The Good Pickers

We would start at dawn and finish in the middle afternoon. We would pick the apples and the pears and you would yank at the apples and the pears trying for the ripe ones only. It was cold in the mornings. We were tired and we were thousands of miles from home in a foreign country and we only worked for lodging and a very small salary.

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The Man on the Corner

Bret was having a BBQ and we took some meat and six packs of beer to his place in La Candelaria. It was a cool place. An old art gallery but the roof had fallen in and now six people were living in it. One of Bret’s housemates was an artist and her paintings covered most of the walls. Some of them were very good. The others went on a tour of the place. I didn’t go because I was busy chopping onions in the dirty kitchen.
We spent some time on the roof trying to get the BBQ going and listening to music. The BBQ just wouldn’t get hot. It must have been about two hours before the meat was put on the grill. Meanwhile we talked and laughed and drank. I was starving. The grill was giving off almost no heat at all. We decided to finish the burgers in a frying pan.
We ate downstairs. Another housemate had hooked a laptop up to some speakers on the roof and the music could be heard throughout the building. I bit into a burger and it was pink. I wasn’t so hungry anymore. I finished it anyway and hoped that it was the paprika. Then Boxhead came over to me
“Is it supposed to look like this?”
“I don’t know…”
Some more of Bret’s housemates walked in and the man had a tiny kitten in his hood. He took it out and it ran around the floor meowing while the girls fussed over it. There was also a dog. The dog had been born with a hip disfigurement and couldn’t walk properly. Her front paws had overgrown to compensate. She spent most of the time lying on her side. I gently stroked her head and for a time I didn’t speak. She was a little brown dog and she looked at me, and those eyes, there was no treachery there. It was so sad, so very sad. I told her it was going to be all right. I wanted to help.
Giovanni said she was getting better, but then Delmy said that her dog had been born with the same thing and instead of getting better, it will only get worse until eventually she will be unable to walk. I sat up and took a drink of my beer. Well, the night was over for me.
Delmy had to work so we left soon after anyway. The six of us started walking the four blocks back to the hostel. The girls walked on ahead. We took a right and started going uphill.
At the end of the street, a man poked his head around the corner of the block, then disappeared back behind it. Seeing this, the girls slowed and stepped into the road. They looked around at us. The man walked around the corner toward us with his hand in his coat pocket. He wore black clothing and wasn’t very old. He continued on past. A police van happened to be coming up the hill then.
The man stopped halfway down the block and looked back at us. By this time, we had reached the corner, made a left and begun walking past the university building. The street was brighter and there were some people around. We walked on, more quickly than before. When I turned around again, the man was back at the corner.
We got to the hostel and it was so sad. I had already forgotten about the little brown dog.
Wouldn’t you have?