A Likely Place

Marilee Swirczek

The sign said “Likely, Oregon” and we made the predictable wise cracks: The pioneers settled in a likely place, and this is as likely a place as any other.  Ahead, a shudder in the thin line of cars and then brake lights blinking like red eyes.  We stopped, looking for a likely reason for the inconvenience.  A wobbly V of snow geese honked overhead, likely on their way to the tule lake, we surmised, still charmed by our own cleverness with words.  Winding her way among the cars, a girl in jeans and brown parka cradled a black dog, big as our Labrador, its head lolling in an unlikely way.  The girl (for I could see she was no more than a girl, most likely a young driver who just learned a lesson about swerving or not swerving) dropped to her knees in the sharp gravel at the roadside and lay the dog down.  Someone ran out of the ranch house there and the line of cars moved on, us with them.  A red-tailed hawk glided above.  In the field nearby, two blood-bay colts pawed through the crusty hoarfrost for the cheat grass beneath.  A gray cat settled atop a rusted wire bale and licked its paw.