Sometimes You Just Gotta Sing!

My mother-in-law’s house outside of Denver has a basement, complete with two rooms and a bathroom. One day while we were visiting, I was sitting on the bed in one of the rooms recording receipts in our budget app. My twelve year-old son was in the bathroom taking a shower.

And singing.

Kind of.

I mean, I suppose you could call some of it singing.

Some of it was more like practicing exotic bird calls.

And some sounded like Tibetan throat singing.

And some sounded like yodeling.

And still others like some sort of theatrical stage production.

And at times, the various components were combined in unique ways.

He was getting on my nerves. In fact, I almost called out to him to cut it out. But before the words came out of my mouth, I paused and considered. He’s enjoying himself. Truly, truly carefree and enjoying himself. Surely I could enjoy it too.

Which I did.

And then I realized that other people deserved to enjoy it too. I realized I was missing an important opportunity as I strove to finish entering the receipts. With that realization, I hopped off the bed and rushed quietly to the bathroom door – a receipt partially entered and forgotten.

I began to video the dark, closed door. And of course, at that moment, he quit singing. But I waited patiently. Sure enough, 30 seconds later I heard his low voice make some squeaking dolphin-like noises followed by some (loose interpretation of) lyrics from Jon Cozart’s YouTube hit, After Ever After:

The Japanese killed all my whale friends

Oil is spilling

Mermaids are killing

Thanks to BP

He then devolved into a screeching, donkey-braying repetition of “THANKS TO BP!”

I laughed silently as the noises crescendo’d before morphing into monkey sounds and eventually into some rousing beatboxing. The beatbox stopped suddenly and after a brief pause, he called out in his best Urkel impersonation, “What was thaaat?!”

Another bit of silence and then I knew it was coming and could barely contain my giggling.

He opened the door.

And screeched, clutching the towel around him.

His face registered first pure shock and surprise to find someone at the door, followed almost immediately by the recognition of what I had been doing. My laughter spilled over the floodgates. I rushed to stop the video and pull away as he tried to grab the camera.

I promised him that I wouldn’t post it on Facebook and I’ll honor that commitment. And I won’t violate the spirit of that commitment by posting it here. What I will do is gleefully show it to anyone I come across who’s interested. It’s good for a solid belly laugh. Trust me on that.

Getting the Message Across

We were driving along the interstate in Kansas, returning from our annual visit with relatives in Colorado. My husband was driving. A semi truck came up beside us on the left. He started blaring his horn as he approached and kept it going the entire time he passed us.

I looked up as his cab came even with our windows. He was gesturing wildly behind us and saying a lot of words that, of course, we couldn’t hear.

“Honey,” I said. “I think he’s trying to tell us there’s something wrong with our car.”

We had been traveling along in the right lane with the cruise control set for at least an hour. I could think of no other reason why someone would be honking and attempting to communicate with us. He was obviously trying to be helpful.

“I don’t feel anything wrong with the car,” my husband responded. The semi was not succeeding in getting past us in a timely manner and cars were stacking up behind it.

“Here,” my husband said to the other driver, who had turned on his right turn signal even though he still had most of his trailer to go, “let me help you out.” He released the cruise control and we slowed down sharply, allowing the man to get over in front of us.

Once the other traffic cleared and the semi was still not up to speed, my husband changed to the left lane. Good, I thought. Another opportunity to figure out what the guy was trying to tell us. He was trying to help us with something.

As we pulled up beside him, I looked out the window and up into his cab. He began gesturing and talking again. I wondered how he expected me to catch the stream of words flying out of his mouth. I wondered why he wasn’t pointing at a tire or the back window or whatever. I put my hand up and shrugged, to let him know that I wasn’t catching what he was trying to tell us.

So then he made it clear.

He shot me the bird.

Oh, so not being helpful. My bad.

I’m sure most of my readers saw that coming. I guess I’m just a bit naive. After indignantly reporting to my husband what had just happened, I learned that the driver had apparently been trying to pass us for some time and had been unable to give it enough juice. He was irritated with us for not accommodating him by reducing our speed, I guess. Or maybe he thought we were deliberately adjusting our speed to keep him stuck. I don’t know.

As I mulled this over for the next several miles, frustrated that the driver would believe that I was being a bitch when I shrugged at him – communicating “I don’t care what your problem is – we’ll do what we want” instead of “I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you are trying to tell me”, something struck me.

