You know how I said it always rains in Las Vegas, well Sedona is even worse. It always SNOWS in Sedona. Mom planned this stop in Sedona around the middle of our trip so that we could catch up on things like laundry, food shopping, and Wagon maintenance, but by the time we got here everything had changed. Now we were in a city to stocking up on supplies in case we got marooned. Mom and I had been looking forward to the treasure trove of the hot bar at Ho Foods for a week, but when Mom came out of the store she looked creeped out. She looked anxious every time she came out of a building lately. It was starting to tick me off because I’m the one who’s supposed to have the panic attack when she leaves me in the Wagon.
“Sorry, buddy. No chicken breast. The hot bar was closed,” she explained. “They were also completely out of canned soup. People who do their grocery shopping at Whole Foods would have to be pretty desperate to eat canned soup, don’t you think? There was a couple filling their cart sparkling water like that was going to save them from the apocalypse.” Apparently Mom had forgotten how fancy fuzzy water had saved her from dying a couple of days ago. “And there was a pair of girls at the sandwich bar ordering vegan grilled cheese who were dressed in all white like the Guilty Remnant… It’s like a movie.”
“How long do we have to stay here,” I asked. “I like it better when we’re practicing social distancing.”
“Well we were going to stay here for 3 days, but at this rate I wonder if we should hurry to New Mexico before they close the state borders!”
The last time we were in Sedona, a nice copper woke us up in the middle of the night to tell us that it was illegal to sleep in a Covered Wagon inside the city, so Mom and I had stopped on our way into town to reserve a spot in a campground. As we drove back up the dark mountain road with our emergency supplies, it began to snow heavily, as it always does at night in Sedona. The last time we were here, driving down a slippery forest road in the dark had seemed like the most dangerous thing that could happen, and I wondered if the invisible boogey-virus was actually more dangerous, or if Mom was getting her fears mixed up.
In the morning we woke up to the sound of the trees above our heads sloughing heavy blobs of white dirt like gobs of wet toilet paper onto the roof of the Wagon. “We’re not running today, right Mom?” I asked.
“The rain will stop…” Mom said confidently. “Let’s do the short one that we planned for tomorrow.”
The trail was on the outpants of the city, and wound around the hills on the burnt grey rocks that are the other thing that Sedona is famous for (the other one being the white dirt). As we ran from the car kennel, I could hear a mominous roar coming through the trees. I didn’t know what it meant, but I didn’t like the sound of it at all. Then, the trail jumped into a river.
“This keeps happening!” I said, waiting for Mom to turn back toward the toasty warm Covered Wagon.
“Welp, here we go again,” she said, taking off her shoes and socks, rolling up her pants, and setting me free from the leash to deal with the river on my own. I wasn’t going to cross this time. I really wasn’t. But no matter how much I dawdled on the dry side, Mom wouldn’t come back. When her shoes and socks were back on and she looked like she was going to run away without me, I finally splashed in and followed her.
I just wanted to run, sniff and explore, but I was tied to Mom, and Mom wanted to stop and take pictures. All we saw were the same things over and over again: castle-mountains stuck in Oregon fog, wet rocks, and rivers where they didn’t belong, then more foggy mountains, more wet rocks, more rogue rivers. But Mom was enchanted with each one. She stomped into the rivers without even taking off her shoes and socks, and stopped each time she could see the fog from a different angle. I was starting to lose my sense of humor.
“C’mere, Oscar! Up-up!” Mom said, tapping a tree trunk like she’d never seen anything so marvelous in her entire life.
“Did you hear something?” I asked the sky in the opposite direction from Mom.
“Oscar! Come here. Up-up!” she repeated, banging on the tree more emphatically.
I ignored her.
“Fine,” she said, and chased after me with her shovel-arms. I would have gotten away if we weren’t tied together, but soon she caught me and lifted me onto the log herself. I stood there with my butt in her face and refused to move. “Look at me! Oscar! Oscar! Look at me!” she said, all excited again like we weren’t in a fight. But I held strong and gave her the silent treatment until I felt myself being lifted again and deposited on the log facing the other direction. “Sit. Sit!… Sit!” Mom pleaded. Eventually I sat, but only when enough time had passed that it seemed like my idea. “Now lay down…” Mom said. But I refused to yield, even when she tried pulling my legs out from under me. A dog must maintain his dignity. “If people only knew how many tries it takes to get some of those photos…” Mom grumbled like I was the problem as she clicked the leash back on in defeat.
We had crossed many rivers, but eventually the river took over the trail, running down it until there was no room for a long-suffering dog and his foolish human to hike on. Not even Mom wanted to keep going after that. So we turned around and followed signs for other trails that had cool names. We bumped around for another few miles, looking at more castle-mountains, Oregon fog, wet rocks, and misbehaving rivers. I stood and sulked for all of Mom’s pictures thinking about how all this running in the cold, wet rain was getting really old. “Hey, Oscar,” Mom said as she clipped the leash back on after yet another photo stop. “Did you notice… it’s stopped raining and the sun’s coming out.”
I hadn’t noticed, actually. I had been so busy thinking about all the horrible things that Mom was doing to me that I didn’t even notice that things were getting better. All that time that Mom had been ignoring the weather and stubbornly doing what she’d always done as if nothing was wrong, the weather had gradually blown itself out and now the sun was even shining on a few of the castle-hills. I guessed that’s what we had to do about the End Times too: adapt and keep going. And if we got stranded in Arizona, or New Mexico, or Utah, then the only thing to do was what we were doing already, so there was no point in worrying about it.
Oscar the Grouch