The air was staticky for the fourth night in a row, but this time Mom and I had decided to stay in town. So for the first time on our whole Christmas trip, we weren’t driving on a scary road as the white dirt grew on the ground. Instead, we were sleeping in a cozy little parking lot near the center of town. When the clock struck 11:17, I burst out from under the blankets. “MOM! WAKE UP! THIS IS WHAT WE PRACTICED FOR!” I shouted.
“Oh crap,” Mom said. Then she shouted. “Hang on, just let me put on a pair of shoes!” Then she went out into the falling static to recite the half-truth that we’d come up with together.
“Do you need my help?” I asked, trying to climb out the door behind her, but she shoved me back. I guess she wanted to say all the lines herself.
The lady-policeman fed Mom her cue: “I don’t know if you know this, but Sedona has a city ordinance against sleeping in your vehicle.”
“I’m so sorry, I wasn’t planning to be here, but I kept getting caught in the snow up in Utah, so I’m trying to get low enough that I don’t get caught driving in it.” Mom waved her hand at the Covered Wagon’s little tires that needed an offering of boiling water to get moving through the white dirt. “Where can I go that I won’t be bothering anyone?”
“Well you need to go seven miles up this road, and then there’s a Forest Service road…” the lady-policeman said.
“Let me take this one, Mom. The ladies love me,” I barked from the driving chair.
“Is the Forest Service road like… maintained?” Mom asked. “I’m afraid my car will get caught in the snow again and I’ll need a tow.” She pointed up at the white dirt falling from the sky, in case the lady-policeman hadn’t noticed. The look on the lady-policeman’s face said that maybe she didn’t know about getting stuck in the white dirt, or about special tires any more than Mom and I had before our white Christmas. “Is there cell service up there?” Mom added.
“Do you have your ID?” the lady-policeman sighed, like Mom had just beat her in an argument. Mom pulled out her wallet and handed something from inside it to the lady-policeman, all the while blabbering about how the storm had been following us since California. “Tell you what, as long as you’re not a felon, then I’ll let you spend the night here,” the lady-policeman said, and then she stepped back talked to her shirt for a minute.
“Of course she’s not a melon, that’s just her head,” I barked through the window to back Mom up.
When the lady-policeman finished her conversation with her shirt, she gave Mom her card back and told her that she would tell the other 3 policemen that were working that night to let us sleep and make sure that no crimes happened to us, but that we should leave town tomorrow.
“Thank you,” Mom said. Then, as the lady-policeman was walking away Mom called after her, “Do you think it’s dry in Yuma?”
“Do you think it’s dry in Yuma!” the lady-policeman snorted over her shoulder like Mom had made a funny.
“That’s what she said! Is that a yes?” I barked as she got back in her car, and Mom got back in ours.
Since Mom’s worrying has magical good-luck powers, she had spent half a day and half a night worrying about all the white dirt that would be on the mountain after the storm. She checked and rechecked the photos, the maps, and the reviews to make sure that there was no mention of cliffs or ladders or anything else we could fall off of. Once Mom was satisfied that there was no sudden danger ahead of us, we both put on our warmest clothes and started up the mountain. At first the trail was clear, and there was only a little white dirt stuck in the plants beside the trail, but before long the trail turned into a river and the white dirt beside it puffed up. Mom had to leap from one rock to another for more than a mile to keep her socks dry, while I splashed straight up the center of the trail-stream, and explored the white dirt when she was being especially poky.
I was sniffing for critters in the white bushes when I heard Mom whisper-scream, “OH MY GOD!” and then burst out laughing. When I found her, she was laughing at a man who was dressed like a bush and standing still as a statue. He was carrying a lot of luggage with him, including one of the long sticks called a “gun.”
“Do you think he’s safe in that jacket?” Mom asked. Because she’s scared of guns, Mom tries to put bulletproof jackets on me whenever there are hunters around but she’s never quite sure what are the best colors for stopping bullets.
“What, the bright red one? Yeah, I haven’t seen the jabalinas wearing that color this season,” the man said. Only that’s not exactly what he said because he was a much too serious man to make jokes.
“Oh yeah! I saw one of those yesterday,” Mom blabbered. “I’d never seen one before. It was enormous. Are they like… aggressive?” I could tell she meant to ask if they were dog-eating monsters, but she was afraid the Serious Man with a Gun would think she was dumb(er) if the answer was no.
“If it’s hurt, or if the dog starts worrying at it – then they’ll fight,” the Serious Man with a Gun said with flinty eyes. Mom looked at me significantly. I worry her all the time, so maybe she thought that Pumba would worry about me too.
“Okay, well thanks,” Mom said. “I hope you have a great day. Be safe out there.” I wasn’t sure if she meant that The Serious Man with the Gun should care for himself, or make sure not to shoot someone else. She was probably worrying about him, since he wasn’t wearing any bulletproof colors anywhere.