I don’t drive aggressively. I’m inclined to try to help people out if I can. The gentle honk when the light turns green is just to let you know that it’s green. I’m not expressing anger that you haven’t moved yet. I’ll move over, slow down, let other drivers in, whatever. And so when a driver came up beside us, honking and yelling, I assumed he was trying to help us. Silly me. Assuming other drivers are me.

Then again, that’s exactly what he was doing too: assuming my husband and I were just like him. Surely no one actually expects people in the right lane to slow down so they can pass them. So since he was angry with us, he must have assumed my husband was messing with him. And then when I shrugged at him, he assumed I was being ugly – just like he was being as he drove past us.

Maybe this is why naive people are swindled so much and mean people are angry so much. We keep assuming the people we are interacting with are just like us and misinterpreting their actions as a result. How many problems have been caused by our inability to accurately interpret other people through our distorted lenses? Something to think about.

Seeing the Sights Solo

I was excited about my day in London.  I had studied a map, looked at a guide book, and talked to a few people who had been there.  I had my plan.

I rode the subway from Heathrow airport to Hyde Park station in downtown London.  I didn’t look at my phone during the ride because it was to serve as my camera and I was very concerned about the battery going dead.  Instead, I immersed myself in people watching.

My mother-in-law says I should engage people in conversation wherever I am.  This is a talent of hers and it has brought her many delightful experiences, but it’s simply not me.  I’m not overly sociable, particularly with strangers; I find small talk tedious; and I’m very sensitive to those people who really just want to be left alone and find people like my mother-in-law obnoxious.

So I sat and watched for the 45 minute ride.  I noticed that no one was on their phones.  With only a couple of exceptions, they weren’t talking to anyone either.  Most were sleeping or reading or staring off into space.  There was a fun guy in dreadlocks and a rainbow knit top hat, who I gather drives a bus around the airport.  He and the flight attendant talked and laughed most of the way.  The woman across from me answered her phone at one point and I was fascinated to see that the inside of her arm and palm were covered in Mehndi (intricate henna tattoos).

The German family that boarded shortly after me was entertaining.  The kids were trying to play a travel sized Connect Four.  But it was only 4 spots tall by 5 spots wide which made it just about impossible for either to win.  I couldn’t help but think the rules should have been changed to “connect three.”

Eventually, I was off the train and heading out into a beautiful park in London.  I checked the map in my guidebook, started walking, and marveled at all the statues and arches and big trees and double decker buses.  As I approached Buckingham Palace, I was surprised at the number of people standing around.  I managed to get to about the third row of people on an obscure stretch of fence and realized that everyone was waiting for the changing of the guard.  After waiting for five or ten minutes, I realized that a) I had no idea where exactly the ceremony would take place and b) it was still forty minutes until showtime!

Shocked at how many people were willing to wait that long (thousands of people!) and fully aware of how quickly my day would fade, I moved on.  Checked out Westminster Abby, got all choked up and pensive when I saw the MLK statue, bought a tote bag for my husband, and walked on.

I rounded the corner and got a full, perfect, beautiful view of Big Ben.  It struck my already emotional being that this – this view was the one thing my ten year old son wanted from me.  I was grateful for the sunglasses that hid the teary eyes.  I marveled at how raw my emotions were.

I checked out the Parliament buildings, peeked down Downing Street, looked at the “Eye” of London, and made my way toward St. Martin in the Fields near Trafalgar Square.  I am a person who usually worries what people think.  Stopping to take pictures of random non-significant stuff was challenging as I thought people would find me crazy.  To steel myself against caring about what they thought had the unintended consequence of drawing me further within myself.  I was my own bubble floating down the street through crowds of people.

I ate lunch at the Cafe in the Crypt under St. Martin in the Fields.  This was when I was first struck with a strong sense of loneliness.  I’ve heard before how hard it is to eat in a restaurant by yourself.  It is completely true.  I found myself wishing I had brought my Kindle.  I had positioned myself at a two chair table such that one side of me was up against a pillar, which felt sheltered and secure.  Unfortunately, this meant my back was to most of the dining room, severely restricting my people watching opportunities.  I saw another woman eating by herself and idly considered joining her.  Fears that she wanted to be left alone or that she was expecting someone stilled me.

When I left the Cafe, I noticed a wall outlet near the gift shop so decided to plug in my phone.  That tied me to the general area and left me with nothing to do.  I found myself wishing I had brought my Kindle.  Then I noticed people bringing some interesting stuff over to a nearby table.  I wandered over to where they had come from and saw that you could pick out a metal etching and do a wax rubbing of it for as little as 3.50 pounds.  Something to do while the phone charged and a cool souvenir!

