Weather forecasts for the next ten days predicted them to remain above freezing, but they were wrong, and with a new wave of cold on the way, Roo and I had to bolt southwards on Wednesday. On Tuesday, a small sore she had developed on her back leg, on the hock right next to the cut she got in Maine a couple of months ago, started to look puffy. Between that and having to make an appearance in my state of legal residence, North Carolina (which was recently classified as one of the world’s lowest functioning democracies, by the way) for a bunch of tasks, we headed to Asheville. I liked the vet she had there. She was the one who figured out how to fix Roo’s hot spots a few years ago, so it seemed like a good idea to go see her.
Before leaving, while I was doing all the chores to pick up stakes, Roo sat outside. It wasn’t cold, and she just lay in the grass, wondering what catastrophe it night have been that had at some point in the past struck the place and wiped it clear of mouses. It had been a disappointing place for her. She was not sorry to go.
Getting ready to go took a lot longer than I expected, and when we were finally ready, one of my gloves was missing.
I hate to lose a glove. Especially this glove. It’s not much of a glove, but I like it. We go back a long way. Nearly ten years. It used to be a flying glove and it never let me down. It’s made of kangaroo skin, and though I’m sorry about that, there’s nothing quite like a kangaroo glove, as it turns out. Instead of letting it go, I patrolled the ground and wasted another 30 minutes. It had to be there. I checked the garbage cans. I checked the flooded ground where the valve on a hydrant came loose and grew a pond on the ground. I just had to be there, and it annoyed me no end to lose it like that.
Finally, though, I had to give it up. We had 270 miles to drive and we had to make it that night because my doctor was kind enough to make a special appointment to see me early this morning.
Roo had been waiting in the car while I searched for the glove. I got in and told her the glove was gone.
“Damn it, Chig. I hate to lose that glove.”
Roo has a way of demonstrating her disinterest in a subject by closing her eyes in preparation for sleep. Of course, the second we would get underway she would start batting me with her law to get my attention, but when it came to the glove, she did not care.
“I really do. I hate to lose that glove.”
She nestled her head onto the seat a little harder, as if some irritation was keeping her from getting comfortable.
Just as I started to pull out, a smiling woman pulled up in a pickup truck and waved at me to roll the window down, which I did.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said.
“I have something for you,” she said. She was holding a brightly painted object in her hand.
I got out of the car and went to her window.
“I’ve seen you around here and said to my husband, ‘You know what? I’d like to give that fellow one of the rocks.’ I used to paint these,” she said. “So, this is for you.” She gave me the rock.
“Aww,” I said. That’s just about the sweetest thing ever.” And it was. She gave me the rock. Whoever was living in the rock was wearing sunglasses and had a big smile, seeming as happy to embark on its next journey as she was to dispatch it. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. Thank you.” And I meant it. What a lovely gesture. It more than made up for the glove. Sometimes people and the things that happen surprise you.
I asked her if I could take a picture of her giving me the rock and she laughed and said, “Oh, no! With me looking the way I do?”
“What are you talking about?” I said. “You look absolutely beautiful.”
“Well, all right,” she said, and I took the picture. I thanked her again and she said good-bye and pulled head of us, waving at us in the rearview. I had never seen her before. She had some hip trouble and just getting out into the truck to see us off with the rock took a special effort.
We got on the damnable road and Roo and I were trying to make time. Roo wasn’t enjoying the drive. For one thing, the extreme cold prevented her from getting her usual level of exercise, and, when I tell her it’s going to be a driving day, she understands that she’s going to be sitting there going out of her mind with boredom. She commands this by insisting on staying in the front seat instead of stretching out more comfortably in the back, which I suspect she does because in the front seat she can harass me constantly to pet her. The only break she got in the slog was when an error in my fuel calculation went off by a single mile and we ran out of gas. I was going for maximum range in order to make one intermediate fuel stop instead of two. I had chosen a route to avoid the hills, but there were still more than I expected and it threw me off. Had this happened to Neil Armstrong when he landed the Lunar Landing Module on the surface of the Moon with one second of fuel remaining, that would have been that, but we were just in Virginia. But, because it happened just after a spot where a couple of cops were lying in wait for speeders, and I didn’t want a visit from them because of the expired registrations on the truck and the trailer, I was inclined to hurry to top the tank off from one of the gas cans I have in the back.
Eventually we reached Asheville. It was an ugly night, dripping and humid and threatening the heavy rain about to hit. Roo, as usual, having been complaining about driving for so long, now refused to get out of the car. This is her usual position. It’s her way of sending a scout ahead to draw sniper fire.
“Fine,” I told her. “Stay there all you like.” I clipped her Flexi on and extended it to its full length and left the door open so she could come, within reason, when she liked. I was too exhausted to insist.
A minute later, a lot sooner than usual, she came out of the car. She was holding something in her mouth and giving me the slow wag of the successful prankster. The missing glove. She must have stolen it when I dropped it somewhere when I was breaking camp. And she must have buried it someplace in the car. She gave me one of those looks with her head slightly down under the weight of her own grin, and brought it inside. She has a spot she lies down in to signal that, as per her contract, she is owed a cookie. She went there and put the glove down. And got her cookie.
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