On Thursday night, Mom left me to guard the Covered Wagon while she went to a restaurant with our friends to talk about me behind my back. When they got back to the Covered Wagon, I was very upset about all of the nice things that they had been saying about me without me being able to hear, so I was very eager to have all of them pet me at once. Much to my surprise, instead of telling me goodbye, our friends got into the Covered Wagon with us, and since there are only two chairs in the Wagon, one of them had to get in the bed with me. I was very excited to host them insisted that all three humans put their hands on my muscles and scratch their fingers deep into my fur while we drove.
We drove into a part of The City where the streets stand up straight, and my Friend who was in the back with me had to hang on tight to the driving chair, and hug me close so that we wouldn’t both fall downhill and land on the trunk door. When my Friends kissed me goodbye and went into their house, it was already past Mom’s and my bedtime so we drove to our favorite sleeping spot. We like this spot because it that sits high on a hill overlooking the ocean, and is away from any houses but not far from a Starbucks where Mom can go to the bathroom and get coffee before we go hiking. Mom climbed in the back with me and we both dropped blissfully to sleep.
Soon I heard a suspicious noise. When I opened my eyes, there was a bright light peeking in through the windows of the Covered Wagon that didn’t go away no matter how ferociously I barked. Mom knocked on the window to let the light know she had seen it, and then she searched through the bedding to find the keys. Meanwhile, I ran to the driving chair, put my front paws up on the steering wheel, and barked so wildly that the Covered Wagon started honking along with me. Finally, Mom managed to roll down a window where we found The Law outside waiting for us.
“Is everything okay, ma’am?” The Law asked.
“NO, YOU NUMBSKULL! WE JUST GOT WOKEN UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT BY SOMEONE SNOOPING AROUND OUR HOUSE!” I barked.
“Yeah, why?” Mom said.
“Did you know that we have an ordinance in this town against sleeping in your vehicle?” The Law asked.
“GO AWAY! WE WERE SLEEPING!” I barked at him. “WE’VE HAD A LONG DAY AT WORK AND NEED OUR REST!”
“No, I did not,” Mom said. “Has somebody complained or something?”
“Where are you coming from?” The Law asked, ignoring Mom’s question.
“The City, I just had dinner with my friends and need to be back at the office early in the morning, so I didn’t want to drive all the way down to Mountain View just to drive back in the morning.”
“What’s in Mountain View?” The Law asked.
“OUR STUCK HOUSE!” I shouted. “WE’RE NOT STRAYS, WE’RE JUST SLEEPY!”
“I live there,” Mom said. “It’s just a long drive.”
“You live in Mountain View?” The Law said, as if it was surprising that someone would live in one place but decide to sleep somewhere else. “Then what are you doing in Pacifica?”
“WE THINK THE BEACH IS PEACEFUL. SO BUZZ OFF SO WE CAN GO BACK TO BEING PEACEFUL!”
“I don’t feel safe sleeping in The City,” Mom explained, like that should be obvious to anyone.
“Well I’m not going to make you move if you don’t feel safe driving,” said The Law, like Mom didn’t know how to drive or something. “But if you stay here, someone might come back and talk to you again.”
“I’m fine to drive,” Mom said. “I’m just an employed person, with a house that is a long way away, and I want to get enough sleep so that I can perform at my job.”
“Before you go, can I see a driver’s license,” The law asked.
“WE DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO HIDE!” I let him know.
“Sure, whatever,” Mom said. Then she handed him something from her wallet and he said some nonsense into the collar of his shirt. Then he walked to the front of the Covered Wagon and read its name tag into his shirt. After a little while, his shirt burbled something back at him that made him look disappointed.
“How many dogs do you have in that car?” he asked as he handed Mom’s card back to her.
“I’M OSCAR AND I’M A BUSY-NESS DOG. I WENT TO PUPPY SCHOOL TO BE A GOOD DOGGIE CITIZEN, AND I DON’T DESERVE TO BE WOKEN UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT LIKE THIS!” I screamed.
“Just the one.”
“And what kind is he?”
