Richie Narvaez is the Agatha- and Anthony-winning author of the books Roachkiller & Other Stories, Hipster Death Rattle, Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco, and, most recently, Noiryorican.
Shooting a Chupacabra
In Luquillo, I was hated by many people on a daily basis. As a beach cop in my khaki uniform, I suppose I was a perfect target. When an oiled-up gym rat of a tourist tripped me as I walked my beat, he and his boys laughed at me like syphilitic hyenas. Their girlfriends, with their vacant faces, were worse, catcalling and jeering, “Latin po po!” There was no respect for authority, no love for law and order.
Something happened to me one day that taught me a lesson. A tourist had tweeted at headquarters, complaining that a chupacabra had gone wild on the beach. The tweet was going viral, and my boss texted and told me I had better do something about it, or else.
I did not know if my service revolver would be of any use. Chupacabras were flesh and bone. I had just met one at my cousin’s wedding and ended up dancing half the night with it. But they were also known to have magical abilities. Perhaps warning shots would be enough.
On my way down the beach, many tourists yelled at me, griping about the chupacabra. According to one group, the cryptid was a menace and had sucked dry every can of beer they’d brought. One woman said it flew over her when she was changing and had giggled judgmentally. A party of Millennials from New Jersey said the chupacabra was “Killin’ the vibe.”
I had almost made up my mind that the story was a hoax. So I went to Juan Carlos, who had a piragua stand on the edge of the beach. Although now he only sold Italian ices, energy drinks, pretzels.
“Yes, he said.” A chupacabra he knew had come to the beach that day. (They were generally nocturnal but used shades and 85+ sunscreen.) “Su cónyuge está en Florida, visitando a la familia.”
I asked him to contact the chupacabra’s spouse and tell it to return to the island right away.
Someone screamed then, followed by the sound of phone cameras clicking. Down on the beach where the sounds had come from was a dead body sprawled in the sand. It was an English pug, and it had apparently been drained of all its blood. Only its eyes continued to bulge.
People began to crowd around it to take selfies. I clawed my way through them and examined the pug. It had two holes in its throat. It looked very much like the work of a chupacabra. Still, perhaps the pug had encroached upon its territory. There was no way of knowing. The pug’s owner yelled at me to do something while simultaneously talking to her lawyer on the phone.
As I stood there, I realized the crowd was watching me, filming me. They had seen the pug and were all chanting: “Shoot the chupacabra! Shoot the chupacabra!”
I lumbered further down near the water’s edge and the crowd of tourists followed. There it was, a few meters from the water, bopping its head, listening to Richie Ray on headphones. It took not the slightest notice of me or the crowd’s approach.
As soon as I saw the chupacabra I knew I did not have to shoot it. It is a serious matter to shoot a healthy chupacabra—they are popular symbols for the people. Plus, there is an enormous amount of paperwork involved. And it looked as small and harmless as an intellectual. I thought then, and I still believe now, that its attacking the pug was merely instinct.
But just then, I glanced back at the vacationers who had followed me. The crowd was immense, 2,000 non-natives at least, and growing, all of them aiming their cell phones at me. I looked at their sunburned, Botoxed faces, stupidly excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the chupacabra was going to be shot. They did not care about me or the poor chupacabra. And because they were from the mainland, the gun in my hand caused them to salivate. But it was not just for the thrill of seeing something shot that they chanted. These tourists, these mainlanders who had been moving in masses to the island because of tax breaks, wanted nothing native, nothing actually from Puerto Rico, to spoil their vacations. The chupacabra had to be wiped from their view. I would have to shoot the chupacabra after all. These people expected it, demanded it of me. I could feel their combined willpower and cloud of body spray pressing me forward. I was merely a puppet in someone else’s play.
I watched the chupacabra, scrolling on its phone, bopping its knees to “Soy Tan Feliz.” It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to test its behavior. If it bared its footlong incisors, I could shoot; if it took no notice of me, it would be safe to leave.
But I also knew that I was going to do no such thing.
I lay down on the sand to get a better aim. The crowd grew still, like when The Masked Singer returns from a commercial break. When I pulled the trigger, I did not hear the bang or feel the kick, but I heard the roar of glee and clicks of cameras and saw the fist-pumping that went up from the crowd. In an instant, a terrible change had come over the chupacabra. It looked suddenly, immensely frail, as though the impact from the bullet had paralyzed it. As I fired a second time, slobber dripped from its enormous fangs. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did it. In falling backward, its surprisingly large, clawed feet flew skyward. It howled for the first and only time. Down it came, still clinging to its smartphone.
I got up. The non-natives applauded as I stood up on the sand. They were taking videos and posing with the corpse, and I was told later #deadchupacabara trended on Twitter that afternoon. However, the chupacabra was not dead. It was breathing very loudly with long snore-like breaths, its tiny chest stutteringly rising and falling. Its mouth was wide open—far down, I could see at least three silver fillings. I waited a long time for it to die, but its breathing did not weaken. I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought a heart must be. Blood, the color of Cherry Slurpee, spouted out of it, but still, it did not die. It did not even react when the shots hit it, and the tortured snoring continued. It seemed in great agony, but it was also very annoying. I felt that I had to stop that irritating noise. I picked up a nearby piece of driftwood and beat it about the head and chest until I had worked up a good sweat. I even tased it several times. These seemed to make no impression. The tortured snores continued.
In the end, I could not stand it anymore and began to turn to leave. At that same moment the chupacabra smiled, winked at me, and faded into thin air.
Later, there were endless discussions about my shooting the chupacabra. Legally, I had done the right thing, so tourism and real estate investment in the area were not endangered. Governor Pierluisi called my commander personally and thanked him. Among the other beach cops, opinion was divided. The older men said I was right; the younger men said there were more important things to worry about, like no electricity and no clean, running water. I often wondered whether any of the others understood that I had done it simply to avoid being canceled.