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About Chimpanzees

Mom and Dad

I was on a date with a woman twenty years ago and there came a moment when she asked me a question and I replied, “I don’t know. That’s a subject I know nothing about.”

“Really?” she said, frowning at me. “Aren’t you going to at least pretend you know the answer?”

“No,” I said, laughing. “My father would do that, but not me.”

“Not just your father,” she said, with a touch of bitterness in her voice. “Most men would make up an answer so they wouldn’t look stupid, even though it would be obvious they were making something up, which really makes them look stupid, but they don’t care because they have to pretend they know.”

“I wonder why that is?”

“Because men think not knowing something is a sign of weakness, and they can’t allow themselves to appear weak, especially when they’re relating to a woman.”

My father was an extreme example of a man who pretended he knew everything, and this was especially true when he was in the presence of women. This trait did not endear him to my mother or to me or to my siblings or to anyone, but he didn’t care, because as my long-ago date succinctly put it, he had to pretend he knew.

I only know a small part of why my father was this way, but here is a true story about when his need to pretend he knew more about something than the woman he was with beats anything of the kind I have ever heard.

My father was a psychiatrist. One of his colleagues was a woman psychiatrist who was married to Meyer Fortes, a very famous anthropologist. I majored in Anthropology during my two years of college and was an avid reader of ethnographies after leaving college. I had read and admired several works by Meyer Fortes about the Tallensi and Ashanti of Ghana. He was a particular hero of mine.

I was also an admirer of Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees. I had read many articles by her and about her, as well as her books My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees and In the Shadow of Man.

So you can imagine my excitement circa 1973 when my mother called me at the commune in Santa Cruz where I was living to tell me that she and my father were hosting an intimate dinner party, the guests to be Meyer Fortes and his wife, and Jane Goodall and her husband.

“I wanted to have you to join us for dinner,” said my mother, “but your father thinks… well, he said if you wanted to come after supper during dessert and meet everyone, you could do that and then spend the night.”

“Yes!” I said. “I’ll be there.”

This was such a big deal for me that I borrowed a car rather than risk unlucky hitchhiking from Santa Cruz to Atherton, and on the appointed evening I arrived at my parents’ house, quietly entered the kitchen through the garage, and looked into the dining room that was separated from the kitchen by a counter.

I will never forget that scene. Jane and her husband were sitting on one side of the dining table facing me. Meyer Fortes and his wife were opposite them with their backs to me. My father was at one end of the table, my mother at the other. My father, as I had feared, was very drunk and slurring his words and pontificating inanely as he always did when he was drunk. He was the only one speaking.

Jane and her husband both sat unmoving, their faces showing distress at being trapped at a table with someone like my father. Meyer Fortes and his wife were also unmoving, and my mother, poor dear, was bowing her head and praying, I imagined, for my father to drop dead.

When my father paused briefly in his babbling, Meyer Fortes turned around in his chair to look at me and I said hello, introduced myself, spoke of my admiration for his and Jane’s work, told them I had come from Santa Cruz to meet them, and for a brief time Jane and her husband became animated and chatted with me, and Meyer and his wife were animated and friendly, too.

And then came the crowning moment. My father, having had enough of my interrupting him, finished his wine, refilled his glass, and said loudly, “Now what you have to understand about chimpanzees is…”

I heard no more because I fled the house and drove home to Santa Cruz, my heart aching for days after.

Broke My Heart

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Raven Mystic Part 5

Obidiah the Cummings Lane raven mystic was perched on the edge of his new roost high in a giant gnarly old redwood named Tree. Obidiah had just eaten two delicious morsels of perfectly cooked chicken given to him by a human named Isadora.

There were twelve more chicken morsels left in the bag, and Obidiah was about to eat them when he saw a sight that took his breath away. Gliding through the forest fifty feet below him was the beautiful Jack Peters Creek raven gal Magdalena, she of the four snowy white tail feathers.

“Wow, talk about wishes coming true,” said Obidiah, who had just moments before wished he could share the chicken morsels with Magdalena.

Obidiah had only met Magdalena once before and very briefly, but that meeting was a life-changing event for both of them because neither had ever met another full-blown mystic, which they both were, and neither had ever been so profoundly attracted to a raven of the opposite sex.

“If you’d like to talk about wishes coming true,” said Tree, with whom Obidiah frequently conversed, “I’d be happy to.”

“Hold that thought,” said Obidiah, flying off in pursuit of Magdalena.

“Wishes coming true,” mused Tree. “Do thousand-year-old trees make wishes? I don’t recall ever wishing for anything. But if I did wish for something, what might it be? Perhaps I’d wish for rain to end a long drought, though I never have wished for that because I know droughts always eventually end whether I wish they would or not. So… I don’t know.”

While Tree pondered the concept of wishes, Obidiah caught up to Magdalena and cawed, “Well if it isn’t Magdalena. Fancy meeting you here.”

Magdalena alighted on the first convenient branch and Obidiah landed on a branch not far from her.

“Hi,” she said shyly. “You made a wish involving me and I’ve been wanting to see you again, so here I am.”

“You heard my wish?” he replied, overjoyed. “All the way from Jack Peters Creek?”

Magdalena nodded. “Is your roost nearby?”

“Yeah, its…”

“Don’t tell me,” she said, interrupting. “I only asked because though you’re not technically in Jack Peters Creek raven territory, you are still very much in danger of being attacked by Jack Peters Creek ravens. As I mentioned to you when we first met, they are all brutal dunces and not to be reasoned with.”

“You don’t want to see my roost?” he asked, disappointed.

“I do and I don’t,” she said, sighing in frustration. “I do want to see your roost because I’m super curious, of course, and I don’t want to see your roost because if I love your roost, which I probably will, then…”

“Then what?” he asked, holding his breath.

“Then it will be even harder for me to stop thinking about you,” she said matter-of-factly. “Ever since we met and conversed clairvoyantly and… by the way, do you read minds? Of other ravens and birds and mammals?”

“I do,” he said, nodding. “But your mind is closed to me.”

“That is so weird,” she said, squinting at him. “Because I can read minds, too, but not yours. How about future glimpsing?”

“Yes,” he said, frowning. “Only not my own future or yours.”

“Ditto,” she said, enraptured by him. “I’ve never met another raven like me. Have you ever met another raven like you?”

“Still haven’t,” he said, jauntily bobbing his head. “You’re a gal raven and I’m male.”

“I meant the other stuff,” she said, blushing.

“Speaking of other stuff,” he said, making a clucking sound. “You hungry? One of my human clients just paid me in scrumptious chicken morsels, and my wish, the one you heard from an impressive three miles away, was to have you join me in feasting on said scrumptious chicken morsels.”

“You have human clients?” she asked, amazed.

“Well… one,” he said, shrugging. “Hungry?”

“Actually I am,” she said, torn between staying and going. “But the thing is… by the way, what’s your name?”

“Obidiah,” he said, smitten beyond smitten.

“Nice name,” she said quietly. “The thing is, Obidiah, I’m three-years old and soon to be four, and I long ago resigned myself to never marrying because all the raven males I’ve ever met are brutal dunces.”

“I’m not,” he said simply.

“No, I can sense that,” she said, her voice full of tenderness. “But you’re an outsider and the brutal dunces will kill you if you ever come to our territory again.”

“I never will come to their territory again,” he said, shaking his head. “We would live here and socialize with my raven and non-raven friends in Cummings Lane raven territory and at Big River Beach.”

“Your friends would accept me?” she asked incredulously.

“Absolutely,” he assured her. “I’m held in high esteem by the Cummings Lane ravens because of the many useful repercussions of my mystical proclivities, and you would be held in high esteem, too, because you would be my wife.”

“Seriously?” she said, flabbergasted. “Most Jack Peters Creek ravens think I’m a total nut case, though that doesn’t stop the males from trying to impregnate me against my will.”

“I would never do that,” he said gently. “I would always wait until you invited me.”

“Gosh,” she said, her heart melting, “this puts things in a whole new light, a lovely new light, though I still think our roost… your roost is vulnerable to attacks from Jack Peters Creek ravens.”

“Speaking of vulnerable,” he said, turning in the direction of Tree, “I don’t think we should leave those scrumptious morsels unattended much longer.”

“No we shouldn’t,” she said, surrendering to his charms. “Lead me to your roost.”

*

Had either Obidiah or Magdalena been able to see the future they might have been spared a few terrifying weeks of trying to make the hollow in Tree a lasting home for themselves and their future progeny.

But they could not see their futures, and despite their valiant efforts they could not withstand the constant harassment and predations by gangs of Jack Peters Creek ravens who were furious that a Cummings Lane raven had successfully wooed and wed a beautiful Jack Peters Creek raven gal.

Nor could Obidiah and Magdalena have known that even marginal land for roosting in Cummings Lane raven territory would be in such short supply, and that after giving up their roost in Tree they would spend a long wet winter in a temporary nest in a small redwood on Obidiah’s parents’ land, which was fine with Obidiah’s father Tarkanda but did not sit well with Obidiah’s mother Doris who felt intimidated by Magdalena’s formidable mystical proclivities and her beautiful white tail feathers.

