Dogs like to ride in cars and sniff the wind through an open window. She should have eagerly settled on the back seat without coaxing. As it was, however, I heaved in her front end and then shoved on the back end until she clambered up. A confounding "beep, beep, beep" hunkered her down between her own shoulder blades, while I searched unsuccessfully through abandoned backpacks and socks for the source. Unable to correct the problem, I dismissed it as one beyond my control and sat behind the wheel. The dog wedged her portly, trembling body securely between the two front seats, lowering her flaccid, drooling jowls into my lap.
The obnoxious "beep, beep, beep, beep" sounded now as if it originated in the dashboard. Yet everything appeared in order. All the usual warning lights routinely reminding me that, yes, my auto is paid for, steadfastly glowed. Yet, it seemed the machine had abruptly become more adamant that I check the engine.
Impotently kicking and thumping at the underside of the dash-panel, I at last forfeited and rolled into reverse, the dog's head in my lap and her quivering ribs jammed between armrests. Just like when I snapped off my husband's radio antennae in the rim of the basketball goal, I ignored the attention-seeking noise. Away we went, whirring past flickering Christmas lights - whatever will be, will be.
"Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep." Irrationality reared its frizzy head to suggest that the beeping might not have anything to do with car mechanics and everything to do with a bomb. I summarily resolved myself to the imminent explosion. Irrationality, disappointed at its inability to motivate me to foolishness, reclaimed a seat in the rear. The dog pressed her head deeper into my thigh.
Entering the Interstate on-ramp, driven to distraction by the persistent "beep, beep, beep, beep," I flew into a rage, furious with my children. This surely had to be their fault, and I told the dog so, in hopes of winning undying allegiance from her. Obviously, an inspired child had set a timer for 13:42:56 and tucked it into a crevice. Agitation pushed the accelerator.
Without warning, the front half of an 85-pound dog leapt into my lap and stood staunch, despite my yelling and pushing while hurtling in the fast lane toward certain doom with "beep, beep, beep" as the dirge for our demise. Her torso bobbed as we reeled down the roadway. Her toes nimbly gripped the skin they had picked from my muscle.
Screeching to a stop halfway up the next off-ramp, I sternly shoved the dog from her perch. A fruitless wrestling match to send the beast to the nether seats to sit with irrationality ended with her soft lips and saliva splayed once again across my legs. Deafened and defeated, I eased to the top of the ramp to re-enter the Interstate on the other side of the road.
"Kump, thack, umph," the entire dog landed in my lap, positioned with her nose pressed to the windshield. For a few idiotic seconds my brain baffled about, trying to reach a reasonable explanation. Struggling to extricate myself from beneath the animal's sturdy haunches, I suddenly knew.
From the passenger seat, I waved apologetically to a gawking driver maneuvering around my vehicle. The dog's collar, now dangling from my fingertips, still verbally insisted - its physical impact long kaput - that we turn around and go back. Guilt lashed at my heart. Shame throttled me.
I had forgotten that my dog doesn't stay home because she loves me. She stays home because I make it uncomfortable for her to leave.
Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)