Old novella I wrote between 2000 and 2008, recently updated!
|Chapter Six: Deuce the Sleuth!
I continued on my journey for several hours. I was hoping to find a house to seek shelter underneath it, but I had even better luck than that.
As I came to the top of a hill, I looked down to see a strawberry field, seeming to stretch out in all directions. At six millimeters tall, to me, it seemed much bigger than it really was. To a normal-sized person, it was probably about one acre. Not very big for a strawberry farm, but much larger than an average garden.
I couldn’t actually smell the strawberries, Nixie the Pixie had explained the science behind miniaturization and she had told me that shrunken people couldn’t smell normal sized scents. Despite that, I could imagine in my mind what the strawberries smelled like.
I ran down the incline at top speed, racing toward the nearest plant. Once I got there, I had to climb up one of the mounds of dirt that had been formed in rows, where the strawberries had been planted. To me, it was like climbing up a small hill. To a normal-sized person, it would've been small enough to step over in a single stride.
A ripe strawberry was leaning against the mound of dirt that the strawberry plant was rooted in. I could imagine greedily digging into the juicy outer layer of the succulent fruit, and savoring mouthful after delicious mouthful, but Nixie had made me immortal with no need for food.
I sat down to relax. I had covered a lot of ground since I'd left the place where I saw the ants, and I needed a break. As I sat there, it occurred to me that I was better off staying here for a few days, because I had a long journey ahead of me, and I didn't know how out in the open I would be further south. I stood up to survey my surroundings.
There were strawberry plants as far as I could see, but in the distance, I could see a house. It was old, probably built in the 1940's or 1950's. It wasn't in really bad shape, but that old house had definitely seen better days. I walked a little bit farther down the length of the elevated row I was standing on, to find a place to set up camp.
After arriving at a point not quite halfway between one end of the strawberry field and the other, I decided to set up camp in a spot where a large number of ripe strawberries clung to the dirt, where they would camouflage me. I dug a cave into the side of the dirt mound, and concealed the entrance with bits of leaves from strawberry plants, and various weeds growing in the gully between the two raised lanes where the strawberry plants grew.
I knew that I could only stay a couple of days at best, because these strawberries looked very ripe, and harvest time was probably drawing near. I fell asleep easily that night.
I woke up some time in the middle of the night, because I heard a car engine. At my diminished stature, I had very acute hearing, and ordinary sounds seemed to be greatly amplified.
I emerged from my shelter and stood up, to see where the sounds of the car engine were coming from. The car was definitely parked on the dirt road that I had crossed on the other side of the slight incline at the back end of the strawberry farm. When the sounds stopped, a group of shadowy figures emerged on the horizon, and I could see them climbing over the fence that I had simply walked under.
Each of them had bags with them, and they started picking strawberries. At first I was worried that they would find me, but they were concentrating on an area at the other end of the strawberry field, so I didn't have anything to worry about. They continued picking, and this went on for close to an hour. When their bags were full, they left the same way they had come, and disappeared over the fence. I heard the car engine start up again, and they were gone, so I went back to my hollowed out shelter and went back to sleep.
The next morning, after I woke up, I decided to explore the property. I walked down the length of the elevated row where my shelter was located, and made my way toward the house. It took longer than you might think.
Once I was in the front yard, it occurred to me that the owner might be a pet lover, and I worried about encountering a vicious dog or a hungry cat. I didn't see any dog bowls or plates of dry cat food, or any other evidence of a pet, but I remained alert just in case.
The front door of the house opened, and I saw a very old woman step out. She slowly made her way to the side of the house, and gradually worked her way to the back. She spent a good deal of time examining the strawberry field, obviously aware of the events of the previous night. After spending close to a half an hour walking around the perimeter of her farm, she returned to her house and went back inside.
While exploring the front yard, at what I assumed to be about just before noon, a postal delivery truck pulled up in the driveway. A postal worker got out, and walked toward the front door with some letters and junk mail. The old woman opened the front door, and the mailman handed the mail to her.
The old woman addressed the postal worker, "They're back at it again, Pete! Those hooligans stole more of my strawberries last night!"
The postal worker had a look of concern on his face, and replied, "It's probably a bunch of teenagers, Mrs. Chaney!"
The old woman replied, "But if they keep it up, come harvest time, there won't even be enough strawberries left to pay the workers and break even! I use that money to buy Christmas presents for the grandchildren!"
"Have you tried reporting it to the police?" asked the postal worker.
"Oh, yes, that's the first thing I did when it started becoming a problem, but they only have just so many patrol cars on duty at that hour, and whoever it is that's been doing this, cleans me out and leaves before the police even know what's going on!" replied the old woman.
The postal worker said, "It's too bad you can't hire someone to watch your property one of these nights, so you can catch those bastards red-handed!"
"Not on Social Security! I'm barely getting by as it is!" replied the old woman.
"Well, I have to get back to my rounds, good luck on catching those thieves, Mrs. Chaney!"
