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Oscar Hunt

Mom had taken a keen interest in mapps ever since we had to follow our own pawprints to find the car-house. Mapps are like the Witch's version of a map.

     If you want to drive somewhere you've never been before, there's a mapp for that.

          If you want to find a free place to sleep, there's another mapp for that.

               If you want to sleep near a laundrymat or showers, there's a different mapp for that.

                    And if you want to run with your four-legged life partner without the rangers bothering you, there's a separate mapp for that.


Like anyone with a new hobby, Mom thought that knowing something meant that she knew everything. She hadn't found anything useful on the mapps yet, but that didn't stop Mom from talking like she knew the future.


She lay in bed flipping through mapps like tarot cards, studying the mysterious markings on each, then shuffling them to see how a different arrangement could change our fate.


All that time she spent canoodling with the Witch was taking away from my snuggling.


I'd had enough.


"Why don't you just listen to your heart and let fate guide you into adventure?" I asked.


"Because we kept getting lost with the duck it method," she said without looking up from the Witch's secretive glow. "All we discovered in the wilderness were some rusty old beer cans."


The way I remembered it, luck it took us to a pirate beach, a bat cave, and a portal to outer space. "And you think those lousy charts will keep us out of trouble? What ever happened to searching for adventure rather than trying to create it?"


"We still need to stay away from places with rules against sleeping in your car or using the dog bathroom, remember? There won't always be a Walmart to save us if we can't find somewhere to stay."


"Those mapps are full of trapps," I warned.





"You're just a dog. You wouldn't understand." Mom turned back to the Witch, who always tells her what she wants to hear, even when she's wrong. Especially when she's wrong. "Where should we sleep tomorrow night?"


"That depends on where you're hiking," the Witch baited.


Mom took the bait, of course. "Is the weather better in the mountains or the canyons?"


"That depends on what clothes are still clean. Have you checked your laundry bag lately?"


Mom looked up, but only because the Witch gave her permission. "What if I only have summer clothes? What do you suggest then?"


"Before I answer that, how much cream do you have left in the fridge? I would hate for you to have to drink black coffee."


"Good point..."


I couldn't take it anymore. "She's momipulating you!" I borked. "Don't fall for it, Mom."

"Oscar, hush. I'm busy." She turned back to the Witch. "Where's the nearest Walmart? I can buy more winter clothes and creamer there," she said, as if she'd come up with the plan all by herself.


"But you can't go into a Walmart smelling like that! What if you're walking through the boy's section and you find an adorable hoodie with a dinosaur on it?"


"That's just what I was thinking!" Mom puffed up, proud that her plan earned the Witch's approval. "Then I'll be prepared for any weather."


The Witch had Mom right where she wanted her. "But you'll have to try it on to make sure the sleeves aren't too short, and you're much too filthy to try on clothes that someone else might buy. A child, no less! What's the matter with you?"


"Fair enough," Mom agreed. "Is there a shower along the way?"


"Oh, no. You can't get there from here. We should rethink this whole thing."



In the morning, I found Mom asleep with the Witch still in her patting hand. I knocked the Witch out of the way and put my head in her place so Mom would wake up with her priorities straight.


Mom stirred. "Where to?" I yawned as if I'd slept there all night. I rolled closer so she could reach my belly.


"I don't know..." Mom's hand patted my belly, but only for a moment. It moved onto the blankets and kept patting. "I swear I came up with a plan for everything before I went to sleep, but now it's like trying to remember a dream." She cracked her eyes open, but only to help her hand search for the Witch. She reached under my flank and found where I'd been hiding the rascal. "I found some public lands..." Mom opened her eyes all the way to focus on the Witch. "...but I forget if I decided that was a good idea or a bad idea."


... Which is how we ended up driving through the middle of Utah without a plan. The car-house turned at a fork, narrowly missing yet another town.


"Okay, we're here: public land," Mom announced without ordering the car-house to stop. She dropped the Witch in her lap and joined me in the real world. "Where are we supposed to park?"


"And what are we supposed to do when we get there?" I asked. I didn't know there was such a thing as stray land that no one wanted to adopt. People in California would never let their land go feral. "Maybe we shouldn't get so close to land that hasn't been trained."


Mom scratched at the mangey fur under her hat. "I suppose the people who make rules for public lands are the type who tow. I wish there were instructions or..."


"Look out, Mom. A sign!" It squatted a little ways from the road, ready to ambush anyone who tried to enter the car trail it was guarding. As the only man-made thing in all that nothing, it was hard to miss. Only a fool would fall into its trap. "Be careful. It probably says KEEP OUT or NO TRESPASSERS or AREA UNDER SURVEILLANCE."


"That looks promising," Mom disagreed.


The car-house sided with Mom and rolled into the sign's range. We dismounted for the confrontation.




