I sit on the verandah, writing postcards by the moon. I trouble over the carbon footprint. On the front a squinting Indian holds a criollo. Llamas dot thin-aired mountains behind.
Inside, beneath the roof of matted reeds, Susannah, the one I met in Thailand, dances with a German; their shadows flicker on the wall. The smell of barbecue steaks hangs in the air, mingling with the lando a charcoal-throated singer blears from the tiny radio the owner, Arturo, has hitched to a stolen sub-woofer. I put down the cards, stand, take a drag.
To my left, out across the ocean, milky dolphins arc and glimmer. Someone’s footprints watch the stars, leaving me across the wet sand.
I contemplate this affluent suspension. The world is beautiful; the world is rare. To Arturo’s neighbours, behind the stand of massive greenery beyond the hut, the world is tincans, a mango stone to suck, vultures in their distant waltz upon the sky. I wonder how much the Indian got paid. If the criollo was hers.
The next morning is another Indian. Stripped to the waist; faded, dirty, ragtorn jeans. He is hauling his catch up the beach, where two children and a small dog aim to help. Three men approach, hailing him down the strand. As he pulls, the sun makes a statue of his arms, his shoulders. It is descended from the same ancient fur as us, his catch, but our limbs have lengthened, our heads become mobile, our lips articulate. Its body has been smoothed and elongated by the erosion of the waves. The shining dolphin.
American Indians. Everyone knows they came across the Bering Straits when winter’s back was turned. We don’t remember where the rest of us originated: me, Susannah, the German. The laughing children on Tuvalu who sat with us to watch the southern cross. But we know the dolphin fisher and his mates are Mongols from the tundra, trespassing the jaguar’s verdant playground. Does he carry a shred of guilt, for all of us, lingering around his pulling shoulders?
I walk at him, my feet heavy in the piled sand. I want to speak, but it escapes me. I stop. He looks briefly over the haunch of blubber. His look repudiates. I shake my head, wave my arms.
I return and shout at Arturo.
“Have they never heard of dolphin watching?” I say.
Arturo gestures to his dusty pickup. He drives me down the rutted road, through the verdure, into the slum. Piles of dolphin meat leave on refrigerated trucks. We stop in a deadend. Two children battle in a game of swords. Infant conquistadors. Their clacking blades are yellow, curved like waves, joy’s pitiless relics. Inside, their father folds notes on the table.
Arturo reverses the pickup. We leave.