Authors: Chris Kurtz
I look back out the window. “Oh that,” I say. “Yeah, that's a deer. I was talking about the bear right â¦ oops, it just stepped out of sight.”
Hector stomps around his cage and then grabs the wire bars. “Bring your bony little leg over here,” he growls. “I want to show you something.”
I don't move. He bites the wires with his yellow teeth. I think I would rather face a bear than Hector right now. I look away.
A wood chip comes flying out of Hector's cage and zings me on the ear. I probably deserved that.
“Yellowstone's greatest prize is coming up!” Mona sounds excited.
I look back at Hector. He squints his eyes at me again and sticks out his tongue. Hector is still mad.
I jump to put my feet up on the armrest of the door so I can look out the window. I wag my tail. But inside, my tail is dragging. I know I'm the reason for Hector's bad mood, and for once I feel like it's my fault.
I jump into the backseat. “Hey, Heckles,” I say. “There's a big attraction coming up.”
Hector's tongue goes back in his mouth, but his eyes get even squintier. “That was not a cool move back there,” he says.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” I say. “I'm pretty sure there was a bear right behind the â¦”
I look at Glory. She is staring at me and she shakes her head.
“Whatever,” I say. “You're just a big grump.”
I look out the window. From down here on the backseat where Hector has to stay, there isn't much to see. The tops of trees go floating past now and then, but it's mostly all clouds and sky. I look at Hector. He has his eyes closed but I don't think he's sleeping.
Mona pulls off the road. There is another sign. The big attraction turns out to be a geyser called Old Faithful. I have no idea what a geyser is. Mona pulls her car into the parking lot and stops near a tree. She's all in a rush, as if she's going to miss something if she doesn't hurry. She runs to find an open bench in the crowd and then comes back for us.
One by one she grabs Hector and then Glory
in their cages and sets them down on the bench. Then she runs back to clip me to my leash and we join the others. Mona is breathing hard as she sits next to Glory.
“This is so exciting!” says Mona.
Cars come in and out of the parking lot. Families push strollers along the path. A clump of people stands around a little ways off. I'm not sure what I'm missing. I've watched a bug crawl along the edge of a leaf, and it was more exciting than this. Then all of a sudden,
. A great stream of water pounds up out of the ground.
Mona claps her hands. Glory flaps her wings and crows like a rooster. The water shoots up as high as a tree and then drifts off at the top like a feather. I can't take my eyes off it for a minute, but then I look away. Honestly, I'm a little embarrassed and I'll tell you why.
I never knew this, but now it's clear that even the land needs to pee sometimes. It happens to all of us, and I suppose it's no different for the land of Yellowstone.
But when I need to go, I don't like people staring at me. It makes me uncomfortable and, to tell the truth, it also makes it harder to go. There's a part of me that just locks up, and there I am with my leg in the air and nothing coming out.
So that's why I look away. Sure, I'm impressed. That's a lot of water. And I want to look. It just doesn't seem very polite.
“That was worth the whole trip to Yellowstone!” Back in the car, Mona has the volume turned up on her jazzy music and is making a drum out of her steering wheel. “Wasn't that just so amazing?” She reaches over and scratches her favorite dog behind the ears. Mmm, nice.
I'm thinking that a nice scratching session could be amazing, but Mona is driving, so the scratching doesn't last very long. That's okay. I have something else on my mind. I go back to check on a certain white rat. “Did you think that was amazing, Heckles?”
He is chewing on a piece of cardboard and he looks at me, but he doesn't answer.
“Pretty cool, huh? All that gushing water soaring up to the sky like a giant rat tail?” I think I'm clever to say that part about the rat tail. Hector doesn't look so impressed. He sticks out his tongue and then digs himself under a lump of sawdust. I get the message that I haven't been forgiven.
“I'm sorry, Heckles,” I say to the lump. There's no answer. I can tell I'm going to have to work at this before we can be friends again.
When we pull into camp, guess who rushes out to meet us? Alexandra hardly waits for the car to stop. I'm in the front seat, but she unlatches the back door this time. “Aunt Mona, you were gone forever. Can I play with Hector? I'm gonna be Cinderella and I need a rat coachman.”
All of a sudden I know just what I can do to show Hector that I'm a good friend. I know I'm going to be in deep trouble for this, but I've made up my mind. I jump in the backseat and I bark like crazy. I bark my head off.
Alexandra jumps back. That's the good part.
