Mom and I have never been so badly matched as dance partners, so there are only so many places where Mom can walk with her elderly meatwad shuffle and I can frolic like a light-footed freight train. But I'm so starved for sprinting that even the old familiar places are exciting. When I smelled the beach coming, I whimpered a happy song and crawled up to the copilot's seat to look out the front window for all the dogs just waiting for me to chase them around in the sand.
"I know that bridge!" I said. "Bodie lives on the other side of it!" "No, you're thinking of the Golden Gate Bridge," Mom said. "This is the Bay Bridge." "What the heck are you talking about?" I asked. "I recognize it." Mom can be so think sometimes. 'Tourist,' Mom muttered.
It all started with a smell. It smelled like camping. Then one day the sun came up and I discovered that someone had gone through and erased the world. All the nearby stuff was still there, but anything in the distance had been erased leaving nothing but a smudgy grey-white in its place. Around the same time, the people started disappearing off the streets.
The Little Mermaid is a story of a fish-person who sees a prince playing with his dog and realizes that swimming is scary and she wants to be a human so that she can run around and wrestle with the Prince, just like the dog. She goes to the Sea Witch and asks to be a human, but the sea witch says she has to be debarked in return. So when she sees the Prince, she can't bark in his face to make him chase her.
I had no problem running away from that glopy, gelatinous mystery and got a head start down the beach. Before too long, I could smell the delicious smell of rot again. This time there was a Thing that looked like a tree trunk surrounded by a cloud of flies, but smelled like ocean and dead things. I tucked my tail and ran as far away from it as I could without jumping in the ocean.
"What was that lady's problem?" I asked Mom.
"I think you startled her with your barking," Mom said.
"SHE startled ME with HER barking!" I said.
"It's true, she should have been paying attention. She was a bit of a dingbat, wasn't she?"
"You think SHE was a dingbat? Did you see her dog?!"
It is a tradition for four-legged runners to wear face socks in the start and finish area. Mom says it's not nice to criticize other cultures, but I don't think it's nice to humiliate anyone or hold their mouths shut. How are you supposed to do fun things like bark, eat the chips that Mom is sharing for breakfast, or lick the legs of strangers when you're wearing a face sock? Everywhere I looked there were four-legged runners smooshing their faces on the ground or punching themselves in the nose trying to get the face socks off.
"But Mom, running isn't just about running fast and winning. It's about seeing the world, and feeling your body become a part of the world as the uphills squeeze your muscles, and the downhills pull you like a leash, and you breathe in as much air as you can until you are made of the same stuff as nature is."
"I used to feel that way, Oscar. But now when I run I drop out of my body instead of dropping in. I just feel like garbage."
Then The Man threw something on the ground a few feet in front of us. I looked where it fell, and... "HOLY CRAP!" I said. "There's a spaghetti monster sitting right next to where you were tapping your boot a second ago! Hang on, let me go check it out."
The spaghetti monster was about as big around as a rope leash, and had a shakey thing on one end that made noise, and mean eyes on the other end. I knew from experience that this was called a "rattlesnake" from when Mom and I saw a bigger one