It wasn’t hard to extricate Karl. He’d about had enough of solitude anyway. Then something… All those moons ago, it’s difficult to recall what happened, exactly. The important thing is he was a thing of the past.
The thing was the Now.
Drinking sweet coffee in a comfortable papisan, glancing at the gunmetal sea running whitecapped like Titan blowing his bathwater cool, smoking wild ganja from a homemade bamboo bong, listening to the drumming of tropical rain, an unworried hermit enjoys uninterrupted hours of pacification.
i, Lord of the strays.
Alert to my every signal or minor adjustment in mood, they especially understood deep throated staredowns. Physical dominion only ever needed be proved once, when I trounced them all and pinned the alpha by the scruff of his neck until he whimpered “I yield”. After that, well, I don’t really believe I can ‘speak canine’ but their transparent needs were simple to interpret, and when I made my noises they definitely understood. Comprehending any foreign language is not so much about word but rather situation-recognition; also, body language unquestionably elucidates meaning and we were very good at that. Scratching the right itches.
The sentry spotted me far out, paddling home. He yelped excitedly; the others pricked up their ears and scanned the sea, saw me, and streamed down the beach, barking with joy. Seven frenzied black dots caterwauling up and down the tableau of brilliant white sand and palm trees. The boldest ones leaping into the water and fighting the breaking surf, unable to wait to greet me. One time Left-ear swam out so far he was completely spent by the time he reached me and I had to haul him aboard, almost capsizing us. I escorted him to shore on the prow triumphant – he just had to make it to me.
When I scraped beach they surrounded me yelping and jumping and clamoring, and they weren’t satisfied until each one had been given a furious rubdown and investigated what’s in my bag. Sometimes it was stale donuts from the dumpster behind the Haad Rin bakery; often it was big glistening pork bones and day-old rice from the cheap soup shops at which I begged my Daana. As I strode the sand with my kayak on my head they darted in between and around my legs and I felt like the Pied Piper, and when we came to the secret cave entrance we climbed the cut rock steps to our castaway home.
They posted themselves at strategic positions depending upon where I peed. Sometimes random people visited the beach, but they were never aware of our presence, concealed as we were in the shade atop an unclimbable cliff, and the dogs knew to leave them alone. But if an intrepid trekker crossed the landslide and neared our home trail, he was immediately mobbed by a furious attack unit rushing out of the jungle bellowing as one.
They would never lay a tooth on their King, though amongst themselves they were vicious. I had to slop their rice fishguts vegetable peels insects and whatever else into seven separate containers as fast as I could or they’d tear each other apart. Piping hot, so they couldn’t wolf it all down and turn on the little one and steal his. But I was very poor, so I didn’t always feed them nutritiously; sometimes I didn’t feed them at all.
I noticed they were malnourished one day while taking a shit. The dogs watched, growling and posturing. Finally Stella the bitch couldn’t restrain herself any longer and darted in and grabbed a turd and swallowed it greedily. I chided her manners with a kick to the ribs. The rest of the dogs waited impatiently until I finished, then fell ravenously upon my leavings.
As a rule I did not allow them in the house, for they were shameless and disgusting. But knowing my loyal guards were sleeping as closely to me as possible (just behind the thatch wall, I could hear them breathing) I rested easy. If I’d’ve let them they’d’ve slept in the bed I’m sure, but I preferred to keep the ticks and vermin to a minimum.
Sometimes I slept outside in a hammock to be closer to them.
Blazing jungle trail, Alpha Hendrix took the lead, Beta Left-Ear followed. Every so often waiting for me to catch up, questioning whether I wished to continue with raised eyebrows, dashing onwards when I grunted consent. Stella and Pup stayed at heel, my personal escort. The other three acted as rearguard, watching our backtrail. One time an ‘adventurous’ tourist happened to meet an unwashed unkempt crazy eyed freak and his pack of snarling beasts deep in the lush humid sun-dappled netherworld, and actually shat himself. Hendrix ripped the meat off his ass and I added me another tallymark tattoo.
But I wasn’t always unwashed. We shared our habitat with a troop of macaques, who teased the dogs mercilessly. It pleased the largest simian to laze just out of reach of the furious canines, tossing them contemptuous glances; in reality he was running interference for his females and juveniles, of course, who leapt and scrambled and otherwise acrobatically navigated the trees each morning and evening. Soaring off rocks, skying from branch to branch, even the babies were incredible athletes; but they must’ve occasionally fallen and I guess it’s better not to crash into a pack of carnivores should you do so, thus the diversionary tactics of the leader: the lazy fondling of his balls at his adversaries.
Anyways I decided to follow the monkeys one day, and I discovered an idyllic little freshwater pool, where I thereafter collected my drinking water then bathed. Or filled five liter jugs to carry back up to the house, with which to douse myself at midnight under the Hermit constellation I invented to the rhythm of white-glowing surf breaking hundreds of feet below.