“He’s a mutt, I don’t know. He’s registered too, by the way,” Mom explained, to keep him from asking more questions. “Now that you have verified that I have a job, I have a home, I am sober, I have a rational reason for sleeping in my car, and I am parked legally in a vehicle with a current registration under my name, if there isn’t anything else you’d like to ask, may I please drive outside the city limits so I can go back to sleep?”
The Law told us to have a nice night, but he didn’t sound like he meant it. So Mom rolled up the window, turned on the Covered Wagon, and drove us to a peaceful spot outside of town where The Law couldn’t get to us.
When we woke up a few hours later, we were both still very sleepy from the inquisition the night before, so Mom didn’t realize that she’d missed the turn to go to the spot where we’d planned to hike until it was too late. Instead of turning around, we decided to walk around The City instead. We parked at our garage, and walked out into the street. We walked past the train station where the human strays make forts out of blankets, dirty suitcases, and bicycles that don’t fit them. Then we walked through where the fast food restaurants are, and you can eat bits of chalupas off the sidewalk on one side of the street and pastries off the sidewalk on the other. Then we walked past the ugly bridge that looks like scaffolding outside an old timey mine and found ourselves on a clean and peaceful walkway with water on one side, and fancy stacks of houses surrounded by moats of flowers on the other.
“This is very pretty!” I said. “It looks like a beach town.”
“…As long as you don’t look up,” Mom pointed out.
I looked up and saw the freeway flying through the sky, the enormous, shiny boxes of offices reaching like they were trying to escape the street, and the hideous drawbridge at the end of the channel. “…as long as you don’t look up,” I agreed.
When Mom moved here from Snow Country a lifetime ago, no one lived in this part of town except the strays and the weeds. But in the past ten human years, a whole new city has crowded the weeds and strays out. The buildings all come together in matched sets, and are stacked side-by-side like books on a shelf, or one on top of another like Legos, or piled high into the sky like desert gods. But a few houses that didn’t look like Legos had survived by jumping on rafts and floating on the water where the big buildings couldn’t reach them.
We walked over to where their walkways held them to the land so that we could get a better look. Some of them looked like the fancy houses that grow near our Stuck House when someone plants a For Sale sign in the yard. Others looked like they had lost a bet with Home Depot and had to wear all of the mismatched parts that no one wanted. On this side of the channel, away from Legoland, the landscape didn’t follow any instruction book. The flowers bloomed in sloppy disorder, there was no sidewalk to walk on, and puddles took over the bare earth. “Mom, I can’t tell if this is pretty, or not pretty,” I said.
“Well what does pretty mean to you?” she asked.
“Isn’t ‘pretty’ something with more money in it?” I said.
“No, I think that things that cost money try to be pretty, but something that’s pretty inspires you to keep looking at it. Which side of the channel makes your imagination run wild? The side with the luxury apartments, or the side with the houseboats?” Mom asked.
I looked around and thought about it. “The side where each house tells a different story, and the plants are always doing something unexpected,” I decided.
When we left the quiet little channel and came back to The City a little while later, we walked around the baseball park before going to work. Baseball is the name for when thousands of humans get together to watch a few humans in matching outfits take turns standing still on a field. The team that keeps people standing still the most when it’s their turn to perform is the winner. What happens inside the big baseball building may be boring, but the walk around the outside of it is quite nice, as long as you keep your eyes away from the ugly walls of the stadium. The stadium is too big to float like a houseboat, so it squats on the edge of the Little Water, and the walkway around it balances on the Bay. Sailboats crowd around the walkway in a forest, hoping to get noticed and be offered a job as a street light or a NO PARKING sign. And there are lots of statues to inspire baseball fans about the excitement of standing very still.
The City is famous for being very beautiful, but one of the strangest things about humans is that when they decorate their places to live, they prefer to look at things that they’ve made themselves rather than what nature left there for them. Then, when they don’t have anything to do, they visit nature where it’s “peaceful” and they can relax. If you try to mix nature into your life every day by camping after work, or open air pooping, or letting your house float on the water because it’s the land under your house that is the most expensive part, people think you’re dangerous and The Law tells you to move along. Humans are great companions, but they really are strange beasts.
Oscar the Pooch