Slum-dwelling kid and a dog, human compassion in a garbage dump site
His name was Joshua. and he was a scavenger at the city dumps.Already ten, malnourishment made him appear smaller for his age He never knew his real father.His mother shack up with a younger man when he was barely two. Carlos was an ex con,a thief who plied his trade at the busy fisherman's wharf along the shores of the polluted and foul smelling bay.
Buyers for fish stalls and big restaurants would be waiting for the boats to come ashore. The haggling and bargaining of the newly catch created a lively atmosphere in the still dark early morning period. It also created confusion. Carlos and his friend Elvis would be among the unsuspecting buyers. As he diverted the attention of the intended victim, his companion would slit the bag or pockets of the unwary. It would only take a split second and the pair would quickly blend into the crowd.
What ever they took half would go to Captain Mario, whose precinct's jurisdiction covered the fish wharf district. All the petty criminal activities were under the protection of the police captain.
Ever since he could remember Joshua's world consisted of the shanty town along the edge of the bay and the city dump that was spilling out into the shoreline. He and other young boys and girls from his neighborhood would gather each day to pick through the garbage for any recycle materials that they would sell to the junk shop own by an old Chinese-mestizo they just called Ah Peh.
A whining sound caught the attention of Joshua. ...
"Hello Dog" as he approached. He could see the dark blood that was beginning to cake.Flies were swarming around the wound near the left eye and the dog was clearly irritated. A pile of discarded building materials had somehow fallen on the hapless mutt. It's left hind entangled among coils of disheveled wires as the mongrel tried to escape the gathering crowd of youngsters.
A boy found a piece of stick and begun to poke playfully at the dog's ribs. Each time the dog would bark and nip at the wooden tormentor eliciting laughter from among the children.
"We can sell it to Tebang " Carding said as he pick up a large stone.
Tebang ran an eatery patronized by the locals.The signboard at the front read " Food Palace Restaurant" It was really nothing more than a dilapidated and garishly painted two story wooden house. Refurbish with rusty G.I sheet roofing and second-hand wood found at the dump site or bought from Ah Peh.The specialty of the house was "Azucena"(dog meat).
He and Carding were best friends. Although Carding was a year older,he deferred to Joshua. Unlike him,Carding never went to school. At eight,Joshua learn the rudiments of reading and writing. Missionaries from abroad came to "smokey mountain".A euphemism for their garbage dump site made infamous around the world through the eyes of investigative reporting.
After less than a year at the missionary school which offered free lunch to encourage attendance, necessity of earning a living force Joshua to drop out of school. An inquisitive child,he continued his schooling by reading discarded newspaper tabloids and magazines found at the dump site.From adult magazines he also learned about sex.
"Nah, too skinny" Joshua replied.
Why did he hesitate the boy mulled.
Roaming around the tough neighborhood scavenging for food.The dog had grown inure to the cold and stark realities of the streets. Becoming fearful and cautious for lack of human compassion. It was an "askal", a street dog.....like him. Aware of the immediate danger to life, the dog defended itself with a feral courage that gain the boy's admiration and sympathy. Joshua decided to set it free.
"Hey Carding, you and the rest go over to the other side, I think I saw some copper wires and old car batteries. I'll take care of this."
As the band of youth left, the dog dropped it's vigilance. But remain wary of the solitary figure.
With a pair of wire cutters,Joshua approached as the canine bared it's fangs....
A firm hand on his thin shoulder stopped Joshua. Looking up he froze.
Cold and hard, the pair of eyes peering down at him behind the shadow of a Buri hat belong to Berting"Baliw".(insane)
People gave Berting a wide berth.The "astig" or "siga"( toughies) around the neighborhood and the stevedores avoided him. Some said that even Mario,the police captain was afraid of him.Depending on who or which version you believed, the events of that fateful night many years ago had become an urban legend.
"OY BOY" a rasping voice startled Joshua out of his reverie. "COME HERE!"
Berting had manage to pin down the dog with a knee, a massive hand covering the mouth prevented it from biting while the other hand tried to calm the struggling limbs of the mongrel. Joshua wanted to flee but the man's authoritative figure made him move towards the direction of the man.
"DON'T WORRY, I'M NOT GOING TO EAT YOU" followed by a guttural sound of laughter."It's the dog I want."
Hesitantly the boy approach.Joshua notice blood dripping from the hand of the man.The dog didn't go down without a fight. It was still struggling.
"Please..... let it go." Joshua pleaded with his eyes. Instantly regretting his words.
The man stared at him. For a moment of what appeared to be like eternity, Joshua could hear his heart beating. It continued to thump wildly as Berting's steady gaze never left him. Shifting uneasily between the lull the boy stood wide eyed. Glued and unable to take flight.
A slight nodding of the head and what appeared to be a sardonic smile eased the tension.
Berting pointed at the looped limb. "Free it"
Without looking back the dog bounded across the piles of junk,away from the two.
Joshua continued to look towards the fleeing dog as the shadow with the buri hat slowly receded behind him.