DOG OIL

Ambrose Bierce
My name is Boffer Bings. I was born to honest parents, in a very humble lifestyle. My father was a manufacturer of dog oil, and my mother had, at the foot of the village church, a small office, where she eliminated unwanted babies. In my childhood, I learned about industry processes. Not only did I help my father by looking for dogs for his cauldron, but my mother also frequently entrusted me with the mission of getting rid of the spoils of her work in the office. In order to perform this task, I sometimes needed all my natural intelligence, since all the agents of the neighborhood law were opposed to my mother’s business. Since the agents had not been elected by the opposition, the issue never had political injunctions: they simply did it for the sake of doing it.
Naturally, my father’s job – making dog oil – was less unpopular, although the owners of missing dogs sometimes looked at him with suspicion, which, to some extent, was reflected in me. As partners, on the sly, my father had the doctors of the city, who almost never issued a prescription without it appearing on what they proudly called “Ol. can. ”, the most valuable remedy ever discovered. But most people are not willing to make personal sacrifices for the afflicted, and it was evident that many of the fattest dogs in the city were forbidden to play with me. This hurt my youthful sensibility and, once, they turned to me to play pirate.
Looking back on those days, I cannot, at times, avoid repentance, since, indirectly leading my dear parents to death, I was the author of the misfortunes that profoundly affected my future.
One night, as I passed my father’s factory, when he came from my mother’s office, carrying an exposed, I saw a guard who seemed to be watching my movements closely. Although I was quite young, I had already learned that the guards only came to the most reprehensible facts, so that I dodged it, slipping into the oil factory through a side door, which happened to be open. I locked the door at once and was left with my dead man. My father had already retired. The only light of that place came from the oven, which burned intensely under one of the cauldrons, spreading a deep light and casting red reflections on the walls. In the cauldron, the oil was boiling indolently, occasionally pushing a piece of dog to the surface. I waited for the guard to leave. I kept the little child’s naked body in my lap and tenderly stroked his silky short hair. Ah, how beautiful it was! Even at that young age, I loved children very much, and when I looked at that little angel, I almost wished in my heart that the little red wound on his chest, the work of my dear mother, was not deadly.
What I intended, as usual, was to throw the child into the river, which nature had wisely bequeathed to us for that purpose, but that night, afraid of the policeman, I dared not leave the oil factory. “After all,” I said to myself, “I don’t think it would matter if I spill it in the cauldron. My father will never distinguish his bones from the bones of a dog. And the few deaths that could result from the administration of another type of oil, in place of the incomparable ‘Ol. can. ’, will not be noticed in a population that grows so quickly”. In short, I took my first step towards crime, which brought me unspeakable suffering, and I poured the child into the cauldron.
The next day, to my surprise, my father, rubbing his hands in satisfaction, informed me and my mother that he had obtained quality oil never seen before, and that this was the opinion of the doctors to whom he had taken samples. He added that he had no idea how he achieved such a result, as he had treated the dogs as he had always done, in all aspects, and they were of a common breed. I thought it was my duty to offer them an explanation, and I would certainly have contained the momentum of my tongue if I could have predicted the consequences. My parents, lamenting their previous ignorance about the advantages of combining their duties, took steps to repair the error. My mother moved her office to a wing of the factory building, and my work duties have ceased. They no longer needed me to get rid of the little superfluous and there was no need to attract dogs to condemnation, because my father completely renounced them, even though they still held the honorable name in olive oil. So, suddenly attracted to idleness, one might expect me to become a vicious and dissolute person, but that is not what happened. My sweetheart’s holy influence always fell on me, protecting me from the temptations that beset youth, and, moreover, my father was a deacon of a church. Woe is me! Through my fault, these esteemed people would evolve to such a cruel end!

When experiencing a double advantage with her businesses, my mother gave herself to the mister with an assiduity never seen before. Not only did he get rid of the unwanted babies delivered to him, but he flocked to the streets and alleys in search of older children and even adults he managed to attract to the factory. My father, too, in love with the best quality of the oil produced, supplied his cauldrons with diligence and zeal. The conversion of their neighbors into dog oil has become, in short, the passion of their lives. An absorbing greed invaded their souls and took the place of the hope that they had to reach paradise, which, in their turn, also inspired them.
And they threw themselves so vividly into the company that a public meeting was held, in which resolutions were adopted that severely censored them. He was summoned by the president: any incursions against the population would be met with hostility. My poor parents left the assembly with a broken heart, desperate and, I believe, not completely healthy. I considered it prudent, in any case, not to enter the oil factory with them that night and went to sleep outside, in a stable.
About midnight, some mysterious impulse ordered me to get up and peek out of the oven room window, where I knew my father was already asleep. The fire was blazing, as if waiting for an abundant harvest the next day. One of the huge cauldrons simmered slowly, endowed with a mysterious aspect of self-restraint, as if waiting for the moment to overflow its full energy. But my father was not in bed. He had got up and was wearing his night clothes. He made a knot in a vigorous rope. From the looks he directed at my mother’s bedroom door, I fully understood the purpose he had in mind. Mute and immobile, full of terror, I was unable to do anything in terms of prevention or warning. Suddenly, my mother’s bedroom door opened quietly and they faced each other, both apparently surprised. The lady was also wearing a nightgown, and carried her work tool in her right hand: a long, narrow-bladed dagger.
She was also unable to deny herself the profit that the citizens’ hostile attitude and my absence allowed her. For a moment, they looked at each other in flaming eyes and then launched themselves with indescribable fury at each other. Like demons, they fought for the whole room. My father cursed. My mother was screaming. She was trying to pierce the dagger. He forced himself to strangle her with big hands. I don’t know how long I had the misfortune to observe this unpleasant moment of domestic unhappiness, but, after all, after an effort more vigorous than the ordinary, the opponents suddenly parted.
My father’s chest and my mother’s gun showed signs of contact. For a moment, they looked at each other in the most hostile way. Then my poor and wounded father, feeling the hand of death over him, jumped forward and, making little of the resistance that my mother offered, took her in his arms, leading her to the boiling cauldron. And, gathering his last strength, he jumped with her! In a moment, both had disappeared and added their oil to that of the citizens’ committee that had summoned them, the day before, to the public meeting.
Convinced that these dire events obstructed all paths to an honorable career in that city, I abandoned it in favor of the famous village of Otumwee, where I wrote these memories with a heart full of remorse for an act so reckless and involving a truly catastrophic commercial disaster. .
Translation: José Jaeger

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