September 23, 2014

You are here: Home Features Alternate Takes

After the Rain

A monk once asked master Chao-chou: "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?

Chao-chou said, "Mu"

I was awakened by a cry in the darkness before any light of morning and after a night of thunderous tropical rainfall. From the streetlights I could see inches of water blanket the streets and yards of the nearby homes. It was a double "cry" -- perhaps a dog or puppy barking, and a woman wailing and making horrible, ghostly, sounds. It was the sound of tremendous grief and total fear.

The cries were coming from house next door. These neighbors live very primitive and simple lives in their small house and survive just barely above poverty standards. They sometimes have strange behaviors, but they are very nice people. They try so very hard to keep their property looking nice but usually it ends up with plastic dolls in the birdbath and other unusual displays.

All I could see was their big wet puppy, tangled in a strangle hold by his chain wrapped around some boards atop his cardboard doghouse. His cries were like a ten-year-old child lamenting death, calling out in terror in the rain.

My friend and I put some clothes on and went out into the night, walking in high boots through the flooded street. I patted the dog to calm him, trying to give him the message that he was okay, that the Buddha was here taking care of things. Perhaps he was the Buddha, I thought to myself as I untangled him, thinking of the famous koan. I moved his doghouse to higher ground, put in a new linoleum rug for him to rest on, and left.

He cried for us to stay and a cop living across the street peeped out of his window. Then a detective drove by to check on things, but our shadowy movements in the aftermath of the storm went unnoticed as dim silhouettes in the light rain.