Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lost Puppies

This post originally appeared on the first blog I ever kept. That site is now defunct

“Huang Gou, lai!” she shouted, for the fourth time. “Yellow Dog, come!”

But her small voice, despite her best efforts to raise it loud, went unheeded. And it worried her.

Huang Gou always came when called -- at least when she called. She and the dog had been inseparable for as long as she could remember. He was her best friend. Her only friend, really.

She had been sent to live here when she was just a baby. As happened to many other girls, her own parents had thought her too expensive to raise themselves, and they had fostered her to another family. It turned out to be for the best -- at least her foster family’s kampong was of less interest to the soldiers, poor as the village was. And it was not such a bad life, so far.

Perhaps now that Baby Brother had come along, there was something to worry about. When the first child born to her foster parents was a girl, it didn’t make much difference in her own status, but a boy might be a very different story. That was more than her nine-year-old mind was ready to process now, though. For now, she was only concerned for Huang Gou. She looked for him everywhere -- behind the house, under the house, in the disused chicken coop, all the way up to the edge of the jungle.

As she looked into the thick jungle growth, her brows furrowed in anxiety. What if a soldier were hiding there, having taken Huang Gou away?

She and Huang Gou were very scared of the soldiers. Her foster parents seemed to think they should be. Every time the soldiers approached the kampong, her parents sent her and the dog to hide. “It would be a sad end for either of you to come to the attention of those demons,” Father often said.

And so, she and Huang Gou would huddle together, each meaning to protect the other, when the soldiers came around. Huang Gou had spent many hours with the child in hiding, listening to her whispered anxieties. She liked to think she’d listened to his too, expressed through whimpers and his warm tongue licking her hand.

“Girl!” Mother shouted from the doorway. “Come in for dinner!”

“I’m looking for Huang Gou,” said the girl as she walked towards the little shack where they lived. “I don’t know where he’s gone.”

“Aiyah, forget that dog,” said Mother gruffly. “You’ll see him soon enough.”

The child was greeted by a warm smell as she walked into the house. It looked like tonight was the night for this month’s meat. Her stomach rumbled in anticipation. She sat down, and Mother put the steaming dish on the table.

“What if he doesn’t come back before dark?” the girl asked.

“Hush Girl,” said her mother gently, “and eat your meat. If the dog doesn’t come back, he doesn’t come back.”

Hearing her mother’s unusually soft tone, horror seeped through the girl. Her hands trembled as she picked up her chopsticks. Too hungry to stop herself, she reached out and picked up the meat that Mother placed before her, thinking still of her lost friend.

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