Friday, December 19, 2008

His name was Renato.

Photo by Elizabeth Bergner

My roommate Liz asked to contribute this story about a baby goat and a little town called Chongoyape where she spent two years working as part of the Peace Corps. Chongayape is a tiny town that is tucked away between the coast and the mountains of Peru. Liz spent her days in Chongoyape basking in the sun and riding her bicycle along the dusty, unpaved roads. Although she never thought she'd have a pet while living there, she suddenly found herself falling in love with a tiny friend with curly black hair.

Liz writes:

Back in Chongoyape, I bought myself a baby goat, Renato. (Actually, a baby blackbelly, if you know the difference.) I was on this mini-bus coming back from work in a nearby town when a mysterious man boarded with a baby goat in his arms. When I commented on how adorable the goat was, he insisted on selling him to me. At first I said no. It wasn't very practical, considering my host family has no corral, but the man assured me that I could raise it in a house. For some reason, he insisted on selling me the goat, though the man next to him offered a reasonable price. But no, he inexplicably continued to insist that the senorita have the goat. It was an orphan, or so he told me. (Everyone else later told me he had surely stolen it.) After repeatedly insisting that I offer a price, I finally suggested 12 soles (about $4), thinking that he would never agree. He readily accepted.

I arrived at home with Renato in my arms like a newborn child. True to the man's promise, Renato began to adjust to a house-bound life. He was dearly loved by all, and used to follow me around baaahhing pathetically, hiding in corners, and sleeping in a box in my room. However, since he refused to drink his milk from a bottle, a concerned neighbor found a surrogate mama goat to breastfeed him. Renato began to flourish, eating grass and looking forward to his daily visits to Mother Goat. His only care was the fear he apparently had of being brought there by bicycle in my backpack, with his head sticking out to catch the gust of dusty wind. At the end of each trip, I discovered a small pile of doo-pellets in the bottom of my pack.

Alas, about a week later the same well-meaning neighbor, who we had since named my baby goat's godfather, brought him some grass from a tobacco field. Unknown to any of us, it was chemically treated with insecticides. Renato happily munched away, but about half an hour later he could no longer stand up. His legs collapsed beneath him and his neck twisted back. I called my host mother in alarm, who immediately diagnosed his illness: "He's been evil-eyed! He's been cursed by too much loving and petting!" (That happens to babies there sometimes.) But my host father quickly gave a counter-diagnosis. He'd been poisoned.

Despite all our efforts to make him throw up, pouring oil and milk down my poor baby's throat, he died within a short while. Seeing an animal poisoned is heart-breaking. The body twists up, the innocent eyes glaze over, and his life escapes before your eyes. The next morning, Renato's body was stiff. I buried him early in the day in a friend's garden plot, beneath the arched shade of a couple flowers.

I still think of him sometimes, my darling Renato with his black curly hair. I wonder about the goat he might have been, if fate had been kinder to him. I was happy to know him for a week."

1 comment:

Molly Weissert said...

Oh what a tail!! I mean that little black belly must have had quite a tail to tell after being stolen from his owner and sold to an American Princess... I believe that he lived a happy little until the day he passed on to bleating goat heaven!