“Now, where did I leave that thing?” says Molly in her head as she doubles back on the trail, nose to the ground. “I know it’s around here somewhere.”
“Molly!” comes the voice through the trees.
Molly rolls her eyes, “Her again.” And continues walking away. “Why is she always yelling? ‘Molly leave it, Molly come here, Molly don’t eat that.’ I can’t do anything,” she thinks as she accidentally inhales a couple of raindrops from a wide green leaf, shakes her head with a sneeze.
Molly strides over the well-worn trail, stopping suddenly here and there to sniff a patch of ground that smells familiar, that may hold some clues.
“Was it under here?” she wonders, jamming her long nose beneath a tree trunk where it fell across the trail so long ago she doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have to jump over it on a walk. “Nope. I was sure I didn’t drop it before this point.” But she jumps over the tree trunk, following the winding path further amongst the underbrush.
“Come on Molly!” comes the voice again. “I can see you.”
“Curse these giant ears,” Molly says to herself. “I always forget how much height they add.” And she tries to hunker down closer to the ground so the greenery obscures her position and she moves faster, time not on her side.
“Where is it!” she thinks, shifting a pile of leaves with her paw, sniffing the ground beneath, moving aside green leafy plants with her nose, darting to the other side of the trail to do it again. “I can’t leave without it.”
“Molly! Let’s go!” says the voice, with an edge this time.
“I’ll just pretend I don’t hear her,” thinks Molly as she skips almost frantically from one side of the path to the other. “She won’t know. I’ll give her my blank stare when I see her, as though I have no idea what she’s talking about.”
Molly loops back, retracing her retraced steps, air whooshing in and out of her nose as she catches a whiff here, a whiff there. “I’m closing in,” she thinks.
“Aha! There you are!” She leaps forward, scoops up the stick in her mouth, dropping it once in her excitement and then clamping it firmly between her teeth.
Ears tall, chest out, striding with military precision, Molly triumphantly returns down the trail, carefully rearranging her face to an expression of innocent blankness when she sees the woman standing ahead with that other dog, the one she stole the stick from. “Oh, were you waiting for me?” says Molly.
“Are you happy now?” asks the woman, somewhat flatly as though she doesn’t really mean it.
“Relatively,” thinks Molly as she skips ahead.