We landed with a thump right outside the cave. On the one hand, I was relieved. We were all alive and, relatively, in one piece. Sure, I was going to miss my arm, but it was the right one and I’m left-handed, so it’s not that terrible. And the dog looked weird with no back legs and only half a torso but that didn’t seem to have dampened his spirits any. And the cat was fine.
But on the other hand, I had no idea where we were or how to get back home. I basically picked a direction to head because it looked like the easiest way to walk. No big hills, no other caves, just a large meadow with a hackberry tree at the far end.
It took us all day to walk to the hackberry tree, both because it was a long way away and because one animal had no back legs and the other was a cat. But when we got there, Hobs was waiting under the tree for us. Just like always, when I’m at the end of a walk, there’s the orange cat to make sure I get home.
We followed him and, eventually, came to the back side of the tear. He popped through first, then the dog, then me, and finally the new kitty. Back on the right side, we had all our limbs.
I ran to the house and grabbed a needle and thread and the very first thing I did was to mend that tear, which, yes, I should have done in the first place. Then I sat down on the ground, my arms around that big, stupid dog, and I cried until it flooded the creek. Even now, there are backwaters of the Cumberland that are salty from where my sorrow went down my creek, into Dry Fork Creek, into Whites Creek, and then into the river where it has stayed ever since.
But we are all safe now, for now, and that’s what matters.
The dog still likes Bart best, but I think he likes me a lot, these days. At least once I caught sight of him following me in the Trans-Am, head out the window, breeze through his hair, happy as can be. I was just going to the gas station, though, and he had better adventures to be on. So, he passed on by.