*

Then one Thursday morning, as winter was giving way to spring, Obidiah went to meet the human Isadora at the big driftwood log on Big River Beach. With food scarce, Obidiah and Magdalena had come to depend on the weekly bag of succulent morsels Isadora brought Obidiah in thanks for his counseling.

Obidiah alighted on the big driftwood log a few feet from Isadora and sent “You look lovelier than ever. Those pearl earrings are to die for. How are things going with you and Thomas?”

“Things are going wonderfully well for us,” sent Isadora, gazing fondly at Obidiah. “How are things going for you? You sound sad, Obidiah. Are you?”

Now in all the many Thursday mornings that Obidiah met Isadora on the big driftwood log, Isadora had never once inquired about Obidiah’s life, nor had Obidiah ever shared anything about his life with her. But when she asked how things were going for him, and especially when she said he sounded sad, he told her everything that had happened to him since he helped her end her terrible marriage to Jeff and find true love with Thomas.

When he finished telling his tale, Obidiah looked at Isadora and saw she was crying.

“I’m sorry,” he sent. “I shouldn’t have burdened you with my…”

“No, Obidiah,” she sent passionately. “I should have asked how you were doing long ago when I first sensed your sorrow.”

“But our relationship has always been about me helping you,” sent Obidiah, tearfully. “And in thanks for my help you’ve given me food glorious food. So…”

“I can do more than give you food,” said Isadora, gesturing magnanimously to the sparkling sea. “I own ten acres a mile south of here and I’m certain no ravens are currently living on my land. Come live there with your wife. You would be most welcome.”

*

And that is how Obidiah and Magdalena, the raven mystics, came to live on Isadora’s land.

They built a big comfy nest in a gnarly old giant redwood named Cassiopeia and raised many children on Isadora’s fruitful acres. Their female progeny were all witty and wise and gifted with snowy white tail feathers, and their male progeny were all strong and adventurous and fond of double entendre. And many of their offspring were full-blown mystics, too.

*

Obidiah and Magdalena are quite old now and spend most of their time hanging around Isadora and Thomas’s house enjoying the marvelous smells emanating from the kitchen and listening to Isadora and Thomas make music together.

And, as you might expect, Obidiah and Magdalena are totally addicted to the scrumptious morsels Isadora gives them every day.

fin

Just Love

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Raven Mystic Part 4

On a drizzly morning in late October, Obidiah the raven mystic and his seagull pal Marcus and ten of Marcus’s gull buddies flew north from Big River to a little rocky beach at the mouth of Jack Peters Creek. The tide was way out when they reached the beach where the creek was little more than a trickle for lack of rain.

They landed in a group at the south end of the beach and one of Marcus’s cronies opined, “Why was it again we left the easy living and soft sands of Big River Beach to come all the way to this sad excuse for a beach?”

“You lack imagination, Stefan,” retorted Marcus, turning over a baseball-sized stone and exposing a scrumptious little crab. “Not only do crustaceans abound here, but yonder is a shallow pool wherein are trapped several dozen delectable smelt who neither went far enough out with the tide nor far enough up the creek while the going was good. Hence they are sitting ducks, so to speak, for gulls such as we.”

Inspired by Marcus’s preface, the gulls flew en masse to the little pool to dine on the many fish trapped therein. Obidiah followed the gulls, and being less aquatic than they, did not take part in the fishing. 

Standing apart from the feasting gulls, Obidiah heard the unmistakable creaking of fast-flapping raven wings and looked upstream as a trio of glossy black Jack Peters Creek raven gals emerged from the forest and landed a short distance from Obidiah.

“You’re no Jack Peters Creek raven,” said the largest of the three. “You migrating? Well you better migrate yourself down the coast pronto before our big boys get here and kick your butt.”

Obidiah read the mind of this largest of the three as well as the mind of the next largest, and was disappointed to find both raven gals were profoundly afraid of him, emotionally unreceptive, and not the brightest of passerines. But when he tried to read the mind of the third, a comely gal with four snowy white tail feathers, he found her mind closed to him.

“I’m Obidah,” he said, mesmerized by the raven gal with the white tail feathers. “Who are you?”

“Watch out, Magdalena,” cackled the largest gal raven. “He’s got the hots for you.”

“Better tell him to shove off before he gets hurt,” said the mid-sized gal. “The big boys will show him no mercy.”

But Magdalena spoke not a word as she gazed steadfastly at Obidiah.

“Say,” said the second largest of the gal ravens, squinting suspiciously at Obidiah. “You wouldn’t happen to be a Cummings Lane raven, would you? Because if you are, our big boys will do more than kick your butt, they’ll tear your eyes out.”

Obidiah was about to say he was hoping for a more peaceful outcome to his visit, when Magdalena spoke to him clairvoyantly, her voice sweet music to his psyche.

“Why have you come here?” she asked, her tone suggesting concern for his safety. “My sisters speak the truth about what the big boys will try to do to you. They are all brutal dunces and cannot be reasoned with.”

“I came here,” said Obidiah, replying clairvoyantly, “because I’m in search of a mate. I’m claiming some land between Cummings Lane raven territory and Jack Peters Creek raven territory and hoping to meet a gal raven who will love the roost I’ve found and love me, too, once she gets to know me and finds out what a thoughtful, capable, loyal partner I’ll be.”

“But why did you come here?” sent Magdalena, glancing furtively up the creek. “Why not seek a mate among your own kind?”

“Because the gal ravens where I come from are ruled by fear,” sent Obidiah, taking a few steps toward her. “And I’m hoping to meet someone ruled by love.”

Before Magdalena could reply, four large male Jack Peters Creek ravens flew swiftly out of the forest and attacked Obidiah.

Obidiah took wing, flying for his life, and just as those four brutal dunces were about to overtake Obidiah, Marcus and his ten pals rose into the air, a cloud of gulls, and battered those four ravens with their powerful wings until the brutal dunces fled back into the forest and Obidiah was able to escape unharmed.

*

Back on Big River Beach, Marcus and his buddies regaled the large gathering of gulls with wildly exaggerated reports of their triumph over the Jack Peters Creek ravens, while Obidiah sat on a nearby driftwood log recovering from his close call and reviewing his clairvoyant conversation with the enchanting Magdalena, she of the four white tail feathers.

Seeing Obidiah in the throes of emotional turmoil, Marcus excused himself from the hubbub on the sand bar and joined Obidiah on the driftwood log.

“Thinking about that beautiful Jack Peters Creek raven gal, aren’t you?” said Marcus, winking at his non-gull buddy.

“You thought she was beautiful, too?” said Obidiah, smiling dreamily at Marcus. “I didn’t know gulls found individuals of other species anything other than individuals of other species.”

“On rare occasions,” said Marcus, thinking back over his life, “individuals of other species have struck me as beautiful or ugly or strange or funny or cute. Certain puppy dogs, for instance, are undeniably cute. And that raven gal with the snow-white tail feathers reminiscent of snow-white gull feathers was an amalgam of beautiful and cute and mysterious, too. Ergo, I can see why you’re in a tizzy.”

“And she can communicate clairvoyantly,” said Obidiah, excitedly. “She’s the only raven I’ve ever met who can. Other than yours truly.”

“I could only guess her thoughts,” said Marcus, bouncing his eyes, “but the way she was looking at you… ay caramba.”

“But how will I ever get to see her again?” asked Obidiah, mournfully. “Those Jack Peters Creek big boys will kill me if I ever venture into their territory.”

“You want my advice?” asked Marcus, still high from battering those Jack Peters Creek ravens and saving his friend. “Go secure the far flung roost you love. Take the road less travelled. Cut the seemingly irresolvable knot of doubt. Gather a trove of sticks for a nest you’ll build one day with your sweetheart and trust in the power of love.”

“You’re a romantic,” said Obidiah, chuckling. “Who knew?”

“I’m a sea gull living at the mouth of a bountiful river in paradise,” said Marcus, admiring the eternal collision of river and ocean. “Of course I’m a romantic.”

*

So Obidiah began spending a few hours every day in his new roost in the giant gnarly old redwood named Tree, exploring his new domain, and gathering excellent sticks for making a big comfy nest.

*

Then it was Thursday again. Had it only been a week since Obidiah communed clairvoyantly with Isadora the red-haired human at Big River Beach and saw into her future and helped her escape her terrible marriage? Yes. Only a week.

So Obidiah began his Thursday by flying down to Big River Beach and meeting Isadora and her dog Groucho at the usual big driftwood log. And while Groucho wandered about, sniffing and pissing, Obidiah alighted on the log a few feet from Isadora and sent, “You’re looking radiant today. Love the purple coat. What news?”

“Oh Obidiah, I am so glad Jeff is gone,” she sent, smiling at him. “So glad. And you were right. He took almost everything in the house and the garage. So now I’m slowly replacing the things I need. Kitchen table, bed, bedding, things to cook with, plates, silverware, mugs. He never cooked, but he took everything in the kitchen. He even took the food from the refrigerator and emptied the wine cellar. But he couldn’t get my guitar and violin and a few other precious things I moved to my friend’s house before he came.”

“Excellent,” sent Obidiah, proud of Isadora. “Now tell me, who is Thomas?”

