THE CHEST: In honor of Solo, my favorite immigrant
I sense a shift in the wind. I was forced to endure the company of acquaintances and their observance to my needs and habits. We took few walks and the windows were sealed shut. My Friend was gone for days and their accompanying darkness while I was forced to sleep in the corner and wear my collar. When she finally returned, she brought with her a certain kind of chest, at first wrapped in plastic. This chest is not made of sturdy wood so its design is not for everyday provisions. Soft and pliable, it seems of unreliable making as it bends with pressure. I watch her test it, sometimes measuring it and then me. Other times she pushes it under a chair in the corner. Thus far I have only bent low on my front legs and reached towards the back which is semi closed in with some type of mesh halfway up. She seems pleased when I do this. I am most confused that she did not immediately fill the chest with her own items. I could fit in it, I believe, but I do not know which of her treasures she intends to keep safe. I am both skeptical and intrigued at what this may signal.
I like caves. I may even desire blackness and solitude at times. I often spend afternoons in the narrow space underneath the bed, especially when the heat of the day makes the air feel closer than I would like. However, I think My Friend misinterpreted this habit. She attempted to direct me into the chest. It was quite random at first. I could not discern a pattern to when she would toss a sweet cracker or piece of chicken inside. I treated it like a game to test my skills. I stretched my full length to retrieve my snack, catching it with my teeth or tapping the savory bit with a paw. Yesterday she restricted my movements and turned my body so that I was more or less forced to ease my way inside the chest. I cannot say I found this enjoyable, but as she never caused me harm, I tolerated it. She slowly closed the chest and then just stared at me inside, calmly talking the entire time. She then lifted the chest and carried it awkwardly around the house. I scanned the lettering, which I admit I have not made gains at deciphering. I memorized the marks: P E T C A R R I E R.
I thought perhaps My Friend repented and after our time together finds my company unnecessary. I wondered if she was going to take me back to the hold that she had rescued me from so long ago. But, she did neither of these things, just an uneventful walk around the house and then she opened the chest. So odd. I remain convinced that I should be prepared for any eventuality. Have I wronged her in some way? Have I shown myself to be untrustworthy? Her eyes, her tone, both which I know how to read, show no indication of contempt nor misunderstanding. I have no answers to my questions. I remain as calm as I can, and that anyone could reasonably expect, throughout the experience.
The chest sits empty. I watch it from the bed. It haunts me.
She sat on the couch. I was closed in the chest.
Every day I am forced to spend more time in the chest. I evaluate our time, our disagreements. When did we have them? I cannot focus on answers while in such close quarters.
I spent the longest I ever had to endure the chest, but she fed me bread and chicken. Unexplainable. The only disagreements I can think of is our choice of journeys and destinations. I pull too hard. I pull in other directions than her desire. Sometimes, I admit secretly, I was lost when I tried to lead. She redirected me, but there was never a harsh word. Even though she continues to hold her breath as we pass the corner, the streets remained empty of villains. What else could there be?
I lived many days and nights without being forced to endure the indignity of the chest. Was there danger? Has it passed?
All of my precious treasures, my food, EVERYTHING, was carefully placed in her black chest, the one I used to employ to spring onto the bed in earlier days. She left me in the house and carried this case to the river. She returned to tether me to her as always. We walked out of the house and she carried the new chest. It was still empty. She looked at me and then relieved as we cleared the villain’s corner, as if she finally reached the end of something. She loaded my things into a smooth shiny car that rested waiting for us on the dark river. How they roll along as if on waves, but without water, remains a mystery to me. To imagine that yesterday at this time I was walking to the market and respectfully saluting my respected acquaintances, seems a faraway tale told long ago. What lies in front of me is a dreamless sleep, as I reflect upon the circumstances in which I now find myself. I will try to retell as clearly as possible those events which have transpired.
She let me put my nose into the wind as always and she supported me for leagues and leagues as I attempted to make sense of our route. It was however, in no direction that we charted together before. It was a much greater distance, and I could hold my head up for the entire span of hours. I must admit that the shock of the afternoon’s events and the length of the journey caused me to tire and I soon crawled into a protected crevice by her feet. I felt sick as many feel at sea, but I knew I was not at sea. Even so, it was especially easy to fall asleep as shadows fell across her face. Every so often she sighed. I heard her heart beat fast. If she was nervous, I decided I must save my strength and steel myself for any danger on the horizon. I closed my eyes and while I could be somewhat comforted by the smell of all my treasures nearby, I wished for their place, my place, on our bed.
