Daniel Menaker

Keyless in the Berkshires

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Originally posted on Facebook:

Maxwell takes two walks a day in the country. One in the morning–“the loop” as my wife, Katherine, and I call it–and often somewhere else in the late afternoon. Back down Peter Menaker Road but this time not the loop but off the loop, to the shore of Lake Buel, where he fetches sticks from the water, jumps over a low wire fence on command, as graceful as a sine curve, and subsequently, dripping wet, goes temporarily nuts, tearing around lakefront properties as if in frantic search of the Golden Bone.
But sometimes for those afternoon walks, in the skiing off- season (there was no real on-season this year) we put him in the car and drive a couple of miles around to the Butternut ski area, park outside the gate, and turn him loose.

First, the geese. A flock of them are (is?) often floating and paddling pointlessly, as far as I can tell on a small and painterly pond near the entrance, and Maxwell dashes down to the pond’s edge, creating havoc among them. They honk and start running on and churning up the water before they achieve their flapping liftoffs. Maxwell pulls up short at the edge of the pond and watches them fly honkingly away, and to my eye he looks mightily pleased with himself.

Then we walk up the slopes and under the chairlifts and down the slopes and in front of the lodge, dreaming of the snows d’antan and in my case, d’when I used to ski. (The first time I tried, I was wearing new bluejeans, and I kept falling, and kept leaving literal blue streaks on the snow. People would point to them from the lifts with some amusement. Jerks. )

Today there was a wrinkle. On our way back to where I had parked, Maxwell went down a little hill to a stream and stepped into it and lapped up some water. I motioned him to go a little farther up the stream, so as to see him wallow a little, and, amazingly, he did, and it was great, because it still wasn’t deep enough for him to go all the way in, but he deliberately listed from one side to the other so as to get as much of himself wet as possible. It’s wonderful to see such pure and simple pleasure so directly conveyed. When he got out, we walked a ways further and I dug into my pockets and gave him a treat.¬†Fifty yards more, and the car. Where are my keys? They’re not in my pockets. They’re not anywhere in sight. S__t. (Mr. F. B. “Al” Gorithm won’t let me boost this post if I spell that word out. Isn’t that kind of f_____g ridiculous, given what we can hear on TV every night and the vitriol spilled out all over this medium every second of the day?) We retrace our steps, which is fine with Maxwell–he would walk or run to the moon if he could. Can’t find them. No extras at the Farmhouse–I have an extra in NYC and my son has one. No immediate help there.
Miraculously, I do have my cell phone and consider calling a cab from Great Barrington to come get me and Max. But there’s a guy in a utilities truck just across from my car and he’s just idling, talking on his phone. I take a deep breath and knock on his window and ask him if he can take us back to the house. Really, unless there’s some urgency he has to attend to, how can he say no? He doesn’t. Maxwell seems to know that as beggars, we cant be choosers, so he sits quietly in the well in front of the front seat instead of trying to share it with me.

A genial, round-faced guy with a short gray beard, our indentured uberized driver tells us his opinions about climate change as he drives us home. He says, “They will say something like, ‘This is the warmest it’s been on this day since 1932’ or something like that and so what I’m thinking is, ‘Well, how does that fit into climate change, exactly?'”

“Well, maybe if you put all the numbers together,” I say.

“Oh, I’m not saying we aren’t having climate change,” he says. “And I’m not saying we are. I’m just saying .” He pulls into our driveway. “Hey–I hope you have an extra set of keys here.”

“Uh, somewhere,” I mutter. In fact, I don’t. I will call my son, Will, and ask him to overnight his keys to me, and I will live on eggs and orange juice and bread and leftover lamb and actually, it’s not so bad, food-wise, now that I think about it. There’s even one of those cellophane envelopes, unopened, of smoked salmon, 120 miles upstream from its original home, Zabar’s. Then, when the keys arrive, I’ll see if I can guilt a neighbor into taking me back around to Butternut. Or maybe someone will drive me and Maxwell back down there tomorrow and I will find the keys.

Since I couldn’t turn on the ignition, I had to leave the windows open. Thunderstorms are coming. Great.

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