“Jehovah is my refuge.” That text formed part of the WhatsApp avatar of the proprietress of the Hotel Mirador Calopala. Such conspicuous piety did not prevent her from naming the hotel dog Jezebel. Maybe I gave the dog that name. Whatever her real name, Jezebel entangled my emotions. Not right away. Our first night at the Calopala we had not noticed a dog among all the critters on the property.
The next morning, Alvaro and I saw her as we descended the steep, muddy hill from the hotel to the highway. She rambled along in front of us. Now and then she paused for us to catch up, then whimpered until I stroked her belly and caressed her neck. When she looked up at me, her right eye was okay, but her left eye was shot with blood and twisted in its socket.
“Good girl,” Alvaro patted her too, then said, “now go home.” We didn’t know whether she actually belonged to the hotel or just loitered there for diversion from her rustic responsibilities on one of the farms that bordered the hill. But we knew it would not be safe for her to accompany us to the highway, the main thoroughfare between Bogota and Tunja.
In the bushes near the bottom of the hill, we tried to conclude our stroll with her. I peed first, then Alvaro did. We waited for Jezebel to get us out of her system too and move on with the day. But she just sniffed around our scent until we turned the corner onto the highway. Then she followed us to the bus stop on the far side of Quebrada la Blanca.
Now, Alvaro and I started to panic. Traffic was light at the end of Holy Week, but there were blind curves near the bus stops on both sides of the highway, and vehicles barreled around them at high speed. Jezebel tried to assure us that she knew her way around the terrain. She pranced across the highway, looking back over her shoulder to see if we had calmed down. She should have paid attention to traffic not to the worried strangers she was trying to befriend. Then she started climbing among the potted plants in a nursery on the other side of the road. We lost sight of her for a while and thought she had lost interest in us. That thought hurt my feelings.
We sat down on a bench and waited for a bus. Just as we began to relax or resign ourselves to loss, Jezebel emerged from the nursery and crossed the highway again. This time she nuzzled her head between my legs. I probably should not have caressed her, but her coat was a beautiful red and her trunk solid muscle. While I stroked her, I prayed softly for her safety. It was important that she hear the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra sometime in this lifetime, especially when risking injury or death.
“Look at that mess,” Alvaro said and pointed to the slobber Jezebel had issued all over my trousers. I took her drool as a sign of contentment with my prayers and let her stay, hoping and dreading that she would tire of me and move on with a destiny not entwined with ours. Finally, Alvaro waved down a commuter vehicle from the Valle de Tenza fleet.
As soon as the doors opened, Jezebel jumped into the bus before Alvaro, or I could.
“No animals on the bus,” the driver said. “I’m paid to drive, not clean up any mess.”
Jezebel bared her teeth as passengers tried to shoo and push her back down the stairs.
A roar went up when, the doors still open, the bus driver pulled away from the curb. For a moment, the driver stopped the bus; and an older, female passenger, not afraid that Jezebel might bite, grabbed her by the chain link collar, and hurled her into oncoming traffic.
Behind us, Jezebel must have scrambled back to safety. Late that afternoon, when we got back to the hotel, she was lounging on the patio. She didn’t acknowledge our arrival, as I had stupidly thought she should. With refuge in Jehovah, she need not care about two more flirts passing through town; and worse, through the scent of our urine, the anxiety on our faces or our indifference to her desires, gay flirts at that.
Chuck Teixeira practiced law for many years in California. Now, he teaches English in Colombia.
His most recent collection of stories, Bad News from Bogota, is available at Amazon.com.
One of Chuck’s longer stories, Westminster Academy, is being serialized on Kindle Vella