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Mist-er Monster

Mom has been working a lot lately. All that means is that she sits staring at, talking to and tickling her laptop all day, and when she finally puts it to sleep she says she’s too tired to have adventures or write about them*. But if you bottle all your adventures inside without letting them out, then something big is bound to burst out of you eventually. “What do you think of running a marathon around town this weekend?” Mom asked. “A marathong sounds kinda long…” I said, not at all like a chicken. “I’ll make the route as a figure 8 so I can drop you off half way when your shoulder starts to get sore,” Mom said. “You’re going to run without me?!” “You could look at it that way. Or you could see it as taking a relaxing nap rather than doing the not-fun part of the run. Doesn’t that sound nice?” “I do like naps…” I said, unsure if I’d just been tricked.

💡 This is why dogs are much better life partners than laptops. They are much more fun to stare at, talk to, and tickle… and they hardly ever make you too tired for more adventures.

So Mom packed some snacks and water and opened the door. Then she closed it again. “Eep! It’s raining!” she announced. “So?” I said, coming to investigate. She cracked the door open again and we both stuck our noses outside. “It’s not raining, the air’s just wet,” I concluded. I tried to look at the ocean and hills around us to see what their weather was like over there, but everything had disappeared behind a drippy smudge like the one that wafts out of bathroom when Mom is showering. “Well I suppose at least it’ll keep the tourists off the trails,” Mom shrugged. So we bravely got in the car and set off in search of adventure.

A handsome dog stands in front of a hilly landscape.

We left the car behind in a neighborhood and ran toward where the houses stop and the trees and trails begin. The mist caught on the ends of of our whiskers and the short fur on Mom’s arms like a shimmering white dust, making us look like mist monsters not to be trifled with. Mom let me off leash when we hit the trail where knights on big bikes charge out of the brush to challenge dogs for right of way. Suddenly, out of nowhere Mom lunged and tackled me, rolling us both into the poison oak at the side of the trail just as a train of jinglebikes puttered past.

“If you’re going to stop, then at least clear off the damned trail,” Mom grumbled a mile later, too quiet for the dozen knights resting atop their jinglebikes to hear her. Then the corners of her mouth tucked into a “hello” grimace, and she gave them a “talk to the hand” wave as we ran through the hooves of their bikes and onto the one trail that’s not for jinglebikes. A moment later I heard a siren screech out of the whiteness. It sounded like the ghost horns that come off the ocean at night, only this one was close and getting closer. “eeeeEEEEEEEEEEEE!” said the mysterious noise. “Oscar, come here!” Mom yipped, dragging me into the poison oak with her just in the nick of time before all those jinglebikes came charging down the trail with their wheels squealing under their wet brakes.

A dog discovers that his ocean has disappeared while he wasn’t looking.

By the time we climbed to the place where we could look across and see the blankness where the Pacific Ocean used to be, the wet had soaked through my fur and Mom’s clothes made wet slug sounds with each step. We followed the mist higher and higher until the earth gave up and the mist took over the sky. Only the radio trees were left fighting a losing battle with the blankness. With the sky gone forever, we turned back down the hill to see if at least we could find the ocean before it too disappeared for good.

Some runs are a grind where every mile gets stuck in your brain and rattles around your body for whole lifetimes before finally seeping out the bottoms of your paws to be forced out one step at a time. Other miles get left behind without you even noticing, like a sock Mom drops on the way to the laundry room. This run was kind where the miles slipped away without noticing, until an entire 1800 foot mountain had squirted out behind me and I could see the dreary stripe of waves that were all that was left of the ocean. With all the world missing, I couldn’t see the trail ahead, nor the mountain that had already disappeared behind. Sometimes the fog spun my head around so that this trail I’ve run a hundred times looked like a place I’d never been before, and for a moment I ran close to Mom, sure we were lost. Then suddenly a familiar bush or rock jumped out of the mist to say, “Psych! We fooled you!”

I had no idea how we would find our way back to the car, but every time we reached what I thought was the end of a trail, Mom would make another turn and I’d remember how there was more than one direction to run at every trailhead. “This isn’t going to be much of a story,” I told Mom as we ran through the eucalyptus forest, where all the trees twist, peel and droop like a painting that got wet and dribbled down the canvas. “Where does fog come from anyway?” I asked. “When the sun shines on the ocean, some of the water escapes into the air. It’s supposed to travel high in the sky to become rain over Denver or Des Moines but sometimes the sky puts so much pressure that it gets stuck against the mountains and has nowhere to go. When enough water backs up, it clogs the air and you get fog.” “How are you supposed to know where you’re going if you can’t see what’s ahead?” I asked a little nervously. It wouldn’t be the first time Mom got us lost in a place where we’d been before. “Sometimes you don’t know the plot of the story you’re living until after it’s over,” Mom shrugged as the hill sucked us back into town like a storm drain. “When you can’t see where you’re going or how you got there, sometimes the best thing you can do is put one foot in front of the other, and not think too much.” “But how can you find a happy ending when you’re not the one telling the story?” I asked. “Sometimes it’s better not to know what’s waiting for you in the fog,” Mom shrugged again. “You might not like what you find there.”

A dog thinks deep, bleak thoughts.

When we got home, Mom left a special snack of roast beast in my bowl so that I’d have a yummy treat when I woke up from my nap, but rather than heading back out the door to run the other half of the 8, she opened the dreadmill. “I thought you were going to run the last 11 miles without me,” I said, lifting my head suspiciously from my bed. “Sometimes a girl can only take so much uncertainty and she needs to run in place so she can control everything and there are no surprises,” Mom said. “Anyway, my crotch is chafed from running in wet shorts. Don’t you want to coach me through the rest of my run?” “I’ve been working all day and I’m too tired,” I told her as I dug into my bed, circled 3 times, and went to sleep.

Oscar the Coach


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