The sun burned like a grapefruit over the mountain, and as it rose higher it lit the trees and rocks in the same color as the Wagon's tail lights had lit the trees and rocks the night before when Mom had almost backed into them.
Normally Mom makes me step off the trail and up-up onto a rock when we see someone coming, and then she turns her back to the trail and stuffs me full of kibbles until the people pass. But now, Mom pulled on the mask and the other people did the up-uping, as if by magic.
"What an adorable running partner," said the lady.
"Aw, you're so nice to say so, but she's really only a 5," I said.
"Thanks, I think so too," said the 5.
"Ooooooh. She was talking to you," said the 10.
I smelled some delicious potato chips hiking up the trail ahead of me. Potato chips sounded like a perfect breakfast. But when I found the potato chips, they were in the paw of a giant turtle-person. “Drop those potato chips and no one gets yelled at!” I barked.
Mom and I listened to stories about the real-life bandits and stagecoaches of the Old West. “Mom, we’ve been to a lot of these places!” I said, astonished. “Some of them were so small that their gas stations didn’t even have Perrier or string cheese! How could a place be famous and forgotten?”
Usually we can't even go to this trail on the weekend because there's no time to run between all the jumping into the poison oak whenever a bike rides by. But this year Mom has only gotten poison oak one time.
They looked like their father was a cow and their mother was a warthog, because they looked like someone had taken a cow and squeezed all of its extra parts up around its shoulders until it had no neck at all. And their haircuts were just terrible, like Julia Child or Norm MacDonald, but worse.
The walls swooped and lunged at us like ghosts as we wound through for almost half a mile. Then we turned a corner and found ourselves looking up at a rock taller than Mom’s head. “I’ve got just the thing,” Mom said, pulling off her packpack. Then she looked at it like someone had pulled a dirty trick on her. “Oh crap, the emergency sling is in the other pack.”
But just because it was dangerous, illegal, and a really bad idea wasn’t enough to make Mom accept that the walking rocks were out of our reach, and for the next hour she kept trying to bargain with The Witch to find a way in.
That's why I was still tied to Mom when we came around Creature Corner, where I have met a lion, a wolf-dog, and too many bunny rabbits to count. This morning there was a new creature flumping across the path. It was a horseshoe-crab-shaped ball of fur that moved like a land sting ray. "STRIPEY STINK-CAT!" I barked.