By Mark Lax 2011
Clouds rained frogs nowhere. I scanned the headlines of all two hundred newspapers I receive and
spotted not a single man biting a dog, no little girls lifting cars to save their drunken fathers. And
the results from the Bangladesh National Cricket team test was what could be expected. There were
no issues and I could start my ten day vacation in peace.
The time had come to take up surfing. I have been interested in this activity since it first came to my
awareness in the late 1920s. Sadly, each and every time I set out to surf, some new fad takes me
away. I don’t suppose the sport of Auto Polo really ever had a chance, but I spent two vacations
mastering that. Now that they don’t make cars with running boards it’s strictly out of the question. I
could see its limitations at the time, of course: the whole game was played at five miles an hour,
which still led to more injuries than mortals can stomach. It wasn’t that much fun to watch, either.
From there I went to barnstorming, buffalo hunting and bungee jumping, just to list my distractions
in alphabetical order after Auto Polo. This time it is surfing. This time for sure.
I even told the current wife about it. She would react, but she’s on the cell phone. Always. Very
important real estate franchising deals buzzing on in her ear nearly all of her waking moments. I
know that there have not always been people like this. So busy, so connected all the time, but
mostly alone and talking to literally no one all day, nearly every day. When I first met her I thought
she was under a spell. I simply had to have her, just to recount her, since I am sure no living being
will ever be like this again. It’s like barnstorming, like Auto Polo. It’s not for long, so enjoy her while
For her part I think she thinks that I am some sort of high powered executron. I certainly can
manifest the wealth. Like her, I am busy and do travel often. And how many other ones like her can
there be here in Cheyenne? I was so close to being perfect for her, she just had to have me. For
bonus points, I can stay home and watch the dogs while she is away.
I told her I was in anomaly control. I redistribute anomalies—to foil the plans of the just and unjust
alike. I prove that probability has a downside. She took that as either ‘computer something’ or
‘actuary.’ What she doesn’t get is that I don’t actually use the computers, but rather rely exclusively
on newspapers. She thinks I am a luddite. Which is true. I have only lately warmed up to television.
When I told her I was going to be away for ten days surfing, she hit the mute on her cell and said
“Loki?” Not even a question, just my name as a question. Then she went on with her call. She says
my name, Loki, as if it were Jack, Jim or John. Perhaps she figures that I was raised by hippies,
which seems plausible given our time frame. I don’t think she knows what Loki is or what Loki does.
At any rate, my going out of town at this time is a bit of a bother, since she is going out of town also
and also for ten days. It means we have to put up the dogs at a shelter for ten days and they will be
very mad at mommy and daddy when we get back.
Strike that. They will be very mad at mommy and eat her shoes and pee on her spot on the couch.
My stuff they will leave alone. Unlike mommy, the dogs know what Loki is and what Loki does and
stay clear of my things. The dogs have promised me that they will behave at the shelter. Or there
will be no Valhalla for them. I tell my wife that as we are getting into the car to take her to the airport.
“I guess you know how to talk to the dogs,” she says, having concluded one call and about to start
I explain “It’s all in tone of voice.”
“You’re going to call me when you get there, right?” she asks.
“Surfing? Yes,” I answer.
And it does occur to her that she hasn’t asked where or with whom I am doing this surfing. But this
is concern. This is affection. It’s what she has to give and in the manner that she can. Touching,
really. Or so I think so.
She is so precious. Such an odd portion of the floating world. She hunts with her voice, chasing
down figments of collective imagination. Her instincts are honed, measuring need, availability,
urgency, commitment and capability. When she is not with the contraption pressed to her face, she
is in transit to meetings where nouns go searching for verbs. Everything is dependant upon the
convergence of other people’s desires. If she is off a slight on timing, all of her efforts are for
nothing. I know the need it speaks to in her and I do not dispute the craft nor the industry. The
methods are dismal, though. The calls. The guessing. And when it all falls down hill, because it can
at any moment, there always must be more to replace it since the landing of any one objective is
unlikely--and even if it is not, there is always a need for more. It’s like running a whaling fleet,
except that you man all boats, the price of blubber is never set and the whale is invisible even when
We air kiss and she leaves, trailing a rolling bag. I pull the Saab away. Once past the view of Jerry
Olson Field’s last video camera, the car disappears only to manifest a blink later in my driveway. I
appear in our ranch’s back yard, midway to the garage at the back of the lot. It’s a story and a half,
slightly taller than the house. The person I bought the house from was a politician. He used to keep
his parade float in it.
