I was thirteen years old and spending the night on a farm. We arrived after dark, and in the darkness that smelled like manure and grass, I could hear my Reebok high tops sucking mud as we approached the door of a humble house.
“These are distant relatives,” I was told. The distant relatives greeted my brother and me–to him, they said, “So very very handsome!” and to me, they said, “She looks so sturdy!” This, before they sat us down to eat rice steamed with beans. My brother and I looked at my mom, helpless.
“This is special rice,” said Mom, “they cooked it especially for you.” Which was her way of saying, “You better f*cking eat this rice.”
So I ate a bowl. Finished it. And then they gave me ANOTHER bowl of that damn rice. I finished it. And they gave me another. It turned out that if you don’t want another bowl, you’re supposed to leave a spoonful of rice in the bowl.
If they thought I was sturdy before, I was getting sturdier with every bowl of rice and beans.
At dawn, my mom woke up with stomach pains from an ulcer. She was doubled over whimpering. I heard dogs howling in the distance. They hadn’t stopped howling throughout the night.
So many dogs.
What were they? Who has so many pets, I asked, wishing to distract my mother from her pain.