Isadora blushed. “A dear old friend. We played music together before I married Jeff and before Thomas married Andrea. Why do you ask?”

“Thomas will cut down a tree for you,” said Obidiah, seeing Isadora’s future as if he was watching a well-made movie. “The big pine that’s threatening to fall on your house. After the tree is down and you learn Thomas is no longer married, you will invite him for supper.”

“Really?” sent Isadora, gaping at Obidiah. “And then what happens?”

“That’s as far into your future as I can see today,” said Obidiah, though he could actually see a little further. “Now remember, that pine tree might fall any day now, so call Thomas soon. Today would be a fine day to call him.”

“I will,” she sent, beaming at Obidiah. “I brought you more chicken morsels cooked just the way you like them.”

“Wonderful,” sent Obidiah, his eyes growing wide as Isadora took a bulging plastic bag out of her pocket. “Would you mind leaving them in the bag so I can more easily transport them to my new digs?”

“Certainly,” sent Isadora, placing the bag on the log between them. “I’m so grateful to you.”

“As I am grateful to you,” sent Obidiah, nodding graciously.

“Next week?” sent Isadora, getting up from the log. “Same time, same log?”

“Yes,” sent Obidiah, grasping the bulging bag with his talons and flying away into the wild blue yonder.

*

His heart pounding from the exertion of flying all those miles with the heavy bag of delicious chicken morsels, Obidiah landed in the hollow high up in the trunk of Tree, opened the bag, and ate one of Isadora’s morsels.

“Oh yum,” said Obidiah, relishing the perfectly cooked chicken and thinking I wish I could share this feast with Magdalena.

At which moment, a few miles away in a roost on the banks of Jack Peters Creek, Magdalena heard Obidiah’s wish and set out to find him.

Missing You

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Raven Mystic Part 3

On the day after Madge the beautiful Cummings Lane gal raven turned down his marriage proposal, Obidiah the raven mystic decided to seek out his two non-raven bird friends, a gull named Marcus and a Red-tailed hawk named Harold, to get their opinions about how he might proceed with his life. In Obidiah’s experience, other species’ viewpoints were often helpful in resolving seemingly intractable raven dilemmas.

*

Harold the hawk oversaw a couple square miles of fields and orchards and wooded land between Cummings Lane and the coast. Harold and his mate Rose had a big nest at the top of a half-dead bull pine on the edge of a wooded ravine carved by a seasonal creek.

Obidiah and Harold became friends two years ago when Harold and Rose were establishing their territory and the local ravens would daily mob the hawks and chase them all over hell and gone. The ravens did this because the hawk couple who previously presided over Harold and Rose’s territory were notorious raven nest raiders, which Harold and Rose were not.

One day Obidiah happened to join a group of ravens mobbing Harold, and because Obidiah spoke fluent Hawk, he understood Harold when Harold cried plaintively, “Leave us alone. Please. We are not raven nest raiders. We are gopher, squirrel, snake, rabbit, vole hunters. We really don’t want to have to resort to killing some of you, but we will if you persist in mobbing us.”

So Obidiah brokered a peace between Harold and Rose and the Cummings Lane ravens, and thereafter Harold and Obidiah were friends.

Obidiah found Harold perched on a power line overlooking Harold and Rose’s Rodent Field 7, a level acre of land that the human owners left fallow, though this acre would have made an ideal apple orchard or vegetable farm.

Harold greeted Obidiah with his perpetual steely gaze, which Obidiah knew not to misconstrue.

“Obidiah,” said Harold, his voice fantastically high. “What brings you… excuse me.”

Harold then plummeted to the ground and snagged with his talons a big fat gopher he promptly tore to pieces with his beak.

“No matter how many times I see you do that,” said Obidiah, admiringly, “I’m amazed. Will you be taking that meat back to your nest?”

“No,” said Harold, devouring the shredded gopher flesh. “George and Naomi left the nest a couple months ago, and Rose is working Rodent Field 4 this morning. This is all mine. Want some?”

“Sure,” said Obidiah, alighting near Harold and waiting politely for the raptor to fling him a few bloody pieces.

When the gopher was no more, Harold and Obidiah flapped across the field and perched on another power line from where Harold could scan the field.

“As I started to ask,” said Harold, blinking at Obidiah, “before that delicious gopher emerged from his hole unawares… what brings you here today?”

“I’m seeking guidance,” said Obidiah, humbly. “I’ve found a marvelous roost in some fine unclaimed territory several miles north of here, but I don’t yet have a mate and I despair of any Cumming Lane raven gal wanting to settle so far afield. I’m not getting any younger and… well, I’m at a loss how to proceed.”

“Hawks, you know,” said Harold, his eyes fixed on the field, “do not live communally or even semi-communally, and we’re fortunate if we live half as long as your average raven. I got booted out of the nest and driven out of my parents’ territory when I was five-months-old and had to migrate to the far fringes of hawk civilization before I could stake my first claim on extremely marginal hunting grounds. For some months I survived on scrawny lizards and throat-tickling caterpillars and the occasional snake, but I persevered, met Rose, and together we claimed this paradise after the previous pair of hawks were electrocuted by a power surge. Then we had to fight off several other hawks who wanted this land, and then we had to survive months of mobbing by ravens until you came to the rescue. Since then things have been relatively marvelous. Which is all to say, if you were a hawk, you’d claim that territory you’re enamored of, get to know the lay of your land, and hope for good things to follow.”

“Even if one of the things to follow was a raven gal from another society?” asked Obidiah, his fear of Jack Peters Creek ravens inherited from hundreds of previous generations of Cummings Lane ravens.

“Heck yeah,” said Harold, seeming to glare at Obidiah, though he was merely being a hawk. “Love doesn’t care where we come from. Love only cares who we are and if we have that ineffable je ne sais quoi.”

*

Inspired by Harold’s thought-provoking ideas about love, Obidiah flew down to Big River Beach and found his gull pal Marcus standing on the outskirts of a sizeable congregation of other gulls gathered at the edge of a sand bar pecking in the wet sand for sand dabs.

A large gull, his feathers extra white from a recent bath in the river, Marcus was one of the few local gulls who enjoyed the company of ravens. Gulls and ravens compete for similar edibles and are frequently at odds, but Marcus was a most successful food getter and felt no threat from ravens. He was also a deep thinker and enjoyed discussing philosophical matters with Obidiah.

Marcus and Obidiah became acquainted when they were both young and learning how to forage for themselves. They kept bumping into each other while scoping out human picnickers at the beach, and on one such occasion Obidiah read the minds of the picnickers and learned they were going to leave their half-finished banquet unattended while they went for a walk. Being a generous sort, Obidiah shared this information with young Marcus, and when Obidiah and Marcus got away with an entire ham and cheese sandwich and a large bag of potato chips, which they shared, they became fast friends.

After a bit of chitchat about the weather and the fortuitous abundance of sand dabs, Obidiah described his marital territorial dilemma to Marcus.

“Regarding the far flung nesting option,” opined Marcus, “we would not be wrong in conflating that remote roost with the parable of the road less travelled. Ipso facto, this is a classic example of the artist’s dilemma.”

“Why do you say artist’s dilemma?” asked Obidiah, who didn’t consider himself an artist.

“By artist I mean an original thinker,” said Marcus, gazing at the horizon. “One who conceives of things and perceives reality in a wholly original way. A bird who finds little satisfaction in recapitulating the redundant patterns of the status quo. One who, and this is the key point, goes his or her own way in most matters. You may fail, Obidiah, but at least you will have tried and won’t regret not trying, if you will pardon my use of a double negative.”

“And what’s your take on marrying an outsider?” asked Obidiah, who enjoyed Marcus’s verbosity.

“Gulls are not ravens,” said Marcus, looking around at his numerous cohorts. “If you will excuse my stating the obvious. Every year we roam up and down the coast for hundreds of miles in either direction, gathering with our kind in great numbers hither and yon. Thus marrying outsiders is as common among gulls as not marrying outsiders. Keeps the gene pool jumping. Breaks the monotony of sameness.” He smiles. “I met my first wife Deb in Coos Bay. Talk about a tough gull. She relished barnacles and found icy weather tropical. When she choked on an enormous chicken bone and died, I mourned her for hours before marrying Conchita from La Paz. Ay caramba!”

“Okay then,” said Obidiah, feeling emboldened by the sum total of Harold and Marcus’s input. “One last question. The little beach where Jack Peters Creek meets the sea? Ever seen any ravens there?”

“Are humans omnivorous?” said Marcus, cackling. “The mouth of Jack Peters Creek is raven central. Especially at low tide.”

“Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to that little beach some upcoming low tide?” asked Obidiah, nodding hopefully. “I’d make it worth your while.”

“I’m sure you would,” said Marcus, grinning. “As it happens there’s a grandiloquent low tide on the morrow in the morning. I’ll talk some pals into coming with us so we can give you a little gull cover while you check out the Jack Peters Creek raven gals.”

“Thank you, Marcus,” said Obidiah, raising his wings to signify his gratitude. “I’ll meet you here tomorrow morning.”

“No problema mi amigo,” said Marcus, raising his wings in reply. “Tu mundo es mi mundo.”

