Sunday, August 15, 2010
Murdoch’s shining moment
Late evening light bathes the road in gold. Grasses swaying in the field shine an emerald green, vibrant, alive. In the distance individual trees stand out from the forest cover on the mountain, define the dips and points of the rock face beneath as though someone has thrown a velvet green blanket over the land. Golden warmth surges over me, beams of light on my back feel solid as though I can climb them up to the sun.
I bend down and pick up the stick, splintered on one end, that Murdoch dropped at my feet. He stands in front of me poised to dash off after it again. His back legs tremble with stored energy as his eyes lock onto my arm, watching for me to make a move, ready for the slightest twitch of muscle.
I wind up and let the stick fly from my outstretched arm. Murdoch is already running, his black coat changing tone as he moves from the warm rich light into the long evening shadows cast by the row of towering pine trees. Bear stands nearby chewing on her own stick, watching. She wanders towards me, her fur glowing a hundred different colours beneath its blackness, elusive and melded into one.
Bear spits out the stick at my feet with a toss of her head and a stamp of her foot. She performs a fancy backwards two-step and stares directly into my eyes. Hers seem to glow from within, the warmest milk chocolate brown with a hint of gold. I want to just look at them and I reach out my hands to hold her face for a minute, but she thrusts her head forward as I move towards her, then drops her nose to the ground and plucks the stick off the dusty road and spits it out again before bringing her eyes back to mine. “Throw it!” she says.
I laugh and reach down to pick up the slobber-coated stick and toss it straight to her. She does a little hop off the ground with her front legs, catches the stick with a crunch and parades off to where the undulating line between long grass and mowed strip meets the road.
Murdoch is beside me again, sides heaving in and out, bright pink tongue hanging down like an unfurled flag, at his feet the stick. I bend down to grab it and in one fluid motion straighten up, fling out my arm and send the stick flying once more. Murdoch is off and running to my right, becoming a black shadow in the shade of the trees but I barely notice, I’m already staring at the other black dog that has appeared on the road.
Bear has seen it too. She stands tall, about 20 feet away, with her back to me. Her shoulders square, neck craned, ears pulled together on top of her head. She’s halfway between me and this new dog.
A brief cloud of confusion drifts through my brain. “Murdoch’s over there, Bear’s there, who’s that?” Then, “That dog has really big feet.” My stomach drops to my toes, my heart pounds up into my head as I recognize the sloping back and rounded rump; that’s not a dog, that’s a bear, and it’s standing between us and our way home.
For a moment we are frozen and I notice the bear’s head is turned away from us. My eyes flick up the road in the direction it’s looking and I see a flash of silver and chrome and hear the distant rumble of a truck backing down a driveway.
The bear turns and in two lumbering strides slips back into the tree line. My Bear takes off at a run.
“Bear!” I shriek in a voice that doesn’t sound like mine. I am disconnected from everything for a moment as I watch Bear run with great purpose over the spot where the real bear was just standing. I can tell by the way she moves her world has shrunk to her and her quarry. This is exactly how these encounters are not supposed to go, I think.
Murdoch returns with the stick but lets it fall from his mouth as he sees Bear running hard up the road. He never saw the real bear, but he knows she is chasing something and takes off after her.
“Bear!” I yell again, the words vibrating in my chest, “Come here!” Murdoch stops dead in his tracks, pivots on his back legs and comes running back towards me as I watch Bear disappear into the trees on the same trail as the bear.
What is going on here? Murdoch came back? I take a couple of steps forward, and he turns to resume his pursuit of Bear. “Murdoch,” I yell this time, “Come!” and he does.
Murdoch stops in front of me and I fumble with his collar, trying to attach his leash faster than my fingers will move. Clearly he has no idea what’s going on. Why else would he have come when I called?
Murdoch trots beside me as Bear appears on the road again. The hair all the way down her spine is standing on end and she’s sniffing the undergrowth that tumbles out onto the road from the tree line.
“Bear,” I say in my own voice this time, “Come here.” She wanders towards me with her head down and her hackles still up. “What were you doing?” I ask as I clip on her leash. The three of us walk quickly towards home. I look back over my shoulder every couple of steps expecting to see the black shape appear again on the golden, dusty road.