Yesterday Mom came home smelling like work, but instead of taking me for a patrol of the neighborhood like she usually does when she has the work smell on her, this time she took me right out the door to the Covered Wagon. We have the best adventures in the Covered Wagon, but the worst drives because it does not have air conditioning and the temperatures often reach a billion degrees in the summer. Yesterday our Wagon adventure was even more harrowing because we had to do a lot of sitting still in the hot sun while we waited for other cars to use our roads. Because Mom believes in lifetime learning, she used the extra time in traffic to teach me new vocabulary words like “despair” and “existential crisis,” but I don’t remember what they mean because I was too hot to think.
I couldn’t wait to see where we were going, but after 3 hours of mostly sitting still and only like 3 hours of movement-driving, Mom pulled the Covered Wagon over at the side of the road and let me out. “What kind of bullplop is this?!” I asked, looking around outside the car. “It’s dark out here and I smell monsters.”
“We’re not going to make it tonight,” Mom explained. “Let’s sleep here.”
“I don’t like it here,” I told her. “It gives me the howling fantods. It smells creepy and there are things in the woods.” But Mom just pretended like she couldn’t hear me and lay down. She also forgot to close the windows, so I could smell and hear all the creepy things casing The Covered Wagon, figuring out how to get inside and gobble us up. I thought about letting Mom sleep, but every 20 minutes I had to bark at a noise or lick her face to say, “Hey, did you hear something?” Luckily, thanks to me keeping watch and letting her know every time A Thing did something, Mom didn’t need to go all the way to sleep at all before she got up at 3am to keep driving.
Finally the sun came up and we pulled over the Covered Wagon at our adventure spot. There were trails in every direction! We picked one trail and started running. Then we stopped running. Then we started running. Then we stopped again. Apparently humans make lousy pack animals, because Mom kept complaining about having to run with 10lb of water on her back. So instead of dropping the water in the car and running the whole way, we hiked instead.
The place we were in was beautiful. There were flowers that smelled like red, and purple, and yellow, and white, and the sky smelled like it was the same colors with a big, white moon in the middle of it. We could see all the mountains, even though we hardly had to climb at all to get this high.
After about four miles of climbing I started having déjà vue. “Mom,” I asked. “Do you ever get the feeling you’ve been somewhere before?”
“Don’t you recognize it?” Mom asked. “We were here on the last hike of our last adventure. The peak is less than a mile that way. It just looks different because there was snow up here the last time we were here, and we came from a different direction.” That just blew my mind… a mountain so big that there was more than one way to climb it?! And how could it have white dirt on one day, and then no white dirt just a few weeks later?!
“Why do we keep coming back here, Mom?”
“I don’t know why I’m drawn to this place, Oscar. All the people are always nice, there are a million places to camp even though no one knows this place is here, and I never get the howling fantods when we’re up here. I think that this is our special place.”
Part of the reason that we had woken up so early was because we wanted to be done before it got hot, but we might have overcompensated. Once we started walking downhill on the shady side of the mountain, Mom, whose heart pumps ice rather than blood, started to turn blue. Every mile or so, I had to come back to her and block the path so that she could bang her hands on my handsome butt until she could feel them again. It wasn’t that cold, Mom is just made with lizard parts.
Suddenly Mom froze solid. “Oscar!” she said in a hot voice. “Did I bring my wallet when we left the house yesterday?!”
“I don’t know, Mom. But you don’t need it, remember? When we’re in the Covered Wagon we don’t need money or other people.”
“Well… that’s not strictly true,” Mom said. “Like, for example, if we ever want to get home again, we need money.”
“Do we need to go home again?” I asked. “I thought this was our special place. Maybe we are home.”
“Um, yes. I think we need to go home again. I’ve got milk in the fridge that will go bad, and a doctor’s appointment that I’ll miss next week if we don’t. Plus, I only packed 3 pairs of socks.”
“Oh, well in that case, how do we know if you forgot your wallet?”
“We’ll have to get back to the Covered Wagon.”
“And how far is that?” I asked.
“Maybe 9 or 10 more miles…” Mom said.
“Oh. That will take a very long time. Do we need money before we get there?”
“No, I suppose not.”
“Then you should enjoy the hike,” I said. “Look! A bird just hopped. Let’s chase it!” But I don’t think she took my advice, because she stopped taking pictures after that and looked worried.
Mostly we hiked, but also we climbed over giant trees that had died and fallen across the path, and also climbed over tiny streams which are what happens when white dirt dies and falls across the path. We walked and walked for hours, until the day started to make its own warmth and Mom started to turn people-colored again. Then we popped out at a beautiful lake that was just as perfect for drinking as the streams on the mountain had been. We walked miles along the lake, and then we left the lake and still kept walking.
Mom had put me back on leash. She said it was because she didn’t want to have to yell at me, but I think it’s because she was lonely because she kept yelling at me anyway. Every time we met other people on the trail, I ran up to the Friends and barked, “Hi! I’m Oscar! I bark. It’s kind of my thing.”
And then they would look scared and Mom would say, “He barks. It’s kind of his thing.” And then the people would smile and tell Mom how cute I was. Except the people puppy who whimpered and folded herself up whenever I barked; she was extra fun to bark at, but Mom pulled me away before I was done turning her into a pocket square.
Finally, after many, many hours and more than 14 miles of hiking, we found the Covered Wagon. “What are you going to do if you don’t have your wallet?” I asked Mom.
“Well, nobody will get lunch, and we’ll have to walk into a gas station and hope that a AAA card will… Oh wait. The card’s in my wallet too…”
“NO LUNCH?!?!” I said, and pretended to faint in the shadow of the car while Mom checked the wallet slot, where the wallet had been waiting for her the whole time. We celebrated by not spending any money at all.
Oscar the Pooch