Monday, January 17, 2011
Not so faithful companion
“MURDOCH!!!” I yell for a third time across the leaden-gray landscape. I stand at a clearing way up the walking trail at the end of our road amidst a sea of spindly, twig-like trees and scrappy bushes. Squinting back through falling snow, I watch the trail expectantly. Murdoch and Jack will come careening around that bend in the path at any moment.
I wait. And watch.
What are they doing?
“MURDS!!” I yell again, “JACK!” and there’s the clacking of their collars. I can hear them breathing, panting loudly as they run together. Here they come, I tell myself and relax a bit. What dorks. I imagine so clearly their feet thundering over the ground that I almost see them coming, speeding around those tiny trees where the trail twists to the right and disappears.
But then it’s quiet and there’s no sign of them. I will my ears to find a familiar sound beneath the steady ruffle of an icy breeze, the flick of snow against my jacket. Nothing.
I stalk back down the trail to where I last saw them. Was it here?
Murdoch had stopped on the trail ahead of me; a statue, stiff and straight, pointing his nose across the expanse of scrub brush and frozen swamp hidden beneath rolling white swells of deep snow. A moment later, urgent sniffing of the air, his nose like a snorkel breaking the surface of an invisible barrier, feet trotting quickly, a few steps up the trail, then back down again.
“What’s out there Murds?” I asked as I walked briskly past. He dove off the trail into snow up to his shoulders and leapt through it like a dolphin playing in the ocean. Jack followed closely behind. I didn’t wait for them. Usually they catch up.
I look at the snow now but can’t remember where they left the trail. It’s so deep here, their tracks have caved in and it’s hard to tell which ones are new.
Wait. What was that? I stand very still. Was that them panting again? Another sound like a clacking collar in the distance. No, just twigs rattling against each other. I glimpse movement out of the corner of my eye, turn my head quickly, it’s only a lone brittle leaf nudged by the wind where it clings to a branch like a curled up cocoon.
“MURDOCH!!” I call and call until my voice is hoarse. Do I just head home? What if he's in trouble somewhere? Or causing trouble. What do I do? I’ve been standing still too long and the cold is starting to slice through my jacket.
I reluctantly start walking back down the trail, scouring the snow for signs. There's a footprint ahead, pointing in the opposite direction. And another, and another. Did they run down the trail instead of up? What a couple of jerks.
I follow their tracks, they don’t veer off the trail once. The two of them just walked straight out while I stood around calling them. It’s as if they planned it. I can hear Murdoch now, “Let’s ditch her in the woods and go play at your house.”
They freeze on the spot and watch me for a minute. Murdoch’s face is white with snow. I walk with great purpose, hoping to convey my displeasure, make them feel at least a little bit guilty.
Murdoch jolts to life and starts running at me, that psychotic dog run he does so well where his lips flip up and down while his body does this wild bucking motion and I can just about see the whites of his eyes while his feet fly in a million directions at once. Jack runs too, but he runs like a normal dog.
When they are still ten feet away from me I throw my hands out in an exasperated gesture and say the first thing that comes to mind, “What the hell?”
They slide to a stop in front of me, all smiles and wagging tails as though I’m the one person in the entire world they wanted to see at that moment. I don’t buy it.
Murdoch leans his head against my leg and I scratch his chin and then the two of them are off and running again, jostling each other on their way back to Jack’s house.