We exited the vessel at an unknown destination. It had none of the smells or sounds of the docks. Its sharpness as if a constant burning in the air, caused me to sneeze. Unlike the separate buzzes heard along our river, the surroundings shrieked and hummed constantly. Two men greeted us. “Maletas? Suitcases?” I heard. I was anxious to explore the perimeter, but we were lead through rooms into a small area with grass, damp and soft to the touch. In a simple room, with a bed, she deposited my trunks and the chest. She closed the door. She expected me to sleep, but I kept a vigil. I could hear many others nearby, but mostly my senses were dulled by a constant grinding, shrieking and burning smell wafting around us. I did note an uncountable number of chests as well. I believe each person laid claim to one or two, as if we were all assembling for a great voyage together. It was necessary for me to speak and sometimes yell throughout the night. I was constantly responding to possible intruders, and calling out for any answers there were to be given. I received none. This seemed to bother her in a way that I was not accustomed in our own shelter. It was as if she wanted to hide our presence. Had we returned to the secrecy and fear of earlier days? Why? From my memories with the villain, these steps also felt like fleeing.
We awoke early and left alone. There was no time to get a sense of the surroundings or inhabitants. We were carried to a strange, compound surrounded by massive, sleek and silver birds. The building was so extensive, I can only assume it was a fort of some kind, and the birds were more dove than rooster. The walls were high and reinforced so the birds were a kind of sentinel to monitor its skies. Guards stood on either side of the entrance. I feared that I might end up in a holding cell or cargo hold. I am aware of how sailors treat those in cages and other types of chests. Pirates show no care for items that are not their own, or that will not be sold for their profit. I am of course assuming that they are even honorable seafarers and not pirates.
I felt a weight on my chest, a closing in, and I began to pant. This seemed to worry My Friend and she tried to ease my nerves with my once favorite biscuits I inspected the day before from the tender child’s hand that always waited for me in her mother’s store. I refused. I was not to be soothed until I perceived calmer waters. We stood in wait with many passengers. I was grateful we were not in the sun, but the air was thick nonetheless. In the end, she presented a passenger ticket. She also presented a document so official that I can only assume she had acquired from my former captors, my certification as a captain in my own right. How she bartered for this, I will most likely never know. She must not only be of high station, but, of means. The price would have been very high. I am most definitely in her debt. The guard inspected the document, removed his copy and then bent to meet me. Of course, I passed this inspection with my head up, a tail that waved as if my colors raised at high tide. I thought of the roosters crowing outside our window. Captain or not on the ship in which I travel, I am always aware of eyes upon me. Even after this inspection, My Friend was questioned. The confidence and quickness in her tone gave me some comfort.
She was forced to carry the chest a long way and her shift of my weight from shoulder to shoulder indicated her strain. Small beads of sweat formed on her brow as she removed me from the chest to pass through an arched doorway. For some this gate rang as if in warning. We walked through in silence. I could at least be glad that I was not cast into blackness with only produce and swine as company. Before I saw her feet, I caught a glimpse of an expanse of wing. We were not aboard any kind of ship. We must have been in the belly of the bird! I heard the rush of the air as the bird left port. The great beast trembled when we began to move. It pushed past louder than I had ever heard sails fill before. The wind rumbled around us and I felt it surge through my body and the chest. Still, I heard a whisper, “Say goodbye, Solo,” and then as if only for herself, another, “Goodbye.” I curled inward and I felt comforted by the constant touch of her hand on my back.
After a span of too much waiting, we arrived at a new kind of port. I was not allowed to leave the chest until she registered and rechecked our trunks. We continued to tour what now appeared to me not only a marketplace but a village. We boarded a barge that navigated its way clacking on an adjoining river that snaked so high above, I feared it could only end in waterfalls or rapids. We reached a distant shore on the other side of the bay upon which the village was located.
My Friend and I ate a great meal of turkey and cheese served as always between bread which I disregarded, and she nibbled. We walked and walked. I attempted to maintain my dignity even as my nails clicked and slipped on the same type of smooth surface from our shelter. Why do beings cover the earth with such strange things? She was focused but relaxed in a way unseen in some time. She spoke easily with others who strolled through the village. The enormous birds rested peacefully alongside its edges. We enjoyed the sights. Her eyes were softly on me and not searching the horizon for distant trouble. After so long in the mountain shelter, there was an excitement I could not deny in this sudden turn of events. As my spirits warmed with each daily revision of the market, now it was her turn to take comfort in the sameness of the surroundings through which we walked.