We often rode our bikes to the elementary school, where Xander (his first bike so tiny, the training wheels rocking back and forth wildly) would play on the playground by himself. The playgrounds were usually so empty there, unless a fresh snow had fallen, and the once gentle hills turned to sledding hills, slippery with ice. There was one hill that was covered in so much ice and had been sled down in one spot so many times, that it had turned into an ice flume.
The fireman came in early winter with their hoses to turn a flat concrete area in the center of town into an ice rink. With the sun already dipping below the mountain peaks that surrounded the village, they let Xander and his friend Brock hold the hose and shower the area with torrents of water.
In another park (and in another season), just a block from our apartment, mushrooms pushed up from the lichen-covered ground. They were technicolor mushrooms, violently red and orange, with smatterings of white spots. I wouldn’t let Xander smash them with a stick; they seemed too poisonous and too perfectly shaped to destroy. We have several large, plain brownish white ones in our yard here during the summer, but I let him smash those. For some reason they’re not out of a fairy tale, at least not mine.
On one beautiful blue fall day, a dog ran into our apartment from the yard below. Xander and I had just returned from the grocery store, and I had left the back door open so I could take out the trash. I went into the kitchen to grab the bag, and saw a dark grey blur flash past the couch and into Xander’s bedroom. Xander was sitting on the couch, watching something on television, his small legs tucked below him. I asked if he saw something run into the apartment. He nodded his blonde head, his eyes wide and said, “A big dog!”
I walked toward Xander’s bedroom, where light was pouring in through the windows. His was the room with the best views; Mt. Susitna was visible on most days unless it was raining or snowing. Since it was fall the mountain was covered in gold and orange, and the peak was covered in fresh snow. Termination dust.
The dog was sitting in the middle of Xander’s bedroom floor, sniffing and snuffling at the carpet.
It was an Alaskan sled dog, with fur the color of charcoal. His eyes were amber, and his pink tongue hung out of his mouth. I recognized him as being one of our neighbor’s, and backed away out the bedroom, and walked to the kitchen to grab a hot dog from the fridge. We had just bought them at the grocery, and when Xander (who had torn himself away from Little Bear) saw that I was holding one of his favorite foods, he frowned. “Don’t give that dog all of our hot dogs! It’s not even our dog!”
I assured him that I wouldn’t, that I needed just the one to lure him out of the apartment. I offered the dog little scraps at first, clucking a bit and softly saying good boy, good dog, c’mere boy, good dog. The dog walked toward me, his gait friendly. I had something good to eat, so he followed me through the living room and into my bedroom where the back door to the apartment was. He gobbled the chunks of hot dog that I gave to him, and after swallowing each piece whole would look back up at me expectantly, tilt his head to the side, and pant. When only one piece was left, I led him out the back door, and threw the remainder of the hot dog down the stairs and onto the grass below. The dog bounded down the stairs, his nails scratching a bit at the wood, and took off towards the last piece of hot dog.
I shut the door quickly, before he swallowed and ran back upstairs for more. I turned to Xander, “Now what do you think of that?”
He nodded, his eyes serious. “That was good, Mommy. I’m glad that dog liked hot dogs.”