he looked back up at Zack, and his paws slowly separated from the ground until they were churning the open air, just like the reindeer hooves that carry Santa’s sleigh.
Lucky flew to Zack’s height, turned, and came to him. He continued pumping his four legs, even as he hovered with Zack, as if he were treading water. Then he opened his mouth wide, dangled his big red tongue, and panted loudly. Zack was not sure if dogs smiled, but if ever one did, it was doing it right then. Zack was very proud; Lucky had always been a really smart dog.
Having gotten the basics, Zack and Lucky ventured higher, and Zack watched his childhood neighborhood turn into a map. He could see his house, his street, the lake, and the other one hundred and fifty or so houses in the neighborhood, their tiny front porch lights pushing little circles of light into the surrounding darkness. He could see the playground where he had his first kiss and the field where everyone in the neighborhood would gather every Fourth of July to light fireworks, blast oldies music on a boom box, and drink beer around a large bonfire. Finally, he could see the wooded hills, an endless black sea on which the neighborhood floated, and the only connection to the mainland, a single road that led to the town center five miles away.
Zack missed this place. All throughout his life it had been slipping away from him. Childhood summersswimming, fishing, hiking, and mountain-biking turned into teenage summers studying Honors Biology, Calculus, and History. Then they turned into long weekends looking at the lake from the window with his college girlfriend, then to quick glances at the woods out of the car window as he shuttled his parents back and forth from the hospital, and then finally, to fading memories. Zack was thankful that he could now come back any time he wanted.
After admiring this second printing of the pages on which God had written Zack’s storybook childhood, Zack led Lucky up and east. Curiously, as they continued, and more and more of God’s masterpiece unfolded beneath them, Zack began to spot little red flames in the wilderness between the cities. Soon, there were hundreds of them, dotting the valley floors and puffing long lines of thin grey smoke into the air. They must have been campfires.
Maybe, Zack thought, they belong to Native Americans, who choose to live now in the same manner as they always had before. However, before Zack could finish the thought, he found his attention pulled in another direction. Two other travelers approached, from the east.
Strangely enough, it was also a man and his dog, but from a very different time and place. The man was young, about Zack’s age, but wore long brown animal furs and carried a spear. He was tall and thick, with olive-colored skin covered in dirt; long, black, un-kept hair; coffee-colored teeth, and bright-blue eyes. His dog was really more of a wolf, with long white teeth, grey and white fur, visible musculature, and blue eyes that matched his owner’s.
For a moment, they were silent. Then the dogs cautiously floated toward each other, and Zack noticed that theother man was studying Lucky and his golden-copper fur with great interest. As Lucky froze and allowed the wolf to sniff him up and down, the man’s eyes turned from Lucky to his own dog, and then back to Lucky. “Great,
, grandfather!” the man said, pointing at his dog and engaging in deep laughter.
“Hey yeah!” Zack said, laughing too. “Hey actually,” he pointed directly at the man, “great, great grandfather too!”
“Maybe,” the man said, “or maybe great, great grand-
… you of brown-eyes.”
“Yes, well please,” the man said, “travel in peace, cousin brown-eyes.” He brought his left hand over to the spear that he held in his right, and with both hands, slowly turned the spear toward the ground in a grand, ritual fashion.
“Yes cousin, in peace,” Zack replied, waving goodbye as