chapter 12 –
the mystery pickle and the gathering horde
Jack quickly folded the newspaper shut, hoping that G-Pickle hadn’t noticed the news story about the search at the orphanage and about Jack’s fugitive status. Much to Jack’s relief, G-Pickle seemed content to hum a little tune quietly to himself while gazing out the big windows into the parking lot and the street beyond.
A moment later, another Hy-Vee 99¢ pancake breakfast just like Jack’s was placed in front of G-Pickle, and they both dug in. Somehow, between bites, G-Pickle managed to sing a little song:
“Nip and tuck, danger, duck,
Raccoons riding in a truck.
To dodge them all, you’ll need some luck,
And a bike that’s in the muck.”
Jack had no idea that he had left Dog Bait’s just in time. Not too far behind him, Miller Avenue was now thick with raccoons.
The Des Moines Register newspaper delivery truck had arrived in town just after sunrise, and it took a while to navigate the Iowa City streets. Cautious persistence paid off, and the truck finally found what seemed to be the end of the trail at a house on Miller Avenue.
Still wanting to keep a low profile, the truck continued past the house and pulled into a deserted parking lot on the other side of the street between some businesses and the empty field. The rear door of the truck slid open, and several raccoons tumbled out without waiting for the ramp to be put in place.
They fanned out and drew near to the house from the field across the street, sniffing and feeling their way along. Once again, the ranks of the raccoon army were thinned as they crossed the street, this time by a school bus filled with horrified children. Undeterred, the remaining raccoons pushed forward and reached the front yard.
The scent trail definitely stopped along the side of the house, but the trail also led to and from the house at least twice. The multiple trails, plus the fact that the scent was getting very faint as time went by, made it very difficult to track.
More raccoons piled out of the truck and joined in the search that was now slowly making its way back up Miller Avenue, along the path that Jack had taken during the night and also earlier this morning.
Just a few miles ahead, Jack and G-Pickle had both finished their breakfasts. Jack had even managed to drink his entire orange juice without being poisoned by bleach, although he did forget to shake the drink before opening it and ended up with all of the pulp sitting at the bottom.
Jack noticed the paper again and began to wonder if Sister Kim might have left him another secret message in the classified ads. G-Pickle was sitting behind the comics pages held up in front of him, humming to himself once again. This was Jack’s chance to check the ads without being watched. He held the classified section up in front of his own face and turned to the old auto ads while G-Pickle began to sing.
“I wondered as I rode my bike along the city streets
Who would put their coffee beans in a bag for SIDI cleats?
But sure as I am sitting here, the beans were sitting there.
I stopped and picked them up and brought them back with special care.”
G-Pickle’s song was making it tough for Jack to concentrate on looking for a secret message among the ads for used cars. He eventually found the same ad for the 1962 VW that he had seen the day before. It still mentioned missing Jack and listed the address for Dog Bait’s. There was no new information. None of the words were different.
The words to G-Pickle’s songs were always different, however, and it took a while for them to sink in. But the mention of coffee beans and SIDI cleats started to make sense.
Jack whipped the paper out of the way to ask G-Pickle what he meant with his newest song but found himself staring across the table to an empty seat. G-Pickle was gone. But at his place he had left a familiar little SIDI cleat bag full of the beans Sister Kim had given Jack.
to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]