On the road

It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m leaving late on a road trip to check on Huck, who’s summering off the farm and hopefully, working on his svelte figure. Distance-wise, it’s not much of a journey but on the highway in rush hour, every trip’s a pilgrimage.

There’s a Diet Coke and a pack of gum sitting shot gun, but I’m not alone. Brynn’s right behind me; still I don’t feel her presence. At less than a month of age, she’s about as lively as a loaf of bread and though I remember snapping her seat in the car, I find myself craning around twice, to check that I didn’t leave her stranded at home, baking in the drive.

A sleeping baby isn’t much company but I feel the steady presence of another soul. And I’m reassured between lulls in the CD when my ears catch the rhythmic panting from the depths of the car.

Factor in Corrie and in my last 20 years of driving, most excursions — from dry cleaner and grocery runs, to summers spent chasing horse shows up and down the coast — have included the companionship of a Border Collie.

Corrie — who strolled into my life after high school, and died in ’06 — was like Maisie in her utter sheep-dog lust for work. But otherwise, their personalities were different. Corrie used to calmly sit or sleep in the passenger’s foot well of my honda civic. Sometimes I’d reach down and give her a pat. Maisie always travels in the SUV standing up, on high-alert.

I imagine them as people — like professional athletes on the way to a game. Corrie would have been the grizzled veteran, lost in thought on the team bus, plugged into an iPod and saving her energy for the field. Whereas Maisie is the anxious, effusive rookie who won’t shut up and bounces a ball against the seat in front of her.

With the arrival of Brynn, Maisie’s been relegated to the way-back, the trunk area — a landfill of discarded socks, happy meal toys, squirt guns, diapers, muddy towels and stuffed animals.

Somehow she finds her footing amid the debris and stares intently out the window — like her life depends on it — and frequently snaps at passing cars, her nose issuing a resounding “thump!” against the glass.

It also leaves an artful streak of nose slime on the window.

She doesn’t snap at every car — I don’t know how she chooses her foe — but she has a system and when the thumping gets too violent, I worry that she’ll bruise her nose. “Easy, Maisie,” I’ll warn, glancing in the rear view mirror.

From my vantage point, all of I can see is her one pricked ear peeking above the headrest.

And for the trip down to Huck’s farm, just like every other drive to get the kids, or buy stamps, or play softball, Maisie’s just a thump and an ear.

Still, she has a strong presence.

And it’s nice to have the company.