The day was a horror movie from the start, a classy atmospheric one at first, before lapsing into relentless bloodshed.
I staggered groggily in the predawn dark around dog carcasses to the bathroom, the lone room in the house to which I can reliably turn for peace, sanctuary. I closed the door and flipped on the light, thus rendering myself blind as I dropped trou and sat down. As the room came into focus I noticed, in the bathtub before me, a spider roughly the size of Andre the Giant’s hand, poised and ready to pounce at my face.
I have borderline arachnophobia, and while I try to be Buddhist about other living things, I will terminate with prejudice any spider I see indoors; I believe this falls under those stand-your-ground, home-invasion laws. In this particular situation, however, I was unarmed and at my most vulnerable, so I did the only reasonable thing one could do: I fled.
When I returned moments later, pants on and equipped with a shoe, it was gone. For the sake of truthfulness, I should admit that I didn’t search very hard. It was a savvy-looking spider, and I suspected it had concealed itself and was waiting for the right moment to strike.
I woke up my personal exterminator, but he failed to flush it out for the hit. I suggested that we burn the shower curtain, towels and bath mat, then flood the bathroom with a cocktail of Raid and Lysol. This plan was vetoed in favor of my not being a pussy, and hurrying up so we could go for a hike.
A second omen: It was a beautiful, sunny, summer Saturday in Colorado.
Backcountry arteries were clogged; quaint small-town festivals abounded; trailheads overflowed; and open spaces were packed with potential suspects for America’s next mass shooting. After nearly three hours in the car, we were ready to be outside anywhere people weren’t present, even if it was a Sports Authority parking lot.
By the time we found a spot, a treeless stretch of Arapaho National Forest north of Silverthorne, the sun was in full force and a battalion of thunderheads threatened from the west. We loosed the nonblind hounds to navigate the maze of scrub brush and thorn bushes, which allowed the humans to combat an armada of mosquitoes in the midst of an aggressive blood drive.
As we ascended a steep rise, the thick greenery gave way to less-cluttered terrain and a patchwork of wildflowers. The breeze gathered steam as well, which helped limit the bloodsuckers attached to our exposed skin to a dozen or so at a time. We paused long enough to water the dogs; as the dogs drank, the humans, woozy with blood loss, decided the hell with outdoor adventure for the day.
We took a more direct and open route back, but one that followed a sharp grade toward a pond, near which was the path that led to the car. Refusing to follow switchbacks, Reese plunged downslope, his arthritic hips struggling to support him. At the base of the hill, as the others charged toward the pond, Reese collapsed on the trail.
I sat with him for a moment and massaged his hips. The instant he heard a splash, he was up and off, hobbling toward the water.
Wyatt was already filthy as Reese and I approached the pond. The lone bright spot of the day to that point was that the dogs had managed not to coat themselves in mud or some sort of anonymous sludge.
Reese is the only of our dogs who swims, and he loves it. Unfortunately, it has been a long while since he has had the opportunity to do more than wade. He slipped into the water like an oversize otter and paddled in circles, wearing a contented grin.
We decided to indulge him. The mosquitoes were strangely absent, and a nearby rock was perfectly shaped to accommodate two human butts; it even held a scared dog behind the humans when the first rumble of thunder sounded. Besides, at nearly 15 (105 in dog years) Reese has earned the right to do whatever he wants under Patton Oswalt’s birthday rules, and swimming involved neither theft nor murder, just a forced bath later (why are dogs are so eager to plunge into filthy water but so desperate to escape clean water?).
Reese was rejuvenated, and he swam uninterrupted for a good quarter hour. He returned to dry land to blot himself in the dirt and grass, then went back for another session.
Those 30 minutes of contentment were well worth the preceding hours of misery and looking like slasher victims by the time we reached the car. Even horror movies can have happy endings.
Though the spider’s fate remains unknown….