Mom promised me that this trip would be all about us, but so far it has been all about the car-house that we rented. Instead of staying in the woods last night we stayed in the sort of place where Mom said that people live who aren’t allowed to live within 800 feet of a school or park. I’m not quite sure what that means, but when we checked in the lady told Mom not to go outside the park alone, because people get kidnapped on that road. A few years ago a lady was kidnapped just a few miles from that spot, “…And they had her for six months,” the lady explained, like she actually meant something else.
“What was she doing for those 6 months?” I asked.
“You know what it’s like when you take a bath?” Mom said. “For six months she had to take baths over and over with people who didn’t even love her.” The thought of something like that made me so scared that I don’t even want to think about it. I wished that we could leave this horrible place, but we needed to be there just in case the car-house didn’t start again and we needed to call for help, or to go to the fixer shop.
Which we did.
We got up at 6:00, and instead of finding a run, Mom used her phone to call for help to get the house started. She was on the phone a lot, and every time she sat down to eat breakfast or something, her phone would ring again and she would have to stop and climb around the car-house for a little while searching for things. Finally, after 2 hours a helper man came and turned our house back into a car-house. But instead of driving right to the mountains, we had to drive to a fixer shop to get a new buttery.
While we were at the fixer shop, Mom made me stay in the car-house while she went inside and talked to the people. Then she walked away to make another phone call. While she was gone a man got in the car-house with me and drove me away.
It was happening!
I was getting kidnapped!
And I was going to have to spend the next 6 months (which is YEARS to a dog) having baths over and over. Worst of all, Mom wouldn’t even know where I was, and she would have to go on without a life coach! She needs so much help, I wasn’t sure if she would make it on her own. I was bugging out, but I sat real still in the back so that maybe the man wouldn’t get mad and make me take a bath right away.
They took me and the car-house into a room with lots of loud and scary noises, and left it there with me inside. I didn’t know whether this was a Scary Thing or a Normal Thing, so I just sat on the bed in the car-house and waited to hear the water running. My whole life was passing before my eyes when the door opened and it was…
MOM!!!!!!! She had come to rescue me! I was so happy to see her that I jumped and squealed (in a manly way, of course), and wasn’t even scared by the crazy man across the street screaming at the sky. He sounded more upset than anyone I have ever heard in my entire life.
Finally, four hours after Mom picked up the phone to call for help, we got to leave the scary place and go do the run that we wanted to do early this morning. “We don’t have time to do the long run all the way up to the dam anymore,” said Mom, “but maybe we can still have a nice time doing a shorter run.”
We had planned to do a run on a path next to a river, but according to Mom it’s actually hard to search for bike paths on the GPS. “Because GPSes can only look for points, and a path is a line.” Or, that’s what she told me anyway when she stopped in a dirt parking lot high up on a hill and explained that we would need to run down a steep mile-long dirt road to get to the path. We were running again, we were in a beautiful place, we were together… things were looking up!
…then it started to rain. Neither Mom nor I like the rain.
“No, Oscar, we will NOT let this ruin our run,” Mom said in that voice that I could tell the run was already ruined for her. She went on, “I had hoped that we could get out before the rain started, but now it’s here… But so are we. And so is the river, and all of these pretty mountains. And you and I are together.”
We ran about 6.5 miles, and I explored a little river and waterfall. But I could tell that Mom was forcing herself through it.
I didn’t really want to go back to work so soon after the trauma of being kidnapped, but Mom needed my services. “What’s wrong?” I asked, booting up life coach mode. “The rain isn’t so bad. See? We’re not even that soaked, and it’s kind of warm out. And there are all those colors that I can’t see… The grey river, and the grey trees, and the dark grey and white mountains…”
“I don’t know, Oscar. I’m just so frustrated. I didn’t get a day off for over 2 years. I had to quit my job to even get a chance to go out into the wilderness where no one could reach me. But now instead of a boss it’s the stupid rental van that won’t let me go off the grid. This is just like when we’re home: there is always some reason why I can’t relax, or why I can’t do the things I planned to do for us. I spend so much time taking care of the things that are breaking that I have to rush through the good things. I’m having a hard time keeping a positive attitude.”
“But isn’t it enough that we’re together?”
“But don’t we deserve more than just to be together? Is it too much to ask to be together someplace other than a parking lot on the auto mile in some rotten meth city?”
“What’s math? Is that like when you can’t remember how far we have to run to get back to the car?”
“Meth is like kidnapping, but for your mind. It takes people’s brains and it makes them feel horrible things that are too scary to keep inside. It takes their whole lives, and sometimes they never get them back.”
“Is our car-house math?”
“No. Sometimes there are real things to be upset about that aren’t meth. And this car-house may take our vacation, but it won’t take our whole lives away.”
We had a picnic in the rain and then we started driving again. We got really lost, but Mom didn’t care because we were so deep in the beautiful mountains that her phone didn’t work for hours and hours… which she insists is why we got so lost. We had been planning to go to one trail, but instead we drove through the same intersection 4 times, each time almost an hour after the last time we’d passed through. Eventually, Mom just couldn’t hold it any more and pulled over outside a parking lot that was closed. This decision was the best thing that happened all day.
What we’d found was a museum-trail that showed us all about volcanoes. Usually museum trails are for old people who can’t handle much excitement without having a heart attack, so the little posts just point out boring things like bushes and flowers. But volcanoes are exciting, like action movies… even if the movie happened in such slow motion that no one lived long enough to see the whole movie. The spots had names like, “Sunken Pit,” “Bat Cave” and “Splatter Cone.” Sometimes things with good names are lame and disappointing, but not on our Good Luck Trail. The Sunken Pit was so big you could fit a house in it. The Bat Cave went so deep that Mom froze and refused to move when she got close to it, but I had responsibility so I got closer. When I ducked under the wire that was in the way of exploring, Mom actually screamed — out loud. The hole went down and down and down and I couldn’t even see the bottom.
“Oscar, get away from there.”
“But, Mom! Batman might be down there!”
“Cujo was too curious around a bat cave and it didn’t work out so well for him…” Mom warned. (Cujo is a fable about a dog that gets bit by a bat and then math gets him. It’s a tragedy because he dies at the end.) I didn’t want to die, so I came back to Mom.
The whole time we could see lots of big, pointy mountains all around us. The biggest and pointiest of all blended into the sky because it had snow on it, and the snow was still coming down from the clouds, so it just went from mountain to snow to clouds in one seamless smudge. Mom said that the smudge was called Mt. Shasta.
Even though I was doing this hike with responsibility, I was real careful to stay close to her so that we could look at all of the interesting museum things together. Interesting things are more fun when you see them with someone else. “See, Mom. We’re together, and we’re having fun, and it’s beautiful. Isn’t that enough?”
“Wouldn’t you rather have been doing this than spending those 4 hours in the scary place with the kidnappers? Don’t we deserve this?”
I’m a good life coach, but I didn’t know how to answer that.
-Oscar the survivor