The bum in Mom’s knee is nearly gone, and she has slowly built up her strength so we can run for almost an hour a few times a week. This morning, we went to the old haunted trail where the ghosts of ancient car wrecks can still be seen on the steep mountainside below. When we come here to run under the sunrise before work, there is never anyone there but the ghosts and the bunnies, so Mom lets me run free offleash. The road itself has been chewed up by nature and mostly digested back into dirt, so it feels more like running on a trail than a road, and there are always treasures to discover, like poop of exotic critters that are too wild to keep humans to clean up after them.
This morning’s run was a very good one. Not only was there almost no fog to block our view of the molting sky, but I also discovered a fantastic prize in the bushes. While Mom ran up the trail ahead of me, I sniffed it closely to see what it had been. It was dead, that was obvious. But what was that enchanting undertone of defecation that I smelled? Had the deceased thing pooped itself as it died, or was that smell coming from the guts that were open and spilling out into the air? Mom’s trust in me on this trail is almost complete, so since she wasn’t calling me yet, I took my time in a long, luxurious roll through the treasure, making sure to rub its scent deep into my fur. Then I ran up the trail to join Mom, who asked if I was having fun and whether I was a good boy.
“A very good boy!” I grinned at her.
After our run, I waited in the car in the car kennel while Mom went into the Jim to shower and put on work clothes. When she returned and stuck her head back in the car to put on my work tie before we left for the office, she smooshed up her face like someone was about to spray water in it. “Eew, gross. Is that smell from me? Maybe it’s time to throw out that shirt I ran in today. Those wicking fabrics get so stinky after only a few runs.”
“It’s true. You are a particularly vile and disgusting human. Sometimes after a run you smell like one of those humans that sleeps on the sidewalk,” I told her, since she’d brought it up.
When we got to the office, Mom prepared my breakfast, and when she leaned over to serve me, she crunched her face up again. “Ugh! Oscar! It’s you! What on earth did you roll in? Gross!”
Just then my friend Karen came in. “Hi, Karen! I’m so happy to see you. How was your evening yesterday? Here’s my butt.”
Karen leaned over and started to give me butt scratchies, but Mom said, “DON’T!!!” and Karen froze. Then she stood up and walked right over to the sink and started washing her hands. I didn’t know what happened, but it made me feel very lonely to have my friend Karen treat me like she didn’t even know me all of a sudden.
After breakfast Mom and I usually go upstairs to take attendance, and I looked forward to greeting all of my Friends for the morning. But when I went to the stairs, Mom called me back and led me to a little closet that no one ever uses, and where no one would find me. “We’re working in here today,” she said.
I sat by the glass in the door and sadly watched all of my Friends walk to their desks without greeting me, and my heart hurt.
Jessica is one of my favorite people, and Mom and I happened to be out looking for more coffee when she came in. “JESSICA!” I squealed when I saw her. “Let me tell you about this weird morning I’ve had!” I leaned in for a doggie hug, and rubbed my butt on her legs to let her know how happy I was to see her. She was just leaning over with a big smile to give me full contact scratchies when Mom got involved again, and then Jessica’s smile froze and she stood up and frowned at me. Then she kicked her leg out and leaned over so she could get her knee close to her face. Then she made the waiting-for-spray face and took a step away from me. “What’s happening to all my friends?!” I asked. When Jessica looked at me with love my tail sped up, but when she made sad noises and said, “Oh, Oscar!” like I had done something wrong, my tail slowed down again.
For the rest of the day, wherever I went people looked at me with love but wouldn’t pat me or get close. They treated me like something terrible had happened to me and they felt sorry for me, but I couldn’t imagine what awful thing had happened because I felt fine.
I thought and thought about it, trying to figure out where I had seen this kind of behavior before. When do humans suddenly stop wanting to pat and be affectionate with people they used to love? Whose adventure stories does the lunch table always ignore? When do the cool kids stop wanting to hang out with someone after work, and stop seeing them as the attractive hunk that they once were? And then I recognized what had happened, because I’d seen it when it happened to Mom a couple of years ago.
I had been transformed into…
…a woman over 35!
Oscar the Old Maid