Shortly the hostel's owner, Rusty, who said he had heard the screams of a "pig being slaughtered" appeared in the dining room. We all made a mad dash for the kitchen.
"Was it Loco?" Rusty asked us. The answer was, yes, it was very loco. It was locisisismo. It was one of the most loco things of all time. But that was not what Rusty meant. Rusty was asking if his pet raccoon, Loco, had escaped. It had not crossed our minds that Loco, the hostel's mascot, who all week had seemed so content in his tiny feces-smeared cage, could be capable of such atrocities. But upon finding his cage empty, there was little doubt that Loco had lived up to his name.
When I was safely in the kitchen I washed my wounds and Marcos handed me a bottle of Rum to disinfect the bites.
"Do you want me to suck your wounds?" Marcos' Dutch girl asked me.
"If you want to," I told her, "but that only useful after snakebites to remove the venom. But if sucking wounds is something you enjoy, you are free to do so."
After thirty minutes of blockading ourselves in the kitchen, the time eventually came to return to our rooms. By this time the hostel had taken on a horror movie feel: everyone was afraid of the 30 feet of open air standing between our rooms and us. Loco was still on the prowl and I felt quite certain that he wanted more.
I picked up a large stick and together we all made mad dashes to our rooms. After I closed my door and shut all the room's windows I placed my heavy guitar case in front of my door—just in case. My adrenaline high was waning and I was beginning to feel exhausted. I felt as one feels after being bested twice by an oversized rat. I tumbled into my bed and looked up at the thatch roof. A far too familiar thought bounced about my head—I can't believe that just happened. The world never ceases to surprise me with its surfeit of insane absurdity.
Five Injections of Precaution
Today I need to go to back to Antigua, Guatemala's health post to get my fourth of five rabies vaccinations. I was late in getting my first vaccination since the coon attack happened over Easter weekend, when Guatemala is a big party and the health posts are closed.
Google has been encouraging and has informed me that as long as I continue my regimen of vaccines I should not become rabid. A small part of me regrets this.
Another encouraging development was the hostel owner has assured me that his coon has been vaccinated against rabies. But since rabies is 100 percent fatal, I've decided to get the vaccines anyways. After all, if someone were to ask me to describe the raccoon, "rabid" would be my adjective of choice.
For concerned animal lovers reading this, you'll be happy to know that Loco was found the next morning and returned to his small feces-filled cage. My friends and family in the United States were insisting that I demand that the owner put his coon down, but as he has raised the little demon since it was just a little baby demon, I doubt he would do that.
So as long as the vaccines work and I don't come down with rabies, a part of me is glad that Loco chose me. It is likely the same stupid part of me that thinks it's a good idea to travel to drug-lord-controlled parts of one of the world's most dangerous countries, but I think most intrepid travelers know what I mean.
As it is, I did not sustain any permanent damage and the experience woke me up in a wild way. Short of jumping out of a plane and being involved in a car crash, I have had few experiences in life where I have felt so alive—experiences where adrenaline changes time's pace and seconds stretch to become minutes. Perhaps one day someone will even start making coon attacks part of an extreme Guatemala adventure tour. I can see the tagline now: Welcome to Guatemala, one coon attack of a country.
Just after this article was submitted, the owner of La Casa de La Iguana sent me word that Loco had passed. The circumstances of his passing seem appropriate. He once again escaped from his cage and this time decided to attack a dog. The dog was better at dealing with such situations than I was, and Loco did not survive the clash. But he left this world as he lived, crazily. We hope he's found peace, but I suspect his soul is restlessly wandering some netherworld, terrorizing the tourists there.
After setting off hitch-hiking post college from Chile to Alaska, Luke Maguire Armstrong made it as far as Guatemala. There he directs the educational development organization Nuestros Ahijados in a mission to "break the chains of poverty through education and formation. He is the author of iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About and co-editor of The Expeditioner's Guide to the World. His first novel, How One Guitar Will Save the World, is at large looking for a publisher. Follow him on Twitter: @lukespartacus.
All photos © Ray Conway
The Burning of the Devil in Guatemala by Luke Armstrong
Loco Bill, the Expat Killer by Richard Arghiris
Third World Tailors Make Suits, Third World Tailors Make Men by Luke Armstrong
The Peanut Fiends of Guayaquil by Darrin DuFord
Other Mexico and Central America travel stories from the archives
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