The story for today’s run actually starts last night, when we camped along the dirt road on the way to the trail. We’re getting a little more comfortable with the idea that no rangers are going to wake us up in the middle of the night and tell us to leave, but Mom still gets a little nervous that there are some country rules that we don’t know about. So when the Sons of Anarchy ride by on their golf carts and give us strange looks, Mom just waves at them like, “Howdy neighbor.” Like making a salad on a TV dinner tray out of the back of my mail-man van on a hunting/ATV trail, 10 miles from the nearest paved road is the most natural thing in the world.
Anyway, so we were making dinner, and all of a sudden I noticed this buzzing that wasn’t coming from the souped-up golf carts that the Sons of Anarchy ride in the woods. “Mom, what’s with this flock of medium-sized birds?!” I asked, trying to bite them all out of the air. But for every one I swallowed, 10 more swarmed into its place.
“These…” Mom said, doing an angry interpretive dance with her arms, “…are mosquitoes, and they are among the most irritating things on earth.”
“Where did they come from?!” I asked as they swarmed around me like a bunch of adoring fans asking for my pawtograph.
“They are born in fresh water like lakes and ponds, and come out to ruin warm nights. At home we don’t have lakes or warm nights, so we don’t have anything to attract mosquitoes.” Then something flew by Mom’s head that was so loud that it made her flinch like someone had thrown a stick at her face. “What the duck was that?!” she said. “It was the size of a flying tampon!” I know about tampons. They seem like a great snack, but they’re kind of big for swallowing in one gulp, and then you get punished with a trip to the vet’s office. I was glad that it had flown for Mom’s face and not mine.
The real trouble was that when we do chores like dinner, we need to leave all the doors to the Covered Wagon open. So when we were ready to go to bed, there were dozens of moose-skeeters in our bedroom. Mom spent ages lunging and diving around The Covered Wagon, clapping and squishing until most of the moose-skeeters were dead and our home was decorated with their squashed bodies.
In the morning, when Mom gave up and parked The Covered Wagon at an ice bank more than one but less than 2 miles from the trailhead, the moose-skeeters were back. I looked out of my window and could see dozens of them in a frenzy trying to get at me through the glass like hungry zombies in fast forward. “I thought you said they only came out at night!” I shuddered, cowering inside the car-house.
“Out! Out! Hurry! So I can close the door!” Mom squawked. The moose-skeeters were worse than the ticks. The ticks at least gave us a relaxed kind of hysteria, but the moose-skeeters made everything feel like panic.
Once we were moving the moose-sketers weren’t so bad, but when we reached the trail and nature got closer, the moose-sketers got even worse than ever.
“Mom, what are you doing checking your phone at a time like this?!” I asked.
“This is the first time I’ve had reception in 2 days… Gah! …and I want to see… Bah! …if I’ve missed anything.” She wasn’t just waving her arms at this point, she was snapping her head back and forth, and even her shoulders and waist were getting into the action of swatting the moose-skeeters. “But I can’t… ugh! … hold my hand still for long enough … godDAMN it! … to read anything.”
“Okay, Happiness Coach Lesson Number One: In an emergency, put down your stinkin’ phone!” I said over my shoulder as I ran away, trying to convince her to follow me.
“What?” Swipe. Swat. “Crap! I think I just deleted something!”
I left Mom to her fool’s task and ran into the woods to explore. I could smell something big, and there were recent tracks in the snow that looked like deer hooves, but were way bigger than any deer’s feet I’d ever seen. I remembered about the flying tampon last night, and the mystery of all the big things on top of the mountain yesterday, and concluded that there must be all kinds of giant things roaming in these hills. When I next came back to check on Mom she was still spasmodic, but at least she had put her phone away. She had a cloud of moose-skeeters around her that you could practically see from the next mountain away.
“You’ve got to run, Mom!” I said.
“This is no time to be a marathon coach, Oscar! This whole trail is covered in snow, I can’t run on it!”
“But the more you walk, the more of the moose-skeeters you collect. If you run they can’t keep up with you. You don’t have to run far, just RUN!”
So we ran. Mom didn’t flow fleet-footed over the snow like me. Her fleeing looked more like a stumbling drunk person trying to catch a tennis ball bouncing downhill, but after a minute or so of running she had shed most of the moose-skeeters and could hike until she collected another swarm and it became unbearable again.
At one point she had collected a really huge cloud and was about to run away when she reached a tree that had fallen across the path. The tree was too low for her to crawl under, but too high for her to jump over. Desperate, she tried to give herself a lunging start. She had one foot up on the log and just needed a little boost from her snow-leg to get her weight up and over. But when she pushed down on the white dirt it gave out underneath her and she summersaulted backward and landed like she was trying to make another snow angel. She didn’t even hesitate to brush the white dirt out of her socks. She just screamed about ducks and then got her butt onto the log and threw her legs over. While she was scooting, her shorts got caught on a branch and I thought for a moment that she was going to let her shorts tear off her butt and run pantsless into the wilderness rather than stopping to untangle herself.
We were supposed to climb 3 mountains, but after we had climbed one and were going down to start the second one Mom said, “Oscar, this is horrible! Can we please go now?”
“Are you going to complain for the rest of the day about cutting our run short?”
“No, there is absolutely nothing that makes me want to continue doing this run!”
“Even the other 2 mountains and the fact that this is the first time you’ve been able to cover any real distance on the white dirt this whole trip?”
“We can talk about it in the car. I’m leaving!” she said, leaving me behind as she bumbled and lurched back in the direction that we’d come.
We didn’t do any more hiking or running for the rest of the day, but Mom did make me take 2 swimming breaks to cool off. At the first break there was a little lake with a walkway that started at the parking lot and stuck out into the lake. The walkway moved with the water, which I found interesting and a bit scary. There was a lab there, and she kept jumping off the walkway into the water. I was curious about how that worked, but decided that it was best to let the dumb lab take the risk. So every time Mom threw a stick, I just barked instructions at the lab… which she ignored. When the lab left and everything was quiet, I thought I would investigate the water in a little more detail. I leaned over the edge of the walkway to sniff the water…
…when suddenly something came up from behind, scooped me up by my beautiful and shapely bottom, and flipped me face-first into the lake. I had never been in water over my head unless I had cautiously walked out there myself after weighing the risks. I splashed and flailed for a second trying to get my bearings. I thought for sure that I must have been attacked by a giant and turned to warn Mom, when I noticed that she was standing in the spot that I had just fallen from, and laughing her butt off.
“Did you do that?!” I asked.
“I did. I’m sorry.” She squeezed the water out from my face fur and kissed the hard spot between my eyes.
“That wasn’t very nice! Happiness Lesson Number 2: we don’t do mean things to people we love! Mitten-god! What’s the matter with you?! You’re acting like you’ve been taking happiness lessons from a cat…”
“It was mean. I know. I’m sorry,” she said, still laughing. “But you should have seen your face though…! That little prank made me very happy indeed. You are a great happiness coach.”
I think we need more work on Rule Number 2.
-Oscar the Victim