One rainy Friday, the humans loaded all the bags and baskets and bundles and computers, without which humans cannot go on an Expedition, into the car.
“We’re going to the Seaside!” they said.
Mr Wicked did not know what a Seaside was. They already lived beside the sea, which was a sort of vast muddy plain, except when it was a vast salty puddle that was not good to drink. However, the humans seemed to think it would be Educational for him. He was used to that. Humans are programmed to educate smaller humans, and when they have none, they take it out on the dogs. This accounted for Mr Wicked’s large vocabulary, which contributed to his ability to worry, as a large vocabulary divorced from the ability to understand “tomorrow” or “next week” is an Anxiety-Inducing attribute.
Anyway, off they went to the Seaside. Mr Wicked felt this was rather like going to the River, except that it involved more driving.Eventually, they got there, and the humans carried all their bags and baskets and bundles and computers into a small house that only had one room. This was interesting. It had no couch, but it did have a large soft dais, obviously designed for lying on, unlike a couch, which is designed for humans to sit on and dogs to put their paws on while barking out the window at their friends, even though they shouldn’t. The humans told Mr Wicked, “No, no dogs on the bed.” Mr Wicked had not realized that it was a bed. He thought beds involved more tartan. He had not realized that humans had beds, though if he had given it much thought, he would have deduced that they probably did have some heap of bedding similar to his own, to curl up on when they went up the Forbidden Stairs to the primate loft at night. It was not really likely that they sat up writing novels all night, every night, after all.
Then they walked down to the Seaside. It smelt rather like the Marsh, except with fewer cows and less mud, and more interesting seaweed. The water was clear like proper water, not mud-brown like salt water, so he drank some. It did not taste like proper water, though it had a different flavour from Marsh-Sea water, possibly due to less mud and more seaweed, so he drank some more. He tried every different tidepool. Mr Wicked was a connoisseur of exotic waters; he knew that even every puddle in the street had its own subtle bouquet, after a rain, even though the humans always told him, “Stop drinking puddle-water!” Tidepools were just the same. Each one had its own flavour.
“Stop drinking seawater!” said the humans.
They walked up and down the shore on rocks that were slippery with bladderwrack and rocks that were slippery with dulse and over shingle that was crunchy with shells.
“Someday,” said the humans, “this will all be limestone.”
Mr Wicked felt that that was too much Education for a mere dog. They climbed up a big curvy knee of rock and looked at an island, and a weir, and four loons, and some fog. Mr Wicked looked at the forest and some trees and a squirrel, until three crows chasing one another swooped down out of a tree over their heads, so close that they could hear their wings ripping the air, and the humans ducked and put their hands over their heads. The crows seemed a little surprised too.
Having the entire pack sleeping in one room was very convenient, in Mr Wicked’s opinion. Though the humans had, as usual, brought several computers along, they did not seem to do much writing. They did keep him up past bedtime by sitting up with the lights on reading Jennings’ Little Hut, but their ears were conveniently at nose-height in the morning when, having thoughtlessly closed all the blinds the night before, they didn’t notice that it was dawn. Mr Wicked instinctively understood that the thing to do for sleeping humans who were missing the sunrise was to insert a cold and dampish nose in the ear. This, after all, is not at all the same thing as barking in the house, which is permissible after lights-out only in digestive emergencies or in case of burglars, flood, fire, rats, vandalizing commerce students marauding orc-like through the neighbourhood, or Acts of Malevolent Deities. Feeling that it is time to go and look at loons is not, really, an emergency. But since the humans were up now anyhow . . .
They went to look at the loons again before breakfast.
Going to the Seaside also meant going to the aquarium — the Huntsman Marine Lab.
“It’s too bad Mr Wicked can’t come in to see the seals,” said the humans. Mr Wicked was disappointed. It sounded like seals were some kind of fish-eating water-dog, and as Mr Wicked’s official dogfood contained mostly fish, he thought they would get along. But Mr Wicked was a Good and Noble Beast, despite his name, and he understood that it was necessary for someone to stay behind to guard the car. So he did, while the humans went to look at Skates and Sturgeon and Amazing Giant Lobsters and Salmon and Seals. He decided to take a nap. It was a cool and drizzling day, and the cool drizzle that came in all over him through the window carried many interesting smells. Perhaps some of that smell was the fishy breath of seals, or perhaps it was his own. The humans, while looking at the short-nosed sturgeon from above, noticed that out in the parking lot, Mr Wicked had become an exhibition himself, and was being admired by some small children who appeared to be awe-stricken by his noble profile.
The humans spent a great deal of time going into interesting shops that did not allow dogs, but in one they bought Mr Wicked some liver biscuits, so that was all right. And then there was more Seaside, and it turned out that this Seaside had tides, too, and they walked out almost all the way to Navy Island on a long ridge of rocks and seaweed, and by trying very hard, Mr Wicked found some squishy black mud, which is just the thing a white dog needs to frolic in, to make his Seaside Holiday complete.
So he did, and it was.