Mystery Pastiche

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Raven Mystic Part 2

A few days after Obidiah the raven used his mystical proclivities to help Isadora the human move on from her unhappy marriage, and having impressed a gal raven named Madge with some succulent chicken morsels given to him by Isadora, Obidiah and Madge went to check out some territory Obidiah hoped would convince Madge to become his mate for life.

Madge was four, a year younger than Obidiah, and one of the most attractive unmarried gal ravens on that stretch of the northern California coast. She had been on the verge of committing to Halunga, the biggest raven for many miles around, when Isadora’s chicken morsels swayed her to give Obidiah a chance to make his marital case.

*

The sun was shining brightly on that cold October morning as Obidiah and Madge flew north from the end of Cummings Lane where Obidiah’s parents Doris and Tarkanda lived high in a giant redwood and Obidiah nested on a branch far below them. For this outing with Madge, Obidiah brought a picnic of an apple and the hindquarters of a car-struck squirrel to further enhance his credibility as a breadwinner. He also brought along a gold ring originally meant to reside on a human finger. He found the ring on the beach and wanted to have the beautiful bauble handy should Madge say Yes.

Having left the last road and house far behind, Obidiah and Madge alighted on a lower branch in a huge gnarly old redwood and Madge said, “It’s nice here, Obidiah, but we are so far from the nearest road or garbage can or house or familiar raven. In fact, we’re so far north we’re almost to…” She lowered her voice. “Jack Peters Creek and those psycho Jack Peters Creek ravens.”

“Wait until you see the place I found to make a nest,” said Obidiah, gazing at Madge and imagining the fun they would have procreating. “Fifty feet higher in this very tree.”

“I don’t know, Obidiah,” said Madge, trembling with trepidation. “We’re practically on another planet. Hard enough being a raven, let alone a wilderness pioneer raven.”

“Come see where we can build the most comfortable nest in the world,” said Obidiah, gently coaxing her. “Then we’ll dine on squirrel and if you’re still not convinced, I’ll fly with you back to Cummings Lane.”

So up they went, hopping from branch to branch until they came to a large hollow in the trunk of the old redwood, with spectacular views of the forest to the south and east, and a glimpse of the ocean to the west.

They devoured the squirrel, pecked at the juicy apple, and then Madge shook her head and said, “I’m sorry, Obidiah, but I can’t do this. Much as I like you and your delicious vittles, and much as I like this nesting spot, we’re too far from the creature comforts I’ve come to depend on. Halunga has promised me a pine tree penthouse on downtown Cummings Lane and nobody messes with him when he shows up at a road kill or a garbage spill, so…”

“I hear you,” said Obidiah, nodding. “Halunga will be a fine husband for you. I’ll fly you home now.”

“No need,” said Madge, eager to wing her way to Halunga and be done once and for all with courtship. “I’ll see you around the hood.”

And with that, she flew away.

*

Watching Madge grow small in the distance, Obidiah felt sad, but also relieved.

“She wasn’t really my type,” he sighed. “Not in a comprehensive way.”

“You can say that again,” said the spirit of the gnarly old giant redwood. “That gal operates entirely from a fear-based notion of reality, which is not your way at all.”

“Oh hey,” said Obidiah, happy to have his feelings confirmed by such a wise elder. “Nice to meet you. I’m Obidiah.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” said the tree. “I’m Tree. So when are you moving in? I’d love to have a mystic living in my trunk.”

“Well, first I have to win a mate,” said Obidiah, nodding to affirm this. “And if she likes this location, then we…”

“Says who?” asked Tree.

“That’s raven law,” said Obidiah, surprised Tree didn’t know that. “First the gal, then the roost, and then we build the nest together.”

“Seems counter-intuitive,” said Tree. “I mean… suit yourself, but if you love it here and you make this your home, you’ll attract gals who love this place, too.”

“Except no gal raven may love it here,” said Obidiah, anxiously. “And I certainly don’t want to isolate myself out of the running for a mate.”

“Maybe no gal ravens where you come from would want to live here,” said Tree. “But I know several Jack Peters Creek raven gals who would dig this pad and dig you, too. Totally.”

“What a concept,” said Obidiah, never having imagined marrying an outsider. “The mind boggles.”

“You can see into the future, right?” asked Tree.

“Not my own,” said Obidiah, shaking his head. “Only the futures of others.”

“Ah,” said Tree. “Of course.”

“How would I even go about meeting a Jack Peters Creek raven gal?” asked Obidiah, bewildered. “Wouldn’t I get attacked if I ventured into their territory?”

“Possibly,” said Tree. “But where you are now is nobody’s territory. Cummings Lane ravens venture here sometimes, as you did, and Jack Peters Creek ravens sometimes make scavenging trips to this neck of the woods. But no ravens live here. Not yet. And remember, you’re all the same species. Same sub-species, too. You have a few different customs and you speak different dialects of the same language. Cummings Lane ravens are symbiotic with humans, whereas Jack Peters Creek ravens rarely even see people. But I’m here to tell you, Obidiah, in the grand sweep of evolution, your differences are less than miniscule.”

“I appreciate your input,” said Obidiah, preparing for takeoff. “I shall ponder what you’ve told me.”

*

When he got back to familiar territory, Obidiah swung by his older brother Polyganda’s nest and found Polyganda’s wife Jan and her fledglings Sue and Romanulo eating mussels Jan brought home from the tide pools.

“Uncle Obidiah!” croaked Sue. “Did you bring us some food?”

“Don’t be rude, Sue,” said Jan, scolding her daughter. “Hi Obidiah. Your brother went to check out a fresh road kill. He should be back any minute. I’d offer you something to eat, but with these two growing so fast, well, you know.”

“Here comes Papa now,” said Romanulo, flapping his wings and accidentally whacking his sister in the face. “With gooey things in his talons. Whoopee!”

A moment later, Polyganda dropped the liver and heart of a small deer into the nest, and while Jan and the kids fed on the organs, Polyganda and Obidiah retired to a higher branch in the tree.

“Long time no see, my brother,” said Polyganda, who’d had his fill of deer meat before bringing home the innards. “What news? Other than Madge choosing Halunga over you. Or so the gossips say.”

“No news,” said Obidiah, who appreciated his brother’s penchant for cutting to the chase. “Just a question or two.”

You asking me questions?” said Polyganda, chuckling. “You’re the mystic, not me.”

“These are not questions of a mystical nature,” said Obidiah, smiling at his brother. “At least not overtly.”

“I see,” said Polyganda, knowing of Obidiah’s tendency to converse at length. “Would it be okay if we scavenge while we talk? I’d like to snag a bit more of that yearling deer before the vultures find the carcass. It’s a very fresh kill.”

“Fine with me,” said Obidiah, who was feeling a bit peckish. “Let’s go.”

So they flew swiftly to the east and ere long came to a dead deer lying by the roadside. Five ravens were feeding on the carcass, while drifting in the sky above them were two vultures awaiting the arrival of a few more vultures to help them drive away the ravens.

Polyganda grabbed a foot-long chunk of deer intestine, Obidiah ate a few bites of kidney, and they headed back to Polyganda’s nest.

“So,” said Obidiah, flying along beside his brother, “what would you think if I staked out my territory before I found a mate, and… what if I married a raven from outside our community?”

Polyganda alighted on the first convenient branch and set down the intestine. “If you weren’t a mystic, Obidiah, I’d say you were crazy. But you are a mystic and you’re a big help to the folks and your sibs and the community, so if you do things a little differently than the rest of us, I have no problem with that.”

“Good to know,” said Obidiah, cheered by his brother’s response. “And lastly, have you ever in your wanderings ventured into Jack Peters Creek territory?”

“Once,” said Polyganda, nodding solemnly. “Only once. And I’m lucky to be alive to tell the tale.”

“What happened?” asked Obidiah, gazing raptly at his brother.

“Read my mind,” said Polyganda, picking up the intestine and resuming the homeward journey.

Flying close together, Obidiah accessed his brother’s memory archives and saw Polyganda four years ago at the age of three following a gorgeous Jack Peters Creek raven gal through the forest and alighting with her on a rocky beach beside burbling Jack Peters Creek. Obidiah could see how greatly Polyganda loved the gal raven and how greatly the gal raven loved Polyganda. And as the gal raven and Polyganda began to nuzzle and chortle in the way of lovers, a gang of seven Jack Peters Creek ravens came swarming down upon them and Polyganda barely escaped with his life.

“You never told me,” said Obidiah as they came in sight of Polyganda’s nest. “Thank the spirits you survived.”

Polyganda delivered the intestine to Jan and the kids, and then he and Obidiah retired once more to a higher branch.

“Yes,” said Polyganda, quietly. “Thank the spirits I survived. But just between you and me, I left my heart on that rocky Jack Peters Creek beach. And I tell you, my brother, rarely a night goes by that I don’t dream of the life I might have had with Esmeralda.”

Incongroovity

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Raven Mystic Part 1

There once was a raven named Obidiah. He was five-years-old and belonged to a small community of ravens who roosted in the redwoods around Cummings Lane, a mile inland from the Pacific Ocean near the town of Melody.

