WHAT IT IS
They are said to be responsible for destroying a miniscule amount of land compared to the habitats destroyed by humans and it has also been stated by some that they eat enormous amounts of fish, fish rightly destined for the palates of sports fishermen and other hungry fish lovers. Although they are not out in their boats casting gill nets, studying fish finders or dazzling the prey with shiny lures and scrumptious bait, cormorants are the new No. 1 enemy wildlife that we’re determined to “manage”.
Making a strong comeback after being decimated by DDT in the 1960’s, the newest method of cormorant control appears to be a fifty kill per day cull to keep these pesky little bastards in their place. To that end, INSECT agent and avid duck hunter, Sid Foster, readied his gear on the shores of Lake Erie and wouldn’t you know it, left sixty-one cormorants floating in the choppy waters by sundown.
WHAT IT IS NOT
It was supposed to be a quick detour but dragged out to be a long afternoon, a life saving experience and an odd little photograph that Sapphire became quite fond of. Driving down an old logging road north west of Temagami, Cricket spotted something out of place down a rocky overgrown road and decided to investigate. The deviation saw the driver’s side front wheel collapse a fragile piece of rock sending the truck sliding off solid ground into a mud filled pool of peat moss. Cricket pulled at his chin whiskers and declared he’d have the truck out within the hour and suggested Sapphire go for a walkabout to see what she could photograph.
Sapphire followed the sounds of running water, spotting and photographing several cormorants sitting awkwardly in a tree. Deciding to give her mechanically challenged brother a couple of hours to complete his task, she wandered along the stream coming to a bailey bridge where the water moved fast beneath the steel girders. While sitting on a rock below the bridge, Sapphire caught a glimpse of a women running along the roadway then disappearing into the forest. As she got to her feet for a better look she heard the sounds of someone splashing around into the swift moving current. Instinctively, Sapphire looked for a long branch, ran to where she could reach the person, then hauled her to safety. A thankful police officer, Jessica Potts, stretched out on the shoreline and regained her composure before both women headed back to find Cricket.
Cricket’s one hour assignment turned into four, and just as he righted the truck back on to the road, the two water soaked women arrived.
WHAT IT IS
Williams sat on the park bench, somewhat puzzled, even bewildered at the ability of a sandhill crane having the wherewithal to grab a sack of munks and fly away. His perplexing trance was abruptly shattered by Clive Clifford who arrived panting profusely as he had run some two miles to see Williams.
INSECT had poorly paid and seriously untrained ‘associates’ in most every state and Clive was one of three in Pennsylvania. Originally from Missouri, Clive was recruited by INSECT after his world fell apart when his hot air balloon business was shut down due to a tragic mid air accident that claimed the lives of several army veterans. Between deep breaths, Clive explained to Williams he heard on the INSECT radio frequency about the munks and that he saw the crane landing near the township reservoir and they must hurry if they wanted the munks recaptured. Johnson showed up with the van and all three were off to find the munks.
Those black trees that look into the very last whispers of light shooting from the setting sun are not the same trees that stand in the rain, that bake in the hot noon sun, that get struck and broken from the lightning. The secretive transformation rides on the winds that rustle through the branches and when the winds don’t blow it is the almighty hand of the unknown that completes what must be done. Those sunset trees are the story tellers of the forest, they spin tales of the cicada, of raging fires, of woodcutters and they tell their stories during the dying seconds of the disappearing sun. That is when Williams thought he heard the three munks made good their escape.
WHAT IT IS NOT
Cinder Willoughby and Mutt Jefferson got what they came for, a smidgen of junco blood, a handful of junco feathers and some leg scrapings from four different birds. The task now was to get the samples analyzed and see why these Plot 82 refugees survived.
Mutt dropped off Cinder at the St. Louis airport for a flight to Pennsylvania and he took the big rig to Michigan and his eventual destination of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Somewhere outside of Fort Wayne with the sun pushing down into the St. Mary’s river, Mutt first noticed a black SUV following him at a discrete distance. Within a half hour a fleet of Escalades and Explorers, green lights flashing and sirens whaling, gave notice to Mutt to pull over to the shoulder of the highway. INSECT agents in white hazmat suites and breathing apparatuses combed through his rig, cab and personal belongings looking for his junco samples.
Cinder Willoughby enjoyed the early morning walk past the modest houses with their well kept lawns and flower gardens. The morning air was fresh, the symphony of aromas from the lilacs filled his nostrils as he approached the small one story post office in Beaver Falls. He quickly glanced at the parcel he was carrying, destined for Hunter River he thought.
WHAT IT IS
This is how Hammer tells the story. His pet Polacka was born and raised on the tundra, a vast flat and treeless biome on Ellesmere Island. The cold, wind swept climate and the marvellous immensity of the land did not prepare the Polacka for the forests and confines of the south.
