Could it really be George? Out here in this desert?
The cracked clay under his bare feet–it reminded him of the texture of his snake skin boots. He should’ve worn them out here. Silly not to. Though, he didn’t remember leaving them. He didn’t remember his skin feeling this dry.
He thought to call the dog over. Company would be nice. But it couldn’t be George. George was long gone.
And he had to get home.
Which way was home?
The dog trotted over, tail wagging. A wet nose and two eyes shined like three points of polished onyx. Those floppy ears. It was his old golden retriever. The old nuisance! Long gone, always underfoot George! He would help. He would lead him home.
The man stepped forward and the dog’s tail stopped.
The golden retriever anxiously trotted back and forth sending brown tufts of dust to disperse in the still air, all the while keeping his eyes on the man. The man took another step, eager to start the journey. George barked. A warning.
The man recalled that George had always been a nervous dog. He raised his hand slowly and inched forward, hoping a gentle pet would assuage the anxious, pacing animal. George straightened his legs and lowered his head—the hair along his back bristled and he snarled.
“Come on, George,” the man raised his hand a little more.
A flurry of sharp barks were issued. He lowered his hand and the dog quieted, reverting back to his busy pacing.
“George, it’s me,” the man raised his hand, inciting a fresh firing of agitated protests.
Something came over the man.
Furious at the dog’s insubordination, the man lunged forward, fist clinched in remembrance of his usual discipline.
George whimpered and crouched. Then he ran. Fast as the sprint of a greyhound. Legs pushing the ground underneath with the ease of a pup. The man bolted after him, arms outstretched, anger rising at this unexpected flight from his fury. The speed was bewildering, George’s arthritis gone. The man took a lungful of the blossoming brown dust trail raised by George’s paws. He coughed and cursed.
The man ran and spit obscenities at the faint figure of a canine, growing lighter and lighter in the blooms of dust. The dog disappeared from view. He trudged to a stop, breathing deep with each heavy step. There was nothing to do but hunch over, place his hands on his knees, and think how he’d renew the limp in George’s right back leg when he caught up to him.
The choked air cleared, revealing the bleached and cracked ground. The lines between each giant shard of clay widened and dissolved into endless black deeps, making each shard its own little island. Some jagged plates hovered upward, some sank. The man looked around to see a labyrinth of desert distorting his sense of direction, masking the golden horizon.
“Stupid dog,” the man mumbled, deciding which direction to commit to.
How could such a dumb animal be sent as his guide? The man shook his head.
Alone, he hopped from plate to plate until determination slowly yield to defeat. His dry eyes watered. He wept.