The day Simon found Erizo in the ravine and Erizo followed him home, he knew he had gotten himself the ugliest dog of all.
Erizo was bold, except for some scattered long hairs on his head and back where he carried lost of flies. These hairs were as stiff as needles that it hurt to pet him. But Erizo, wagging his tail, followed Simon, and when the old man sat down to rest, Erizo curled up at his feet. Simon felt so content that he scratched Erizo’s bold chin, carefully so as not to prick his hand, and then said. “You may stay if you want.”
And it was then that it all started. That Simon could not sleep well anymore, because Erizo, the ugliest dog of all, barked all night long.
“Erizo,” said Simon, “What was the matter with you last night? And after thinking for a while he said, “ Oh, you must have been hungry.”
During the day Simon worked, and Erizo followed him around. When the day was gone, Simon warmed up milk and tea and gave both to Erizo. “This is all I have, but at least you won’t be hungry this time,” Simon said.
But that night, Erizo barked and growled until dawn.
“Erizo,” said Simon, “What was the matter with you last night?” And after thinking for a while he said, “Oh, it must have been cold sleeping outside.”
During the day Simon worked while Erizo curled up at the man’s feet. And when the day was gone, Simon warmed up milk and tea and gave both to Erizo. And then he let Erizo stay inside to sleep. “You’ll be warmer in here,” Simon said.
But that night Erizo barked, and growled, and howled until dawn.
“Erizo,” said Simon, “What was the matter with you last night?” And after thinking for a while he said, “Oh, I am only and old man. Still I believe I might have just the right thing for you.”
During the day Simon worked while Erizo played around, catching and scratching the fleas on his tail. And when the day was gone, Simon not only warmed up milk and tea and gave both to Erizo, and then let Erizo stay inside, but he also called him to his side and when they were close together, Simon played his dog a song.
I got a dog like no other,
and I sing this song for him;
‘cause at night he has this thing:
that he barks over and over
He brought not sisters or brothers,
thus I am all that he has.
It’s for him I dare ask:
“someone, please would get me a bone
that a can give to my dog
hence I can sleep at last.”
“Did you like it, Erizo?” Simon asked. “I made it just for you.”
Erizo wagged his tail and, Simon swore, the dog almost seemed to smile.
Then, why that night did Erizo bark, growl, howl, and also scamper around unceasingly until dawn?
“If only I knew what to do.” Simon sighed.
Good thing that Doña Remedios, his neighbor, knew so much about animals, including dogs. Bad thing that her advice always left people wishing they had never asked.
“Don’t break your head trying to figure it out, Simon,” she said, “Erizo barks at things that only dogs can see.”
“What kind of things?”
“Frightening things,” answered the woman.
Simon opened his eyes wider and asked:
“How can I see them too?”
“A man can see as his dog does,” said the woman, “if he puts in his eyes the eye-sand from the dog’s. But, don’t you venture, Simon,” she added, “What a dog sees is not for an old man like you to go and know.”
Ay! And, what did Simon do that night, but take the sand out of Erizo’s eyes and put it right in his own.
Simon opened his eyes wide up, rubbed them hard with the backs of his hands, and waited to see more. But nothing else he saw.
“This doesn’t work,” Simon thought. And after he warmed up milk and tea and gave both to Erizo, let him in to sleep, and sang the song he had made up for him, he went to bed, and fell asleep.
But not for long.
Knock, knock, knock, heard Simon at the door. Erizo, barked, and growled, and howled, and scampered around.
“Who is this?” called Simon.
“It is me, Simon,” a voice gruff like a snore answered, “Death.”
Simon, who was too polite to let anybody stay outside, got out of bed and opened the door.
“Good evening,” said Death, straightening her skirt over her bare boned hip and fixing her hat. “I heard that you were waiting to see me.” She shook the dust off her shoes clacking her knees, and stepped inside the house saying, “I apologize for being late; the road sure was busy tonight.”
Erizo sniffed at the newcomer, and Death scolded, “Shoo! Shoo!” But the hollow clatter of her bony hand made Erizo drool and scamper some more and bark. Simon called the dog to his side and said, “Erizo, let’s not be disrespectful to a lady.”
“I appreciate your kindness, Simon, because, in fact, I have come to do you a favor,” said Death, pulling a flirty smile. “Tonight there is a celebration for all the spirits of the dark, and, as an honor to you, I want to ask you to come and play your music at our party.”
“Thank you, Señora,” said Simon, “ But I was already in bed; this is not the time for me to go out.”