We have another garage attached to the house. It’s heated and filled with exercise equipment. The
garage in the back is a place my wife has never been to. Her cell phone kicks out within ten feet of
it. I swear it’s not intentional.
The two doors break open and away at my approach. Inside the garage, hanging a foot in air, is my
fifteen foot longboat, complete with sail and oars. The eyes of the ram’s head at her prow glow
blue. Ever present winter dusts kick up all around her hull.
The craft is quite laden now, this being the end of the quarter. Lining her interior are sheepskin
covered packages which take up the up the places where oarsmen might row. The packages are
translucent, some containing animated fogs others, churning day glow bile.
The rest of these moments are spent with my clipboards, trying to remember if I have packed
everything, and if I haven’t packed it, where it is. I seem to have everything. No inventory laid over. I
am set and set myself down at the tiller.
Then I wait for my wife’s plane to clear. 6:00 AM, right on time. She is headed to Denver and then
New Jersey. I want to get back by the time she lands in Denver.
I am about to ground all flights out of the Cheyenne Regional Airport. That is why I wait, to make
sure hers has gone. I wish her all the luck I can. Let the world cower at my love’s feet.
At 6:10 a dot appears on radar, ascending but with no lateral movement. It is there for five minutes.
The Wyoming Air National Guard confirms this with Regional’s central tower. They ground all take
offs. Soon the dot is gone. And then they write reports which can go with the other reports they
have written. Not once has someone phoned a house in this neighborhood to have a pair of eyes
look up from the back yard.
It’s Cheyenne. Nothing to see in the air but beautiful blue sky. Out of this sky I descend to Asgard,
which I do not miss, with its perpetual winter fjords, incessant yodeling and horn blowing. No radar
here, but not a soul looking up, either.
Down and into the barn, a noiseless progression greeted by nothing and observed by only me. The
barn is a giant’s rib cage, covered in all hues of furs. It has no floor, just packed snow. The interior
is the blank side of pelts shrouding an empty cavity. Light is mysteriously abundant, but from no
No one here. They knew I was coming, too. I am never late. I can’t wait for them, either.
Dressed in my Thermaware car jacket, blue jeans and Keds, I cross the narrow street to the clerk’s
office, a round wooden hut with a chimney at its center. I knock on the door and then I enter.
“No dogs?” she more or less asks. The woman inside is statuesque in every sense of the word. Her
golden locks flow out of her iron skull cap. There are skull caps on her breasts. (It’s the same thing
as on her head, just in different positions.) Her waist and hips are wrapped in rough leather and
held up by will alone. I don’t know if she was wearing boots. I didn’t look at her feet.
“No. No dogs. Not this time,” I say.
She frowns. Strip away the iron clad D cups, milky skin, ocean hue eyes and cherry lips and a
Valkyrie is patronage worker. Just like at the Department of Motor Vehicles. There’s no real
motivating her and if she wants to waste my time, she can do it. The doggie inquiry is a bad sign.
She continues “What type of dogs are those?”
As if this is going to mean anything to her, I say “A Malamute and a Jack Russell Terrier.”
“The dog’s names?”
“Fluffy and Mister Snookums.”
She smiles. She has absolutely no idea what I just said. This doesn’t stop her from asking “Where
are the dogs now?”
“At the dog hotel,” I say, sensing now that this is going to take forever.
I would give you this woman’s name, but it runs about twenty-four letters. I am pretty good with the
milk language, but after twelve letters even I zone out. Literally translated, it is Swan On A Winter
Dusk With White Feathers Shedding Warm Light. Let’s call her Ms. Swan for short. And it is a Ms.
“—I have a total bumper crop in the hold. We really do have to get to the inventory. Or I am going
to be taking up way too much of your time.”
Maybe it will work if she thinks I am doing her a favor? It seems to. She reaches for a book on the
counter and flips open the pages. I head for the door and then pause. She does look up. She does
We are in the middle of the street when she halts, asking “What is this hotel for dogs?”
“They have structured play time and can socialize. It’s a lot of fun. For the dogs.”
“The dogs like this?”