’
As Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos was telling his dog-tale while sipping black coffee, don’t know what came over Caesar. Out of the Bougainvillea, he suddenly jumped on Professor Abdul Qaddoos’ beef-filled samosa. The Professor couldn’t even swallow his coffee. In commotion, he dropped his cup on Mirza’s head (which, by the way, caused many cracks on the cup) and, gargling with coffee, ran and jumped over the gate that was taller than him.
‘Did the dog scare you?’ Asked Mirza.
‘Nnnno, nnnot rrreallly,’ trying to maintain his dignity, said the Professor from the other side of the gate, trembling.
It is possible that this conversation would have continued for a few more minutes when the topic under discussion jumped again and, grabbing Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos, put his sharp teeth in the Professor’s shapely thigh. About four five days ago they were in the same situation, sometime the Professor was up and the dog down and sometime the dog was up and the Professor down. I broke a twig from the vine and ran to beat that insolent dog. But the Professor stopped me saying that, ‘For God’s sake, don’t do this to me, my wound are still fresh from your twig beating the last time round.’
As the reader might have figured it out, forget about raising a dog, Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos’ relationship with dogs never went beyond a successful experiment of bites and bitten. He’s so ignorant about animals that, when my kids brought home a pair of parrots, they asked the good Professor, ‘Uncle, can you tell which one is male and which one female?’ The Professor thought about it for about four or five minutes, then said, ‘Beta, parrot is a very wise animal. Keep an eye on them for two to three months. The one that starts laying eggs first, that must be the female.’ Khair, one can ignore this ignorance of his because a male parrot can figure his female parrot better than a human being. But one day, in his usual way, he told us a deep secret from his own experience, ‘Trust me, one’s health improves when he gets a dog.’ The moment Mirza heard this he laughed so hard that our relationship almost ended with the Professor, which got stored only after offering many cups of coffee to him.
When our relations finally got to the point that we could once more talk to each other with abay-tabay, he started to tell dog stories again just to piss Mirza off. One day, feeling giddy, he said, ‘From medical point of view a dog is a very useful animal.’ On hearing this, Mirza stared at him with the eye of a Muslim. The Professor started to count on his fingers the diseases he’d gotten rid of because of dogs; and why go that far, he said, look at his own eight-inch puppy that has been so beneficial to him.
‘Well, be specific,’ said Mirza.
‘I won’t hide this from you, my friend,’ said the Professor. ‘You know, a dog needs to eat meat everyday. It was only when I got a dog that I discovered we never had meat cooked every day at our house. I was living my life in such ignorance.’
He was right. I witnessed it myself that once the 40-year old ignorance was lifted from his fat-laden life, he became so satisfied with life that he started to wear one-size larger shoes. I’d consider it coincidence that, after a long time, the Professor’s health became so good that I was envious; he could now go three or four days without popping pills. But Mirza thought that was because the Professor had to take his make-believe pup for a walk for two or three miles everyday.
Although to talk about turning one’s health around because of a high-caste dog is not exactly poetry, the entire neighborhood could testify that those neighbors of mine who were losing their health gained it back because of the presence of Caesar, especially his barking. When passing my house, no matter how lazily’”some literally dragging their feet’”one walked, he became extremely fast; a weird awareness took over him. Caesar could get one to cover a distance in seconds instead of in minutes. Forget about others, our own Khwaja Shams-uddeen (Importer & Exporter) who said that he had had it with Caesar, could not save himself from Caesar. The Saith sahib had incurable low blood pressure for the last fifteen years. He must have spent lakhs of rupees trying to cure it. All wasted. It had gotten to a point that the greediest of doctor was not willing to take him as his long term patient lest the other patients would balk thinking this doctor is no good. But within three months after he moved in as my neighbor, his blood pressure went not only up to normal, it went further up about twenty degrees pass the normal.
These stories are of the days when I was quite ignorant about dogs and thought that raising a dog is a child’s play. Once I became a regular member of the Kennel Club I discovered that our poor Caesar is totally innocent. It was entirely my fault. I was treating Caesar just like my own kid, meaning I got mad at him all the time. It was from the experts at the Kennel Club that I learned the etiquettes of owning a dog: treat your dog very gently, and don’t beat your kids in front of the dog or the dog’s personality will be ruined. In our house it was exactly the opposite. Everyone barked at the dog so much that their throats started to hurt. But as the time passed and the dog grew older, we understood better and stopped our bad behavior.
Thanks to Caesar, we felt so protected that, for about eight or nine years, we didn’t feel a need for locking our doors. He protected our stuff so much that if an unlucky cat or a crow passed by our kitchen, Caesar would go after him with such anger that he would break all the china plates in his way. Other than guarding the house and doing other house chores like that, he did things by which one could tell he was very understanding and loyal. He not only brought the newspaper tucked in his jaws at breakfast for me, he barked at the newspaperman when he came to collect the monthly bill. And not only the paper, I strictly told him not to, he could bring toasts for me like that too. At lunch and dinner, he would sit by my elbow. I’d feed him as I ate. He’d smell the food, and if he didn’t eat it, I’d know right away that it was leftover. In short, he was a very smart and well-serving dog.
