I was having lunch with my coworkers, patiently pushing their elbows to see if it would make them drop something, when I heard Mom bark, “What?! You’ve never seen Labyrinth? The one with David Bowie and Muppets… No, I’m not kidding… Muppets, and David Bowie in stretch pants. …No, this is not a joke. There’s a whole generation of girls out there who were confused by David Bowie’s bulge for years until they got to middle school and finally figured out that David Bowie was a man.”
So even though we usually leave the office when we’re done working, on Friday we stayed behind with a group of my collies who had never seen David Bowie in stretch pants before. We ate pizza while my collies shouted “What?! What’s going on?!” and Dr. Remy’s Dad kept saying, “It’s like one traumatic, terrifying thing after another!”
“It’s okay,” I comforted Dr. Remy’s Dad. “They don’t let men wear stretch pants in movies made for people puppies anymore.”
As we walked to the Covered Wagon to begin our weekend adventure, Mom groaned, “I ate too much!”
“That’s because one of those pieces of pizza was supposed to be for me,” I told her. What a big baby! People leave me alone with treats all the time, and I always eat the whole bag and don’t complain as much as Mom whined and moaned that night. Mom was restless all night, and kept waking me up to groan, “I ate too much!”
We slept until late and woke up to find that we would be going on a quest in a freezer. I made a nest in the blankets while Mom drank her poop juice and the Covered Wagon blew snuggly air at us, but eventually Mom said that it was time to get out and explore. “It’s too cold,” I huffed.
“Don’t be silly! It’s not even cold enough to frost the windows. And I think it’s going to take climbing a mountain to recover from all that pizza.”
“I wish the goblins would come and take you away, right now!” I said. But it didn’t work like in the movies, and since Mom was still standing with the door open and letting all the cozy out anyway, I decided to go explore with her.
This land of adventure didn’t have the bright ocean and fog smells of the coast, or the pointy rocks of the high mountains. The mountains bulged roundly out of the ground like a pair of stretch pants. The air was dry, but a different dry than the sharpened and clean dry of the desert. This was a sticky, rustling, itchy dry. We walked into the woods, where the trees were short and gnarled, and the leaves were hard and pointy. Rocks butted their heads onto the narrow trail for us to climb on, and around, and through them. I ran up the trail sniffing after all the creatures that had left their berry-flavored, and fur-flavored turds behind. Every once in awhile I smelled a gust of panic and found a pile of feathers lying on the ground.
Then, beside the trail I saw a place where a bunch of sticks had fallen in a kind of heap in the shape of an igloo. “Look, Mom!” I said. “It’s an oubliette!”
“It looks like something out of the Blair Witch Project or the first season of True Detective…” she said.
“You don’t even know what an oubliette is,” I quoted.
“It’s a place you put people to forget about ’em!” I reminded her. “It’s French.”
“It sure is nice hiking in the woods aaaalllll alone,” Mom said, wandering away. “I sure am glad I’ve never had a know-it-all dog tagging along with me.”
“Wait, Mom! I’m still here, remember? Oscar? Your life partner!” I said, running out of the oubliette and down the trail behind her.
“Oh, did I have a life partner? I forgot…” she said, but she gave me a handful of brunch to show me that she was really joking.
Mom hopped and Hoggled along behind me, taking careful steps on all the nobbly rocks and slippery dirt. Every few minutes she called me, and I came running back to make sure she was having as much fun as I was, and hadn’t fallen into an oubliette. Soon we came to a place where the rocks had slipped down the side of the mountain, just like a bread truck. I hopped nimbly from one to the next until I was safely on the other side, but Mom had to climb carefully, stopping on each rock to look for the next, like stepping stones through the Bog of Eternal Stench.
When we got near the top of the mountain, I could see the ruffly hills on one side, and waves of bigger mountains breaking like a line of surf on the other. “Mom, isn’t it great that we’re hiking again?!” I said. “Did you notice how everything is gold? That must be why they call California The Golden State.”
“Shrug,” Mom said.
“But Mom, this is an exciting thing! We’re on a quest, like Sarah and Hoggle in the Labyrinth!” (I’m Sarah, of course.) “You never know what danger and excitement you’re going to find around the next bend! We might have to climb over an interesting rock, or walk past a view where you can see the whole side of a mountain and appreciate how there’s only one tree on the top, or we may have to cross the Bog of Eternal Stench without getting your socks stinky. Isn’t that a fun adventure?”
“Why is it that some hikes feel like fantastic adventures with thrills and sights that you could barely imagine, some hikes feel like a new dangerous and horrible trauma is possible around every corner, and sometimes climbing a beautiful mountain in the middle of nowhere feels like a long slog on the treadmill?” Mom asked.
I hadn’t life coached in awhile. “We’re almost never in real danger, Mom,” I explained. “Remember how Dr. Remy’s Dad who was scared of the movie, even though it was all imaginary? That’s just like when you’re scared of heights. The cliff isn’t going to attack you any more than the goblins were going to get Dr. Remy’s Dad. All you have to do is be cool and keep your wits.”
“Yeah, we should check on him and make sure he didn’t have any nightmares last night,” Mom said, missing the point.
“Hey, Mom. You know how at the end of the movie, Sarah remembered the magic words You have no power over me and it got her out of the scary goblin castle?”
“Well sometimes I think you get scared of stuff that isn’t real, and you just need to let it go.”
“What is this, life coaching by the Muppets?”
“No! Well, yeah. But I mean it. You know how before Sarah went to meet the Goblin King alone, Hoggle and her other Friends said that they would be there, should she need them? And then when she was safe at home she could just call them up and they had a fun party in her bedroom?”
“Oscar, I really don’t think that Labyrinth was meant to be taken as a masterpiece of profound insight. The high point of the movie is a 5 minute sequence about a lake that farts.”
“Well… did you ever think that maybe life could be a party with a crew of enchanting Friends if you would just wish to see it that way?”
“No, I think that they really didn’t know how to end the movie and so they said, ‘Eh, duck it.’ and then pulled out all the puppets before the cast party.”
Oscar the Life Coach