a wound of its kind seksan prasertkul
third place b k k l i t t r a n s l at i o n p r i z e for fiction
the bangkok literary review
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ounds caused by others will heal somehow and in some ways, but wounds we cause others may stay with us for life.’ The man kept on telling himself this upon recalling Buck. Buck was an Alsatian or so-called German Shepherd but to the man he was a southern dog, since he was born in Lang Suan, Chumphon. When the dog was four months old a friend of his put Buck in the cargo bed of his pick-up truck, as he’d promised, and drove four hundred kilometres to deliver Buck as a gift. ‘He’s the biggest of the brood,’ his friend said. And he had no doubt about that since people from where his friend was from were typically generous; they always gave their best for the people they counted as their friends. At this time, he already had two dogs and was
facing a crisis in his life – a monsoon with a heavy storm just around the corner. So accepting another dog into an already falling-apart family might not have been a particularly good idea. Nevertheless, he looked at the dog’s bear-like face with its almost-shining eyes, reflected on his friend’s good will, and promptly embraced the dog like a youngest son. Buck truly was a natural-born chief. As a matter of fact he named him Buck after the name of the famous dog in Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild. While he was a puppy, Buck never yielded to Toob or Zimba, the dogs who had come long before him. And in his youth he even conspired with Zimba to overthrow the eldest, Toob. Though Zimba was almost two years older than Buck, and Buck hadn’t even reached his first birthday, Zimba became Buck’s subordinate – while Toob kept himself to himself in his old-age life in a small corner of the house. As with the other dogs, the man himself took complete care of Buck from a young age: he wiped him, fed him, took him to see the vet, rid him of ticks and fleas, and trained him in simple commands. He considered every single one of his dogs
to be his own children and they seemed to acknowledge him as their own father or chief. Whenever he was in the mood for fun he’d urge Toob, Zimba and Buck to join him in the back yard for a basketball game. However, their game wasn’t to throw the ball through the hoop but instead to keep the ball to themselves. Out of all of them, Zimba seemed to be the worst player in terms of conforming to the rules since he always attacked any players’ legs who had the ball instead of trying to get the ball himself. From time to time he’d come back home drunk in the middle of the night which would create a favorite scene for all of his ‘kids’; seeing their master lying on his back on the living room floor babbling. For them, it was not much different from what they heard when he was sober anyway. All the ‘kids’ would surround him and serve him tons of soft licks all over his face. Then some of them would toss and turn beside him while some would even sit or wallow on his body like a human father and children on a bed. He was unique in being the only one in the house who was living a dog-like life with the dogs – or, in other words, living without any line between them and him. No matter how much
other members of the family loved the dogs, there was always quite an obvious distance between them. It wasn’t long before Buck was a huge fortykilo adult dog. W ith his Alsatian instinct he automatically acted as the man’s personal bodyguard so that Buck would always be seen lying flat near his master especially when the man was sitting and working on his book in his backyard office. Buck would lie on his stomach across the threshold as if he wouldn’t let anyone disturb his master. Nor would he permit himself to go through the door unless he sensed the man’s invitation. The man couldn’t help thinking: ‘Maybe, as best friends, we’ll grow old together.’ W hen Buc k was three, the storm that threatened to upset his master’s life, which had started at the time Buck first came to share the house, began to get worse. Eventually the man and his wife separated and came to a goodwill agreement that while she retreated abroad he could stay in their family home if he wanted to, with the understanding being that they should never stay under the same roof when she came back. His two sons were going through adolescence at
this time, so it seemed right for them to continue their studies overseas. As a result he found himself completely alone in the empty house except for his three dogs. He had never experienced such silence in the whole of his life and with the onset of middle age its taste was almost intolerable. But his misfortunes weren’t over; they weren’t satisfied with him yet. In time three dogs became two since Toob, who was then thirteen, became ill with so many things that the vet said he wouldn’t recover. On his last visit to the veterinary hospital, all Toob was left able to do was look at the man out of his weary eyes; even wagging his tail was impossible, since the lower half of his body was paralyzed. The man was given the choice of either taking the dog back to lay him on his dying bed or to have him terminated at once by lethal injection. With a shattered heart he ducked into the cage just to be with his beloved dog for a moment, to caress his best friend’s back and shoulder. Toob kept on staring back with his loving, trustful eyes. Driving back home alone, his eyes blurred with the overwhelming memory of a stray puppy that resembled an English sheepdog he carried back
from Chatuchak Market more than ten years before. He was the first dog of the family, the dog which he wanted his sons to learn how to look after and love. Sooner after Toob departed , Zimba followed suit. But it wasn’t quite in the same manner; Zimba had left in a different context. The long and short of it was that Zimba was half Rottweiler, half stray. Seemingly he’d inherited only the dark side of his parents and when he became mature he bit people as and when he pleased. He wouldn’t even allow anyone to approach Buck; the man was the only one that Zimba allowed to instruct or discipline him from time to time. Nevertheless, after his family members got bitten by the dog, he had to make a decision. First he approached the dog with gun in hand according to his former manner but his then wife, and mother to his sons, didn’t want him to add any more wounds to himself. She stopped him. Fortunately, after a few enquiries through some connections, the man found a compassionate person to adopt Zimba. By this time, the woman who had stopped him from shooting the dog had already left.
