The moving trucks were there. The household was abuzz with activity. Hector was underfoot and being told to go in the other room. When they would move into the other room, he was told to go into the other room. This is how it went for three days.
Hector was scrawny for his age. At 9 years old, he was very thin and not very large. His ribs poked out and his head looked too big for his body. It was easy for people to overlook him upon first meeting his family. His usual look was one of nervousness - his large eyes mistaken for questioning by people who did not know him. The people who did know Hector surmised it not so much as questioning but derived from fear. He usually stood back and watched any new situation from afar. Only until someone approached him and offered a friendly tone would he seem to relax.
Once in a while, a person might wonder what the fear was caused by. Had they been Hector's neighbor, they would have known, too. Had they lived beside Hector they would have heard cries and screams in the middle of the night, once in a while. Had they lived beside Hector and, in trying to befriend the family in order to assuage any volatile situation, one would have seen Hector having to go get the belt that would be used to beat him.
I lived beside Hector and his family for two years. I tried to befriend the odd family and mainly for Hector's sake. I ached for him and felt sorry for him and tried to set up play dates for Hector and Molly. But the matriarch would have no part of it. Her mouth was usually in a snarl, her black roots often showing underneath her otherwise fried bleached-blond hair and her language skills, but for fuck were reserved for people she knew well.
The day my partner and I saw the moving trucks pulling out along with their beater of a car - that never seemed to otherwise start and even today seemed excited to be leaving - we breathed a sigh of relief. The era of "crazy woman neighbor" was finally at a close. It had even been recently discussed among the neighborhood associations to try to get the house declared a public nuisance; What with drug dealers in and out, and the matriarch's mentally handicapped daughter being sent to the store on foot for alcohol, the episode of the matriarch using a skillet to hit her daughter in the head 'for discipline', numerous ambulances in the middle of the night, and then Hector...
As a new neighbor and first time home owner, anxious to meet my neighbors, I'd gone next door to introduce myself. I remember it vividly. As the door opened with a slow eerie creak, I was greeted first with a cloud of cigarette smoke. Next, I would be face to face with a middle-aged, rough looking woman whose blue eyes were perpetually wide and with the milky haze of cataracts . Her thin, lined mouth was crooked and drawn up on one side in a snarl, I would come to know later, that was there all the time. She had a slow gimpy limp forcing her to drag her left leg behind and then up. Stroke paralysis, I would come to know later, on the left side of her body is what had her left hand almost in a hooked shape - like a claw.
After opening the door she looked me slowly up and down. She had a cigarette hanging from a corner of her mouth. Her raspy voice made the statement, "You the new neighbor." Not a question. A declaration. She turned, leaving the door open, and began a slow dragging limp away; Drag, up, drag, up, drag, up. Unknowing whether I should follow or shut the door and leave, I just stood there. "Come on," she'd said.
Now they were gone.
I worried for Hector. I didn't think he could last much longer. Were it not for the love of the mentally handicapped girl that ached along side him and in fear of the matriarch, I am sure I would have done something more than I did. But Hector and the girl were all each other had in that family, and for reasons that make sense only in the most dysfunctional of households, the girl loved her mother; And constantly sought her approval at the same time trying to protect Hector and shield him as best she could. She and Hector were all each other had insofar as love minus abuse went.
I would pray more. That's what I would do. I would pray for Hector and the girl, I decided. She'd just been over to say goodbye. I gave her some going away gifts and she was excited. I gave her a plant and she started crying thinking it was the most beautiful plant she had ever seen. I hugged her tightly. We shared some good memories; My cutting her hair and styling it like mine, my taking her picture and digitally-altering-her-beautiful and beside Enrique Iglesias at that, her coming over and happy she had a boyfriend to show off... Indeed, a beautiful spirit and extra large heart with a lacking IQ that often left her stymied unless her mother told her what to do. Yes, I would have to pray more.
It wouldn't be until the next day that Matt and I would hear the familiar cry and yelps.
"They wouldn't leave him!" I said, thinking it couldn't really be Hector. Matt left out the front door and went around the corner.
When he came back 5 minutes later, Matt said, "The bad news is that they abandoned Hector. The good news is we have another dog."
Before leaving, they had tied a rope around Hector's neck, with only three feet worth of roaming room, and connected it to the back fence separating our properties; No water, no food. After inquiring the neighbors, the family had apparently no plans for anyone to come get Hector or take care of him.
Hector, the dachshund stayed with us for a few weeks, found a sister in our Molly, and received plenty of love, affection, and food until we were able to find him a good home with kind people.
Hector never had to worry about having to go fetch his own belt in order to get beaten again.