I picked out a dragon and the gold and dark red wax sticks and settled into the task.  I seriously think this might have been my favorite part of the day.  I saw the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, Sherlock Holmes’s residence, the Millennium Bridge, and all those places already mentioned and more, but sitting at a table rubbing wax on a dragon etching was probably the best part.  I was doing something.

I saw all those wonderful places but had no one with whom I could turn and remark on it.  I started to feel like I was simply documenting the sights to take back and show my family.  I was checking off my list.  And I was getting more and more isolated in my head.  It didn’t necessarily bother me.  It just felt so incredibly strange!

I was sore and tired by about 4:00 in the afternoon.  I would push myself for another 5 hours before crawling back into my hotel room.  I made the wonderful call to visit King’s Cross station… at rush hour!  All so I could see what?  A non-existent place out of a children’s book?

I was so tired that I didn’t even notice the right place and wandered aimlessly around platforms 9 and 10, taking pictures of random bits of wall to tell my kids “See? There’s platform 9 3/4!”  But on my way out, I happened to notice a crowd.  A long line of about 50 people or so.  All waiting in line to take their picture going through the gate to Platform 9 3/4.

There was a luggage cart, suitcase, and owl cage all cut in half and fastened against the wall.  Two employees stood there with a wand and a scarf from each house.  When it was your turn, they wrapped your neck in the scarf of your choice, handed you the wand, and held the scarf out behind you so it’d look like you were running.

It was cool.  I didn’t get in line though.  For one thing, I was done waiting in lines.  And I was extremely tired and my lower back felt like it was on fire.  And I had no one with me to take my picture when I got to the front.  Sure, the employees likely would have done it, but… it suddenly felt particularly lame for a 40 year old woman traveling by herself to wait in line to pretend like she was heading to Hogwarts.

So I moved on.  Well, after taking pictures and video of some folks doing it so my kids could see.  They loved it.

People ask me if I had a good time in London.  I reflexively say yes.  In reality, I’m not sure.  I saw a lot of neat things.  I’m glad I was there.  I felt extremely accomplished to have navigated the subway and everything else all by myself.  It was a growth experience. I’m a better person for it.  I feel lucky.  I’m just not sure I had “a good time.”  For that, I think I would have needed my family.  Or at least someone to walk around with.

Oh, The People You Meet

When you are sightseeing by yourself, as I was last Friday, having extended my time in England by a day so I could checkout London, you really don’t have anyone to talk to, except for strangers.  Most strangers are busy doing their own thing – especially on the subway.  I didn’t see anyone making small talk there!  They either talked to the person they traveled with or were silent.  I, being alone, was silent.

However, sightseeing and being unfamiliar with an area forces one to speak to at least a handful of strangers to get around.  My first was just a block from the hotel at the bus stop.  I had been told to catch the U3 bus to the airport where I could then get a day pass for the London Underground.  The person at the front desk had been kind of vague about where to go.  And I didn’t know how to read the signs at the bus station.

There was a British family standing there so I walked up to the woman who was probably the grandmother and asked if the U3 bus stopped there.  She told me that it didn’t and that I needed to walk down to the other one.  As I walked away, she suddenly called out (calling me “Darling”) and said she was mistaken – the bus did indeed stop there.  I know it was a little thing and she probably calls everyone “Darling” but it still made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

The next was a fun guy with dark skin and maroon hair (I mention the dark skin only because it made the maroon hair that much more striking).  He’s the one that advised me to buy a day pass that didn’t allow me to ride until 9:30, which was a little over half an hour away.  The advice saved me nearly $15.

After that, there was no conversation.  Except with the people taking my money at the various gift shops and at lunch.  I just walked around on my own.  More on that experience and its effect on me tomorrow.  Suffice it to say for now, it was a quiet day.

Until the end.  Tired and sore, I began to make my way back to the airport.  Problem was that I hadn’t eaten dinner and didn’t want to pay airport or hotel prices.  So I stopped at the Acton Town station and walked to where you run your tickets to leave.  I decided to ask the man working there whether there was any place to eat near the station.  He said no.

“But if you just go one more stop,” he said (referring to a different line than the one I needed to go back to my room), “there’s a good Tex-Mex restaurant.”

I was too tired to laugh but managed to tell him, “I’m from Texas.  I really don’t want to eat Tex-Mex while I’m here.  I’d rather have something local.  I mean, it might be interesting to experience your take on Tex-Mex, but…”

“Well,” he said, “if you like Curry, there are several Indian Curry Shops across the street.”

