It was dark and it was raining. Not raining a lot, just enough to make the road shiny and us a little bit wet. I didn’t mind. The tall trees dripped big wet drops over our heads and the bike wheels went “chhhhhh” on the shiny wet road as it curved and started to go uphill. D-O-G and I were riding in the big cart behind the bike, with the keyboard and some clothes and blankets and a lot of other things that I don’t know the human words for. My name is Girly-Girl and I am a dog. D-O-G is a dog, too.
It was the way we would usually go to go home, but I was pretty sure we weren’t going home now. Dudeman, D-O-G, and I all live together in a tent in the woods not far from town. Dudeman is our human and he fixes the tent with tape when it breaks. He hung a big plastic sheet above it so we won’t get wet when it rains. When it’s warm we all sleep outside and when it’s not we sleep in the tent. There’s a girl who comes sometimes with hair that looks like long ropes, red and black. When she’s there, Dudeman makes a little fire.
Sometimes dogs know things, and I knew we weren’t going home tonight. Tonight had been a different kind of night. Usually, we went to the town and sat outside the bar, where Dudeman played the keyboard and lots of nice people would stop to talk to D-O-G and me and ruffle our pointy little ears. Tonight, we didn’t go to the bar and we didn’t talk to anyone. Dudeman was quiet tonight. He was never quiet.
His real name is Derrick, he told me once, but no one calls him that. At first, when I was a little dog, it was just me and him. I rode around in the hood of his coat when we went downtown and met all kinds of people. He had a guitar then, not a keyboard, and he sat outside and made songs with it and I learned that I loved music. We didn’t have the bike or the cart back then. Dudeman had a board on wheels instead, and when I got bigger we played a game where I would run ahead and pull him on the board behind me, holding my leash. When D-O-G came I wasn’t sure if I liked him at first, but that was three years ago and now we’re good friends.
Dudeman turned the bike onto a different road, one that didn’t go towards home, which I already knew wasn’t where we were going anyway. The chain behind the bike said “criiiiieeeeaaaak” and the cart turned with it. We were still going up a hill.
“Girly-girl. Where are we going?” D-O-G said.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Not home.”
Maybe we were going to San Francisco. That’s where the girl with the red and black rope-hair went. Before she left, she talked about it—she called it Frisco—and it sounded better than any other place in the world. “There’s an ocean, like here, but more of it,” she told me. “There’s a lot more sun too, and lots of people like us, good people, and lots of other dogs. You would like it.” She hadn’t come back yet. It must have been as great as it sounded. San Francisco.
When we got to the top of the hill, the bike stopped on the shiny wet road. Dudeman went back to the cart and pushed it—kabump, bump—off of the road and onto the grass. We were under the trees now and a big, wet drop came straight down and hit me on the head. I could see glowing light past the trees, a big lot with cars in it and a store where people get things to eat. I liked cars and I looked to see if any of them would move, but there were only a few and they were all still. It was very late. Downtown, people would be coming out of the bar now, laughing and smoking and making a lot of noise.
Dudeman lit a cigarette. Not a regular one with a yellow end and a bitter smell, but the other kind, white and kind of lumpy and narrow at the tips, that smelled nice, like burning grass. The end of it was a little orange fire in the dark. Dudeman was getting things out of the cart while he held the cigarette. He untied the long rope that kept the plastic sheet on the cart to keep things dry. The rope reminded me of the San Francisco girl’s hair, the long red and black ropes with beads on them. Dudeman got out a human sitting-on thing—a chair, that’s what it was—and our bowls, that is, D-O-G’s and mine. He put water in one, food in the other.
The plastic sheet stayed on top of the cart even without the rope. I nosed my way under it, where it was dry, and D-O-G followed. It was warm with both of us in there, steam rising from our wet fur. We were good dogs, quiet dogs.
Dudeman came over and found us under the plastic. “Heyyy,” he said. “Whatcha guys doing under there? Staying dry? Good.” He was still holding his cigarette between two fingers. He breathed it into his mouth, leaned in, and breathed the smoke out into my nose. He usually did that when he had this kind of cigarette, the one I liked. The smoke smelled like wet trees and made me feel like there was fur inside of my head. He did the same thing to D-O-G.
He ruffled both of our pointy ears. “Be good,” he said.
“Of course,” I said.
“We’re good dogs,” said D-O-G.
Dudeman went back to whatever he was doing. I heard his boots walking on the wet ground. The rain was loud when it dropped onto the plastic sheet above me and D-O-G, but it didn’t get us wet. We breathed gentle dog breaths together, in and out. After a while, the rain stopped dripping down. It was quiet except for our breaths. It was quiet outside, too. I peeked my head out from under the plastic to look.
Dudeman was still there, over by the trees. He was wearing the rope like a dog collar. He had tied the end of it to a tree branch, like a leash. The chair was underneath him. He must have had to stand on it to get up there and tie his rope to the tree, but it had fallen over and was laying on its side on the wet ground. A small whining sound came out of my mouth and I moved my hind feet a little bit, but I didn’t get up. D-O-G put his head out to look with me.
We were good dogs. We waited there in the cart for a long time, very quiet.