The results were predictable when the creature wandered into a campsite of five families enjoying a leisurely evening around the campfire. First twisting himself into a clothesline, the Polacka ran amok through tents, knocking over tables and chairs while being forever spooked by the underwear and t-shirts that followed him everywhere. He did a couple of passes around the campsite as campers dove for cover under cars, into trailers and anywhere that resembled reasonable shelter. For a moment all was quiet, the Polacka looked like a flea market as he wondered what to do next but the silence was quickly shattered by Missy, a rambunctious Shetland Sheepdog that barked incessantly at the intruder. Beyond irritated by the yapping, the Polacka walked deliberately toward the reversing dog, picked it up and placed it high in a tree.
The campers all agree it was the tranquil demeanor of the red fox pup that brought the conflict to a successful resolution. Showing up on the edge of the campsite, the pup lowered himself on to his front legs and made a soft murmuring sound that caught the attention of the Polacka. Both animals greeted one another with some caution, then walked off down the road.
WHAT IT IS NOT
It was Jessica Potts’ first day at her new detachment and the plan was to play it cool, don’t stand out, do a good job and make it home after the shift was complete. And that was what, more or less, happened on her inaugural day.
The sheer amount of thoughts that raced through her head in the few minutes that Melena Schulz pointed her Glock at her would forever astonish her. She was consumed with the idea of distraction. Once when cooking breakfast, she forgot to turn on the frypan and the eggs never quite survived. What of the index finger, too close to the nail head when the hammer arrives or looking absentmindedly into the spray can nozzle to see why it’s not working? Then there’s wearing a black shoe and a blue shoe complimented by the white sock and pink sock. Standing on top of a bailey bridge straddling the Bison River with a serious weapon pointing at you only a few feet away gave Jessica incentive to ponder the current need for a distraction
In retrospect, Jessica figured it was her open eyed reaction of seeing the fox pup near the bridge that caused Schulz to briefly turn around, but it was enough time for Jessica to jump into the swift moving water below.
WHAT IT IS
There was only one person she knew of that still writes in longhand. Jaden studied the white envelope, smiling at the large looping J’s, the exact forty-five degree slant of the letters and the tape measure placement of the dots above the i’s. She had not heard from her cousin Jack Sampson in many years but now it seemed he was reaching out for some reason.
The letter explained how Jack’s sister Mary regained her sight after a fall but was now losing her ability to speak as she became more and more reclusive, withdrawing into the natural world of wild flowers and birds and animals that inhabited the area around his farm. Jack was at the end of his rope: could Jaden take some time off work and come out to the farm.
Jaden fired up her Harley at 5AM and left New Orleans in the driving rain, arriving at Jack’s place that evening. She didn’t know why, she just cruised past the farmhouse, down a tractor trail to the large pond on the back forty. Mary stood watching a sandhill crane dance at the water’s edge and for a moment they seemed to dance together before the bird flew off.
WHAT IT IS NOT
Johnson and Williams had a two hour wait that could easily stretch into three hours and most likely turn into four hours as they waited for Miller and Davis to arrive at the Amtrak station in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Johnson was content to lay out in the back of the van, but a restless Williams decided the three munks would eventually chew through the burlap bag that was their prison, so he decided to go for a walk, find a pet store and buy a cage to house the little critters.
Williams grabbed the sack of munks and started walking in a random direction, not really sure where he was going or if he’d find what he was looking for. Friendly folks on the street pointed him in the direction of Lucy’s Pet Village and assured him she had a fine selection of Havahart cages. As random as his walk was, what happened next was equally random. Having finally decided on a cage, Williams walked up to the cashier to pay when a middle aged man in front of him pulled out a water pistol and demanded money from the register. It was all over in seconds, the robber was tackled by an off duty officer who identified himself as state patrolman Ned Doucet, but Ned was conked over the head with a large can of dog food and the robber escaped on a small child’s tricycle.
Williams walked along the sidewalk reliving the events until he came across a small stream with a most unusual name…the Coal Tar Run. He sat down on a bench along the stream, put the sack of munks down beside his legs and started reading the labels on the Havahart cage box. It was at about this time when a really large sandhill crane swooped down on the unsuspecting agent, grabbed the sack of munks in his ambitious beak and took off for parts unknown.
Graham was strutting around the Lake Springfield cabin like he had just won an Oscar. He received a text from agents White and Moore explaining how they successfully captured three sentient teddy bears and had them inert and stashed among regular teddy bears in a Walmart in New Liskeard. White was experimenting with a slightly altered chickadee call, amplifying the sound then blasting it as an ELF radio wave through a device dangling from a helicopter. The net effect was to vibrate the teddy bears out of their black velvet sacs where they slept and render them disorientated. Ground crews would then follow the path of the helicopter and scoop up the bears.
Ellie locked herself into Slim’s vast library on the fourteenth floor, coming out only occasionally to smell a tuna fish sandwich or other such morsel Slim’s staff put out for her. The little bear’s brain was bursting with cosines, antecedents, certitudes, historical certainties, classical literature, all in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of three admissions academics that would decide Ellie’s fate…tomorrow!
But, of course, tomorrow never really comes and when Ellie got wind of the fate of the three teddy bears she enlisted help from Pickles and they immediately telekinesed to Northern Ontario. It hit Ellie like a sac of hammers! As she sat on the roof of the McDonalds, next to the exhaust vent, she remembered the fairy from Ellesmere Island telling her to always rely on the rule of thirds. Ellie didn’t pay much attention to the advice; frankly, she had no idea what it meant, but on this day Ellie realized the fairy was telling her to use three black velvet sacs for protection from this new and ominous threat.
