In the morning the moon was a hook and we sat under it going down. Lily and I went birthday shopping for Charlotte intent on a guitar and a bake set but came out with a $120 giraffe. No one knew how much the giraffe cost, it’d been there so long they had to look it up, and we shied away at first but came back and said alright we’ll take it, had to wrap it with our jackets to hide it from Charlotte it was so big — but needed to hurry back to pay the gardener and let the dog out — Lily said the giraffe had been there since she was a little girl, since she could remember, and when they tied a bow around its neck and lifted it over the counter I think they were sad to see it go.
Ginger and I went back to Cougar Mountain for a final summer hike, zig-zagging the hillsides until we got above the sound of the construction trucks and the morning commute, the first ones up the trail so we broke all the webs — and I blipped between the past and the present, the future, sometimes going so deep I removed myself entirely and all that was left was a shadow.
We cut back to the boardwalk planks over a shallow trench of mud and though it was morning, the forest was dark and still. The sound of the woodpecker’s wings was like a wiffle ball that slowed down as it passed so you could hear the air curl through the holes and the bird followed us up the valley like that watching, hiding between branches, flickering in and out.
The section of trail was called the C7 but there were many more colorful names (Shy Bear Pass, Far Country Falls, Clay Pit Road, the Fantastic Erratic) and it reminded me of a trail near my mom’s in Germany I used to walk named after a crocodile with a handmade sign saying Krokoweg and a hollowed out log on the ground with rainwater for horses and dogs to drink out of, they carved it to look like a crocodile smiling and over time it’d gotten so smooth and weathered it looked almost real.
There was the morning I came to the bottom of that trail to the mouth of a valley, late winter but with spring coming on — and though it was misty the ground was green and brown in patches, you could tell the farmers had been out doing something, they were always coming and going and startled when they saw me.
It was the morning I realized I’d had a strange dream about someone I worked with whose face changed to a robot from the cover of a Queen album, and I sat there on a bench trying to break it all down, to understand what happened and why: it was an album I’d found at my grandparent’s house in the late ’70s, must have belonged to my uncle: just a blank-faced robot holding its hand out with blood running down the wrist, the band members crushed in its palm — and this person from my dream, their face changed and eyes hissed like a TV station gone static at the end, that’s what I associated with it, the emptiness in its expression, how it scared the shit out of me as a kid, and why that fear got stored inside of me and paired with a memory from work I can’t say.
I met Dawn at the Microsoft campus to help her set up for a happy hour mixer and stood outside waiting to be let in, watching people come and go, imagining myself working there and how I’d fit in, some of them looking glazed and distracted with earbuds talking to themselves or someone else; I thought they could be life-sized avatars, their bodies just a shell with their real self off somewhere else, doing other things. Dawn laughed and said they’re engineers and developers who work at that building, they all look that way.
I swapped out inserts for plexi signs Dawn had to get reprinted, fixing some mix-up in the wording someone was sensitive about (one said “Group,” the other “Team”), and when I got done and went back to the parking lot I’d forgotten where I parked, there were cars in every direction but it made me happy for my old piece of shit Volvo, probably the only one like that in the lot.
They had that look of being there but not there, the people with their earbuds, I thought. I realized I was almost out of time on the trail and had to get back home so I started running, lumbering at first but improving once I saw my shadow which looked pretty good, my form, and after a while I went so fast I lost track of my legs, I’d forgotten how good it felt to run like that, every time I thought I was empty there was still something left, like a hook through my lip or a hold keeping me from slipping, it drew me on.
In the morning before the party Ginger smells the giraffe’s crotch when I bring it in and I go to the store for more frosting and powdered sugar, it’s so early in the parking lot it’s just me and the crows, they’ve bulk-stacked pumpkins outside and taken the flowers in — and back home I sweep the lawn for dog poop before the party and hang the bistro lights, find the fourth horseshoe hidden in the grass and sink it on the first try, points facing in.