Obidiah’s mother was Doris and his father was most likely Tarkanda. We say most likely because Doris was occasionally promiscuous and Tarkanda was often away from the marital nest, so…

In any case, Obidiah was of an age when he was expected to find his mate for life, secure a good roost and surrounding acreage, and settle into full-fledged adulthood. He was not averse to this, but had yet to convince a female raven to commit to nesting with him for the next ten to twenty years, the average lifespan of a Cummings Lane raven being around twenty years.

*

One cold October morning, Doris and Tarkanda were breakfasting on apples in their big nest of sticks tucked into a fortuitous indentation in the trunk of a giant redwood about seventy-feet above the forest floor.

“I’m concerned about Obidiah,” said Doris, giving Tarkanda a worried look. “He’s five, still hanging out with juveniles, and roosting way too close to us for a raven his age. He’s an excellent scavenger, does superb imitations and sound effects, and he’s great with fledglings. But for some reason the gals aren’t interested in him for the long haul. Would you talk to him? Encourage him? See if you can find out what the problem is?”

Tarkanda mused for a moment and said, “I know what the problem is.”

“You do?” said Doris, taken aback. “And you didn’t tell me? What is it?”

“He’s a mystic,” said Tarkanda, sighing heavily. “I didn’t tell you because I thought it would upset you, but since you asked.”

“You mean mystical?” said Doris, squinting at her husband. “All ravens are a little bit mystical, don’t you think?”

“Of course,” said Tarkanda, gazing out over his domain and reminding himself to gather the last of the huckleberries before the foxes and bears got to them. “But Obidiah is more than a little bit mystical. He’s a full-blown clairvoyant future-glimpsing spirit-channeling mystic.”

“How do you know?” asked Doris, blushing as she recalls her hanky-panky with Zalamagundi the medicine raven around the time she conceived the batch of eggs that produced Obidiah.

“I know he’s a mystic,” said Tarkanda, smiling at his wife, “because I’ve availed myself of his services on numerous occasions. For instance, these delectable apples came to us courtesy of Obidiah because he read the minds of the humans who protect these particular apple trees and then alerted me that those humans would be away for the day the apples attained optimal ripeness. Thus we were able to harvest several dozen of these delectable orbs unmolested.”

“He can read the minds of humans?” said Doris, aghast.

Tarkanda nodded. “Human minds, dog minds, cat minds, hawk minds, and raven minds, too. If it has a mind, Obidiah can read it.”

“Heavens,” said Doris, recalling the many times Obidiah gave her the very things and information she wanted before she asked for them. “Our son is a polymath.”

“Yet he seems to be largely unaware of his powers,” said Tarkanda, thinking ahead to meeting up with his pal Jolanga for a few hours of scavenging. “Gal ravens pick up on that sort of thing even if they aren’t exactly sure what they’re picking up on. You know what I mean? An ineffable otherness in his vibe.”

“I do know what you mean,” said Doris, nodding. “He seems not entirely of this world.”

“Because he’s not,” said Tarkanda, pecking his apple. “So I figure if he lives nearby as a bachelor for the rest of his life, so be it. He’s a fount of useful information, entirely self-sustaining, and he’s a good beak to have on our side in a fight.”

*

Obidiah, mystical talents notwithstanding, was a large good-natured raven who very much wanted to find a wonderful lifemate and secure some territory and build a commodious nest in which he and his wife would produce several generations of fledglings to protect and feed and educate.

And contrary to what Tarkanda surmised, Obidiah was well aware of his ability to communicate clairvoyantly and see into the future. As for spirit channeling, Obidiah didn’t channel anything. Nature spirits talked to him and he talked to them, just as he would converse with other ravens. In other words, Obidiah was multi-dimensionally multi-lingual.

As for reading the minds of humans, Obidiah could do much more than that. He had the uncanny ability to discern what was troubling a person and see solutions for their troubles. The problem was, and this was hugely frustrating to Obidiah, most humans neither spoke the language of ravens, nor were they able to communicate clairvoyantly. Thus Obidiah was unable to help many people for whom he had solutions to what vexed them.

*

On that same fall morning when Doris learned Obidiah was, in the words of Tarkanda, a full-blown mystic, Obidiah glided away from the little single-raven nest he’d constructed on a lower branch in his parents’ redwood tree, and made his way through a stiff breeze to the beach parking lot where every morning humans and dogs came to walk on the beach at the mouth of Big River.

Obidiah visited this beach several times a week in search of food and shiny gewgaws, and he always went there on Thursday mornings because on Thursday mornings a particular human always went there, too, a woman with whom Obidiah could converse clairvoyantly. Her name was Isadora. She had a large brown dog named Groucho, an ironic name given that Groucho was quite good-natured. Sometimes Obidiah would converse with Groucho, too, but he was most interested in Isadora who was forty-seven, wore her reddish brown hair in a pony tail, had jade green eyes, and Obidiah thought she was beautiful and moved with unusual grace for a human.

Isadora and Groucho would walk from the beach parking lot to the north end of the beach, a distance of a mile, and on their way back Isadora would sit on the same big driftwood log and gaze out to sea. Groucho would wander around nearby, sniffing and pissing, and Obidiah would alight on the log a few feet from Isadora.

*

On this particular Thursday morning, just as the sun was breaking through the coastal fog, Obidiah arrived at the beach parking lot and perched atop a scraggly pine tree overlooking the parade of humans and dogs coming and going from the beach, their emotional conundrums as obvious to Obidiah as the need for food and water.

He sent messages to the humans as they went by, messages such as, “Stop doubting yourself, Arnold. Give Beth a call. You know she likes you,” and “You’ve been drinking way too much coffee lately, Sara. That’s the source of at least half your anxiety,” and “Procrastination is your biggest enemy, Larry. Clean your desk. At the bottom of the clutter you will find a story you started writing months ago. When you realize how good this story is, your writer’s block will vanish.”

Alas, no one paid any attention to Obidiah, so he flew off to meet Isadora and Groucho.

*

When Obidiah came in sight of the big driftwood log, Isadora was already sitting in her customary place and Groucho was nearby sniffing the news at a popular pissing spot.

Obidiah alighted on the log a few feet from Isadora and sent, “Love those silver earrings. My kind of gewgaws. So… did you get up the nerve to confront Jeff?”

Isadora beamed at Obidiah and said, “I did. I finally did. And everything you said would happen happened. I’m still kind of in shock.”

Then Obidiah accessed Isadora’s memory archives and watched her say to her husband of seventeen years, “If you ever treat me cruelly again or lie to me or demean me or expect me to keep cleaning up your messes, this marriage is over.”

“Bravo,” sent Obidiah.

“And as you predicted,” said Isadora, gazing into Obidiah’s eyes, “he tried to appease me with the same old promises. But he was obviously lying, so I told him to get out and he collapsed on the sofa and blubbered, ‘But where will I go?’ And also as you predicted, I knew he expected me to relent and comfort him, and I could feel how much I wanted to because it’s my lifelong pattern to accommodate my abusers when they cry and act helpless. But I stayed strong and said, ‘I don’t care where you go. Just get out. Now.’ And then he turned nasty and said he wasn’t going anywhere. I reminded him the house was mine, that I owned the place before we got married, and he snarled at me and got a beer out of the refrigerator and sprawled on the sofa and turned on the television. So I did what you told me to do. I called the sheriff. And when Jeff heard me talking to the dispatcher, he turned off the television and said, ‘Okay, I’m going.’ Then he packed some things, took our new car, and left. That was five days ago. And every day I don’t see him, the better I feel.”

“Fantastic,” sent Obidiah, lifting his wings in a gesture of praise. “Now listen carefully. When you get home from the beach today, remove everything you value from your house and give those things into the care of a trusted friend. Jeff will return to your house tomorrow morning with a big truck and two accomplices. He will not forewarn you. It is imperative, Isadora, that you not be there when he comes, nor should you do anything to prevent him from taking what he wants. He will take many things, but don’t worry. Anything he takes is of no real value to you. Return to your home tomorrow afternoon. He will never come back again.”

Isadora opened her eyes and said, “Thank you.”

Then she reached into her jacket pocket and brought forth a small plastic bag containing seven juicy nuggets of chicken, which she arrayed on the log between them.

“Oh you shouldn’t have,” sent Obidiah, the smell of the succulent meat causing him to do a little jig of gratitude.

“It’s the least I could do,” said Isadora, rising to go. “I’ll see you next week. Same time, same log.”

“Yes you will,” sent Obidiah, gulping down one of the morsels. “Oh I love what you’ve done here. Freshly slaughtered fowl lightly sautéed in coconut oil with a hint of salt and a whisper of red wine. Divine.”

“I’ll bring more next week,” said Isadora, waving to him as she walked away.

*

Well-fed, and overjoyed he was able to help Isadora get rid of Jeff, Obidiah decided to take the last two succulent morsels of chicken to his current crush Madge, who might not have been the brainiest of ravens, but what a silhouette!

 If You Will

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 8

An hour before dawn, a sharp chill in the air telling of the nearness of winter, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro ate the last of Cassius’s kibble and walked through the gravestones to a big iron gate at the downhill edge of the graveyard. They crawled under the gate and found themselves in a neighborhood of two and three-story apartment buildings, some old and stately, some more recently built and resembling stacked boxes, the wide streets framed with sidewalks.

