Maj holds the smaller badly behaved dog, bouncing him gently in the air to simulate walking as she narrates, “Here’s the casually walking dog going about his business when suddenly there is a break in the time-space continuum,” (and here she lowers the unsuspecting dog onto the speedily moving treadmill) “and he is shot forward through dimensions,” (the smaller badly behaved dog, with a look on his face that can only be described as flabbergasted, zips along and then is tumbled off the treadmill onto the floor beyond) “into a moment in which the air is filled with hysterical mocking laughter.”
Maj and Kallan and I had no idea a treadmill could be this much fun!
So much giggling.
Jack the Terrier untumbles and rights himself and stares at us for a moment, confused and delighted all at once. He runs back to the front of the treadmill and sniffs investigatorily, his tail wagging happily. He looks up at us again and bounces on prancy feet.
“He wants to go again! My turn!” Kallan scoops up the dog and holds him so that he is facing her. She whispers into his face as she lowers him, “When you arrive in the past, Jackie? Look for me. I will be the one pointing and laughing.” She gently lowers the dog onto the treadmill, and Jack is once again joyfully flabbergasted as he speeds backward for no reason that he can discern and is tumbled once again onto the floor beyond.
Kallan laughs and points, “Jack! Where have you been? I’m so glad you came back from the future to arrive at this moment of mocking!”
Maj is annoyed, “Kallan, why are you confusing the dog? The treadmill sends him forward in time, not back in time.”
Kallan hugs the wiggly ecstatic dog to her chest, “Jack is not confused, Maj. If he is facing forward as he time-travels, he goes into the future. If he is facing backward, he goes into the past.”
Maj nods, “OK, that makes sense.”
We send the dog backward and then forward and then backward and then forward and then backward again . . . Jack thinks this is the best game he has ever played. After each small bit of time-travel, he shakes himself off and comes racing back to the front of the treadmill, begging to make another trip.
Maj is thoughtful as she watches Jack shoot across the room for perhaps the twentieth time, “Mother, do you remember the ducks?”
I know exactly what she is talking about, “Yes! It’s just like that!”
Late last spring, when the river was high and swift and dark with mud, Maj and I sat on the rocks beside what was left of the beach and stared out over the water. The river had a seething roiling underneath to it, the kind of menace that hides beneath a seemingly glassy calm. Maj and I watched the river for debris — floating objects gave us a sense of perspective and allowed us to appreciate just how quickly the water was moving beneath its glassy darkly-swollen surface.
There were ducks, hundreds of Mallard ducks, all honking and waddling and splashing. Once the ducks realized that Maj and I had brought no food, they went about their business as though we were not there. Maj and I sat and talked about nothing in particular, and then suddenly Maj let out a huge laugh, “Look! It’s like magic!”
I watched. A group of about fifty ducks were standing together in unexpectedly shallow water, perhaps fifteen feet from shore, clearly on some sort of sandbar. That was not so unusual – the river works and sculpts the earth and sand as it rolls along, sometimes depositing huge lengthy underwater mountains of sand – sandbars. The magic part was that as the ducks walked along the sandbar, they would occasionally walk off of the sandbar and be simply . . . swept away.
In an instant, the mis-stepping ducks were carried downstream, traveling forty-five or fifty feet along the river before they gathered themselves and lifted their bodies up and out of the water to fly back to where they had started. Their return was greeted with what Maj and I imagined to be much mocking quack-laughter.
Together we sat for perhaps a half-hour, staring at the ducks, waiting for the moment in which one would be swept away. Again and again, the ducks stepped off the edge of the sandbar and were swept along, their glittery eyes wide with annoyance and surprise as they sped away. Maj and I were both mesmerized by that instant in which control was lost, in which chaos revealed itself, in which the river both announced and asserted itself.
Maj leaned to scrape her name in the sand, “It’s lucky ducks float.”
Another duck shot past us, flapping its wings in protest.
Maj giggled, “It’s like time travel. Look at me – I am a duck standing here, right here, and I am going to stay right here and ooooooooooooohhhhhhh . . . What the heck was that? OK, now I am a duck swimming way over here and I totally meant for that to happen and how exactly did that happen, anyway? What powerful dark magic is under-webby-foot?”
Back in the present, I reach to switch off the treadmill, “Time to make dinner, ladies.”
Jack does not join us as we start to walk down the stairs. Instead he barks for us to come back and play the game some more. I walk back up and into the bedroom where the treadmill sits. Jack is standing on the treadmill, staring into space, his tail wagging, his feet braced against the arrival of magic.
I scoop him up and carry him downstairs, “No more time travel today, little man.”
Later in the evening, I am sitting at my computer, clicking and reading a series of local news stories. Mark is doing the same on his computer, and he asks, “Did you see somebody drowned at Meldrum Bar Park?”
I click to find the story.
We’ve launched our boat out of Meldrum Bar Park many times, and part of the park’s appeal is that the boat-launch area is protected from the river’s currents by a long curved sandbar. After launching, boaters must navigate a small calm lagoon to head out and around the sandbar into the river. The sandbar is no mere pile of river-lodged sand – it’s a graveled thick piece of land that extends several hundred feet out into the river. People regularly drive their cars and trucks out and along the sandbar to picnic, fish, or launch their jet-skis or small boats.
The other night, a man and woman and the man’s two Labradors drove out onto the sandbar to fish. The tide started rising, and they should have come back to the mainland, but they did not. From what I gather, they stayed out fishing until the tide had turned their end of the sandbar into an island. After talking to a police officer who had been sent to check on them, the couple gathered the dogs and the man turned the truck around and started to drive back along the sandbar, which was now partly submerged in water, assuming that solid ground was beneath his feet and wheels.
The police officer who had come to check on them was apparently unconcerned as he watched the truck head back through the water – he knew there was solid ground beneath the driver’s wheels.
Except then the driver and the truck mis-stepped, just like the ducks.
And just like with the ducks, there was that instant in which control was lost, in which chaos revealed itself, in which the river both announced and asserted itself.
Except a truck, unlike ducks, does not float.
Away and down it went, into the seething roiling underneath.
Everybody made it out of the truck, but not everybody made it to shore.
There is a snippet of video attached to the story, and I click the link. I don’t normally click video-links, but the frozen initial image beckons to me . . . the tiny lonesome figure of a dog.
At the time the video was taken, the end of the sandbar is still an island, and the dog stands alone after swimming to safety, staring into the water.
The woman survived and was taken to the hospital. The other dog is missing. The man is missing. The truck is missing.
The dog stands alone and stares out across the water.
The dog stands with its feet braced against magic that will never come.
Magic that will take her back.
To wherever her life has traveled without her.
Don’t click this link unless you are prepared to be sad . . .