One does not see the time pass, but it writes a story on every face. It seems like yesterday when Caesar came to our house just a puppy. Then, Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos, who always believed in only one color, used to pluck white hair from his head every Sunday. He does that now too, except that he plucks only the black hair (he has become aware of his age, that’s why he gets attracted to only those women who have children.) Little innocent children, who learned English thanks to Caesar, are now old enough to blush when they hear Urdu poetry. Slowly but surely, Caesar became a full member of our family, that is, in a sense that nobody took notice of him anymore. Before we knew, he grew old. Him and I had this feeling of camaraderie, of growing old together, of losing the battle against time.
Today I remember his every little act. When he was young, he would go after the pedestrians and the poor folks would run into the nearest house just to be humiliated and kicked out. He would wait for them and, when he saw them come out, he would jump on them again as if he was not an animal but a greedy hero of an English movie (these are Mirza’s words; he says that people kiss in English movies as if they are sucking on a mango.) Three years back, the neighbors were so scared of him. Now, he was so old that he’d just lie under that heavy Bougainvillea vine like a lazy man. Most he’d do would be to wag his tail gently to express his affection. But he never disappointed little children, whether of our house or the neighbors’. It never happened that a kid threw a ball while calling him and Caesar would not drop his bone and run after the ball to bring it back in his mouth. He liked children so much that he once tried to bring a soccer ball in his mouth. His senses, however, were becoming very slow. Gone was his fastness. As Mirza put it, his old-age was at the peak. For days on he would nap till afternoon under the vine with the sensational Urdu newspaper, in which the servant had brought the ground beef in the morning from the butcher, over him. Moonlit nights and flowers’ scent didn’t do anything to him. It used to be that when he felt ‘hot’ he’d break the leash in the evening, jump over the wall, and would return at the Fajir Azan in the morning, his mission accomplished and the deed done. Now, if he saw a hot bitch and a bone at the same time, he’d jump at the bone. And when his jaws started to hurt gnawing at the bone, he’d bury it under the vine and go over to drink water from the lota reserved for the wazu. It was hard to believe that it is the same Caesar whose jaws’ stamp is on every third man’s ankle in the neighborhood. His tail that used to be as erect as a question mark now hung like a poor man’s mustache. All his friends left one after another those alleys where the hot smell of bodies called him at nights. He was alone, all alone. Forget about hanging out with the new generation of dogs, he considered an insult even to bark at them. But the day the young bitch of Mata Hari, Cleopatra, ran away with the unknown dog of the sweet-wala, he longed to hear a bark. When he got very depressed being lonely, he would sit next to the radio and feel better listening to the classical songs.
Just as his body, his eyesight had turned bad. It was so bad that if Professor Qazi Abdul Qaddoos dropped by wearing white clothes, he would start barking at him thinking he was a stranger. But his hearing was intact. One could clearly tell that he is following the ball with hearing. He located the ball, as it made a sound hitting the ground, by hearing and not by sight. One evening he was sitting under the Bougainvillea in his typical style, with the left eye, which had been red ever since he was a puppy, closed and his jaws over his paws. A little girl, with a blue ribbon in her hair, said ‘shoo’ and threw a ping-pong ball on the road. He ran to grab the ball. The ball in his mouth, the moment he turned around, there was a huge sound of a car breaking. The children screamed and ran towards him. There were two black stripes on the road of the car’s tires. The car stopped for a few moments, then sped off, turned at the first turning, and disappeared. But Caesar was left behind. The second-half of his body had taken the entire weight of the car. The blood was running out of his mouth. The ball, no longer white, lied next to him.
Everyone helped pick him up and laid him by the gate under the Bougainvillea. The blood was still coming out. It seemed as if his life was leaving with each of his heartbeat: drip-by-drip, moment-by-moment. Everyone was touching him with fingers to feel his heart beat; every beat that was followed by a new beat, a new life. I had no heart to say that his time was up, that he was leaving us. He was leaving us with such dignity, such courage, such peace, and such patience that only animals are fortunate to have. He did not cry, did not express hurt, did not make a sound. He just kept looking at us with listless eyes. Turn by turn, everyone patted him. When we put our hand on his head, he would lower his eyes. Our eyes were full of tears. This was the first time that, when patted, he could not wag his silky tail. The strange smell of blood was getting into his nose. Within half hour, the crows started to gather, slowly started to descent, started to sit on the wall, and became noisy. Caesar looked at them briefly, snarled slightly, then lowered his eyes. Hurt, we could not see this. We took his collar off and poured a bottle of sleeping pills down his blood-filled mouth. He kept looking at the fading-out faces of his loved ones and fell asleep forever.
When the children started to dig the ground under his favorite Bougainvillea vine in the moonlit March night to return him to earth, they discovered countless bones that he probably forgot to bury. Like long and thick fingers, the roots of the Bougainvillea went deep into the soft chest of the earth to bring life to the flowers from the mother earth’s juices. Caesar’s blood must have quenched the thirst of those roots to make the red flowers in the vine even redder. The children closed the grave with their school slates. One by one, they put the red flowers from the Bougainvillea over Caesar’s grave. The last one, the blue-ribbon little girl, lit her birthday candles by the grave. In the sad lights of the candles one could clearly see the salty tears flowing down the children’s dirty cheeks.
Many months passed. After the fall, the red flowers in the Bougainvillea are bright as fire. The children don’t let anyone step there, telling them that our friend is sleeping there.