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Listerine George

Most years mountain season has started by now, but in this year of Februaries the mountains still have their white dirt blankets pulled over their heads. That meant that Mom and I couldn’t climb a big mountain for the long weekend like we wanted to. Instead, we found a trail lower down and closer to home where the mountains’ feet stick out from under the blanket. That meant that we didn’t have to spend as long in the car, and we could be close to a Walmart and a Starbucks – both things that make Mom very happy. In fact, the trail’s parking lot where we slept was so close to the freeway that we could hear the cars on the other side of some trees driving to exotic places like Pennsylvania and Kansas City.

In the morning, I was snoozing and Mom was enjoying a fresh mug of poop juice while we waited for The Witch to finish packing up on the charger, when suddenly Nickleback pulled into the parking lot. Nickleback parked their big, growling SUV a couple of spots away, and then their friends Tim McGraw and Black Sabbath pulled in and parked their pickup truck and Subaru in opposite corners of the little parking lot, surrounding us.


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bum in her knee I worried about her falling in if she jumped. We could splash straight across like a Jeep commercial, but Mom’s socks would have to be sacrificed. “What now?” I asked. “Let’s try the bike trail instead,” Mom suggested. “But wouldn’t that be turning our back on adventure?” I asked. “We’re not wusses, are we?” “Adventure isn’t about being reckless, Oscar. Just because you picked a fork in the road desn’t mean you have to commit to it. If the other way is better then you should take it, even if it means going backward a little bit.” So we walked back up the trail and took the other route.


George. At the bottom of the George, a white and grey river the color of fresh mint gum drew a line between the mountains. All through the hills, secret veins of water raced down the hills to escape the mountains and ride away in the Listerine River. We hiked into the George for miles, with the rushing water cheering for me the whole way. When we looked down from above, we could see all of the rocks at the bottom of the river. Some were small and the river flowed over them peacefully like mouth wash, but in other places there were bigger rocks that swished the river until it was frothy like toothpaste spit.


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As we climbed out of the canyon, there were more and more people coming down the trail that we needed to ignore. I explored as far as I could in a minute of freedom, but Mom kept calling me back in case there were strangers around the next bend in the trail just waiting to pop out and tell me how cute I am. When she called me, I had to drop everything and run back to her as fast as I could. If I didn’t dilly-dally, she gave me a few bites of my breakfast that she was carrying in her pocket. Then, as long as there weren’t other people to ignore, I got a smack on the butt and I was free to return to sprinting and sniffing and exploring at doggo pace. If there was a stranger, we performed a magic trick for them. Mom held some pieces of breakfast tight in her paw and I tried to lick the kibbles through her fist while we walked past, so it looked to the stranger like Mom was leading me by a ring in my nose like a bull.

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I don’t really know how to end this story, so I’ll finish it with an After-word. On our way between the trail and Starbucks, a man came to the window of the Covered Wagon and stuck a boot menacingly into Mom’s face. “Stick ’em up!” he didn’t say. “We’re collecting money for the Grass Valley Fire Department.” Mom took in the situation: here was a hunky hero whose stories about boots and saving California from wildfires would make Mom’s adventures about socks and water sound boring. What if someone threw a party? No one would want to hear Mom’s stories about socks when this guy had such an enormous boot to talk about. We had to get this churl out of our face before the bandit invited us to a pasta dinner with his merry band of thieves or something. So Mom waved me into the back and gave him his hush money. She emptied the whole treasure chest of coins that had been living between the coffee cups into the boot, and then fled to Starbucks which is a great place to hide because everyone is annoying and you never have to talk to strangers.

Oscar the Pooch


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