“I’m burned out on Curry now.  Is there not something on the way back to the airport?  Maybe some fish and chips or something?”

He quietly named off the stops to himself, shaking his head at each one.  One stop, he told me he wouldn’t send me to.  “I wouldn’t want to send you to the Detroit of England,” he said apologetically.

He finally said that if I’d be willing to go just one more stop on that out-of-my-way line, there’d be a whole host of restaurants to choose from.  So I reluctantly dragged my aching body back onto the subway train.

When the doors opened at the first stop, I seriously considered just getting out and trying the Tex-Mex place.  But my resistance to eating Tex-Mex along with my physical desire to not get up out of my seat and my growing reluctance to sit in a busy restaurant by myself kept me planted.

I had no choice but to get off at the next stop, being the end of the line.  On my way out, I noticed a pastie shop.  When I looked in their glass case, I saw “Cornish Pastie” and thought to myself, “Hey, now.  That’s local and I’ve never had one.”

When I found out the flaky pastry was stuffed with seasoned meat, potatoes, and onions, I exclaimed that that was exactly what I was looking for.  The price (under 5 pounds) was also right.  She asked if I wanted her to put it in a bag.  I started to say no, that I planned on sitting at one of their tables, when I realized she was offering to solve several of my problems.  I was past ready to be back in my room and I didn’t want to sit and eat by myself.

I was so excited about my purchase (silly, I know, but in my defense, it’d been a really long and tiring day), that I took the time and steps to return to the ticket man at Acton Town.  I proudly held up my bag and said, “I just wanted to thank you for recommending I go on to Ealing Broadway!  I got a Cornish Pastie and I couldn’t be happier!”

“Oh, honey!” he exclaimed. “That’s not dinner!”

“Oh, it’s exactly what I wanted,” I countered. “It was something local, inexpensive, already prepared, and something I could take with me.  Perfect!”

He looked doubtful but reluctantly said I was welcome.  I then realized that I didn’t know which terminal the subway had taken me from that morning.  That knowledge was important in that it was two different trains and only one of them was near the bus station that would take me on to the hotel.  I think the man was starting to worry about me but we talked through it and I took an educated guess and chose wisely.

Back at the airport, I caught the bus that would return me to my hotel.  I saw us go by the hotel but since we were on the other side of the street, I assumed that I would need to wait until it looped back around.  I saw a young woman looking anxiously at a map to the same hotel.  I told her that it would come back around right about the time the driver stopped and announced something I didn’t catch.  She asked if we needed to get off and I said I didn’t think so.  The guy behind me gruffly insisted that we were to get off the bus now.

I soon found myself standing on a dark street several blocks from my hotel, on the wrong side of a busy, four-lane road, with a very small college student from Tokyo.

“Wanna walk together?” I asked.

And so it was that I ended my solo sightseeing adventure in the company of another solo traveler.  We made light small talk together and ran across the street when we saw a break in traffic.  It felt good to walk alongside someone.  All in all, those last two people went a long way to restoring my sanity after a full day of living inside my own head.  What a blessing.

Hide and Seek

Do you know what the single most common forgotten item is in hotel rooms?  I’ve heard that it’s the cell phone charger.  I’ve never had that problem because I’m quite anal when it comes to making sure I have that charger.  The phone is just too important.  It’s my communication device.  My alarm clock.  My sleep monitor.  My entertainment source.  My contact with friends.  My media outlet.  It’s very important… and thus its charger is too.

Still, when I traveled on business recently, I forgot to pack it.  Luckily, I remembered during the drive to the airport and was able to swipe the car charger, which is a USB cable and an adapter for a cigarette lighter.  Since most hotel rooms have USB charging locations somewhere, I was fine.

That meant that when we turned around as a family just three days later to go to a family art conference, I did not forget my charger.  I dutifully plugged it into the wall outlet next to my side of the bed, which was near the wall, and life was good.

Then Hal had a meltdown at the Wednesday evening worship service.  He had already hit at the water bottle his sister was holding and been warned that he was on thin ice.  Then he actually got up from his seat, walked past his sister, slapped the expensive SLR digital camera his dad was holding, and then looked at him to see how badly he was in trouble.

Dad quickly removed him from the beautiful by-the-river outdoor location, not to return.  I was to learn that Hal cried all the way back to our room, but didn’t struggle to get away from his dad.  Even stood in place (crying) while Dad stopped to talk to someone they encountered on the way.

