“So this is taking us all the way to Lake Damariscotta?” Tommy whispered to Jerry, as the dug snuffled its way under the seats.
“Well, it’s taking us somewhere in Maine,” Jerry replied, “I’m not sure where, but this will get us somewhere closer than here.”
Jerry pushed a broken peanut butter cracker forward for the dug to eat. There was plenty of food under the seats with them, which was enough for the kids to think that’s what the animal was really after.
“Hmmm,” Tommy continued. “Well, OK, but how are we going to get from wherever we end up to where we need to go?”
“I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.”
As the car rumbled on, Jerry and Tommy took turns pushing crumbs and pieces of food out to the dug. Every now and then one of them would find a berry or a raisin, and just pick off the dust to eat it themselves. Some of it made them cringe and sometimes they would spit it out, wondering how long it had been there.
One of the kids spoke up from above.
“Mom, Sparky keeps digging around under the seat. I think there might be something down there. Sparky! Stop it!”
Jerry and Tommy heard some commotion as the people tried to get the dug – Sparky – to lie down in the open floorspace, but he wasn’t paying much attention – he was too interested in the two small creatures who were in the car for the first time.
Sparky’s nose seemed to follow them wherever they moved, so eventually they decided they needed to take some action. They had met enough animals through their life to know that dugs didn’t share the same animal language that most other animals did – their mom said dugs weren’t intelligent enough; this was one reason Jerry had always been nervous around them. But Tommy felt sure he get could get the message across. They stood up, and immediately Jerry hit his head on a metal bar on the bottom of the seat above.
“Ow!” He grabbed his head and crouched down. Tommy was sure he saw Sparky smile, and decided he’d better seize the moment.
“Hey! Sparky,” he addressed him directly. Sparky’s eyes darted at him, showing an amazed how does he know my name? look. “Sparky,” Tommy continued, not sure what to say next. “Umm… Hi, Sparky!” He smiled wide to show that he wanted to be friendly, but quickly realized he may have overdone it when he saw how vigorously Sparky’s tail was wagging. Sparky tried to squeeze under the seat and roll over onto his back at the same time, but his head got stuck under the seat as the rest of his body flipped over. Sparky let out a large yelp of pain.
“Ouch!” Tommy sympathized, as Sparky got himself out. “Oh, I’m so sorry, you poor dug – I forgot how dumb you are.”
Jerry looked at Tommy with disdain, thinking he was being pretty mean, considering Jerry himself was still holding his own head in pain. Tommy clearly didn’t know what it was like to be a big creature like Sparky or Jerry.
Sparky, looking sad and hurt, started to move to the open floorspace to lie down, but Jerry called him back. “C’mere, Sparky!” As Sparky turned and headed back to stick his head under the seat again, Jerry realized he’d never intentionally called a dug to him before, and for a brief moment, his old fears came back, but one look into Sparky’s gentle eyes was enough to push the fears away.
Sparky stuffed his head into the space under the seat once again. Standing on one side of the large dug’s snout, Jerry threw his arms around the dog’s head with a smile. He closed his eyes, and snuggled the large creature. Neither Jerry nor Sparky moved for a few minutes – both perfectly content where they were.
Eventually, Jerry noticed that Sparky’s breathing was deeper, and realized that he’d fallen asleep.
Jerry stood back up, and looked over to see Tommy sitting on the floor, with his back resting on the side of Sparky’s neck.
“He is a dumb animal,” Tommy said, “but he’s really comfortable.”
“He’s not dumb, but he is comfortable,” Jerry added, sitting next to him, “and really sweet.”
The rest of the drive was uneventful. Sparky slept the whole time, and Jerry and Tommy both dozed off at times.
All three woke up when the car came to a stop an hour and a half later.
“We’re here,” one of the grown-ups from the front announced.
The doors of the car opened, and the family climbed out. The trunk opened, and the family’s mom took the stroller out and opened it. Jerry and Tommy looked at each other, and decided they should go with the family to figure out where they were. As Sparky climbed out the side door, Jerry and Tommy jumped out through the trunk and into the bottom of the stroller, under the backpack that the mom had just put in there.
They stayed hidden while the stroller rolled, not wanting to risk showing themselves until they knew what the situation was.
After a minute or two they realized they were now in a building, and when the stroller stopped and stayed in place for a couple of minutes, they decided it was safe to peek their heads out.
They were in an enormous open building. Around them were several racks of clothing, and off in the distance they saw tents and kayaks hanging from the high vaulted ceiling.
“Is this what Maine looks like?” Tommy asked.
“I don’t know,” Jerry replied. “I guess I assumed Maine was… I don’t know… outdoors?”
When they saw that the family was busy looking at base layers and jackets nearby, Tommy climbed up to ask Heysiriheygoogleineedhelp! how to get to Lake Damariscotta from where they were.
