WHAT IT IS
Flagstaff watched the solitary yellowjacket crawl along the edge of the roof of the gazebo for over two hours. It seemed to possess great purpose as it stopped to inspect each crack in the wood, each protruding nail. The insect had a special passion for a loose shingle on the north side of the roof and when he’d walk across it his entire body would shake and shimmy, his legs carrying him in jagged directions.
Five days later Flagstaff found herself in a small rural hospital, a doctor poking around her eyelids and a nurse standing statuesque in front of a monitor. As she came to, the doctor explained she was found on the side of the road by paramedics and they have since determined that she was administered a massive dose of wasp venom. Flagstaff recollects meeting with No.1 in a surreal, dreamlike state, but their interactions are vague and tentative.
WHAT IT IS NOT
The Tucker chain of bars and grills are the latest restaurants to suffer what appears to be a co-ordinated attack by insects in the Philadelphia area. The City of Brotherly Love saw five of its eating establishments over run with wasps, bees, crickets, roaches and ants. Speculation that the chains owner, Tom T. Tuckers’ recent tirade about harvesting millions of tons of insects to feed runaway human overpopulation may have led to the insect invasions.
Agents from INSECT are currently on scene and they have stated unequivocally that the disturbances have all the ear markings of a No.1 initiative.
WHAT IT IS
He sounded like a carnival barker, his voice was loud and strong, carrying a great distance bouncing off the creole cottages and townhouses in the French quarter. Margaret moved toward him, admiring his Uncle Sam hat, the perfectly tailored pin striped suit and bright red curly toed slippers. Carrying an iguana-like creature, the barker proclaimed the virtues of a traveling road show of rare animals, ancient objects and wonderful people.
Margaret knew she was hooked when a friendly Marmoset jogged up to her, scooted up her pant leg and offered up a single stemmed yellow rose. Once inside she was immediately drawn to an area hosting breathtaking animals from around the world and as she walked past the last display she watched a small horse and a blind man in a touching embrace. She was curious, so she asked! His name was Leo Barnard, he lost his sight one night in Beaver County, Pennsylvania when a UFO touched down in a field and the intense light from the craft caused his vision loss.
WHAT IT IS NOT
They all came; the doomsday cults, the Christian prophets, the alien creatures, the believers, the deniers, town criers, Walmart buyers and even a couple of dudes who set themselves on fire. The governor of the Quaker State had had enough and ordered the tunnels beneath Beaver County destroyed. The orders had been given, the contractors hired, the subcontractors appointed, the equipment brought in and the massive detonations executed. The tunnels were no more.
A mop-up crew consisting of two individuals were dispatched to each explosion site to check that all ordnance had been properly discharged. During the inspection just west of Beaver Falls the two men claimed to have seen six foot long prehistoric creature digging its way back down into the earth that had been just rocked by the explosion.
WHAT IT IS
Basil McCormik was back on the island, leaving Frank James in Canso to deal with Dizzy and Bella the best way he could. His practice outside of Charlottetown gave him a week off but now it was back to work plying his veterinary trade. The real money was in Mrs. McCain’s french toy poodle when one of its claws broke off or in the deputy minister’s bull mastiff that was barfing all over the Cantilever Sofa and accompanying Pouf after getting into the Knipschildt Chocolate truffles. McCormik was at peace with this, it gave him the resources to do the real vet work with cows, sheep and horses, especially the horses, scattered all across the island. A few weeks into his return from Canso, McCormik got an urgent call from a horsewomen near Kensington asking for vet help for a pregnant mare. McCormik quickly packed his gear, arriving in less that an hour. The mare was in fine shape, with no real issues he could detect. McCormik left some meds and basic instructions with the owner and was making his way down the long, twisting driveway to the main road when the long lost pony he’d been looking for blocked his exit near the end of the driveway. A much larger horse in some medical distress stood close by.
WHAT IT IS NOT
The Apache County Fair in Oklahoma wasn’t just about award winning long-jump frogs, speedy slithering snakes or dipsy-doodling dragonflies; no way, it also had a remarkable equestrian component where thoroughbreds and standardbreds from across North America came to compete.
The most beloved competition was the Big and Small Horse Jumpover event. Imagine this: A baseball diamond shaped field with a large horse at second base and a small horse at home plate. When the starters pistol sounds both animals head for first base where the large horse jumps over the small horse. They then proceed in opposite directions to third base where the small horse runs underneath the big horse. They then make a determined dash to the pitcher’s mound. In this timed event, the horses in this photograph had the best time and received Apache County blue ribbons.
WHAT IT IS
Autumn was sneaking up on Pennsylvania. The mild fall temperatures kept the state in its summer green hues, but a couple of weeks of cold days and freezing nights was turning the countryside into a palate of beautiful colors. The ash leaves were starting to turn and fall and the deep browns and reds of the oaks and maples were starting to dominate the color scheme.
Will Offley liked this time of year: the harvest was in and the hectic pace on the farm began to slow just a bit. He especially enjoyed getting out the birdfeeders, cleaning them up, doing necessary repairs and filling the feeders with sunflower seeds, millet, thistle and oats. On a Sunday morning in November, Offley was keeping an eye on an impatient blue jay who seemed to be studying his technique of placing peanuts into a special blue jay feeder. With the feeder full, Offley began hoisting it up into a tree via a pully-system he had designed and when it reached its intended position, Offley turned to tie the rope to the base of the tree. That’s when he saw him, a man in his forties explaining he was from Germany and that his name was Will Offley Jr.
