On clear nights, the creature came out of the woods and wandered through our town. My little brother called it the noche perro; he had been teaching himself Spanish ever since a pretty exchange student from Córdoba was assigned to his class. ("Doesn't she speak English?" asked our father, over dinner. "Yes," said my brother, "but that's not the point." Then, to me: "Lindy, pass the butter, por favor.")
He was wrong about the creature, though – it wasn't a perro at all. It was much too big, hairy, and aware of its surroundings. I had seen it dig through our neighbor's trash cans, and it was methodical in its ways, eating certain pieces and throwing back others after a moment of consideration. I had seen it bury something in the Andersons' garden. I had seen it hide from a cat, retreating into a shadow until the tabby crossed the street. But even when the creature reemerged, it looked uneasy, as if at any moment the cat might come running back and attack.
Then some of the PTA moms got wind of the creature. They said it was sniffing around the schoolyard. They spoke to the local news, claiming that two of the neighborhood cats were missing. When they realized that the creature was after nothing more than our garbage, they insisted that everyone hide their trash cans in their garages at night.
"Now this monster will leave us alone," they said.
When the creature came back, it seemed confused. Where there had once been bins stuffed with dinner scraps and plastic packaging and used tissue, there were now only round depressions in the grass. From house to house, it found the same thing – except at one. Outside of our house, the creature found a brown lunch bag, and inside the bag, my lunch. A peanut butter and honey sandwich. Half an apple. Some crackers. The creature sniffed at the food, gave a moment of thought, and then removed the sandwich from its plastic bag. It ate the bag, chewing slowly, and then took the sandwich in its mouth and started walking back toward the street. It looked back only once, glancing up toward my bedroom window. I saw the the glow of its small, oval eyes, and then I ducked out of sight.