Ellie gave Pickles three sacs, told her where the helicopter was surveying the following day and wished her well. Ellie’s next move was to liberate the three captured teddy bears inside the Walmart. While Ellie rummaged through shelves of teddy bears she quickly realized the people running INSECT where not the sharpest tools in the proverbial shed. It is common knowledge that once a teddy bear has been granted sentientism one of the first thing the bear does is tear off it’s tags and barcodes as an acknowledgement of the new found status. Of all the bears only three had no barcodes, so Ellie stuffed them into a triple black velvet bag and telekinesed to the McDonald’s rooftop.
WHAT IT IS
It was a late August early morning outburst by Jackson that brought Mrs. B to the front door. The sun was hitting the porch door screen in such a way that everything outside appeared pale and washed out. She shielded her eyes for a better look then grabbed the splitting axe from behind the stove and walked out on to the porch for a better look. Jackson was now in the arms of a man Mrs. B had seen before along the road and the little dog seemed more than content with his circumstance.
The man, a somewhat translucent or at least an extremely pale person, explained to Mrs. B that he was a living metaphor to the metaphor that was the doomsday clock and of late was feeling quite unhealthy. It was his hope to travel to a plot of land in Missouri where it was said he would be revitalized to his former self and he could return to his life’s work. His travelling companion and guide was a most cantankerous male mallard that disappeared after being shot at by hunters overanxious for the beginning of hunting season. The duck, spoiling for a fight, took off over five days ago and had not yet returned. The man even sent his beloved horse to retrieve the bird but both were still missing.
Mrs. B served a raisin/cranberry scone, along with an orange pekoe tea on the small table at the far end of the porch, much to the delight of the man. She listened intently to the man’s musings and just as she was about to assure him his friends would return, the mallard’s erratic flight saw him swoop down from the tree tops, then along the road a few feet above the horse galloping along the road towards Mrs. B’s house.
WHAT IT IS NOT
He just cooked the food. Breakfast preparation started at 4:30 AM, the rest of his day was chopped up into long unpaid breaks, more food prep until the day finally ended at 7:30 PM and he headed to his tiny one room cabin to gulp down a half dozen beers. Occasionally, he’d get a ride into Greensburg, and stock up on Budweiser before returning back to Bayfield Camp.
At any given time, the camp housed twenty to thirty juveniles who ran afoul of the law. The camp counselors practised a mixed bag of tough love and religious fanaticism in an attempt to scare the kids straight. The result on the inmates was increased dope smoking, increased sex and increased mayhem to the point that one night all nineteen kids at the camp escaped into the nearby woods after one of them cut through the wire fence that surrounded the camp.
To great protest, Jared was conscripted into searching for the wayward teens and a long night of screaming out names ensued. As morning broke, a weary and puzzled Jared Deakins watched as a pale fellow, his horse and a duck walked past him with not so much as a word.
WHAT IT IS
The snow came early on this once self-subsistence and now long abandoned farm located down a rarely used overgrown dirt road somewhere south of River Valley. Desperate and dirt poor men and women attempted to eke out a living from the land of rock and snow, but after a generation or two of this starvation lifestyle thousands of these homesteads became quivering tombs of memories, disintegrating in the howling winds and in the scorching sun and in the unending cold of winter. If the unforgiving soil didn’t collapse these souls, bank foreclosures and the burden of debt saw to their demise.
Today, the landscape is awash in dilapidated farm houses and barns that once promised hope. Hardy perennials and shrubs can still be seen growing beside crumbling foundations telling passersby that beauty once existed and is still possible and that farming dreams still swirl in the air along side the spring pollen. The barn door is now used firewood, as are many of the long straight boards that still give the structure its tangible appearance. When Feather arrived, she could look right through the barn and see the fields on the other side, but she had no time for melancholy and set straight away to opening the small treasure chest box in her possession. Three insects poked their tiny heads out of the box and flew high into the barn’s rafters.
WHAT IT IS NOT
He claimed to be an architect from the city of Ottawa, but it turned out he was a draftsman from Arnprior, but no matter what, George bought the old Douglas property a few kilometers from the Moose Lodge where Morley, the lodge owner, was glad to have a neighbour at long last. George stayed at the lodge a couple of times, leaving early in the morning to visit his newly acquired property, then returning in the evening for supper and sleep. On his third visit, George got it into his head that he wanted to tear down the barn, transport the wood to Arnprior and build an authentic replica of the barn as a tourist attraction. Being a busy man with a full time job, George enlisted Morley’s two sons to do the actual work. They could take all winter, as George was in no particular rush to see the project completed.
As an early October snowfall descended on the area, Morley’s sons were spending every second weekend at the barn and progress on the demolition was going well, until their arrival on the first weekend of the month. Strange and unusual footprints appeared in the snow; these prints were like nothing the boys had seen before.
Morley called around and within a few days CO Micheals arrived confirming that he had seen these footprints only once before.