“77 miles Northeast of here,” he told Jerry as he clambered back down.
“So now what?” Tommy wondered, feeling stuck.
“Hmm, I don’t know. 77 miles is a long way to walk. Hopefully we can catch another ride…”
Tommy seemed distracted by something.
“What if we could get a ride on a plane?” he asked.
“A plane? Well, sure,” Jerry replied. “But how would we…?”
Tommy pointed to the back of the store, where a yellow propeller plane hung from the ceiling at an angle, as if in mid-flight.
“That doesn’t look like it’s…” Jerry started, but Tommy had already run off.
Jerry started to run after him, but heard a whine from close by and turned to see Sparky looking at him sadly. Tommy heard it too, and turned back. They stood under a rack of puffy jackets to avoid being seen by the family, and Sparky ducked his head down under there too to say goodbye.
“Goodbye, Sparky!” Jerry hugged his head again.
“Goodbye, you dumb dug,” Tommy took his turn.
They waved as they turned away from him and started to walk away, before hearing a voice behind them.
They turned, unsure of what they just heard.
“Dog,” Sparky repeated. “Not dug.”
At that moment, Sparky was led away by the family’s dad, although Jerry was pretty sure Sparky smiled at him as he left.
Tommy stared at Jerry in disbelief.
“Ha ha ha,” Jerry laughed. “I knew he wasn’t dumb.” He looked off in the distance to see Sparky being led between displays, and when he turned back to Tommy, his brother was gone, running off to the propeller plane again. He chased after him.
Jerry followed Tommy as he climbed up a display on the back wall of the store, and up onto a rope that connected the plane to the back wall. As they climbed across the rope, Jerry panicked a little, seeing how high up they were from the floor and how frayed the rope was close to the wall. For the first time, he also noticed a huge model of a mountaintop in the middle of the store, with life-sized model animals on it – moose, mountain lions, a raccoon… wait, did that raccoon just move?
Tommy clambered into the plane’s open cockpit, and Jerry followed. They sunk down into the plane’s seat, and looked at the controls, which seemed to consist of a couple of levers and half a steering wheel.
Jerry tried to explain to Tommy that the plane was probably for decoration only, but Tommy wasn’t listening, and was trying to move the controls in any way he could, with no success.
It wasn’t long, though, before they heard announcements that the store was closing, and soon after that, the store got darker as lights went out.
They were both tired, and decided to settle in for the night, sleeping in the plane. At one point in the middle of the night, Tommy made his way across the enormous store past the mountaintop to the cafe and brought back a cookie for the two of them to share.
They slept very well in amongst their cookie crumbs, and when the store lights came on again in the morning, Tommy felt ready to try again in figuring out how to get the plane to take them to Lake Damariscotta.
Jerry was more interested in what the store was, and climbed up the side of the cockpit to look out on the model mountaintop and beyond. He looked at the models he’d seen the night before, and noticed that the raccoon he’d seen wasn’t there anymore.
All of a sudden, something else got his attention. He heard some commotion from the front of the store, and saw a few orange-jacketed staff run around. Then he saw some clothing racks flying through the air, as a large creature ran through the store.
“Tommy,” Jerry called to his brother, without taking his eyes off what was happening. He had now identified the creature as a moose, and watched it with a smile as it clambered into a pond on the side of the mountainside. Jerry saw the orange-jackets veering off in different directions. How do they not see this giant moose standing right there? he thought to himself with a laugh. “Tommy,” he called again, “you’ve got to see this…”
“What is it?”
“I think we’ve found our way to Lake Damariscotta!”
Tommy climbed up, and Tommy told him what had happened, bemused by the whole thing.
“Great. Let’s go say hi,” Tommy announced.
They climbed back over the other side of the plane, and slid down the plane’s side onto the rope.
Now, although Jerry and Tommy were both very small, their kind is denser than you and I – not as heavy as us, but heavier than you might imagine a 6-inch person to be. And their weight suddenly hitting one end of the rope pulled at the frayed portion on the other end. Before they knew it, the rope snapped, and they fell quickly. They managed to grab hold of the rope and each other to slow their fall, but the rope swung quickly and they went shooting across and landed in a display of kids’ outerwear. Above them, they saw the yellow propeller plane swinging around in a circle ominously, and orange jackets from all over the store ran towards it, shouting “this way! The moose is over here!”
Jerry and Tommy ran to the mountaintop, and with Tommy leading the way, they climbed up the moose’s front left leg.
“So what’s going on?” the moose whispered to them. His voice was deep, but friendly and gentle.
“Uh, we were hoping you could tell us,” Tommy replied.
“Who are you? You’re not Montgomery!” the moose whispered in a panic.
“No,” replied Jerry, “We’re not.”
The brothers climbed onto the moose’s head, and then onto his nose.
“And he’s Tommy.”