‘The Real People’ by Jennifer Acker
In San Cristóbal de las Casas, on a street whose name I’ve forgotten, a dog bit my ankle. I kicked the mongrel in the teeth. He yelped, and a sharp voice called him away. I peeled down my sock. Not much blood, but the skin was broken in three places.
I raced back to the garden guesthouse where I lived, high up on the hill. I showed Gabriel the wound and told him the dog’s owner had no vaccination papers. Promises, but no proof. A scientist and my host, Gabriel stretched the skin with his right hand while little Isabella tugged the fingers of his left. It was almost time for comida and the kids were clutching their bellies in mock starvation.
“It’s not very deep,” he said. “Wash it with soap and water.”
In the bathroom, I picked off jagged crumbles of soap with my thumbnail and jammed them into the small holes.
The table was laden with tamales, salad, and agua de Jamaica, but I couldn’t eat. Before leaving the States, I’d received three rabies boosters and a warning I’d need more if I was bitten. I said, “Shouldn’t I see a doctor?”
Gabriel served himself. “If you want.”
The children got boisterous and shared a joke with their father. I thirsted down several glasses of the magenta agua as if it were medicine. Bright sun shone off the clay tiles and steeped the table the color of dark tea.