Eventually, they got to the room and Daddy had him lay down on the bed with him “to rest” with vague promises of possibly returning once he calmed down.  He did finally calm down.  And fall asleep.  And somewhere along the way, perhaps before he was asleep, roll off the bed to the floor between the bed and the wall.  My side of the bed.

That’s where he was when I returned to the room.  Fast asleep along my side of the bed, with his blanket and pillow added for comfort.  I also noticed, as I prepared to get it out of the way, that my phone charger was not there.

I carefully dug around his blanket and his sleeping body.  I couldn’t find it.  I looked over by the table, where I had briefly moved it earlier in the week.  Not there either.  I checked the sleeping kid again.  I checked the sheets and blankets on our bed.  My purse.  The table.  The suitcases.  The older kids’ bed.  The bathroom.  The dresser.  I checked everywhere.  It. was. gone.

“Where is it?” I asked my husband, stressed.  He checked the kid and blankets again.  I felt I was losing my mind.  He offered to let me use his charger during the night and we snaked it under his pillow to my side of the bed.

The next morning, I asked the kids if anyone knew where it was.  As expected, I received blank looks in return.

“Look, Hal,” I said. “It was in that wall socket right there yesterday.  Now it’s not.  It’s very important that I find it.  Did you do something with it?”

Blank look.

“Ok, no one will be in trouble.  I just need it back.  Please.  If anyone knows where it is…”

“Wait a minute, Mommy,” Hal said as he scurried over to the space between the bed and the wall where he had slept the night before.  He mumbled something that I couldn’t quite make out as he lay prostrate on the ground and reached way, way back behind the bed and extracted my charger from that narrow space between the wall and the head of the bed.

I couldn’t believe it.  I kept my promise and didn’t yell at nor punish him.  You better believe, though, that I used the flashlight app on my phone to check that area of the room before we left Friday.  I never have before but it’s now part of the “make sure we haven’t left anything” routine.  At least when the kids are involved.  Who knows what they’ve been up to while you weren’t watching?

Magical Camp

We are once again at the family art conference that we’ve gone to for three years now. And it continues to be a magical experience for us all. Most of the people here have been coming for years and we’ve finally been here enough that I’m starting to feel like I know people and am known by others.

This year Hal got to join the Young Artists group instead of the nursery.  Technically you are supposed to have completed Kindergarten but that’s a loose rule and “they” felt he was ready.  He’s having a blast.  According to his big brother, he’s quite the disruption.  Big brother seemed surprised when I told him I had received the same report about him by big sister the first year we were here.

Jane is taking Landscape Painting with acrylics.  She now loves to paint and is doing remarkably well.  My husband is trying his hand  at Digital Photography and, while he claimed earlier in the day yesterday to dislike it as an art form, is now enjoying himself immensely.  I’m doing Stained Glass and once again managed to pick an overly ambitious project.  And once again, with a wonderful and supportive teacher, I’m pulling it off fairly well.  Although I’m having to put in some extra hours outside of class to get it done!

The big story of the week so far though has been Daryl.  Daryl has fallen in love with a charming three year old girl named Mia.  He is smitten.  And I mean that in the healthy, he’s-going-to-make-an-awesome-daddy-one-day kind of way not the man-that’s-kind-of-creepy way.  He plays with her and takes care of her like he’s never done for his own little brother.

When Mia loses her sword (again) after slaying the mighty dragon, he tells her to climb to safety in the covered wagon (where monsters, including dragons, apparently can’t go) and then, after making sure she is safe, goes and retrieves another imaginary sword to slay yet another mighty dragon.

When she falls down, he’s right there, making sure she’s ok and picking her up again.

When she decides to take off her shoes on the wood chip covered playground, he carries her on his back so her nice little white socks don’t get dirty.

When she wanders over to said playground during the outdoor worship service, he follows her to keep an eye on her, carefully watching her when a group of teenagers from a different camp invade the space.

And during musical chairs, when she falls down as everyone scrambles for a chair, he puts his hand on a chair and calls to her to come take it, thereby being out himself but preserving her participation in the game.

He’s been simply charming.  And now everyone thinks he’s an amazingly sweet kid.  Which I suppose he is… just not all the time.  And not typically with his own siblings.

My three earlier posts this week were scheduled before we left.  I’ve had very limited time here, my days filled with many wonderful things.  This one is just a light brushstroke but I hope to find some time later today to blog about the deeper things that come from being here and being fully an artist for one brief week that I can share in the morning.

