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Speedster



That afternoon, the car-house nestled into a slot in a perfect little village with a laundry room that took coins from regular people. Mom gathered up the wad of sopping, stinky laundry, wrapped it in a towel, and threw it over her shoulder like a hobo in an old cartoon. She left me to watch the car-house while she followed her dreams of suds and clean socks.


She came back with the Witch in her hand, a towel on her head, and a smile almost as big as a Walmart on her face. "You'll never guess who's just up the road!"


This is my favorite game. "Bark Wahlberg!

"Snoop Dogg!

"Yoko Bone-o!

"Brad Pittbull!

"Doggy Howser! Or is it pronounced Doggy Schnauzer? I always forget."


"Your sister, Bodie!" Mom said, like I'd won the gameshow without the right answer. "They're on their way back from camping in the Rockies and just so happened to stop right up the road in a town called Hot Springs. It's only..."


She held the Witch up to her mouth like gameshow host's microphone. "How far away is Spencer Hot Springs, Nevada?"



"Spencer Hot Springs is one hundred and thirty-six miles away. Traffic is light. I expect it will take two hours and six minutes," the Witch announced.


Mom's eyebrows twisted. "What? But we were, like, just there."


"Whoop-dee-doo! The doublemutt twins take over Nevada!" I wagged. "It's gonna be epic!"


"No can do, buckaroo." She wagged her head sadly. "It's in the wrong direction and I've got to wait for my laundry to finish."


Mom looked back in the wrong direction as if searching for a shortcut. She always thinks that she'll be in trouble if she doesn't hurry, even if she doesn't know where we're going and no one is waiting for us when we got there.


"Maybe the Witch is lying to you again," I said, trying to copy the voice Mom uses to show her dominance by making the person she's talking to feel dumb. "You shouldn't let her push you around like that."


The Witch's favorite prank giving the silent treatment to trick Mom into thinking she's the last person on earth. That wascally Witch waits until we're deep in the wilder-ness where no one else is around, and then she acts like she's never even heard of the internet before.


"Mapps? In the sky? Who ever heard of such a thing?" the Witch lies.


She plays dumb just long enough for Mom to lose her temper, then she acts just helpful enough that Mom looks silly for growling. "OH! You mean the worldwide web! Why didn't you just say so?" Then she shows Mom a mapp that is just a line in the middle of a bunch of grey squares.


"See that arrow? That's you," the Witch says like she's helping. "And those grey lines? That's the web. It goes over the whole world. That's why they call it the worldwide web. Let me know if you need anything else."


"Listen, I wish we could be more spontaneous, but we're already behind schedule," Mom sagged. "We've got to keep pushing east or else there won't be any time to explore Utah when we get there."


"What's the hurry? Is Utah going to get away?"


"Don't worry, Spud. We're almost there. We'll be in Utah by tomorrow."


"No wonder they call this the Loneliest Road in America," I humphed.



When the Witch bleated that it was time to wake up, I stuck my snout outside the blankie fort and sniffed the sharp cold.


It wasn't for me.


I pulled my nose back into the cozy bubble of Mom-smell and morning breath.


Mom thought she knew better. She peeled back the roof on her side of the fort, leaving an iceberg where her snuggles used to be. I harumphed and wiggled deeper into the blankets to get away from the icy cruelty of morning.


"Sorry, Spud." Mom covered my shivery side in blankies again, gently tucking the edges around my snoot so I could still smell the morning.


The car-house growled and the air filled with the smell of poop juice as warm air leaked out of the cockpit.


When it no longer smelled like an icebox outside the fortress, I shook off the blankies and looked out the window just in time to see the world disappear.


The bushes and rocks retracted like claws into the ground. Then all the the lumps and bumps relaxed and flattened until even their shadows were gone. All that was left outside the front window was a flat, glowing white as empty as the Witch's loading screen with one lonely road down the center.


"Welcome to Utah!" the Witch announced.



I'd always thought the Witch was lying, but here it was: the mythical land of No Service.


The car-house picked up speed as it rolled down the last hill toward the blinding whiteness. As we zoomed in, the grid lines on the ground began to show.


It's hard to tell distance without anything to measure by, but after a parsec or two, something that might have been a space station appeared in the void. A long ramp went up, up, up and ended suddenly, like a skiball launchpad.

With so much empty space at the bottom of the ramp, a dog could get a running start and launch himself into outer space like Eddie the Beagle with a ramp like that. Bodie was going to be so jealous when I told her that I had boldly gone where no man-dog had gone before.


