Monday, June 30, 2008

Like Winter, Only Hot and Humid

It’s the gloomiest day of a very gloomy month. The air is so thick you can practically part it with your hands. It’s grey and smelly and smoky and foggy all at once. It looks like a sunless winter day – but go outside and it’s hot and humid. Go inside, and you develop an urge to make soup and cookies – wintertime food. Go outside, and you want some ice water. Or maybe you just want to go back in again. I can’t stress it enough: it’s NASTY outside.

I’m told this is because all the factories in town are cranking full-blast, trying to reach their quotas before closing up shop in the countdown to the Olympics. If so, it should be better by tomorrow – the deadline for shutdown. Of course, I’m also told the Chinese are seeding the clouds, and that’s why there’s so much rain. But I’m kind of a skeptic: I mean, if it were possible to seed clouds with such reliability, why would there still be droughts? The other night there was a particularly violent thunderstorm perched directly overhead for several hours, and I was told by some rather educated folk that the Chinese had created that storm on purpose. To which I say: hmmm, well, I guess I didn’t actually say anything. But I’m not such a good conspiracy theorist.

Today, after swim camp, I took the boys out to lunch. This was to serve a dual purpose, as I needed to write up a restaurant review for a local magazine. On the way there, I saw several dogs sitting in an intersection. I only noticed them because the local dogs usually aren’t dumb enough to hang in the streets – they cross quickly and move to the side. But these dogs seemed to be waiting for something. Plus, they were bigger than the usual football-sized Beijing dogs.

We passed them on the way to the restaurant, only to find it was closed. So we headed back onto the foggy highway toward the dogs. This time, one of them – a large, black dog – was lying in the middle of the road. Dead, presumably. Another golden dog was standing over it, trying to get it to wake up. She was tugging at its ears and its head, trying to drag it out of the road. But the dog was too big and too dead to budge.

I’ve never seen a dog do that before, and the whole scene seemed so tragic, there in the fog. I wanted to do something, to pull over and help her get the dog out of the road, perhaps, before she got hit by another car. But really, what good would it do to have me standing in the middle of a fog-choked highway, grieving a strange dog? Besides, the boys were in back, and they hadn’t noticed the scene.

So I kept going. The last thing I saw in my rear view mirror was the golden dog pulling the black dog’s head in her teeth, pulling with all her strength, until her teeth gave way and the black dog’s head thumped back down on the pavement.

Really, all in all, a gloomy, gloomy day.

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