The Dog Eaters ( Leoncio P. Deriada) Mariana looked out of the window toward the other side of Artiaga Street. A group of men had gathered around a low table in front of Sergio’s sari-sari store. It was ten o’clock, Tuesday morning. Yet these men did not find it too early to drink, and worse. They wanted her husband to be with them. Victor was now reaching for his shirt hooked on the wall between Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. Mariana turned to him, her eyes wild in repulsion and anger. “Those filthy men! ” she snarled. “Whose dog did they slaughter today? ” Victor did not answer. He put on his shirt.
Presently, he crawled on the floor and searched for his slippers under the table. Mariana watched him strain his body toward the wall, among the rattan tools. He looked like a dog tracking the smell hidden carrion. “My God, Victor, do you have to join them every time they stew somebody’s pet? ” Victor found his slippers. He emerged from under the table, smoothed his pants and unbutton his shirt. He was sweating. He looked at his wife and smiled faintly, the expression sarcastic, and in an attempt to be funny, “it’s barbecue today. ” “I’m not in the mood for jokes! ” Mariana raised her voice. It’s time you stop going with those good-for-nothing scavengers. ” Her words stung. For now she noted an angry glint in Victor’s eyes. “They are my friends, Mariana,” he said. “You should have married one of them! ” she snapped back. Suddenly, she straightened. She heard Sergio’s raspy voice, calling from his store across the street. It was an ugly voice, and it pronounced Victor’s name in a triumphant imitation of a dog’s bark. “Victor! Victor! Aw! Aw! ” the canine growl floated across Artiaga Street. Mariana glared at her husband as he brushed her aside on his way to the window.
She felt like clawing his face, biting his arms, ripping the smelly shirt off his back. “I’m coming,” Victor answered, leaning out of the window. Mariana opened her mouth for harsher invectives but a sharp cry from the bedroom arrested her. It was her baby. She rushed to the table, pick a cold bottle of milk, and entered. In his rattan crib that looked like a rat’s nest, the baby cried louder. Mariana shook the crib vehemently. The baby – all mouth and all legs – thrust in awkward arms into the air, blindly searching for accustomed nipple. The baby sucked the rubber nipple easily.
But Mariana’s mind was outside the room as she watched her husband lean out of the window to answer the invitation of the dog-eaters of Artiaga Street. “Aren’t you inviting your wife? ” she spoke loud, the hostility in her voice unchecked by the dirty plywood wall. “Perhaps your friends have reserved the best morsel for me. Which is the most delicious part of a dog, ha, Victor? Its heart? Its liver? Its brain? Blood? Bone? Ears? Tongue? Tail? I wish to God you’d all die of hydrophobia! ” “Can you feed the baby and talk at the same time? ” Victor said. She did not expect him to answer and now that he had, she felt angrier.
The heat from the unceilinged roof had become terrible and it had all seeped into her head. She was ready for a fight. The baby had gone back to sleep. Mariana dashed out of the room, her right hand tight around the empty bottle. She had to have a weapon. She came upon her husband opening the door to little porch. The porch was at the top of the stairs that led out into Artiaga Street. “Why don’t you do something instead of drinking their stinking tuba and eating that filthy meat? Why don’t you decent for a change? ” Victor turned her off. It seemed he was also ready for a fight. The glint in his eyes had become sinister.
And what’s so indecent about eating dog meat? ” His voice sounded canine, too, like Sergio’s. “The people of Artiaga Street have been eating dog meat for as long as I can remember. ” “No wonder their manners have gone to the dogs! ” “You married one of them. ” “Yes, to lead a dog’s life! ” Victor stepped closer, breathing hard. Marina did not move. “What’s eating you? ” he demanded. “What’s eating me? ” she yelled. “Dog’s! I’m ready to say aw-aw, don’t you know? ” Victor repaired his face, amused by this type of quarrel. Again, he tried to be funny. “Come, come, Mariana darling,” he said, smiling condescendingly.
Mariana was not amused. She was all set to proceed with the fight. Now she tried to be acidly ironic. “Shall I slaughter Ramir for you? That pet of yours does nothing but bark at strangers and dirty the doorstep. Perhaps you can invite your friends tonight. Let’s celebrate. ” “Leave Ramir alone,” Victor said, seriously. “That dog is enslaving me! ” Victor turned to the door. It was the final insult, Mariana thought. The bastard! How dare he turn his back on her? “Punyeta! ” she screeched and flung the bottle at her husband. Instinctively, Victor turned and parried the object with his arm. The bottle fell to the floor but did not break.
It rolled noisily under the table where Victor moment had hunted for his rubber slippers. He looked at her, but there was no reaction in his face. Perhaps he thought it was all a joke. He opened the door and stepped out into the street. Mariana ran to the door and banged it once, twice, thrice, all the while shrieking, “Go! Eat and drink until your tongue hangs like a mad dog’s. Then I’ll call a veterinarian. ” Loud after came across the street. Mariana leaned out of the window and shouted to the men gathered in front of Sergio’s store. “Why don’t you leave my husband alone? You dogs! ” The men laughed louder, obscenely.
Their voices offended the ears just as the stench from the garbage dump at the Artiaga-Mabini junction offended the nostrils. There were five other men aside from the chief drinker, Sergio. Downing a gallon of tuba at ten o’clock in the morning with of Artiaga’s idle men was his idea of brotherhood. It was good for his store, he thought, though his wife languish behind the row of glass jars and open cartons of dried fish – the poor woman deep in notebooks of unpaid bills the neighbors had accumulated these last two years. Mariana closed the window. The slight darkening of the room intensified the heat on the roof and in her head.
She pulled a stool and sat beside the sewing machine under the huge pictures of Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos, under the altar-like alcove on the wall where a transistor radio was enshrined like an idol. She felt tired. Once again, her eyes surveyed the room with repulsion. She had stayed in this rented house for two years, tried to paste pictures on the wall, hung up classic curtains that could not completely ward off the stink from the street. Instead of cheering up the house, they made it sadder, emphasizing the lack of the things she had dreamed of having when she eloped with Victor two years ago.
Victor was quite attractive. When he was teen-ager, he was a member of the Gregory Body Building Club on Cortes Street. He dropped out of freshmen year at Harvadian and instead developed his chest and biceps at the club. His was to be Mr. Philippines, until one day, Gregory cancelled his membership. Big Boss Gregory – who was not interested in girls but in club members with the proportions of Mr. Philippines – had discovered that Victor was dating a manicurist named Fely. Victor found work as a bouncer at Three Diamonds, a candlelit bar at the end of Artiaga, near Jacinto Street.
All the hostesses there were Fely’s customers. Mariana, who came from a better neighborhood, was a third year BSE student at Rizal Memorial Colleges. They eloped during the second semester, the very week Fey drowned in the pool behind Three Diamonds. Just as Mariana grew heavy with a child, Victor lost his job at the bar. He quarreled with the manager. An uncle working in a construction company found him a new job. But he showed up only when the man did not report for work. These last few days, not one of the carpenters got sick. So Victor had to stay home. Mariana felt a stirring in her womb.
She felt her belly with both hands. Her tight faded dress could not quite conceal this most unwanted pregnancy. The baby in the crib in the other room was only eight months, and here she was – carrying another child. She closed her eyes and pressed her belly hard. She felt the uncomfortable swell, and in a moment, she had ridiculous thought. What if she bore a pair or a trio of puppies? She imagined herself as a dog, a spent bitch with hind legs spread out obscenely as her litter of three, or four, or five, fought for her tits while the mongrel who was responsible for all this misery flirted with the other dogs of the ss