The car-house slowed for a landing and plugged into one of the empty docking stations under the launchpad.


"Is that what I think it is?" I wagged.


"Probably not," Mom said without even asking what I thought it was. "This is one of the longest, flattest roads in North America. People come here to set land-speed records. The platform is just for spectators."


"I love spectators! Let me at 'em! Let me at 'em!" I whined, tail spinning like a wind-up toy as I prepared for launch.


Mom reached for the handle. "Okay, just a..."


"To infinity and beyond!" I awooed as the hatch swung open. Then I blasted off of the driving chair.



The Unknown was gritty and rough on the soles of my paws. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about it, so I raised a paw to my nose. It smelled of ocean if the ocean weren't fishy.


I stuck out my tongue and tentatively tasted a toe. It tasted like potato chips without the potatoes.


"Don't do that! It's bad for you." Mom's foot tapped my foot out of licking distance.


"This is..." I said slowly, unsure of what to say next.


"...AWESOME!" I decided.


I zoomed in a spiral until a smell caught my nose and pulled it to the ground. My back legs didn't get the message in time, and I rolled into a somersault.


I jumped to my feet and shook myself off. "I meant to do that!"


I looked at Mom to see if she noticed my stumble, but her dancing eyes said that she was laughing with me, not at me.


So I did it again. I rolled onto my back and kicked my legs into the sky, grinding stardust into my coat.


Then I jumped up, ran around in a circle, let out a yeehaw, did a cartwheel, and started the sequence over again.


When I was done with my gymnastics routine, I set a new land-speed record.


Finally, I trotted back to Mom to brag about the whole thing.



"Did you see, Mom?" I panted. "I went faster than the speed of light!"


"Nothing can go faster than the speed of light, dummy. That's against the laws of physics."


According to scientists, girls can't understand science. So I helped Mom out. "Not true. If a dog is running at the speed of light and his tail is wagging while he does it, then his tail is going faster than the speed of light," I man-splained. "Look it up."


We re-mounted the car-house and I climbed back into bed, leaving salty stardust in the blankets as a souvenir. With no bumping or swaying, the whoosh of the road lulled me back to sleep in no time.


The backward pull of slowing down sucked me out of my dream and the forward lurch of a sudden stop jerked me awake.


Outside the back window, a car was making quite a commotion. It wailed hysterically, flashing its lights above its head for effect.


Something moved in the corner of my eye and I jumped. There was a man peering through the window!



It was impossible to see what his mirrored bug-eyes were peeping at, but I could tell by the creepy way he skulked around the car-house that we was up to no good. The fur stripe covering his mouth was just the kind a villain might twirl while waiting for his dastardly plan to kick in.


"Back off, buster!" I barked ferociously, backing as far from him as the car-house would let me.


He skulked to a different window to bother Mom instead.


Mom shot me a warning look and then snapped on a smile as she turned back to the window. "Was I going too fast?"


She handed him a stack of papers and cards through the window. He inspected her offering like he'd never seen anything so exotic.


"I'm really sorry. I must have missed the sign," Mom told the top of his head.


"Don't come any closer!" I warned from the shadowiest corner of the car-house.


That showed him! Scared out of his wits, the bug-man took Mom's gifts and hid in his car for a very long time. His car flashed aggressively to make sure we knew to stay back.



Mom scowled at the light show in the mirror. "This is just what I need. Now my insurance is going to cost more," she grumbled. "Brother mucking speed trap."


"I knew it!" I said. "The only way to catch a speedy dog like me is with dirty tricks."


Finally, the mustache-twirling scoundrel got up the nerve to come back. "Sign here." He fed a pen and a paper through the window.


"So you can sell it on Ebay?" I growled. "Fat chance!"


"If you send this back in the next month, we won't report it to insurance," he begged.


"What, really? You mean it?" Mom said like she'd just won an Oscar (the less exciting, metal kind). "How? I mean, Yes sir! Thank you!"


Mom finished her acceptance speech and handed him her autograph. He took it, nodded and went back to his car. The look-at-me lights calmed down, and the car underneath sped away.


I sniffed the paper Mom was studying. "What is it?"


"It's a speeding ticket!" Mom said like it was a winning lottery ticket. "I had no idea we were even on a reservation. I guess the tribal police play by their own rules."


"He chased us down just to give me... erm... I mean us my speeding certificate?" I asked. "I must have made quite a sensation."


Mom put the certificate in her wallet for safekeeping as if the accomplishment were all hers. I let her have this one. She was so proud, why ruin it?



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