Jack and I made our way back to the car quickly but then sat for a moment or two, trying to figure out the quickest route to Punkydoodles Corner. We needed to go east, so taking the big highway 401 to the Drumbo exit seemed like the best way to go.
As I was pulling out, Jack said to me quietly,
“Are you stopping for another coffee, Mummy?”
“Do you think we can afford the time to stop, Bubba?”
“Well, Mummy, it’s going to be hard work looking for Oma, and I thought that we could share a breakfast sandwich. You know, for energy.”
“We’ve already had breakfast, Jack.”
“Maybe, we could call it early lunch, Mummy. I’m starving.”
“You’re always hungry, Jack, but alright we’ll stop at Tim’s. It’s on the way.”
We drove in silence, both of us lost in thought until we made it to Tim Horton’s drive-through.
“HI, I’ll have a large coffee with cream and a breakfast sandwich, please,” I said to the microphone.
“Don’t forget a Timbit, Mummy. I’ll want a treat after I find Oma.”
“And two plain Timbits, please,” I added.
Jack smiled, but I could see the worry in his eyes. We paid for our food and drove the two blocks to the park, where we sat and ate our first lunch.
“So Jack, do you think we can really find this fairy?” I asked.
Bubba was quiet for a moment and finally said, “It depends on Oma. If she’s touched a lot of things, it will be easier. I’m 99% sure I can find Freddy’s trail, but finding Oma will be harder.” Jack swallowed a bite of egg without chewing and then said, “We have to find her, Mummy. Everyone is counting on us.”
“Yes, they are Jack, and we’ll do our very best, but we might not find her.”
“Mummy, your attitude sucks. We are going to find her, even if it takes all day!” Jack exclaimed.
“Alright, well, let’s get going,” I said, mentally trying to plan for an all-day event. We made our way to the highway, and it wasn’t long before we reached the Drumbo exit. We turned south, and soon there it was… the sign for Punkydoodles Corners. I pulled over and helped Jack out of the car.
“Alright, Bubba. There’s the sign, and we’re a bit west, so let’s see what you can pick up.”
“This whole place stinks like fox, Mummy. It must be a route they use often.”
“Can you pick up Freddy,” I asked.
“Maybe. Let me sniff around a bit,” he said.
Jack took off, wandering up and down and back and forth, sniffing and occasionally sticking out his tongue to taste the grass. It seemed random at first, but then I saw the pattern. Jack was making smaller and smaller figure eights along the ditch. He was quiet and methodical, and time passed slowly. Thankfully, the day was bright and sunny, and so far, there hadn’t been traffic on this road. Finally, after about half an hour, Jack stopped and looked up at me and smiled.
“Got him, Mummy. This is definitely Freddy’s smell. It’s strong here. I think this is where he stopped to drink. There isn’t much water here now, but I’m sure this is the place. I don’t smell Oma, though.” Jack’s face grew solemn.
“Can you tell which direction he came from,” I asked. Jack looked up and said, ” north-west. Toward that field.”
“Alright,” I said, hoping the farmer who owned that field wouldn’t mind us wandering around it. “Let’s go.”
” I can go faster without you, Mummy,” Jack said, “You’re a bit slow.”
Me, slow! Huh, That’s rich coming from Mr. Heavybum. He was right, though, so I waved him away and admonished him to stay in my sights.
“Silly, Mummy. Of course, I will,” he said, trotting away.
He headed up the ditch and toward the eastern edge of the field. He began a zig-zaggy pass along the border when suddenly I heard him bark sharply and start dancing around.
“Ow, Ow, Ow,” he cried, dancing in place and snapping his jaws at the ground.
I hurried toward him and saw him standing at the edge of a rock pile, writhing with garter snakes. Yikes!… snakes. I’ve made peace with snakes one on one, but there were dozens of snakes all wriggling in a pile and hissing, and it made me hesitate. Another cry of “Ow, Ow, Ow,” from Jack finally got me moving, and I rushed forward and pulled Jack backwards by his collar.
Jack gave a final snapping of his jaws at the snakes and said, “they bit my toes, Mummy.’ I could see tiny spots of blood that Jack bent down and licked away. Turning back to the snakes, Jack said, “That wasn’t very nice. Biting is nasty. Why would you do that?”
One of the larger snakes slithered out of the pile and towards us.
“‘Causssssse you sssteped on usss, you clumsy beasst,” it hissed.
Jack was still licking tiny spots of blood on his toes.
“Sorry,’ he said. “I’m looking for a fairy, and I wasn’t paying attention. Even so, it’s very rude to bite someone.”
“There’sss no fairiess here.” said the big spokesnake. “It’s Ssspring wake up for usss.” The pile of snakes began to giggle while they wriggled, and he continued with a smile, “It’ss the ssseason of love. Sssoon it will be the ssseason of babiesss.”
I couldn’t stop watching the slithering pile even though they were making me feel nauseous. What a sight! Finally, I found my voice and weakly croaked, “have you seen a grey-haired fairy come this way?”
The giggling stopped for a moment, and a whisper passed among the group.
Finally, Mr. Spokesnake said, “Nopes. No fairiesss. You can passss over us if you wantsss to look down there.”
“Will you promise not to bite me again,” said Jack, who was still nursing his toes.
“Yesss, if you promise not to steps on usss again,” he hissed, moving forward.
“I can promise that,” I said. “We’ll go around you. In fact, we’ll take a wide berth around you. Come, Jack, let’s go this way,” I said, heading up and to my left.
Jack trotted toward me and looking back, said, “Sorry, snakes. Enjoy your season of love.”
Once we were well away from the garter snakes, Jack looked up at me and said, “You were very brave, Mummy, I know snakes make you nervous.”
I smiled back and told him, “No, Bubbs, you were the brave one. How are your toes?”
“A bit sore, but not bad. I still have my winter toe fur, so the bites aren’t deep.”
He put his nose to the ground again and began another zig-zag pass. A few meters into the field, he stopped and barked happily, “Mummy, I can smell the ocean. It must be Oma Troutchen!” He began to inhale deeply and headed for the far side of the field.
I sighed and followed slowly behind. Then I smelled it myself. The ocean. There was a faint whiff of salt air and seaweed, only a fragment, and then it was gone. Jack was almost to the east edge of the field and I hurried to catch up. Maybe we were going to find Oma Troutchen, after all.