Some people never believed that story about the couple in Australia whose baby was taken away by the wild dog”you know, they made a movie of it some time afterward. Well, I can tell you I believed it because I once heard a story worse than that or, at least as bad, I guess I should say. And it's all true, too. I not only met the couple it happened to not long after the incident but saw the newspaper clippings, which they had in their possession. Genuine clippings. My niece, who translated the articles for me”they were in Spanish”swore it was the real thing, real newspaper and everything else. She and I had stopped in Leticia, Colombia, on a South American tour.
Jose and Carmen were the names of the couple. The incident took place at the Amazon River on the Colombian side. Jose and Carmen weren't originally from that area. They were from a place farther north, in the mountains. Or was it west? I'm not sure, but that isn't so important. Carmen said Jose had got it into his head that he wanted to live near that great and awesome river. That they could do better there economically. He'd fish and sell the catches and do a lot of related things. Plus, as it's in the tropics, they wouldn't ever be cold anymore as they were many times during those stormy, high-altitude nights. Carmen didn't have much choice but to go along with her husband, so she packed up everything they had, grabbed the kids”the baby and 2 bigger ones”and off they went.
Surprisingly, they got along quite well at first and made a lot of new friends. They didn't need a lot of money in that area or any fancy living quarters. Over there most people sleep in hammocks of all colors and sizes. How expensive can those be? Of course, it was a different life from the one they'd been used to, but they adapted. After a year they even built a house. I guess we'd call it a thatched hut since that's what it looked like to me when I saw the photo of it.
One night they were sitting with a group of friends and neighbors around the fire out front of the house. They were roasting catfish and plantains. Carmen said if they love any food in her country it's a plantain. Fried, boiled, baked, chip-style, whatever. The baby was inside in the back of the house sleeping. Every so often the baby would cry out. Jose kept asking Carmen what was the matter with it. Carmen said she would check on it shortly, that the baby had had stomach cramps earlier in the day and she guessed they hadn't quite stopped. Jose said it sounded like a cry that was different in some way. Carmen said don't worry, she'd check shortly. Of course, talking to the neighbors and drinking a cold beer or 2 was enjoyment for her. They work hard all day so a chance to have a few laughs is too hard to pass up. The time came when Jose could take no more so Carmen went in to check on the baby. She was going to bring it out to the circle of friends round the campfire.
Everybody ran into the house when they heard Carmen's pitiful scream. She had collapsed to the floor and was unconsolable. The baby lay dead in its crib, now quiet forever. A big jungle rat or two, it turned out, had been leaping into the crib and taking bites all over the baby's body. They could see that some of its fingers and toes were missing. With all the bleeding and the trauma, I guess its tiny heart just quit beating.
THE END of "Plantain