“I don’t know how the heck he is going to go pick up whatever he shoots,” Mom said, looking over the edge of the trail where the bushes and trees fell thickly and steeply into the valley. “This isn’t exactly the kind of place where you can go off trail.” A few minutes after that, I heard a clap of thunder. It rolled off the mountain and through the valley and then there was silence. After that the air felt different, and for a few minutes I kept stopping to look for where it had come from. Mom must have felt the weird vibe in the air too, because after that she wouldn’t let me out of her sight for a very long time.
Soon after we met The Serious Man with a Gun, the stream stopped and the trail hid beneath a layer of fluffy, powdery white dirt. This time, instead of an enchanted elf-Oscar leading the way, there was a set of heavy bootprints leading us up the mountain. All around us the mountain was softened under floofs and poofs of white dirt. When I looked out across the valley, mountain after mountain stuck up like enormous 1970’s apartment buildings for giants or dinosaurs. They looked like they had just exploded up out of the ground, ripping the ground around them where they had burst through. It seemed that there was no way that a dog could climb them, but after about 3 miles Mom and I found ourselves on the shoulder of the mountain and I saw that the back of our mountain was rounded and traditional-mountain shaped and that’s how we would get to the top. The problem was that white dirt was getting even deeper with every step.
We followed the enchanted boot tracks until I was chest-deep in the white dirt. It was getting harder for me to keep up with Mom and her long legs. “Should we turn around?” Mom asked.
“No, who wants to turn around? I don’t want to turn around,” I lied, because I didn’t want to seem like a wimp.
“Me neither. Let’s go 100 steps and then see how we feel about it,” Mom said.
When she turned around next, the white dirt was up to my shoulders. “This is nothing!” I said. So we went another 100 Mom-steps. This time the white dirt was so deep that I wouldn’t have been able to get through it if Mom hadn’t knocked some of it out of the way with her clumsy feet.
“Okay, I think it’s time to call it,” Mom said.
“But we only have like 500 more feet to the top!” I said. I had no idea how high 500 feet was, but it sounded like something we should be able to do.
“This snow isn’t going to get any better in the next mile, Oscar. Let’s go.”
As we climbed down the mountain we met more people. Most of them smiled when I barked at them, so I could tell they were serious hikers like me and Mom. But then I heard wailing, and I was surprised to come around a corner and meet a people puppy and his mom. The people puppy was howling, and the mom was shoving cheese snacks in his mouth every time he opened it to bawl. Mom uses the same trick on me. The mom was wearing that face paint that ladies wear in The City because they think it looks prettier than their real faces. What in tarnation was this city lady and her puppy doing thousands of feet up this mountain?! “Do you know where the table is?” The mom asked Mom.
“Um… I don’t know what that is…” Mom said. “There’s a bench…” then she interrupted herself, “…It’s not a real bench. That’s just what the sign says on the saddle of the mountain.”
“Is it far?” the mom asked.
“Um… yeah. More than a mile. And the snow… it’s probably too deep for the little guy,” Mom said like an apology.
The people puppy had stopped howling and was looking at me confused, so I barked at him, “Don’t listen to her. You’re my age and my size, and I bet you can do it too. My Mom made me turn around, but I bet you can make it if your mom isn’t such a wuss.” My encouraging speech, screamed into the kid’s face, made him break out into a howl again, and Mom grabbed my leash and quickly pulled me away down the mountain. “What?!” I said. “I was just trying to make him feel better…”
Just as the trail left the white dirt and washed itself off in the stream again, I heard the thump-thump of footsteps behind us. When I turned around, I saw a very, very tall man running toward us using hiking chopsticks almost as tall as Mom to run on all fours. “Are you the one that made it to the top?” Mom asked him as he came alongside us.
“I did! I’ve always wanted to do that. Are you the one that was following me?”
“Holy cow! Congratulations!” Mom said. “We had to turn back a little past the bench because I was losing my dog in the snow.”
“Yeah, I got confused when I saw your tracks because I couldn’t figure out why my footprints were facing the wrong way,” The Giant said.
Neither Mom nor I knew what to say to that. Both of our tracks were much too small to belong to this giant. So Mom changed the subject. “How deep did it get?” she asked.
“Oh, it wasn’t too bad,” the tall man said. “Only about knee height.” Mom looked at his knees, that were taller than my head and higher than most of her leg. “There were times that it got up to here,” he said, pointing to the top of his thigh, which was probably even with Mom’s chest.
“Mom, we never would have made it through that,” I whispered.
“Yeah, I don’t feel so bad anymore,” Mom thought, staring up at the smiling giant.
When we got back down to the car kennel, Mom made herself a cup of steaming hot poop juice before we kept our promise to the lady-policeman and got out of town. In the time it took the water to boil, many cars buzzed through the car kennel, fighting for the few spots and nearly running Mom over so that the people inside could jump out for 5 minutes and take a picture. Then they got back in their cars and tried to run Mom over again on their way out of the parking lot and on to the shopping stores. I wanted to tell them that they were missing the best pictures if they stayed down here in the car kennel, but then I thought about what it would be like sharing the trail with them and decided to let them hurry up and get back to their shopping while we went to find out if it was dry in Yuma.
Oscar the Abombible Snowdog