[T]he man who had carried our luggage was standing in the backyard with a rust-colored hen tucked under his arm and a long knife in his right hand. He said something to Lolo, who nodded and called over to my mother and me. My mother told me to wait where I was and sent Lolo a questioning glance.
“Don’t you think he’s a little young?”
Lolo shrugged and looked down at me. “The boy should know where his dinner is coming from. What do you think, Barry?” I looked at my mother, then turned back to face the man holding the chicken. Lolo nodded again, and I watched the man set the bird down, pinning it gently under one knee and pulling its neck out across a narrow gutter.
For a moment the bird struggled, beating its wings hard against the ground, a few feathers dancing up with the wind. Then it grew completely still. The man pulled the blade across the bird’s neck in a single smooth motion. Blood shot out in a long, crimson ribbon. The man stood up, holding the bird far away from his body, and suddenly tossed it high into the air. It landed with a thud, then struggled to its feet, its head lolling grotesquely against its side, its legs pumping wildly in a wide, wobbly circle. I watched as the circle grew smaller, the blood trickling down to a gurgle, until finally the bird collapsed, lifeless on the grass.
Lolo rubbed his hand across my head and told me and my mother to go wash up before dinner. The three of us ate quietly under a dim yellow bulb—chicken stew and rice, and then a dessert of red, hairy-skinned fruit so sweet at the center that only a stomachache could make me stop. Later, lying alone beneath a mosquito net canopy, I listened to the crickets chirp under the moonlight and remembered the last twitch of life that I’d witnessed a few hours before. I could barely believe my good fortune.Good fortune? Why does the boy — as remembered by the man — connect the killing of the bird to his own good fortune? Is it some elemental realization that simply to be alive is amazing, the bird being dead? Or is he excited to be in this new place with lots of thrilling new activities like beheading a bird and shortly thereafter eating it? Or is it the connection to the father figure, who's so eager to show the boy what life is really about and so easily overcomes the reticence of the mother? The next thing that happens in the book is that Lolo teaches him how to deal with bullies: Don't cry over the lump where he hit you with a rock; learn boxing. Lolo buys boxing gloves for him and teaches him to "keep moving, but always stay low—don’t give them a target." Good advice!
And it's on the very next page that Lolo teaches him to eat dog (and snake) meat. The dog-meat paragraph begins with them boxing and proceeds to a quick summary of things done in the first 6 months in Indonesia: he'd "learn[ed] Indonesia’s language, its customs, and its legends," he'd "survived chicken pox, measles, and the sting of my teachers’ bamboo switches," he'd made friends with "children of farmers, servants, and low-level bureaucrats," and they'd run about "hustling odd jobs, catching crickets, battling swift kites with razor-sharp lines." The point is: Life was a big adventure. And meat was part of the adventure — meat from real animals that lived and died.
Do you eat meat? If you eat meat, but not dogs, is it because, with respect to the meat that you do eat, you don't know where your dinner is coming from?