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If you don’t know already, Mom is the Weather Jinx and she brings unlucky and out-of-season weather wherever she goes. The last time we visited Valley on Fire Park, Mom brought so much rain it put the fire out. I felt really terrible about that. So on this trip it was really important that we come back and apologize for being such party poopers.

We came into the park early in the morning, when the sun was low enough in the sky to be glittering on all the leftover raindrops the rain that we’d tricked to come through the day before. Suddenly, Mom pulled the Wagon to the side of the road and got out without even telling me that she loved me. She ran across the street, and as soon as she got to the other side she started sneaking around like the Hamburgler. “HOLY CRAP, MOM!” I barked when I saw what else was across the street. “LOOK OUT! There’s a whole herd of grammarphone-eared deer behind you!!!” Mom paid no attention to me, and kept slowly and suspiciously following the grammarphone-eared-deer around the field, waving The Witch at them, which meant she was taking pictures. “THEY CAN SEE YOU, YOU KNOW!” I barked. “Lemme at ‘em! I’ll bark at ‘em, and I’ll chase ‘em, and then I’ll bark at ‘em while I chase ‘em!” But Mom, who doesn’t understand how to appreciate wildlife at all, ignored me and slowly chased the beasts to my side of the street.

When she finally got back in the car I asked, “Do you know what the heck those things were?” “Big horned… sheep? They’re sheep, I think. Or maybe they’re goats? Mountain goats? Both of those are real animals, but I don’t know what either one looks like.” “Mom, you’re so ignorant. They’re called grammarphone-eared-deer,” I scoffed at her. “I’m pretty sure they’re not deer, because deer grow antlers, don’t they?” “It might be a species of stunted moose…” “How do you even know what a gramophone is anyway?” “Haven’t you ever heard of RCA records? Anything familiar about their logo…? Anyway, sheep are made of big cotton balls with stubby legs and faces, and goats don’t like jazz music. They were definitely deer. I’ll ask them to tell you themselves if you’ll just let me out of this car…” But she just drove away. “Can I at least wear my unicorn horn today then?” I asked, hoping to fool some grammarphone-horned deer to come ask me about my lovely horn.

The trail was the kind with the round candy-cane-striped rocks that Mom loves so much because of the shapes and designs they make. We were prepared for a run so that we could see everything before the heat of the day, but as we lost and found the trail over huge swoops of sandstone, and climbed crowded rock walls to stay out of puddles, and stopped to take zillions pictures of the psychedelic rocks, we didn’t get much running in. “Okay, I swear we’re going to run without stopping until I count down from 100!” Mom would promise. But then around 50 or 80, we would have to climb something, or she’d see something else that would look cool standing behind me in a picture, and we’d stop again.

When we arrived at a long puddle in a narrow slot, I followed Mom up the wall. She reached across both walls, but I just stuck to the one wall and ignored gravity like a lizard. “Why don’t you just walk through the puddle, Dummy?” Mom asked. “It’ll be easier on your paws.” “Because I want to be just like you, Mom,” I said.

When we finished “running” the famous trail and turned onto a less famous route that ran into the back country of the park, we still didn’t run much. We were traveling through a river wash, and the ground was covered in round, roly-poly stones that would roll and poll Mom’s whole body every time she took a step. “Why don’t you just walk, Mom?” I asked. “I think you’d enjoy it more.” “But I don’t want to be the kind of unfit person who can’t run the cool trails.” “It’s not your fitness that’s slowing you down,” I fibbed. “It’s the stuff you’re running on, and the fact that there are too many things to see for you to catch them all at running speed.” “That’s ridiculous. We don’t run so fast we can’t see stuff.” “But when you’re running you’re looking at where to put your paws, and your thoughts are inside, not outside. Plus, you put your head down and your hat blocks your eyes.” “Okay, you’re right about the hat. But I haven’t showered in 5 days and my hair is really… unacceptable right now.” “You’re thinking about it all wrong. If you rush through this experience you’re going to ruin it. We do all that running so that we can be fit enough to enjoy places like this at whatever speed it takes to see them right.” “Dammit, Oscar. You’re right,” Mom said. Mom hates to lose an argument.

So we hiked back the way to relive all the wonderful things we’d already seen. The sun was even higher this time, so things that had been too dark for pictures before were ready now, and everything went even slower on the way back out.

Oscar the Pooch



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