The Chemical Trail

A man and a woman cross paths on a mountain trail. Beside the trail are pine trees mixed with scrub oak, greasewood and an occasional prickly pear cactus. The woman is talking on her cell phone. She has an angular quality bestowed by high metabolism and tight focus; even her dark hair looks to have been pruned too carefully and too often to any longer love the wind. Earlier, this morning, her face looked back at her like a hurt animal when she was scrubbing it with ground apricot pits.

She does not think of her focus as anger because she has justified losing patience with other people, especially her lover. After sixteen years he still won’t marry her. Her maternal dive, not being invested in children, has turned outward in search of unorganized behavior needing a no-nonsense guiding hand.

The woman is dressed in khaki shorts and a white polo shirt. She has two little Cairn Terriers on leash. They have ribbons in their hair from a day spa. They are yapping warnings at the man and dog approaching from up the trail.

The man looks slightly disreputable, dressed in Levis and a t-shirt, the nondescript clothing of a worker, which he is not. He is a gambler who understands that the reason gamblers die broke isn’t because they ultimately lose, but because the money never fully materializes. Like wine and song, or fishes and loaves, it aspires toward the abstract once he has touched it.

His dog is of indeterminate breeding, medium sized, with the intelligent eyes of a herder. The dog is named Dingo because of his ears; they are outsized for his head and are constantly erect. His entire body is alert; his eyes are intelligent though he does not see well. The part of his brain attuned to vision has begun to serve his senses of hearing and smell. His experience is always immediate and intimate.

As the two hikers pass on the trail one of the terriers jumps at the the herder and nips him, which causes him to initially yelp in surprise and jump back. Then he feels the offense, and emits a low growl, moving toward the little bitch with an unambiguous intention. The moment is contained inside a second, the leash is pulled just enough to tell Dingo he cannot take his revenge, and the man, laughing at Dingo’s indignation, continues down the trail. The woman continues up the trail, still talking on her cell phone.

Her mind is like the terriers. It yaps and it yaps. Sometimes she is shocked to find herself inside a moment which she does not expect. There is a line of logic which could have been observed and made conscious but she was somewhere else and so it ran unconsciously. She is inside her own yapping.

The man thinks to himself that if you have dogs that bite, you probably should tell people passing you on a narrow trail, or maybe pull the toy terriers off the trail to let a civilized dog pass by unmolested. He waits, watching Dingo poised to receive a scent; he is slender and quivering with connection, grasping a chemical trail, hidden from his master's abstracted thoughts.

Posted: Tue - September 16, 2008 at 09:25 PM