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Chapter Eleven: Through the Woods

"Why's the light coming in green?"


"What's that sound?"


"Why aren't there any cars here?"

"We're in the woods."

"Where are we going anyways?"

"Okay. It's time for us to play a little game," Muffy said, turning and stopping me right in my tracks. "It's called the who can be quiet longest game and it's you versus me and the first one of us that says a word loses. Got it?"

I nodded. I like games. Games are good. Games would keep me from thinking about Nick too much.

"Okay. Go." Muffy turned and started walking away again.

I trotted after her, excited. The longer we were in the woods, the more I felt energized. I started to feel positive, like maybe we would actually find Nick - around any one of these corners - and he'd been looking for me everywhere. The whole world smelled like air and there was dirt, and I like dirt. The only thing I didn't like about woods was the bugs and every now and then the occasional mud. I know mud is just wet dirt but it's stickier and dirtier and I don't like the dirty part of dirt, I just like the soft part of it. So I wasn't a big fan of mud. There was a frog and a couple squirrels that I almost barked at until Muffy gave me a Look with her one eye that stopped me - it was like she knew the moment I drew my breath what I was about to do. I hoped she knew where she was going, but I wanted to win the game, so I didn't say anything, I just hopped and jumped along side her.

After a while, I started getting tired of walking. I was thirsty, and I could feel my belly rumbling. It'd been forevvvvver since I'd eaten. The omlettes back in Los Angeles the day before were the last thing I ate. I started wondering if leaves and dirt were edible. They couldn't be that bad, right? Plus my paws were getting achey and the dirt that was so wonderful before suddenly started feeling not so wonderful because it had a lot of pebbly things that poked my feet and I got a twig stuck between my pads and I paused trying to lick it out of there and it wouldn't come out and it hurt to step on it and finally I didn't care about the game anymore and I said, "I wanna lay down."

Muffy sighed. "What are you, a puppy or something? We've barely covered any ground."

"Barely covered any ground?!" I answered. To be honest, I wasn't sure how far we'd gone. Muffy didn't stop or say anything to that, so I whined again, "Where are we even going anyways? I don't think the airport was this way."

"The airport? Why would you want to go to the airport for?" Muffy turned to look at me.

"That's where I last saw my human," I answered, "He wouldn't leave the airport without me. He's probably still there lookin' for me."

Muffy turned around and I stopped short, only just keeping myself from walking directly into her. "I thought we talked about humans?" she asked.

"We talked about your human. My human isn't like that, my human's looking for me," I said.

Muffy stared into me with her one eye, like she was trying to read me. "You seriously believe that?"

"Yes," I said. I shook just a little.

"Okay then." Muffy sniffed the ground a couple moments, then turned to the right and started walking again.

"Where we going?" I asked, hopping after her.

"The airport to find your human," she said.

My heart leaped. "Really? We're goin' to find Nick? Really?" I started frolicking along, leaping over the terrain. "You're gonna like Nick. He's super cool. He's really tall and he watches fetch on TV and he feeds me Beggin' Strips and we go for jogs and --"

"Remember the quiet game?" Muffy asked.

"I didn't like that game," I said, "I was gettin' lonely."

Muffy sighed.

"I bet when we find Nick that he'll wanna keep you," I said.

Muffy stiffened as she walked. "Don't say that."

"Why? It's not so bad having an owner. Especially one like Nick..."

"Stop." Muffy said sternly. She glowered at me.

"Sorry," I said.

We walked along and I was quiet because I was thinking. I snuffled. I stared at the back of Muffy's head and wondered what she was thinking, why she got so upset about me suggesting that Nick might want to keep her. I thought about her opinion of owners. I moved quicker so I was walking alongside her. "Are you scared Nick won't want you and you don't wanna believe he might so you won't be disappointed if he doesn't?" I asked.

"No," Muffy said. "Of course not."

"Oh. Okay." I walked along.

Muffy stayed staring straight ahead as she led me through the woods and the sticks snapped under her bodyweight. I thought about Nick and about my omlette the day before. "Can we get food too?" I asked.

Muffy sighed. She sniffed the air. "If I get you food, will you be quiet?"

"Yes, yes, of course; absolutely; completely silent."

"Okay then. This way." She changed our course again and we broke through a hedge. About ten feet away from us was a big fence and on the other side of the fence a big hill and below us, at the foot of the hill, way down there below, was a glittering mass of places that I had heard Lauren refer to many a time before as fast food restaurants.

Also known as, you know, heaven.