Knowing the chance of my seeing Wormy again slim, I stayed on through the weekend at his Orange Orchid Tiki Bar, working the back room, enjoying the festival carnival. I slept in the backyard in my cowboy bedroll, with Wormy’s dog, Brigid Kildare, nestled against my legs. But in the early morning, Brigid did her dog thing, up early eating and drinking then hopping through the fence into the ice plant on the dunes and over and down to the beach where she must have rolled around on some dead gull or crab, come back wagging and nuzzling me to get up and follow. And she had rolled in some beach tar. The tar pads that stick to your feet walking the Southern California beaches are too often blamed on the oil business, the tankers docked off El Segundo, the water pipeline connected to Standard Oil, now buried under the beach and ocean, the old wood twin pier deconstructed, the rigs and drills up and down the coast dating back to the late 1800s. And the oil concerns have made a muck of maritime stuff over the years. But the tar Brigid had found and rolled around in this morning like as not was natural, floating up and washing in from natural petroleum seeps in the ocean floor. Whatever, Brigid was a smelly mess of rotting fish, dead bird, and sticky tar. I got up and walked her back down to the beach where we both got a stimulating morning wash in the salty waves, the air clear, a slight offshore breeze, a thin, faint fog already lifting as the sun came up over the dunes, orange shafts of smeared light flaring through the lazy billowing smoke puffs from the stacks of the oil refinery. Ah, she draws my ire, she does, when she does like that, comes in smelling of a red tide, Wormy said, as I explained where we’d been, Brigid now warming up deep in my bedroll.
“Brigid” is episode 50 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
He slushed through the yard with the dog, Mosey,
looking for the salsa garden covered with snow.
A foggy down comforter was spread
across the cold compost pile.
Mosey gave it the once-over and waggled on.
Through the grey branches of the bald maple,
the wintry sun dripped a wet, molting light.
“I think I’ve found the salsa garden,”
Mosey barked, wagging through a snowdrift.
He found some green garlic starts,
planted last fall in hope of an orange day.
Over on the frozen patio sat the fable
of a red tablecloth and a bottle of sweet wine,
Mosey dozing in a patch of warm light.
He hears voices, someone’s recipe:
“Fresh cilantro, hot pepper, and black beans,
eight tender Roma plum tomatoes,
an inch of basil, a sprig of rosemary,
a dash of black pepper and a pinch of salt,
a dark green jalapeno,
and a mellow, cool lime.”
Sevenish on the heat scale, he thinks,
two fat, purple candles melting the snow,
Mosey barking, “Let’s go back inside now.”
They entered the kitchen through the side door,
dog wet noses sloshing snow and water,
dripping all over the stale linoleum.
On the beach at Refugio we walked under palms through sea grass
Small waves rolling off the point from curlers coiled and we’re
Young and unafraid holding our long boards against our hips and in
Summer surfers with yellow and green bangs and those days only a few dogs
Peopled the campground under the fat wide palms big
Umbrellas shading the old watermen drinking cool beers out of tall
Cans telling stories of how in their days the waves were really tall
Paddling out beyond the kelp beds and diving through the ocean grass
Holding their breaths under water scraping off the rocks big
Abalone shells for eating on the beach around the evening fire we’re
Stoking in a giant hole near the high tide mark with dogs
Down the beach running after gulls swooping low and in
The water the dogs paddle into the shallows after the gulls in
The shore pound the old stories go out with the tide before the big tall
Pensheet dogs with designer stories of virtual waves but these dogs
Don’t see the sun also rising setting fire to the grass
We don’t need your tall tales we are a big dog generation we’re
Never going to passeth away we’re just that big
The pensheet dogs they said were high class the dogs were really big
Went to the finest schools in the prairie grass land in
With the in crowds in with the big dog push the big dogs were
All witty wealthy healthy hardly weathered at all and tall
And ran through the tallest grass
But didn’t notice on their tail trailing the three headed dog
Bidding them sign a yellow dog
Contract and sign it they did the big
Dog generation in the tall grass
Trying to avoid passing away in
Dog dress posed in ties tall
And dog weary of putting on the dog were
Bone tired and dogged they were
Now in the dog days of their runs as big dogs
Woofing at their virtual waves barking tall
In the overhead grass under a big
Ocean prairie sky panting and drooling in
The tall dry smoky grass.
Who listens to this doggerel we’re wishing still big
And long swells to the lucky dogs under running laughter in
The whirling wind through the tall sea grass!