WHAT IT IS NOT
Smith was now Graham’s point man. With Graham stuck mostly in the office, shuffling papers, going to meetings and heading up the dreaded breakout groups for policy inputs, he relied heavily on Smith to excel in the field. So, it was with absolutely no reluctance that Graham appointed Smith to head up the Canso assignment
Smith had sixteen agents searching the Barrens Wilderness Area just south of Canso, while he was southwest of Cook Cove on a hunch that Beersey and Butsey were in the area. His radio receiver had picked up some wonky radio waves when he drove through the area the previous day and he was back for another look.
An hour on the Guysborough Nature Trail proved to be just what Smith needed as his receivers picked up the teddy bears just ahead. Smith reached for a couple of black velvet hoods but a blue jay screamed out a fearful squawk alerting the teddy bears who telekinesed all the way to the town of Guysborough.
WHAT IT IS
Baines Wainscot signed the last book in the windy foyer of the local Costco, as winning kids and stressed out mothers rushed around looking for sales and deals on anything they may or may not need. Massaging his writing hand as he gathered his belongings together, Wainscot thought how he hated this part of the gig but disliked even more his publisher’s proselytizations on the benefits of such tours.
At ant rate, Wainscot’s tour was over and he was embarking on a new book which would explore the oldest fascination of human civilization…the realization of immortality. Wainscot wasn’t just going to write about this topic, but it was his intention to prove that human immortality was attainable. His first stop was the summer environs of a fairy living on Easter Island in the high arctic.
WHAT IT IS NOT
Somewhere along the Ohio River, perhaps near Georgetown or Glasgow…Justine Flagstaff knew the directions were intentionally obscured and she was ok with that. She thought of it as a voluntary kidnapping, complete with disguised bad guys, suspicious vehicles and decidedly unusual outcomes.
Flagstaff was sitting on a specific park bench in Riverside Park at 4 AM waiting to be transported to see No.1 when a black cargo van crawled along Mairdale Ave., its headlights turned off and the windows shaded dark. The van slowly passed Flagstaff, did a u-turn, approached her again, stopped in front of her momentarily before pulling away. A slight brake squeal and bright red light gave way to a white reverse light bringing the van to a quiet stop in front of Flagstaff. The wait seemed long, finally the driver’s side window opened a few inches, an index finger pointed to the rear of the truck. Flagstaff obeyed, flung open the cargo door and squinted inside; a lone yogi mat on the middle of the floor was all she could see and she climbed inside.
They drove for a couple of hours, on gravel roads, paved roads and for a short time on the freeway before coming to a stop in the early morning with the driver telling her to wait at this gazebo for further instructions.
WHAT IT IS
A homemade sign written with a black sharpie marker on a piece of plain brown cardboard greeted Johnson and Williams as their car came to a stop at the edge of Plot 82. “Not much to do, at Plot 82,” was the message, along with two sad faces on either side of the text. The day was warm, the humidity stifling as they began the daily chore of walking through the plot taking notes on insects, vegetation, soil conditions, temperature, wind speed and on and on and on. This daily ritual did not change until the second week when Johnson was out in the plot doing a chicory count. While moving through a rather large patch of the plant he came across a blind man and a small horse. The man was carefully handling the flowers, sensing those with insects on them and cutting those flowers and placing them carefully in an enclosed basket. Why was he doing this? The answer: the horse told him to do it!
WHAT IT IS NOT
Basil McCormik sat at in Big Al’s Diner looking out the window, mesmerized at nothing in particular, playing with the two over easy eggs on his plate. It was not really Big Al’s Diner, just Al’s Diner but McCormik couldn’t get the BIG out of his mind. As he gazed, a figure appeared, growing larger and more distinct as it walked out of the ditch and on to the shoulder of the road. It was the famous mathematician and engineer Mark Malloch and he appeared to be studying the chicory along the side of the road.
McCormik rushed out of the diner to his truck and grabbed the metal object he found in the sea cave on PEI hoping Malloch could identify the symbols on the object. Malloch studied the object briefly, said it was a combination of ancient Hebrew texts and numbers which may roughly translate to “men underground-2020.”
According to Baines Wainscot’s best seller, A Brief History of Teddy Bears, Pickles became sentient after Ellie saw her thrown out of a fast moving truck as she herself was hanging on to the boomerang of a speeding stretch limo hurling down a Boston thoroughfare. Ellie leapt from the limo, wrestled a tumbling Pickles to the ground, performed what looked like a Vulcan mind meld and within moments Pickles was chatting up a storm. The two went their separate ways, not seeing each other again……..
While Ellie hummed the peppy Blackie and the Rodeo Kings song “Let’s Frolic,” the authentic smell of Espanola’s finest Chinese restaurant wafted up to the rooftop where Ellie busily organized black velvet hoods for distribution throughout the teddy bear community. As she smelled and worked, Ellie heard the unmistakable agony of a teddy bear in trouble. She stopped and looked around…the sound was above her…not directly above…but close by. Ellie honed in on her quarry, Pickles was caught dangling from a high power hydro line a couple hundred feet away.
Ellie mustered a strong telekinesis connection and like lightning Pickles was on the rooftop, her one hundred days of sentientism nearly up. Before collapsing, Pickles explained she created two sentient teddy bears, Beersey and Butsey, and that they were in MAJOR trouble in Canso, Nova Scotia.