Short Story #2
Letter to My Mother
(Disclaimer or not: Somewhere in this letter will be a story. An unbelievable story so weird that it must be made-up—or is it? At times, real life can definitely be stranger than fiction).
July 31, 2002
Hi! How is the leg? How is the rest of you doing, too? I’m fine as can be. It is nice today, oh, around seventy degrees. The sun is warm, but the air is cool. Should be gradually warming by the weekend, which is usual for this time of year. Something about an eclipse of the moon. I don’t really pay attention to such things.
Not much to say. I sent two bells for you to use while you are still wheelchair bound. Please, don’t annoy people with them too badly, okay? I’ll surely get hate mail if you do.
I took the dogs to the park, or should I say, woods? The area I walk was actually beyond the park grounds, more deserted. I preferred to walk in a peaceful place with no people or dogs. I did not walk my dogs on leashes, which was illegal in most areas. I had a ninety-pound dog and a sixty-pound dog. Who would be walking who, if I had them on leashes? They got more exercise and were more behaved because they got to be unrestrained for a short period. I thought it was satisfying to them. I knew this to be true because everyone, such as passing strangers, always said, “Why, those are the best behaved dogs that I have ever seen!” I digressed.
Today was the first time, after living here for ten years, that I went further than I usually do. Who knows why? I had more energy? A full moon approached? When we venture beyond the park grounds into the woods, I felt like it was our sacred place: - my place to walk my dogs, happy, and alone. We have always traveled a well-worn path, which signaled that we are not the first, or the last, to have taken this trail. I have hardly ever seen anyone. This was probably due to the fact that we come early in the morning, on week days.
Do not worry about my safety. I never do when I have two large dogs as my companions. Today was no different, except that I was pulled out of my rut to go further.
After the walk, I went swimming. The park had a public pool. I had left the dogs in the back of my covered pick-up truck, but when I got back, they were ready for another short walk. This time they were on leashes, since it was a park. And, yes, with two sleds dogs - I was wishing I had skates on!
The Pacific Northwest is made up of magnificent tall evergreen trees that provide lots of shade. Compare to the shorter trees of Texas, these are green giants! Some of the tree trunks are so old they are the size of a Volkswagen Bugs. The ground is covered with ferns, dead, fallen trees and brown leaves. I always think of the cycle of forest life that I was taught in school. All the vegetation that falls and dies on the ground fertilizes, nourish, and grows new life. There are also tall snake-grass, weeds, and a variety of green plants. The area is green all year long. Unlike the tangled dense forest of Texas, I could probably walk through it all very easily, except the land rises all around me.
The creek that ran along the path winds back and forth, so that I had to cross it a few times. The area had a bad rep of being rainy all the time. Actually, the clouds that rolled in from the Pacific Ocean from the west got trapped by the high mountains that acted like a wall as they traversed toward to the east. The clouds moved very slowly over the Cascades range. The Cascades, due to plate tectonics, were growing upward and becoming taller. The cloud cover made the world dreary, but it did not mean rain. Yes, we did get periods of rainfall. We had not in a while. The creek was low and easily forded.
When I got home I was exhausted and took a short nap. It was short because Jeep the Siamese walked across my chest a couple of times, then proceeded to knead it. I opened my eyes to a dark brown mask. I did not know if anyone else had ever noticed this, but the cats I owned always squeezed their eyes together and licked their lips at me. Maybe I should feel threatened? It could mean, in an way, that they thought I was tasty. However, I was almost positive this meant that she was hungry, and I had to get up and feed her this minute. Cats and dogs were ever so in the present moment. She had me well-trained, needless to say. I called her Jeep for several reasons. It was the name of the little odd creature from Popeye cartoons that I watched when I was young, and it was the name of an army vehicle. I was not sure about this, but I thought the army called the vehicle of the same name for the cartoon character, too. [Do not quote me on that.] Jeep was an adult when I rescued her from the pound. She was about to be put down. A friend was the one who wanted to get her out. It was love at first sight and I took her home with me. Since she did not know her name when I called her, I decided on something brief and to the point like Jeep. I do regret the day I did, though. She was an inside outside cat. When I called her, I stood on the front steps of the house and yelled at the top of my lungs, “Jeep, Jeep!” I had been told I sounded like a very big chicken.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you what happened today. I did not mention that we went further than we normally do on our dog walk. Usually, we walk fifteen minutes and then turn around. We stop at the point where the dogs could get a drink from the creek and I from my canteen. We call this point, "The Alien Place,” however ,that was another story. Well, let us just say it was a place covered in a funny-green, very eerie-looking plant that stood tall, up to three feet. It was only in this spot that I had ever seen it. I had never seen it anywhere else, nor had I found the name of this plant. I do feel outer-worldly when I stood there, looking at it. It seemed to look back me. I digressed.