Mona yells at me. That's the bad part. “Lobo, no! Lobo, stop that.” I knew she was going to yell at me. I knew my barking was going to disappoint her. Still, I have to do it. I bark some more, until Mona finally grabs my collar.
“Alexandra, honey, it's been a long day in the car for me and my family.” Mona picks me up and
gets out of the car. “Lobo is obviously grouchy and probably Hector is too. Maybe you'd better wait and play Cinderella another time.”
Mona walks to the motor home. “For now I know that there is one cranky little fellow who has just earned himself a time-out.” Mona steps up into the motor home and clips my leash to the armrest of a chair.
She talks more softly now, but her words cut deep. “I'm so disappointed in you, Lobo,” she says. “You know you can't act like that with my niece. I hope you feel bad.”
The door closes and it's just me. Alone. In time-out. And I do feel bad. I always feel bad when Mona is disappointed in me, even if it's not very wolfish of me.
But there's a tiny part of me that doesn't feel bad. I had to show Hector that I really meant it when I said I was sorry.
Later the door opens. Mona unclips me, picks me up, and cuddles me like she always does after time-out. Ooh, that feels good. She even forgets to clip me back up to my leash. On the way to the campfire, I see Hector in his cage on
a little rug, but I can't catch his eye to see if we're friends yet.
Then comes the part when I have to make it up to Alexandra. Yuck. But I do what Mona wants. Mona holds me while I let Alexandra pet my head. I act all nice, and as a reward I get a beautiful necklace. Actually, it is a piece of yellow yarn with loops in it.
“You may wear the princess's golden chain.” Alexandra ties it around my neck. I can tell that Mona thinks this is cute. I think it's going to get in my way. At least Mona makes sure it isn't tied too tightly. Then Alexandra goes to sit on her mother's lap.
Mona sits by the campfire with me on her lap, and we watch the sun go down. She pets me. She runs her fingers through my hair. She picks off the little eye boogers that end up all crusty and gross on my cheek. It feels so good.
There is a sleepy feeling going around the group. Then somebody mentions s'mores, and all of a sudden I get dropped on the ground.
I hate s'mores. They taste terrible, and they break apart and get all over the fingers of the people who love them. Then the fingers touch you
and before you know it, the sticky goo is all over your fur.
Mona is crazy about them. So are Alexandra and her parents and her grandparents. For that matter, probably even Glory and Hector love s'mores.
That gives me an idea. Hector has
to love them. He loves everything sticky and gooey and crunchy. I prowl under the chairs. No one is watching. I sneak around and look for my chance, and then it happens. Just like they always do, someone drops a big chunk of s'more.
I can't believe I'm doing this, but before anyone can step on the s'more and make it even worse, I pick it up in my teeth. Yeegh! It's so gummy and sweet and covered with pine needles that I can hardly breathe while I take it over to Hector's cage. Plus I step on the princess's golden chain with every other step. But when I get there, Hector is drooling from the smell.
“I figured you wouldn't want to be left out.” I drop it and use my tongue to feel around. Sure enough. Melted marshmallow all over my whiskers.
“Push it over here, closer.” Hector's little hands
are stretching for it, but they can't quite reach. I nose it closer and get melted marshmallow on my nose.
Hector grabs the treat and hurries it into a corner of his cage. He's about to take a bite, but then he stops and looks at me.
“Um â¦ thanks,” he says.
“I'm sorry about tricking you in the car today,” I say.
A drop of drool drips out of his mouth, but Hector puts his nose up to the wire of his cage. “Thanks for getting Alexandra to leave me alone in the car. I hope time-out wasn't too bad.”
I shake my head.
Then he notices my new jewelry. “What's that around your neck? Some kind of new punishment?”
“No,” I say. “Reward. I get to wear the princess's golden necklace for mending my bad ways.”
“Nice,” he says.
“No hard feelings?” I say.
“No hard feelings. Bump me.” Hector sticks out his knuckles and we bump. “Mind if I dig in?” he says.
“Just don't save any for me,” I say. “I hate that stuff.”
Hector takes a big bite. Brown and white slime squishes out of the corners of his mouth. “Mmph or ghrassier glurb ah erff.”
Yeah, that makes sense. I walk away because I don't want to watch that mess. Plus, I have to lick off the goo from my nose and whiskers. When I'm clean, I jump back into Mona's lap and she lets me stay. I curl up. Sleep is going to feel excellent.
Just then I remember that for the first time since we got to Yellowstone, I don't have my leash on, and I forgot to make a break for it and find my pack. Oh well. I'm too tired tonight anyway, and I'm sure I will get my chance tomorrow.