When Tommy awoke in his tiny bed in his tiny home in a hole in the ground in North Cambridge, he woke up to an unusual sound. Tommy liked to sleep in, so often he’d wake up to the sound of either Jerry or their mother clambering around making breakfast, or to the sound of birts chirping close by – spirrows or curdinels. But today, the birds were quiet, and he couldn’t hear his family at all. In fact, Tommy heard nothing – just peace and quiet.
He liked the quiet, and decided to sleep a little longer. But after a while, his curiosity got the best of him and he got up to find out where his brother and mother were.
He got out of bed and found a note on the dining table a foot away.
The note read, “Gone feshing! Back soon.”
Fesh, generally speaking, was the only meat Tommy, Jerry and their mother ate, but it wasn’t always an easy meal. There were many family tales of going feshing and being pulled into the water by a fesh much bigger than themselves. Sometimes – which was even scarier – they were pulled in by a tertle. Ultimately, most of the fesh that ate their bait they had to let go – not because they wanted to release them, but just because there was no way they’d ever be able to pull them in. And if they did, the fish could feed them for 30 meals. They would sometimes store extra fesh outside during the coldest part of winter, but they hadn’t yet learned about using salt to preserve meat, so during warmer weather, it wasn’t worth the risk to try and catch larger fesh than they could eat in a single meal.
Tommy looked at the note, and was a little taken aback. Jerry hadn’t wanted to go feshing for the last few years, after being pulled into the water by a tertle and then almost being eaten by a dukk. Maybe Jerry’s newfound bravery was a good thing, but Tommy was also worried – what if Jerry got overconfident and tried something silly? What if he got pulled under again? And what if Tommy wasn’t there to protect him?
Tommy ran out of their home, with the note still in his hand, and ran as fast as he could through grass around bushes, and squeezing through a few chainlink fences, and crossing a road – which was no easy task – to get to the pond. The run took him almost half an hour, and when he got close, he was so scared to see both Jerry and his mother coming up out of the water towards the far side of the pond and holding on to a lily pad.
Tommy ran down the bank to jump in and swim over to them, but just as he got to the water’s edge, he heard Jerry and his mother – and they weren’t screaming or upset at all – they were laughing.
He dropped the note that he’d been clutching onto so tightly.
“Mom! Jerry! Are you OK?” he asked, confused.
They looked around, unaware that he had seen them, and then responded in unison, “Hi, Tommy!”
Unsure of what was happening, and whether he should dive into the water to save them, Tommy froze, and instead said again, “Are you OK?”
“Ha ha! We’re fine, Tommy!” Jerry replied. “We just got pulled under. No big deal…”
No big deal?, Tommy thought to himself. How is that no big deal?
Tommy started wading into the water, sure that they needed his help.
“Tommy, we’re FINE! Seriously…”, Mom said, starting to get a little frustrated. “I mean, look… come in. We’re having fun!”
Tommy looked at them suspiciously, and cautiously made his way in. As he swam over to join them, Mom started splashing him, and Jerry cannonballed into the water next to him, drenching him fully.
Gradually, Tommy got more comfortable with seeing Jerry stay underwater for a long time, and until a gret blu heeron flew over the pond, making them all swim for cover, the family’s smiles and laughter continued non-stop. It was only when they got out of the pond close to where Tommy got in that he realized they had already caught a fesh – an alewif, longer than their height. As the three of them rigged up a stretcher of twigs to carry it home, he heard the whole story of how they caught it – how the net that they’d brought fit perfectly over the fesh, and how it had kept swimming regardless, dragging them through the water until they were able to hook onto a tree branch and, over the course of twenty minutes, they pulled the fesh out of the water. The story sounded full of peril, and Tommy was surprised by how joyfully they both told it. After a pause, and without any prompting, Jerry articulated what Tommy had been wondering.
“You know, I’ve always been scared of this kind of stuff, but riding on that Dug was so much more fun than I thought it would be. So I suggested going feshing. And this was so much more fun than I’ve always thought too…” his voice trailed off, and he had a contented smile on his face.
Tommy and Mom looked at each other – both happy with that they were hearing, but Tommy wondered if Mom was thinking the same as him – that maybe they had been responsible for Jerry’s nervousness before the whole incident with the dug.
As they worked together and picked up the fesh, Mom saw the note that Tommy had dropped fluttering in the breeze.
“Wait – pick that up!” she said, with a concerned look on her face. “Quickly, before it blows away.”
“I’ve got it,” Tommy announced as he picked it up.
“Jerry…” Mom started, as she saw the note closer again, “is that what you wrote the note to Tommy on?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Why?”
“Where did you find that paper?”
“Well, I couldn’t find anything to write on, so I dug through that chest in your bedroom…” He trailed off, thinking he’d done something terribly wrong.
“Why? What is this?” Tommy asked, and flipped the paper over, to see a picture of a small island sitting in a lake which was so large it continued off the side of the paper. The island had a small X labeled on it. “It’s… a treasure map?”
“Ugh,” Mom answered. “I was going to tell you about this when you were both older, but I guess it’s too late now.”
“What’s going on, Mom?” Jerry asked.
“That lake,” she started hesitantly, “Lake Damariscotta… it’s in Maine. It’s close to where your grandparents – my mom and dad – grew up.” She paused, unsure of how to continue. “Look… they discovered something – like a whole world – inside the mountain they lived on.”
“What?” Jerry and Tommy both asked, disbelievingly.
“I know. It didn’t make any sense, but they took me there once. Through tunnels in the mountain, and suddenly we were on a tropical island, with coconuts, palm trees, sandy beaches… but there was also a dragon…”
“Yeah, a dragon… You know what that is?”
“Yeah, of course we know what it is,” Jerry replied.
“Yeah, of course we do,” Tommy joined in. “Two legs, wings, lays eggs, goes cluck cluck… I got pecked by one once.”
“You’re thinking of a chickin,” Mom replied gently, as Jerry rolled his eyes. “Anyway, the dragon was huge and scary, and my mom and dad decided we had to stop him from getting through to our world, so they closed up the way through.
“So what’s the map for? The way through to the other world?”
“No,” Mom said slowly. “Look, I’ve said too much. We’ll talk about this more in a few years, OK?”
The boys tried to ask more questions on their way home with the fesh and throughout dinner, but Mom refused to talk any more about it. Eventually, Jerry and Tommy decided it was best to leave it and not ask any more.
That night, both boys had a hard time getting to sleep. They tossed and turned, but it was difficult to think about anything other than what Mom had told them.
As Tommy finally started drifting off the sleep, he was woken up with a start by Jerry whispering in his ear.
“Tommy,” his brother said, excitedly. “You know what we’re gonna do?”
Tommy know what was coming next, but was hoping if he ignored it, he might be able to sleep instead and forget the whole thing. No such luck, though, as his brother held up the map with a huge mischievous grin on his face.
“We’re gonna go find the magical land!”