“The land of no trees,” said Huleekalabulee, sorrowfully. “Maybe I don’t want to live at the beach. I dearly love trees. The more the merrier.

“I, too, love trees and open country,” said Toshiro, wary of this treeless place. “I wouldn’t mind living where Cassius lives. But first we will walk on the beach and then we’ll see what the fates have in store for us.”

The streets of apartment buildings gave way to a commercial district of two-story buildings with shops on the ground floors, apartments on the second floors. Huleekalabulee and Toshiro saw a young woman unlocking the front door of a bakery. She turned to watch the two handsome hounds go by and she called out to them, her voice full of music and kindness, and both Huleekalabulee and Toshiro felt sure she would not call Animal Control.

“I like her voice,” said Huleekalabulee, looking back at the woman. “Maybe she would like to be my person.”

“Go to her and see,” said Toshiro, resolutely. “But I’m going to the beach, with or without you.”

“No,” said Huleekalabulee, nudging Toshiro. “I’m with you.”

Beyond the streets of shops, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro found themselves in a neighborhood of all sorts of houses on wide streets without sidewalks, the ocean roaring faintly in the distance. Some of these houses were large, some small, some old, some new. Some of the houses had yards with trees and gardens, and some of the houses were so large they filled their lots entirely.

“Fascinating mix of abodes,” said Toshiro, looking every which way. “Speaks of all kinds of different kinds of people living around here. And the air is rich with the scents of myriad dogs and cats. Thus we may deduce that animal people abound here.”

They stopped in front of an old two-story house with red trim around the windows and a turquoise front door, a big cypress tree in the backyard, the large grassy lot surrounded by a low fence.

“Now wouldn’t this be a nice place to settle down,” said Huleekalabulee, imagining living there.

“Fat chance,” said a medium-sized black and tan mutt with pointy ears. “I got this turf covered. Move along now or I’ll start yapping.”

“Yap not, brother,” said Toshiro, speaking quietly to quell the dog’s impulse to bark. “We were merely admiring your good fortune.”

“If you like cats,” said the dog, grimly. “Mimi, that’s my person, has seven of those slinky felines. Can you imagine? Seven. Large. I’m seriously outnumbered and always the last one fed, the last one petted. You hounds going to the beach? Better hurry. Once the sun comes up, Animal Control starts cruising the coast road looking for dogs without people.”

“Might we hide in your yard after we’ve seen the sea?” asked Huleekalabulee, hopefully. “We’d be as still as stones and quiet as mice.”

“Sorry,” said the mutt, shaking his head. “Mimi hates stray dogs. Years ago she lost a favorite kitty to a vagabond hound. Only reason she keeps me is she inherited me from her daughter Katrina when Katrina went off to college. I’d give you the long version but you better get going. Sun will be up in an hour.”

So Huleekalabulee and Toshiro hurried away, their progress punctuated by barks and growls from sequestered dogs responding to the scents of strangers.

*

At last they came to the beach, a wide expanse of sand stretching far to the south and even farther to the north. Huleekalabulee recognized the glorious vistas and oceanic odors from his visits here with Mom and Jurgen and Venus, and he raised his snout to the lingering half-moon and moaned in memory of those halcyon days.

For Toshiro’s part, when he felt the sand beneath his paws, he burst into song.

I’ve dreamt of you most every night

Through thick and thin and countless plights

But nothing that I ever dreamed

Could match the real you

Then Huleekalabulee and Toshiro ran together to the edge of the sea and gamboled in the welcoming waves before they trotted north for a mile or so, chasing gulls, racing each other, running for the pure joy of running.

Happily winded, they reversed direction and walked south for a while, finally sitting down side-by-side to watch in wonder as the sun brought color to the world and the ocean changed from gray to blue.

“This takes the cake of all cakes,” said Huleekalabulee, gazing at the endless waves spending themselves on the shore. “No wonder I want to live here.”

“I am fulfilled,” said Toshiro, sighing profoundly. “It matters not what happens now, for my dreams have become reality.”

Toshiro then walked a few paces toward the water, turned to face Huleekalabulee, and performed a ceremonial dance full of graceful turns.

When his dance was done, Toshiro said, “You, dear Huleekalabulee, judging me worthy of your friendship, guided me here, for which I will be forever thankful.”

Moved by Toshiro’s words and dance, Huleekalabulee walked a few paces away from Toshiro, turned to face him, rose up on his hind legs, spun around in a circle, and then bowed low to his valiant friend.

And as the hounds performed these rituals of thanksgiving, a man was watching them with binoculars from the deck of his house overlooking the beach.

“Honey,” said the man, calling through the open door to his wife who was in the kitchen making coffee. “You must come see these two remarkable dogs.”

His wife came out to him and together they watched Huleekalabulee bow to Toshiro, and Toshiro bow to Huleekalabulee.

“If they don’t have tags,” said the man, his eyes full of tears, “I want them.”

“Me, too,” said his wife. “You call them while I find some enticing comestibles.”

*

And that is how Huleekalabulee and Toshiro came to live with Edward and Fiona in the wooden house overlooking the beach. Those two dogs, let me tell you, were as happy as two dogs could ever be and had so many adventures together it would take a very fat book to recount them all, for both Huleekalabulee and Toshiro lived to ripe old ages.

Not that Edward and Fiona didn’t have other animals. They certainly did. Their old dachshund Desdemona slept under their bed, their enormous black cat Juneau was queen of the living room sofa, their tortoise Warp 5 spent his daytime hours patrolling the backyard dune grass, and their sassy red and green parrot Buckminster Fuller lived in a gigantic cage in the sunniest corner of the kitchen.

But in the grand scheme of things, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro were definitely the apples, so to speak, of Edward and Fiona’s eyes.

fin

one of the times Rex came to visit

Todd and Marcia perform Beautiful

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 7

Their tummies and saddlebags full of Cassius’s kibble, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro bade the gracious old hound adieu and skedaddled from the stables before the horse people arrived for the day.

Encountering no traffic, they raced along the road to the pullover and made their way down a slender trail through brittle brush to a narrow creek bed, the creek barely a trickle as Cassius had foretold.

“I’m always enormously relieved to get off a road, aren’t you?” said Toshiro, stopping to have a drink from a pool of water.

“Roads are death to dogs and cats and all living things,” said Huleekalabulee, quoting his mother. “Not to mention being hard on the paws.”

“Roads are somebody else’s idea of how to go,” said Toshiro, listening to the leaves of the maple trees clatter in a sudden breeze. “I prefer finding my own way.”

“I appreciate the suggestion of a trail,” said Huleekalabulee, watching sunlight touch the tops of the trees. “Rather than something set in stone.”

“So tell me, friend,” said Toshiro, as they made their way downstream. “Why are you going to the beach?”

“Well,” said Huleekalabulee, taking a deep breath. “I just turned one and my mom booted me out of her place, so now I’m seeking a home and the requisite person to provide me with that home. From Mom’s house I went to the top of Bullwinkle Butte and looked out over the town and the mountains to the north and south and east of the town, and then I looked to the west and thought if I could live anywhere I’d like to live at the beach. Why? Because Mom’s people used to take my mom and my brother Jurgen and my sister Venus and me to the beach, and we always had a fantastic time chasing balls into the surf and swimming, so… why are you going to the beach?”

“Where to begin?” said Toshiro, looking up at the brightening sky. “I am two. When I was one, the people who got me when I was a wee pup took me way out into the mountains of Colorado and left me there. At first I thought they’d forgotten me and would soon come back, but they didn’t come back, and thus began my wandering.”

“How terrible,” said Huleekalabulee, his heart going out to Toshiro.

“No worse than what happened to you,” said Toshiro, shaking his head. “Abandoned by your own mother. I tell you, my friend, the world is full of abandoned dogs, abandoned cats, even abandoned people. But what can we do? We must try to live.”

“True,” said Huleekalabulee, nodding. “But why the beach?”

“To be continued,” said Toshiro, stopping abruptly. “I think we have come to where Cassius said we would find hiding places galore. And since the sun is now shining brightly, I suggest we find our hiding place for the day.”

Indeed, they had come to where the creek bed widened dramatically and there were willow trees and thickets of shrubs and brambles. After a quick search, they found a commodious space beneath a tangle of blackberry vines, and there they hunkered down for the remaining daylight hours.

*

“So,” said Huleekalabulee when he and Toshiro were sprawled comfortably in their lair. “You were about to tell me why you want to go to the beach.”

“Yes,” said Toshiro, collecting his thoughts. “Unlike you, I have never been to the beach. In fact, I have never even seen the ocean except…” He paused portentously. “In my dreams.”

“You’ve never been to the beach or seen the ocean?’ said Huleekalabulee, dumfounded. “You’ve been wandering for a year and never been to a beach?”

“I have been traveling west since the day I was abandoned,” said Toshiro, nodding gravely. “I have traversed mighty mountain ranges, swam across countless rivers, crossed vast plains and prairies and deserts, my journey guided by my dreams.”

“Wow,” said Huleekalabulee, shaking his head in wonder. “What you’ve done makes my quest seem like a miniscule insignificant itsy bitsy barely anything.”