First and foremost, one problem had to be solved: who’d be the one to get Zimba into a cage and then loaded onto the pick-up to deliver him to his new home? It was almost impossible to get near him, so there was only one option – putting him under anesthetic and letting him wake up in his new home. The man lured Zimba towards him with meatballs then he looped a pre-knotted rope around the dog’s mouth and pulled it tight while a veterinarian, who was hiding, popped out to inject him in his hip. Everything went according to plan but the sight of his best friend staring at him while trying to free his mouth from the loop of rope was like a piercing knife cutting the man’s heart. The dog’s eyes didn’t show any sign of anger towards the man; there were only questions and disappointment. This was because the man was the one and only human he gave his love and trust to. Before moving out from the family home, he and Buck had lived alone together for almost a year. The circumstances made their relationship even stronger. Once he embraced his best friend for an extended moment and found that in that
moment he was bathed and nourished with indescribable warmth. The fine line between the two creatures, man and dog, was obliterated; they were just two small lives on the lonely planet they were sharing. The man had never owned a house and while he was roaming for one his only concern was for Buck: Would it be suitable for him? With the dog weighing almost as much as a grown man and tall enough to be able to put his fore legs on his masterâ€™s shoulders when both were standing, it would be important to have enough space for him to move around in. He wandered around the metropolitan suburbs to find a roof for himself and his friend only to face the moment of truth that his dream place with at least four hundred square metres was a total daydream, a fantasy. His entire savings from his twenty years of sweat and toil would get him only a suburban townhouse or an average two-hundred to two-hundred-and-eighty-squaremetre secondhand roof over his head at best, certainly not enough for a dog the size of Buck. So eventually another departure came along, but this time the dog wasnâ€™t the one who left; instead the man was the one who had to leave his
friend behind. Though his family were willing to take Buck in and look after him, the man was still certain of the bond the dog had with his master, which was stronger than what he had for anyone else. He had had dogs ever since he was a child so he realized how deeply a dog bonded with his master, love so deep it had become legendary. But then again, life can be complicated, and sometimes being loved and trusted by others is more of a curse than a blessing. One day towards the middle of the year his first son rang and told him that Buck was so seriously ill he couldn’t walk or even sit. Buck had been taken to a veterinary hospital in the village of Prachanivate; the man, concerned, rushed to his youngest son’s house. The sky was dark and the rain was falling gently. The light in the ill dog’s room looked cold and strange. When his gaze fell on Buck’s skinny and deformed body lying gasping for breath in an iron cage, he was struck immediately by the feeling that his opportunity to make up for abandoning the dog was gone for good. Buck’s staring eyes reminded him of Toob’s three years before; the once diamond-like sparkling and glittering eyes were now dried and
lifeless. Still, his dog fortunately had one distinct difference from him; Buck had no tears. Before leaving, the man gave his used and pre-washed shirt to the hospital staff, asking them to tie it to the dog’s cage hoping that the odor of his shirt there throughout the night would somehow calm him – or at least the man himself might be comforted by the thought that it was comforting the dog. The next morning, there was news from his eldest son that Buck had passed away after staying with his shirt all through the night. Certainly, it was not easy to cope with the feeling of being a ‘betrayer’ to his best friends, three times over, but he couldn’t help thinking that at least he had given a decent shroud to the dead dream of his life. ‘wounds caused by others will heal somehow and in some ways, but wounds we cause others may stay with us for life.’ The man kept on telling himself this upon recalling Buck. After that day he grew afraid of being loved and trusted by anybody.
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Third Place, BKKLIT Translation Prize for Fiction 2018