The kid and Toadvine find themselves on a chain gang, cleaning filth from the streets of Chihauhua City with their bare hands. That’s got to be nasty.
They are overseen by a “goldtoothed pervert” Toadvine has nicknamed “Brassteeth.” We don’t get any further indication as to how or why he is a pervert, but I’m going to take Toadvine’s word for it. Brassteeth walks by, and a truly funny exchange ensues:
“I seen him first,” said Toadvine.
“Seen who first.” [the kid]
“You know who. Old Brassteeth yonder.”
The kid looked after the sauntering figure.
“My biggest worry is that somethin will happen to him. I pray daily for the Lord to watch over him.”
Something tells me it’s a good thing for Old Brassteeth that Toadvine and the kid are on their way; something may have happened indeed (in a later reference Toadvine askes the kid “What do you reckon we could get for old Brassteeth’s teeth?” Told you so).
We’re also introduced to a new character Toadvine has nicknamed Grannyrat (we don’t get much in the way of a description, other than that he is old. But isn’t that a perfect nickname? Can’t you just picture him?) Toadvine’s not the only funny one. Describing some prisoners they had released in an earlier military incursion, the veteran Grannyrat tells of two that got whipped, and they both died from that. Some others stole some mules, and the commander “flat out hung them fools.” “Which they did likewise perish of.” Hilarious, right? Am I going crazy?
It took me quite a while to figure out the “two dogs hung together in the street sidle and step.” I may still not have it completely. Given the context and other goings on in the book, at first I assumed they had been hung, like the thieves above. Disturbing I suppose, but par for the course. But then a few paragraphs later, those same dogs stand “tail to tail,” and other dogs are watching them. The kid is watching them. Then they are referred to as the “coupling dogs.” It all comes together.
We see another glimpse of the hollow man imagery referenced earlier, the prisoners and these dogs together:
All lightly shimmering in the heat, these lifeforms, like wonders much reduced. Rough likenesses thrown up at hearsay after the things themselves had faded in men’s minds.
The men are no better than the beasts, and all are merely “wonders much reduced” or “rough likenesses.”
We see a procession that looks to be a religious procession, but if you refer back the chapter heading, they are described as “los hereticos.” A heritic is:
1: a dissenter from established religious dogma; especially : a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who disavows a revealed truth
2: one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine :nonconformist
chary- [archaic] dear, cherished; slow to grant, accept, or expend
sidle- sideways movement; furtive advance
guidon- a small flag; especially : one borne by a military unit as a unit marker; one who carries a guidon
argonaut- any of a band of heroes sailing with Jason in quest of the Golden Fleece b : an adventurer engaged in a quest
azoteas- a flat roof or platform on the top of a house or other building
thews- strength, vitality, muscle, sinew
claymore- a large 2-edged sword formerly used by Scottish Highlanders; also : their basket-hilted broadsword