“Simon, Simon,” Death clucked her tongue, “it was you who wanted to know what Erizo saw every night; well, here I am. And I am inviting you to our party. I insist.”
“Then, I shall get ready,” said Simon who was too polite to let anybody do a lot of asking. He grabbed his instrument and called: “Erizo, let’s go.”
“Not the dog!” cried the bone lady
“Señora, there is nothing I can do, Erizo follows me since he first saw me, and follow me he will.”
“Oh, what the heck, just keep him away from me,” Death turned her nose away.
The road out of town seemed new to Simon as he walked after Death. And when they were by the river, Death called a monkey boatman who took them across to the other side where the trees clustered in a big cloud of shadows and shrieks ripped into the night.
“Welcome to our party!” Death jumped out of the boat and then guided Simon to the center of the racket.
“Silence, everybody,” she called, “I am happy to announce that our guest Simon has come to delight us with his wit and his music!”
Simon tuned his instrument, glanced around at the stunning crowd, and started to sing. With such melancholy he sang his sad songs, that the spirits of the dark cried until they wilted. With such joy he sang his happy songs that the spirits of the dark danced and cheered until they almost felt alive. When he ran out of songs, he invented new ones and made up verses about all the spirits of the dark he saw. What an incredible party the spirits celebrated that night!
“Well, Señora,” said Simon to Death when he was finished, “I am going back home now.”
“Ay! Simon,” said Death, “You will have to forgive me, how did I forget to tell you? The dog can go at any time. But once you have been in our party I cannot take you back.”
“You can’t?” asked Simon.
“I can’t,” said Death.
“Never?” asked Simon.
“Ever!” answered Death.
Simon put down his instrument and slowly he sat. “No problem, Señora,” he said, “now that my time is eternity, I can finally sit with my dog and get rid of his fleas.” And there, very carefully, he try to get his finger into Erizo’s pricking hairs.
“But that dog is infested! And I have to take you with me; I am Death.”
“Señora, you just interrupted me. I was so close to get one fly. Now I have to start all over.” Simon said.
Death opened her umbrella and waited at distance checking the sun rising in the sky.
Exasperated after a while, she stamped the dust with her fine shoes and cried “Simon, mulish man, you are way too slow, you’ll never finish! I’ll tell you what,” she said, “With my slender fingers I could get into his pricking airs faster. If I promise to delouse Erizo myself, you’ll come with me at once.”
“Good enough, Señora,” said Simon “when my dog is clean of fleas, I’ll go wherever you want.”
Death rolled up her sleeves and Erizo drooled.
With extreme precaution Death leaned over Erizo, but he leap up and—Ay, ay, ay— the dog caught her hand and champed it up. Death tried to run away but—Ay, ay,ay!—Erizo snatched at her leg and didn’t let go. When her tibia got loose Erizo sat happily to munch it up. Death wailed, “ I cannot take this anymore!”
Simon stopped Erizo and helped Death up. “You two have chewed the patience out of me!” she bellowed, “what do you think that I am? A bonehead?”
Furious, Death fixed her bone back, picked her umbrella up, and said:
“I shall go back to my duties. But we’ll see each other again… some day.” And with that, grumbling and shaking her fist in the air, she hobbled away and disappeared.
Simon and Erizo went back towards the river. At the water’s edge, Simon held onto Erizo’s bold tail, and Erizo swam to the other side.
At his house Simon found all of his friends, moaning and groaning.
“What is the matter?” he asked.
“Simon died last night,” someone answered pointing to a coffin.
“I did not, my friends,” he reassured them, but they, instead, broke into bawling: “We’ll miss him so much!”
Simon said nothing more. While his friends cried, he went next to the coffin, tuned up his instrument, and there he sang.
Death came and tricked me last night,
she brought for me an invitation;
I didn’t suspected her intentions,
and foolish of me said, “All right.”
Erizo, my dog, saved my life,
he even kept me from drowning.
If that Bone Mama keeps coming
and insists on playing tricks,
I would ask my dog to assist
and to chew her up to nothing.
From inside the coffin everybody heard a kicking and a punching. Soon it opened up, and Death came out spitting and complaining. And then she went away, but that nobody saw, except - of course- Simon and Erizo.
“Simon, where have you been?” everybody shouted.
That night Simon played and sang at another party: with his friends and his dog, Simon celebrated one hundred and five years of life. Who knows how many more he will, because up until now Death is afraid to come by.