I usually pick my son, Raf, up from school on the bike. There’s no rush in the afternoons. I figure we might as well take our time. In the morning, it’s the opposite, we’re always running late, so we drive. Even if we weren’t running late, which we always are, the bike seems dangerous in the morning, with everyone half asleep and late themselves.
Picking him up on the bike is fun. I like it and he likes it. Even people we ride by like it, waving to us as we pass. He used to ride in one of those plastic seats over the rear wheel, but he keeps growing, and lately he looked crammed in back there, his knees up high, rubbing up against my seat. So I bought a second hand trailer that pulls along behind my bike. The weight is different, and there’s much more resistance on uphill climbs, but he seems happier back there, with more room to spread out, and a new vantage.
Georgia, our chihuahua, usually sits up front in a large basket over the front wheel. I stick a towel in there so it’s more comfortable. She loves it, sitting at attention, face forward the whole time, the wind pulling at her short black hair. She’s only jumped out once when a squirrel darted out across the sidewalk in front of us. We were coming back from a long ride and I was zoned out. I never even reached to stop her. She jumped out of pure instinct. Go time.
Her chin hit first and then she flipped forwards over and over, slamming and flailing, her muscular body expanding and contracting with each revolution. The squirrel was up a tree before she stopped rolling. After we got home she mostly laid around for a day afterwards, and she walked slowly, like every part of was sore to hell. Her chin is still hairless in the spot where she first came down.
My sons classmates love Georgia. Many of them know her by name and rush to pet and kiss her. Perched in the basket, she sits at an ideal height to give them a good mouth licking. Kids love it, and who can blame them.
We look like quite a site coming down the road. Kid in the back, dog in the front, dork in the middle. You can see why people wave.
We cross the river coming home and there are nice paths that run along it. We cruise along the paths when the weather is nice, which it usually is, stopping at playgrounds and parks to hang out, eat snacks, mess around. It’s usually pretty deserted so I let Georgia off leash. She’s older now so I can trust her in most situations. The squirrel slam was pretty out of the ordinary. When she was young everything that moved was like the squirrel, calling her to action. She’s easier now, chilled out, but she can still haul ass if necessary.
One path we ride on goes out towards the west side of the city, under highways, past the stockyards. People live over there but there’s not much action on the newly paved path, which is up high on the side of the wide creek bed. The path is part of the urban renewal era, an effort to reconnect the fractured inner city. It used to be the washout for the city’s wealthier residents up north, a place to send everything unwanted. The houses that back up to the creek look poor, lots of cobbled together additions and junk in the yards. The creek still isn’t much to look at but it’s growing in wild again.
I chose this past to ride on the other day after picking Raf up from school. There aren’t any parks out that way, but sometimes it’s nice to just ride. He was tired instantly I so I let him lie down in the trailer while Georgia ran along side. He slept while Georgia and I dawdled stopping to check things out. We met some nice blonde pitbulls lying behind a fence, resting in the sun. Someone kept them there to guard a stoneyard. In the yard two men were calmly moving a slab with a forklift, one man gesturing and the other steering. The pits watched us relaxedly.
I turned back once Georgia looked tired, but I let her keep running alongside since it’s about as happy as she gets. It’s nice to watch a dog do their thing, especially if they’re your dog. At home she sleeps so much, I forget how punchy she is, springing through puddles, catching up, pissing on stuff. I’m happy to watch her.
Around a gentle bend in the path we saw a mama dog and her three pups just on the other side of the creek. The family of dogs all looked feral and the mom barked at us viciously in a way that I didn’t recognize. She was wild and the pups were wild and I was glad they were unwilling to cross the stream to assert themselves. We passed on.
When we made it back to the where the creek joins the main river, Raf was still asleep. A mother and daughter were out on the rocks in the river, enjoying the sun. I propped the bike up on a trash can and sat down next to it on a bench. I had a tennis ball in my bag so I gave it a quick toss down the sidewalk. Georgia’s got speed. She caught up with it easily but bumped it clumsily down the concrete embankment into the water. For the next few minutes I worked awkwardly to get the ball back, trying this and that. The only sticks around were short, and the embankment dropped off a foot above the water so it was hard to get close to the surface. Nothing much to do about it, but I kept trying anyway, as Georgia was getting more and more agitated. She’s jumped in after balls before but I wouldn’t saw she’s a terrific swimmer and there is no easy way back out of the water at that spot. Eventually the little girl came over to help. She looked to be about ten, a happy hispanic girl with dark eyes and a pink and white t-shirt that read Totally! At first she tried the same things I’d tried, paddling the ball backwards, flagging it with the too short stick, but she tired of the game quickly. The ball kept floating there in the middle of the river.
“Mom,” she yelled. “I’m gonna jump in!”
Her mom laughed, “You’re gonna be cold!”
“I’m gonna jump in!” she yelled again.
I didn’t think she would do it as it was winter and the water was cold and it was just a ball and Georgia’s just a dog, but then she did it, a head first dive into to dark water. She got the ball quickly, but looked cold swimming back, her breath rapid and shallow, and I was afraid for a moment I’d have to go in also but she was in control. When she got back to the embankment she gave Georgia the ball from down there in the water and I grabbed both her hands and pulled her up all in one motion onto the concrete. I thanked her but it was clear she’d done it for Georgia and not me.
The girl went back over to her mom across the rocks but returned shortly to play fetch with Georgia. I was glad it was a warm day and that the cold hadn’t meant much to her. As she played with Georgia I watched her mom, if it was her mom, out of the corner of my eye. She was my age. Dark hair. Sunglasses. Her feet were in the water but she didn’t watch them. She didn’t watch her daughter either, if it was her daughter. She mostly watched downstream toward where the river opened up beyond the rocks. She started to cry, and then to weep. I felt self conscious, watching her so I went to check on Raf. He slept easily there in the trailer, his head propped up on my sweatshirt, his legs tucked up against his chest. When he woke he was upset, wanting to be held.