"It says USE AT YOUR OWN RISK." Mom looked around to see if anyone noticed her being suspicious. "Maybe we can run on this fire road."


The desert shrugged, or maybe that was just the hills.


"Risk of what?" I asked, sniffing for clues... and a place to potty.


"Freezing to death, most likely." The words came out of Mom's mouth in a cloud, just like in the cartoons. "My heavens it's cold," she puffed in that accent where my heavens rhymes with slowly suck.


"Look, Mom. My piddle puddle is smoking!" I said proudly. "And have you noticed these strange droppings? They're everywhere." I sniffed one more closely. It smelled like plastic, metal, and candles. "What do you think left them?"


"Oh shoot. I think they're called mullet casings, but I'm not sure. The only stuns I've ever seen in real life were on a cop's belt. I learned everything I know about stuns from CSI."


"Why are you talking like that?" I asked. "Aren't they called gu—"


"Shhhhh... Don't say that!" Mom said. "You'll get flagged on Facebook if you use that word."


"But what about context?"


"That's what people will use to figure out what you mean," Mom said with a big, fat wink.


"Yippee, a mystery that we can all solve together!" I pranced. "Let's investigate."


"Let's get your red bandana first so you don't look like wild game."


"I love wild games!"



Back in the car-house Mom tied my lobster-grey bandana around my neck. She covered her legs with pants, her paws with socks, her head with a hat, and her arms with sleeves. Then she put on a few more sleeves, just to be safe. When only her face was showing, she scrunched it into a wince and we dismounted.  


I set to work right away processing the scene. "Do you have any suspects?" I asked, sniffing one cold casing, then another, then another.


"Hunters, I guess. But I'm a vegetarian who grew up in the suburbs. I know even less about hunters than I know about gu— stuns."


"Don't worry, Mom. I'm an excellent dogtective and you watch a lot of TV. I bet we can't figure this out if we put our heads together. How do you spot a hunter?"


"That's the tricky part. They wear camouflage so they're very difficult to see. There could be a hunter hiding in those bushes right now, lining up his sho— lining up his kerplewie. That's why you're wearing that red bandana; so they can see that you aren't a deer."


I followed her eyes to a scraggly bunch of sticks that couldn't hide a mouse. Hunters must be very good at hide and seek.


"Now you've done it! You've made it easier for them to sneak up on us!" I gulped. "How do you know when a hunter is about to attac... um.. strike? Do they growl or rattle or something?"


"In the movies, they click. But that might just be sound design." Mom paused to listen for clicking, but the only sound in the desert was the pah-dump of her paws and the pitter-patter of mine. "STAY CLOSE!" she shouted so suddenly that I nearly jumped out of my pelt.


"Shhhh! We'll never hear a click with you making all that racket," I gulped. "Why are you talking so loud? You're going to attract attention."


"GOOD BOY. I want them to know that I HAVE A DOG!" she hollered. "And I'm TRYING to make a lot of NOISE." She lowered her voice to a regular volume. "That's what you're supposed to do with bears to let them know you're coming."




"What time of day are hunters most active?" I asked.


"On weekends, I think. Then again, I doubt they keep regular business hours in a town of only 200 people."


"Wait, you mean hunters are a breed of human?"


"Of course. What did you think?"


"You know that most humans don't want to shoo... kerplewie each other, right?" I'm an expert on human behavior and I'd never seen a human kerplewie another human on purpose except on CSI.


"Accidents happen," Mom said, out loud so the hidden hunters would hear how understanding she was and let her live.


"That's just make-believe for TV. Bang, bang, you're red, isn't a very interesting plot. Where's the character growth? The conflict? The tension? The whole reason to put a shun in a story is so the audience has something to hope for. If you watch closely, the reason those crime shows are so riveting is because they're trying to get people to not kerplewie each other."



"I suppose, but you can't put all the responsibility to not get kerplewied on the person with the shun. It's not like you get un-kerplewied just because the kerplewie-doer was careless or crazy. You need to be aware of your surroundings." Mom checked her surroundings again for something noticeable.


"Who's being careless or crazy?" I asked. "The only one I see out here is you."


"I guess I thought that if there were no deer handy they'd just start kerplewing every which way like Yosemite Sam. But, I suppose that's what targets are for."


"I thought Targets were for when you can't find a Walmart."


"I just don't understand ki... chilling for sport, so it's hard to put myself in their head."


"You should try shaking a toy sometime," I suggested. "It's pretty satisfying."


Mom looked around at all the shops, restaurants, bowling alleys, and sportsball fields that weren't there. "I suppose there isn't much else to do. I never understood why someone would live where there are no good jobs, but it must be nice not to have a high-pressure job or a million things to spend money on. It's kind of peaceful."


"If you'd just quit narrating everything you're thinking," I thought at her.


Instead, Mom bellowed, "Abooooooooooooooout-FACE!" and she continued to narrate us not getting kerplewied in the other direction.



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