“Every day is a lifetime,” said Toshiro, solemnly. “Every moment holds a universe of possibilities. Your quest is as grand as mine. You’re just nearer the beginning of yours.”

“But why do you want to go to the ocean?” asked Huleekalabulee, in awe of Toshiro.

“I want to go to the ocean,” said Toshiro, smiling, “to fulfill the imperative of my dreams. Beyond getting to the beach and walking on the sand, I have no plans.”

“You’re not seeking a person?” asked Huleekalabulee, perplexed. “A home? A bed? Food? Affection?”

“First I will walk on the sand and listen to the roaring waves,” said Toshiro, closing his eyes and imagining strolling on the beach. “Then I’ll consider my options.”

“I shall attempt to emulate you,” said Huleekalabulee, pondering Toshiro’s words. “First the beach, then the person.”

*

As dusk descends, Huleekalabulee and Toshiro emerge from the blackberry tangle and continue their journey down the creek bed for another hour until they encounter a tall wall of stone blocking their way, the wall pierced by a large ceramic drain pipe clogged with branches.

“Here we must ascend,” said Toshiro, giving Huleekalabulee a questioning look. “Do we go up the right embankment or the left embankment?”

“Right,” said Huleekalabulee, remembering the wall of stone he and Rex encountered two days ago.

“Why right?” asked Toshiro, squinting curiously at Huleekalabulee.

“Because I hear traffic sounds to the left,” said Huleekalabulee, “and my instinct is to avoid traffic whenever possible.”

“A dog after my own heart,” said Toshiro, leading the way up the embankment. “Right it is.”

And their choice proved propitious for they found themselves inside the graveyard Rex told Huleekalabulee to seek.

“Ah,” said Toshiro, surveying the vast sloping field dotted with crosses and gravestones. “A burial ground. I wonder why Rex told you to come here.”

“He said this was the last place on our way to the beach where he was certain we could find a safe place to sleep until the hour before dawn. From here, he said, we must try to reach the beach before sunrise.”

“Ooh I love the idea of being on the beach at sunrise,” said Toshiro, excitedly. “Let’s find a good place to while away the hours swapping stories.”

They found a nice spot in a grove of Japanese maples overlooking the town below, lights going on in myriad houses as the sun went down.

“So,” said Toshiro, lying on his back as the first stars of the evening came into the sky, “what’s the most exciting thing that ever happened to you, Huleekalabulee?”

“Until a couple days ago,” said Huleekalabulee, thinking back over his life, “I would have said going to the beach with my mom and sibs was by far the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. But now I’d say it was when I practiced animal husbandry with a beautiful hound named Mona.”

“Ooo la la,” said Toshiro, bouncing his eyebrows. “You lucky hound, you.”

“How about you?” asked Huleekalabulee, sighing at memories of Mona. “What’s the most exciting thing that ever happened to you?”

“Oh heavens,” said Toshiro, pondering the question. “So many exciting moments to choose from. But I suppose nothing can quite compare to the time I slid down a snow-covered mountainside, landed in a raging river and was swept downstream for several miles to a rocky beach where I was pursued by a huge brown bear. I outran the raging beast to the top of a ridge, raced down a dirt road and came to a cabin where a man chopping wood stopped chopping and picked up his rifle to shoot at me, the bullets missing me by inches.”

“It’s a miracle you’re alive,” said Huleekalabulee, gazing in wonder at Toshiro.

“It’s a miracle any of us are alive,” said Toshiro, nodding sagely. “Every day a gift, every moment a universe of possibilities.”

“Hey maybe we’ll find a person who wants both of us,” said Huleekalabulee, smiling at the thought of sharing the rest of his life with Toshiro.

“Maybe so,” said Toshiro, yawning. “But also maybe not. Only time will tell.”

Mystery Jump

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 6

Huleekalabulee woke to roseate fingers of dawn tickling the eastern sky. His stomach growled and he thought of Rex saying, “Actually food is everything. Food and a dry place to sleep.”

“I see his point,” said Huleekalabulee, donning his now empty saddlebags and emerging from his cozy den. “I don’t entirely agree, but I see his point.”

After knocking over a garbage can and dining on two perfectly good pieces of pepperoni pizza, Huleekalabulee trotted north on the narrow two-lane road that followed the contours of the lake until he came to the four-way intersection Rex called The Place Where You Must Make A Momentous Decision.

“If I go straight,” said Huleekalabulee, recalling Rex’s description, “I will enter a vast wilderness, the next town many miles to the north. If I turn right, I will be on a road that climbs for a few miles to the top of a mountain and goes no further, the mountain also a wild place where no dog can survive for long. If I turn left I will descend into town and be heading due west toward the beach. And if I choose the town way, I will first enter a neighborhood of old houses surrounded by orchards and pastures, then I must traverse a neighborhood of apartment buildings and stores, and should I survive all that, I will finally arrive in a neighborhood of many kinds of houses beyond which lies the beach and the deep blue sea.”

Huleekalabulee looked back the way he came and was tempted to retrace his steps and hang out near Rex and Myron and hope for the best. And he might have done so had not a large brown and white and black dog come loping up from the lake to engage in conversation with Huleekalabulee.

“I say,” said the large brown and white and black dog, his accent distinctly British, his size approximately Huleekalabulee’s, “would you happen to know the best way to get to the beach from here? Best as in least likely to be attacked by wild animals, vicious dogs, and irrational human beings?”

“Left,” said Huleekalabulee, nodding. “You would turn left here and descend into town. Or so I’ve been told. That’s what I’m about to do. Go left. Though in truth, I’m lost. You?”

“I used to feel lost,” said the dog, nodding sympathetically. “When I first set out on my journey many moons ago I felt utterly lost, helplessly lost, miserably lost, irredeemably lost. Now I don’t feel so much lost as in search of, if you get the distinction.”

“I do,” said Huleekalabulee, cautiously approaching the dog. “You seem like a decent sort. I love your accent and how your use of words verges on the poetic. No. Spills over into the poetic. Should you have an equally positive impression of me, maybe we could go in search of together.”

“Love to,” said the dog, sensing in Huleekalabulee a noble soul. “Safety in numbers. Joy in companionship. I’m Toshiro. My mother was an Anglo-Scottish border collie with a touch of English Deer Hound, my father a purebred Bazenji. What’s your name?”

“Huleekalabulee,” said Huleekalabulee. “My mother is a Golden Retriever, my father a big brown mutt of unknown antecedents.”

“Say your name again, please,” said Toshiro, the look on his face suggesting both amusement and curiosity.

“Huleekalabulee.”

“Sounds distinctly mystical to my ears,” said Toshiro, nodding thoughtfully. “An incantation. A beckoning of the spirits.”

“Which spirits are those?” asked Huleekalabulee, greatly relieved to have found a likeable companion.

“Friendly spirits,” said Toshiro, heading west with Huleekalabulee. “I’ve had enough unfriendliness to last a lifetime.”

*

As Rex foretold, their road descended from the lake into a region of old houses surrounded by orchards and pastures and fields.

“Soon the people will be getting out of their beds,” said Toshiro, scanning the area for likely places to hide. “My instinct is to rustle up something to eat before the sun arises and either lay low until dusk or find a less-travelled path.”

“Agreed,” said Huleekalabulee, liking the way Toshiro’s mind worked. “The hound who told me about this way to the beach said there is a place near here where people come to ride horses. He said he’s often had good luck with the garbage cans thereabouts.”

“Excellent info, my friend, coinciding with a whiff of horse poo,” said Toshiro, wrinkling his nose. “Ergo, horses must be coming up soon. Might be guard dogs. Often are when horses are involved, but certainly worth a look-see.”

Another hundred yards of fast trotting brought them to a wide gravel drive transecting fenced pastures before ending in a large parking area at a big outdoor riding ring and stables, no people in evidence. There was, however, a large elderly hound on guard, his once black coat now speckled with gray.

“Halt. Who goes there?” said the old hound, his voice deep and gruff.

“Couple of friendly young chaps looking for breakfast,” said Toshiro, stopping several yards from the old fellow. “I’m Toshiro. This is none other than Huleekalabulee. We heard tell of a cornucopious garbage can hereabouts.”

“Aye,” said the old hound, showing no signs of aggression. “Right over there. Full of yesterday’s after-school snacks. Moms bring their daughters to ride horses. The girlies throw most of the food away except for the candy bars. Won’t be much good in there, but you’re welcome to what you can find. Or you can have my leftovers from yesterday. The stable people always fill my bowls with kibble before they close up for the night and I never eat more than half a bowl by morning, not since I lost most of my teeth.”

“What a good job you have,” said Huleekalabulee, smiling at the old hound. “You ever have any trouble?”

“Back in the day,” said the old hound, clearing his throat, “I’d chase away the occasional mountain lion. And one night a horse thief tried to get by me and I caused such a ruckus he fled, but for the last few years things have been pretty quiet. My name is Cassius Andronicus Magnanimous, by the way, but everybody calls me Cassius.”

After a quick peek into the garbage can, Toshiro bowed to Cassius and said, “We would love to nibble your kibble, kind sir.”

“This way,” said Cassius, leading them to his little house attached to the stables. “The horse people will be here as soon as the sun takes to the sky above the hills. You don’t want those people seeing you or they’ll call Animal Control faster than you can say Jack Robinson.”