Today, of all days, something inside me urged me forward. So, I commanded the dogs, “Let’s go this way!” I pointed with my hand, raised in direction I wanted to go in. They were intelligent dogs. I did not have to say another word before they bounded forward in front of me. Their fur bristled with excitement on our new trek.
The dogs ran ahead. Sadie, a Samoyed-mix, was the alpha-dog. Was that a female-dog thing? Nick, the larger of the two, was a Malamute-Collie-Golden Retriever-mix, stood between me and her. The collie-part was strong. He watched and guarded us both. Sadie was more independent. She had a sense of humor, too. She would be far ahead,and then sh would suddenly come swooping past me,either from behind or ahead. This antic always made me laugh.
We had been on our way for some unknown time. I did not know because I got into my own world while the dogs were happily in theirs. I guessed it would be called a meditative state?
Suddenly, we hear a loud rustle up-ahead. The dogs darted forward. I ran too, but I trailed behind. Ironically, I was shouting like a banshee, “Sadie, Nick, wait, stop!” I feared that it have been
a dangerous animal, even though I knew in my heart that I had never had trouble walking the dogs off-leash. Unfortunately, my calls had fallen on deaf dog-ears. Driven by instinct, the chase was on! It reminded me of a bargain at the store.
I was almost there. The dogs were barking off to the right. I could see only Nick’s huge white plumed
tail. He looked actually like a Polar bear - black nose and white all over. Sadie was white and furry, too, but she had a pink, but short, relatively speaking, nose. I had to step-off the path toward the creek.
I climbed over a broad, fallen tree trunk, which extended over the water. When I jumped down, I froze in my tracks. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I was thinking I had to bend down and pick up my lower jar, which was now lying on the ground, before I stepped on it. My eyes grew large and took over my face. There, before me, was a tiny brown elf-like creature, sex unknown, dangling by one hand from an extended tree limb that hung over the creek. With its other hand, it held a finger in its ear. I put my fingers in my ears. Two big dogs have joined in a joyous chorus of noisy clamor, in other words, they were barking their furry heads off! I tried to quiet the dogs. Why I did not run in the other direction instead, was a mystery. The dogs paid no heed.
With a twinkle in the creature’s eye, it swung itself around the branch twice and landed on its feet on the branch above. It sung a few notes so beautiful and perfect that my heart felt as if I could soar and die simultaneously. The dogs quieted, laid down upon the edge of the creek, and bowed their heads. The creature sung more. I sat down and joined the dogs in listening. Feather-like notes filled the air. I heard violins, cellos, and harps intermingled with sounds I never dreamed existed. He or she was enveloped in earthy shades of brown clothing from head to toe. The round coffee-colored face punctuated was by a small pointed nose and two large brown eyes. Its ears were pointed with a brown cap upon its head. The tiny red mouth was mischievous and cheerful as it sung. The dusty-brown hair was long and there was no facial hair. The creature was no bigger than a squirrel.
Time was lost as the concert continued for some time. I did not care. I never wanted it to end. I was swept away in an eddy of freedom and joy. All too soon, there was silence. The creature turned once on a pointed toe, leaped around to one branch and another, and then was gone. It was just me and the dogs, alone again. It was as if nothing had ever happened.
The dogs stood, stretched, and wagged their tails. Nick got down on his front paws, reared high in the air, and yelped at Sadie. She got the cue that it was time to play. She responded with the same posture and call. They chased one another around the creek area. They took turns being the chaser and the chasee, all the while circling me about eight times. This made me laugh so hard I had trouble opening me eyes. I gave the signal to go back from whence we came. And, we were off.
Throughout our trek back, I could not help myself, as I had to study the trees, looking for the little forest creature. As we got closer to the end of the walk, I thought I must have day-dreamed the whole thing. Yet, whenever Sadie and/or Nick chased after a squirrel, I gazed intently at it. Was it, or was it not it?