Authors: Alexander Yates
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Alexander E. Yates
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
and the DD colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Chapter icons courtesy of Rebecca Cullers
Woodcuts by Emily Bender
Jacket design by Michael J. Windsor
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Yates, Alexander, 1982–
Moondogs : a novel / Alexander Yates. — 1st ed.
1. Fathers and sons—Fiction. 2. Americans—Philippines—Fiction. 3. Kidnapping—Fiction. 4. Insurgency—Philippines—Fiction. 5. Philippines—Fiction. I. Title.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
, Act I: Sc 5
Back home, I’m known as something of a warrior myself.
—“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”
, Season 1, Episode 11
My deepest thanks to Arthur Flowers; George Saunders; Melissa Danaczko; Alanna Ramirez; Brett Finlayson; Tracey Levine; Tami Monsod and Toby Monsod; David Beaty; Rebecca Cullers; the Syracuse University Creative Writing Program and Summer Literary Seminars, Russia.
Thanks above all to my wife, Terhi Majanen.
A man and a rooster exit a taxi idling on a crowded street. The man is short and thin, and the rooster is green, and the rooster belongs to him. The taxi belongs to him as well. He’s wearing a fresh shirt, the blood all washed out, and his polyester slacks shine a little in the afternoon light. He’s too young to be balding, but is. His mouth is a rotten mess, owing to bad hygiene and a shabu habit. His name is Ignacio. He and the rooster are villains.
Ignacio grips the open taxi door and stretches his legs. It feels good to be standing. The drive south from Manila should have taken only an hour, but he demanded that Littleboy—his idiot brother—make wrong turns so they’d be harder to follow. He’d barked instructions from the backseat, where he and Kelog pored over a soggy map and planned intricate double-backs. Kelog is the rooster. He’s named Kelog because he’s green, with red and orange in his tail, and a blood-red comb, like the rooster on the cereal. He used to be a fighting cock. He still would be, if not for the onset of blindness. He’s retired now.
Littleboy stays in the family taxi, drumming his fingers on the wheel and singing along to the SexBomb Girls on the radio. Littleboy loves the family taxi. He never minds picking up Ignacio’s shifts, and people tip him better, because he’s a safer driver and doesn’t look so scary. He looks big and soft. When the song ends he leans out the window and calls over to his brother.
“Is this it, Iggy? Are we there yet?”
“Not so loud, dummy!” Ignacio shouts. “What did I tell you?”
Littleboy looks embarrassed and squints. He hadn’t been loud at all.
Ignacio holds Kelog tight and releases the open taxi door like a mother’s hand. He steps into the after-lunch foot traffic, searches out a number above the shops and checks it with the address he’d written on his palm the night before. They’re in the right spot—or close to it at least. They’ll walk the final distance on side streets, just to be safe.
“Go park the car,” Ignacio says. “I’ll make sure we’re alone.”
“Be careful,” Littleboy says, thumbing the scented Virgin Mother statuette on the dashboard. Ignacio watches him courteously reenter the slow moving traffic and then signal—
—at the intersection ahead. He again thinks that maybe his brother isn’t up to today’s challenge. On a whole bunch of levels. Like maybe he’s too softhearted. Or maybe he doesn’t have sense enough to know he should be scared. Ignacio sure has sense enough. He’s terrified. He appreciates the seriousness of the shit he’s starting.
Ignacio shifts Kelog to his other arm, leans against the concrete wall of a store selling toilets and bathtubs and tries his utmost to look nonchalant. He scans the noisy street, all bathed in sweat from an unusually hot mid-May, even for the Philippines. Power lines sag dangerously low over speeding buses and jeepneys. Women hawk cool juice and duck eggs from tin kiosks, while men in a repair shop fold up their shirts to air out their guts. Two children chase a scalded cat down the sidewalk, but they get distracted by Kelog, and the cat escapes. “Is that a fighting cock, mister?” they ask. Kelog eyes the general area of the children with hungry disdain, and Ignacio tells them to beat it.
“Who are you talking to, pussy?” the smaller one says in a high, lovely voice. “This isn’t your neighborhood,
The boys goose their crotches, spit near his shoes and run down the gravel sidewalk laughing. Ignacio presses himself into the shop wall and watches them go. He knows he looks out of place. But he’s on the lookout for people even more out of place—scanning the street for the Americans that he’s sure are following him. Men in suits ill-suited to the climate, peering out from behind menus in the karaoke bar and the buko pie shop. Pale men or maybe black men with sunglasses on their eyes and wireless earpiece-things in their ears. Blond freckled athlete virgins hiding in the lengthening shadows of stop signs; ready to pounce, ready to pull him into an SUV with diplomatic plates and tinted windows and take him somewhere dark and dress him in something bright and deprive him of sleep, ready to drag him screaming to ocean-distant rooms of electrified genitals and nudity-near-dogs, ready to lock him up with the real hardcore types at Guantanamo Bay, ready to laugh and eat pastries as they watch him get ass-raped through one-way glass. He’s afraid of those Guantanamo types—his maybe future cellmates—the most. He isn’t hardcore. And they’ll know it in a second.