I have a problem. I have nothing to write about. This column is due. My head is empty. It's a caseload of bad timing.
My editor can get a little churlish if I don't get my columns in on time -- as churlish as a possum with its wormlike tail caught under a wood pallet loaded with hundred-pound bags of chicken feed. (Just FYI, that's seriously churlish.)
But what can I do? My mind is a blank slate.
"You're saying that like it's something new," Annie said. "That's not anything new."
"Well, engage that over-active feminine brain of yours and come up with something for me to write about," I replied, churlishly. "I have to get this column written today or my editor's gonna ..."
"I know, I know," Annie said. "Get churlish as a wet possum. You're about to wear that word out."
"The possum wasn't wet. It had its tail caught."
"Then write about the possum," Annie suggested.
"It bit its own tail off and ran away. End of story."
"Then write about your fishing trip -- the one where you spent too much money on a new fishing rod, and that stupidly expensive reel, and those silly trout flies, and the ugly hat, and didn't catch a single fish. That should be good," Annie said.
"I already wrote about that. Don't you read my columns?"
"Then tell 'em about trying to wade across the Boulder River when the water was too high and how no fool in his right mind would have tried it and how you fell in numb-cold water and cut your arm on a slimy rock and had to go to the clinic in Big Timber and get patched up and how the doctor said you were too old to be wading in that kind of water and should have learned better by now."
Annie was not being very helpful.
"I think I'll go to my office," I said, churlishly.
I've been traveling a lot lately. I knew what I'd find at my office -- a stack of bills and a hefty list of errands. I was nervous about my column deadline and grumpy about the bills and errands. (Note that I did not use the word "churlish" again even though it would have worked well as a replacement for "grumpy.")
While I drove toward town, Yoda the Corgi sat in the passenger seat, looking out the window.
"You should be wearing your seat belt. You know that don't you?" I said.
Yoda acted like he didn't hear me. He does that a lot. He watched a guy toting irrigation pipe across a field as we barreled along.
"We've had this conversation before," I said. "But you never listen and you never put on your seat belt. A dog of your questionable breeding should be smarter than that."
Yoda caught sight of an elegant, long-limbed setter nosing her way across a wheat field. Her hair was the color of cinnamon and well- groomed. Her tail was long and purposeful. She had a graceful way about her.
Yoda put his front paws up on the passenger-side door and stuck his head out the window to get a better look. "Arrrrooooo!" he said.
"Yoda, there's no future in it. She's three times your size. The logistics would be impossibly difficult. Plus, we had you fixed. Remember? Now get your head back in this car and put on your seat belt."
Yoda lay down in the passenger seat and trained his moist eyes on me. He looked sad and a little defiant. He did not put on his seat belt.
"Sorry, didn't mean to raise my voice," I said. "I've been away too much -- book tours, vacation, that trip to Seattle, all those summer visitors. Lots of distractions. And I've got to get a column written and I have nothing to write about. And the bills and the errands."
Yoda rested his head on my knee and closed his eyes.
I took a deep breath, counted to three (I never get all the way to 10), exhaled, and forced a smile. I felt slightly less churlish.
"Enough churlishness, " I said. "We'll get back on track. That's what we'll do. Get a cup of coffee. Maybe go for a walk. Settle down. Check for mail at the Post Office. Pay the bills. Get you a dog treat and a fresh bowl of water. One foot in front of the other, they say. It's gonna be good. We'll get back on track. You'll see."
"Arrrrooooo," Yoda said. He jumped back up in the passenger seat and looked out the window as we took the off-ramp onto Second Avenue.
"I think you're right," I said. "And once we get back on track, we'll think of something to write for this column."
If you'd like to read more of Sam's musings on life or buy a copy of his new book, "Big Appetite," visit his website at www.sammcleod.net