“Can you recommend a hiding place?” asked Toshiro, gladdened by the sight of two brimming bowls of kibble.

“Aye,” said Cassius, squinting at the brightening sky. “Half-mile down the road here you’ll come to a pullover on your right. From there you can follow a deer trail down the steep embankment to the creek that’s but a trickle this time of year. Follow the trickle downstream a few hundred yards and you’ll find hiding places galore.”

“Can we follow the creek all the way to the ocean?” asked Huleekalabulee, pausing in his kibble devouring to look at the Cassius.

“As for the ocean,” said Cassius, shaking his head, “I cannot say if the creek bed goes that far. I’ve never gone beyond the graveyard because the trees and fields end at the graveyard and thereafter all is concrete and terrible roads. I’m no coward, but such a place terrifies me.”

“Ah the graveyard,” said Huleekalabulee, his eyes lighting up. “That’s where Rex said we should spend the night.”

“Rex?” said Cassius, blinking at Huleekalabulee. “Did you say Rex? Big chocolate ridgeback?”

“You know Rex?” said Huleekalabulee, excitedly. “He’s… he’s my grandfather.”

“Well I’ll be a blue-nosed gopher,” said Cassius, grinning at Huleekalabulee. “Rex and I go way back. When did you last see him?”

“Just yesterday,” said Huleekalabulee, overcome by a wave of nostalgia for the good old day. “He’s still going strong at twelve.”

“Good to know,” said Cassius, smiling at memories of Rex. “Good to know. Rex and I met many a time and oft in our salad days whilst courting the same dames. Came to snarling and snapping at each other a few times, but we never had a serious fight. Terrific hound, Rex. Say hello for me if you ever see him again.”

“I will,” said Huleekalabulee, the serendipitous unfolding of the day filling him with hope. “I most certainly will.”

Sugar Mornings

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The Dog Who Wanted A Person Part 5

Later that morning, Rex and Huleekalabulee reached the park beyond Mona’s park, a forest of oaks and pines surrounding a man-made lake where people came to picnic and camp and ply the waters in canoes and kayaks and small sailboats. Hiding places were less abundant than in Mona’s park, but Rex led Huleekalabulee to a huge old oak tree with a hollow trunk quite removed from the nearest camp or trail.

“Here’s where we part ways,” said Rex, giving Huleekalabulee a friendly nudge. “A pleasure knowing you.”

“Likewise,” said Huleekalabulee, returning the nudge. “When I get settled with my person or people, I shall endeavor to come visit you, if you wouldn’t mind a visit from me now and then.”

“You’re always welcome to drop by if you’re in the hood,” said Rex, gazing fondly at Huleekalabulee. “Don’t make a special trip just for me.”

“But you are special to me,” said Huleekalabulee, with a tear in his eye. “You’re the closest thing to a father I ever had.”

“Bit of advice,” said Rex, winking at Huleekalabulee. “Sentimentality won’t fill an empty stomach. Kapish?”

“I know,” said Huleekalabulee, shrugging. “But food isn’t everything.”

“Actually it is,” said Rex, turning to go. “Food and a dry place to sleep. See ya.”

And Rex was gone.

 *

Huleekalabulee ate a few hunks of turkey jerky, ruminated about life, and realized he was not actually longing for a person. In fact, he didn’t particularly like most of the people he’d met so far in his life.

“I like dogs,” he said, looking out of his tree-trunk den, the day sunny and warm. “I like Rex and Myron, and I even like Drago and Killer. And I really really really like Mona.”

“Do tell,” said a husky female voice.

“Mona!” said Huleekalabulee, bounding out of his den. “What are you doing here?”

“Need a little more good loving, Honey Boy,” she said, kissing him. “You up for that?”

“Do dogs bark?” said Huleekalabulee, spinning around in a circle. “You bet I’m up for it. And then we’ll go back to your ranch and live happily ever after. Okay?”

“You are such a romantic,” she said, kissing him again. “But no. Not a chance. The last thing Diana wants is another dog.”

“But what if you have puppies as a result of our loving?” asked Huleekalabulee, nuzzling Mona.

“No if about it, Sweet Stuff,” said Mona, dizzy with lust. “Ten weeks from now… puppy time.”

“Okay when you have puppies. Then Diana will have several more dogs. So why not me, too? Please? You’ll love living with me. I’ll help with the pups, keep you warm on cold winter nights, and any time you want to…”

“No more talk, Lover Boy,” said Mona, leading him into the hollow trunk. “Right now we’re all about animal husbandry. You the husband, I the animal.”

*

Their tryst at end, Mona sighed contentedly and said, “Huleekalabulee, you’ve done well. I am indubitably enceinte. Many thanks for your copious contributions to the procreative process. Now I’m gonna trot home, eat a hearty meal, take a long nap, and get ready for the coming of the pups.”

“You’re sure you don’t want to introduce me to Diana?” said Huleekalabulee, longing to go with Mona. “If you like me, she probably will, too. Don’t you think?”

“Please don’t take this wrong,” said Mona, looking into Huleekalabulee’s eyes, “but the truth is… I don’t like males. Dogs or people. Diana feels the same way. You were a superb mate, but this will be my one and only litter, so… sayonara Daddy-O.”

“Wait,” said Huleekalabulee, following her out of the den into the bright light of day. “You don’t like me? You sure seemed to like me? You even gave me a slew of new nicknames reflecting how much you seemed to like me. Honey Boy. Sweet Stuff. Lover Boy. And lastly Daddy-O. Those are terms of endearment. Right?”

“I desired you,” said Mona, matter-of-factly. “Craved your vital ingredients. But I don’t need you anymore. I love Diana and she loves me. I want no one else, person or dog. And when you find your person you’ll understand where I’m coming from.”

“But I don’t particularly like people,” protested Huleekalabulee. “I like dogs.”

“I hear you,” said Mona, trotting away. “You’re a dog dog. I’m a person dog. A one-female-person dog. Some dogs are people dogs. Some dogs are even cat dogs. As you move through life you will discover there are all kinds of different kinds of dogs. Nature or nurture? Who can say?”

“May I at least come visit the pups?” asked Huleekalabulee, calling after her. “I’d love to see the combos resulting from the mingling of our potentialities.”

“Please don’t,” said Mona, glancing back at him one last time. “You won’t be welcome.”

*

“Gosh,” said Huleekalabulee, hunkering down in the hollow trunk of the ancient oak and consoling himself with his last few pieces of turkey jerky. “So far my quest isn’t turning out like any of the inspirational dog stories I used to listen to with Mom.”

Then he drifted off to sleep and dreamt he lived on a beautiful farm with Myron and Rex and Zazu and Mona.

When he woke a few hours later, he was thirsty and hungry and sad. But rather than mope around feeling sorry for himself, he went in search of water and vittles.

Water was easy. The lake was nearby, the water tasty, and his oak tree den was in the least visited part of the park, so there were few people around. He waded into the lake up to his knees, had a good long drink, and then followed his nose through the woods to a clearing where four people were sitting at a large wooden picnic table eating hamburgers and French fries.

One of the four people was a woman, the other three her children. Huleekalabulee watched the foursome from behind a tree at the edge of the clearing, and he could tell at a glance the woman would chase him away if he approached. However, he felt fairly certain that one or more of the children might be inclined to feed him. In his one year of life, Huleekalabulee had learned that the younger the person, the more likely he or she would be to give him food or be easy to take food from.

After several minutes of patiently watching and waiting, Huleekalabulee was pleased to see the woman get up from the table and go away with the oldest of the three children. This left the two youngest children at the table: a four-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy.

When the woman did not immediately return, Huleekalabulee trotted across the clearing to within ten feet of the picnic table and performed a few of the many tricks Mom’s people, Alex and Monica Kronkite, had taught him. He spun around in a circle three times, went up on his hind legs, and then lay down and covered his eyes with his paws.

“He’s so cute,” said the little girl. “Can I feed him, Larry?”

“Mom said we’re not supposed to,” said Larry, looking to see if their mother was returning, which she was not.

“I don’t even want the rest of my hamburger,” said the little girl, pouting. “Or my French fries. Please, Larry. Can I?”

“Okay,” said Larry, who not so secretly wanted to feed the dog, too. “He seems nice.”

So the little girl flung her half-finished burger and bun at Huleekalabulee and he caught the mess mid-air and swallowed the entirety in a single gulp.

Excited by the dog’s remarkable dexterity, Larry threw a succession of French fries in Huleekalabulee’s direction and the agile hound caught them before they hit the ground.

“Do more tricks,” said Lena, clapping her hands.

No problem thought Huleekalabulee, sitting on his haunches and pawing at the air, his theatrical begging inspiring Larry to fling an entire burger, sans bun, to the hungry hound.

As he deftly caught the burger with his incisors, Huleekalabulee saw the children’s mother returning, and so ran away to dine on the burger in the privacy of his lair.

“That was lucky,” he said, licking his nose to garner the last remnants of burger grease. “And now I will wait until tomorrow when, at the crack of dawn, I will make my way to the next place Rex told me about where I hope to safely sequester as I make my way to the beach.”

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