Until then, I encourage you to break out of your box  today.  Try something radically new!  It does wonders for your psyche.

In the Middle of Nowhere

I found myself behind the wheel somewhere east of Albuquerque during what turned out to be naptime for the other four members of the family on our long drive from the Grand Canyon to our home in East Texas.

There isn’t much east of Albuquerque. In fact, you are lucky to have cell reception. And forget data. There’s no checking Facebook or sending emails or anything that you are used to being able to do with your smart phone. (Most of that was discovered while not driving, btw. For the most part, I avoid my phone while driving.)

Radio stations are hard to come by as well. At one point, scanning through all the FM stations presented me with three different static-filled choices. And that’s it. No music.

I even got desperate enough to try the AM band and stumbled across some people talking about the plane that had disappeared just before we descended into the canyon. I stayed, hoping to get caught up, but they soon turned to politics and it became clear that the host and his two “experts” were cut from the same cloth and no meaningful examination of the issues from all sides would happen, so I returned to FM to try again for some music.

I finally hit pay dirt, when Lorde’s “Royals” came through. Yes! I thought. I’ll take top 40 pop. I was a bit surprised when The Beach Boys’ “Help Me Rhonda” played next. And then I couldn’t help but laugh when one of my favorite classic rock hits “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band was next on the playlist. I guess when you are the only radio station around, you have to appeal to a wide variety of tastes.

At one point, I asked my Shazam app on my phone to identify a song for me. It churned and churned and churned and eventually responded with:

I’m sorry. I don’t know if you realize this, but you are in the middle of nowhere and I can’t contact the mother ship to get an answer for you. I’ve saved the recording on your device and you can try to send it again when you’ve returned to civilization. Thank you.

Or, something like that.

My husband had told me that he thought we’d have enough gas to get to Amarillo but thought I should keep an eye on it. Judging by the road signs, Tucumcari was going to be my best intermediate choice, should I decide we couldn’t make it. As I drove through Tucumcari, though, we still had four bars on the gas gauge and everyone was still asleep. There was another town big enough to be given distance on the signs so I figured I’d check again there.

San Jon, as it turns out, is more of a village than a town. As I approached the first exit, I looked down at our mileage and the two bars on the gas gauge. I wasn’t sure we could make the remaining 85 miles to Amarillo, even driving a Prius. When I looked up, however, the town was fading behind me. It only has one exit.

I decided to wake my husband to get his opinion and as I did so, the gas gauge dropped to one bar. The next exit claimed a town name that didn’t even show up on our Google Map and there was nothing but fields as far as the eye can see. Still, I took the exit and returned to the sprawling metropolis of San Jon.

San Jon offered two choices for gas: a Valero and an un-branded truck stop that claimed to offer fine Indian Cuisine (dots, not feathers, as Good Will Hunting would say). We chose the Valero and as I pulled into the parking lot, my husband exclaimed, “Is that a dead dog?!”

I looked over, and sure enough, there was a dead dog lying behind two parked trucks.

“Okaaaayyyy…” I said. “I think I’ll take this far pump, away from the dead dog.”

My husband got out to pump gas and I approached the building to use the bathroom. I steered wide of the dog but tried to look for signs of injury. I found none. How had it died? I thought. And why is no one doing anything about it? And how did those two trucks manage to park there without running over it? Or did it die there after they parked? How long have they been parked there?!

I walked into the station and looked around. I thought about asking someone about the dog but it all felt so surreal that I just went quietly to the bathroom. On my return, I resolved to watch the dog closely for signs of breathing. Maybe it wasn’t dead.

I stared at it through the glass doors and kept staring as I walked out of the building. The chest was not rising and falling. Common sense and analysis of the situation had told me that the only logical conclusion was that the dog was not, indeed, dead, so I kept walking toward it. I walked between the two trucks and when I was almost to the beds of the trucks, it slowly lifted a lazy eyelid. The skin sagged and showed the red flesh around the eye. The dog did not lift its head, nor twitch any muscle in its body. The only thing that moved was that one eyelid. The dog then dismissed me and closed its eye.

I exhaled the air I had been holding in my lungs and rushed to the car.

“The dog isn’t dead,” I told my husband. “But it’s still kind of creepy.”

When he returned from the building after buying snacks, he told me that an old man had walked out and the dog looked up before jumping to its feet. The man said, “Come on, old girl” and the dog jumped into the back of one of the trucks.

How small of a town do you have to be in for a dog to be able to just lay in the middle of the parking lot without getting run over? And exactly how old does the dog have to be to lay that still?