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The world began to set traps for him: the unknown and tantalizing taste of various foods, the square patch of morning sunlight on the floor in which it was so pleasant to rest, the movements of his own limbs, his own paws, his tail roguishly inviting him to play, the fondling of human hands which induced a certain playfulness, the gaiety that filled him with a need for completely new, violent, and risky movements—all this tricked and encouraged him to the acceptance of the experiment of life and to submission to it.

One more thing: Nimrod began to understand that what he was experiencing was, in spite of its appearance of novelty, something which had existed before—many time before. His body began to recognize situations, impressions, and objects. In reality, none of these astonished him very much. Faced with new circumstances, he would dip into the fount of his memory, the deep-seated memory of the body, would search blindly and feverishly, and often find ready-made within himself a suitable reaction: the wisdom of generations, deposited in his plasma, in his nerves. He found actions and decisions of which he had not been aware but which had been lying in wait, ready to emerge.

The backdrop of his young life, the kitchen with its buckets and cloths full of complicated and intriguing smells, the clacking of Adela’s slippers and her noisy bustle, ceased to frighten him. He got used to considering it his domain, began to feel at home in it and to develop vague feeling of belonging to it, almost of patriotism.

Unless of course there was a sudden cataclysm in the shape of floor scrubbing—an abolition of the laws of nature—the splashing of warm lye, flooding all the furniture and the loud scraping of Adela’s brushes.

But the danger passed; the brush, now calm and immobile, returned to its corner, the floor smelled sweetly of damp wood. Nimrod, restored again to his normal rights and the freedom of his own territory, would have a sudden urge to grab an old rug between his teeth and to tear at it with all his strength, pulling it to the left and to the right. The pacification of the elements filled him with indescribable joy.

Suddenly he stopped still: in front of him, some three puppy steps away, there appeared a black monster, a scarecrow moving quickly on the rods of many entangled legs. Deeply shaken, Nimrod’s eyes followed the course of the shiny insect, observing tensely the flat, apparently headless torso, carried with uncanny speed by the spidery legs.

Something stirred in him at that sight, a feeling which he could not yet understand, a mixture of anger and fear, rather pleasurable and combined with a shiver of strength, of self-assertion, of aggression.

And suddenly he dropped onto his forepaws and uttered a sound unfamiliar to him, a strange noise, completely different from his usual whimpering. He uttered it once then again and again, in a thin faltering descant.

But in vain did he apostrophize the insect in this new language, born of sudden inspiration as a cockroach’s understanding is not equal to such a tirade: the insect continued on its journey to a corner of the room, with movements sanctified by an ageless ritual of the cockroach world.

The feeling of loathing had as yet no permanence or strength in the dog’s soul. The newly awakened joy of life transformed every sensation into a great joke, into gaiety. Nimrod kept on barking, but the tone of it had changed imperceptibly, had become a parody of what it had been—an attempt to express the incredible wonder of that capital enterprise, life, so full of unexpected encounters, pleasures, and thrills.













Excerpt from The Street of Crocodiles. Copyright C.J. Schulz, 1963. Orignally published in Issue 27, Summer 2004, by The Bark, by arrangement with Walker & Co.

Artwork by Jason Jagel

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