"You have yourself a nice day too, Pete!" said the old woman, and she went back inside, and the postal worker left in his mail truck.
What they didn't know was that Mrs. Chaney did have someone to watch her property, and I figured that I owed her at least that much, after making camp on her land. I already had a plan in mind!
After nightfall, I made my way to the back of the property, and up the incline, and down the other side to the dirt road on the other side. I sat there and waited for the car to return. I waited for several hours, and then one or two hours more, but nobody arrived. If I could've had some coffee to keep me awake, that would've helped, but I didn't, so I started getting really sleepy. Eventually, I finally fell asleep.
I woke up to the sound of a car engine, just like the night before, but this time it was much louder, because I was near the dirt road where it parked. An alarmingly large portion of the stars were blocked from my field of vision by the immense vehicle that seemed to be as large as a building. The two doors opened, and a group of teenagers emerged from the car and slammed the doors shut. The sound was so loud to me, that I thought I was going to have permanent hearing loss.
When they had ascended the slight incline and had hopped over the fence, I emerged from my hiding place, and walked around to the back of the car. There was just what I was looking for, big as day. The license plate!
I didn't have anything to write with, so I had to memorize it. The numbers and letters didn't spell out anything in my mind right away, so if I had less time, I wouldn't have been able to remember the seven digit combination of letters and numbers.
Eventually, as I studied the license plate, I began to work out a pattern in my mind. Two of the digits, for instance, were the same last two numbers of the year a relative of mine was born. The remaining number was a 7, which was easy to remember, because I had always thought of it as an unlucky number. The remaining letters had no particular significance at first, but then I worked out an acronym in my mind, so that each letter stood for a word in a sentence that was ridiculous enough that I knew I would never forget it. Once I had the license plate memorized, I high-tailed it back to the edge of the dirt road, where the grass was tall enough to camouflage me from the juvenile delinquents until they left.
Close to an hour later, they returned to their car, with plastic grocery bags stuffed full of Mrs. Chaney's strawberries. They had no idea that this would be the last time they would be able to steal strawberries from this farm for a long time!
After they drove away, I began to make my way toward the front of Mrs. Chaney's house. Up and over the incline, down the length of the rows of strawberry plants, and on to the front door. At six millimeters tall, I doubt if I could've traversed that distance in an hour if I'd been running as fast as I possibly could, so even traveling at a moderate pace took the better part of three hours, and by then it was almost daybreak.
This worked to my advantage, however, because I needed the light of the sun to see what I was doing anyway. First, I dug trenches many times wider than my body, and I dug them many times longer than they were wide. Eventually, I had the letters and numbers of the license plate spelled out in the dirt in front of Mrs. Chaney's porch. It's a good thing she didn't take care of her yard, because the fact that she had no grass growing in front of her porch really helped. If I had been forced to write the message in a planter on the side of her porch, it might have gone unnoticed.
After the trenches were dug, I began gathering pebbles to fill in the trenches. Of course, to me the pebbles were like huge boulders, and progress was slow. The sun had been up for over an hour, and I was barely getting started. I had to scout and search far and wide to gather the amount of pebbles I needed. I had to cover an area about 20 yards long and 20 yards wide to get enough of them, and at six millimeters tall, that is quite a wide area to cover!
I decided to take a break after the numbers and letters of the license plate were spelled out before I continued. I still wasn't done yet, I still needed to come up with some kind of a message, so if Mrs. Chaney read it, she would know that these were the numbers and letters of the license plate of the kids who had been stealing her strawberries.
Before I had a chance, though, a paperboy rode by on his bicycle and threw Mrs. Chaney's morning paper towards her porch and missed; it landed right on top of the trenches that I had dug and filled with pebbles! It was much too large and heavy for me to even think about moving it. I was just lucky it hadn't landed on top of me, or I would've been crushed beneath the tremendous weight, and all of my problems would've been over.
Mrs. Chaney must've been an early riser, because I barely had time to get out of the way before she opened the door to retrieve her morning newspaper. When she picked up the paper, she saw the numbers and letters I had spelled out, but other than making an inquisitive remark about it, she completely ignored it. It wasn't until the postal worker returned that something was done.
When he arrived shortly before noon, as he apparently does every day, he saw the numbers and letters of the license plate I had spelled out in the dirt, and asked Mrs. Chaney about it.
She replied, "I don't know who wrote that. What do you think it means?"
The postal worker responded, "Mrs. Chaney, I think someone is trying to help you out here! Maybe someone knows who's doing this, and they're just trying to let you know without letting their friends realize they're being ratted out! I suggest you call the police immediately!"
After the postal worker left, Mrs. Chaney did as he had instructed her, and not long after that, a patrol car arrived on the scene. Mrs. Chaney invited them in, and a while after that, she took them on a tour of her farm, to show them the areas where strawberries had been pilfered.
The police left, and that seemed to be the end of it, until some reporters arrived from the local newspaper. They went inside, and came out with the old lady, and they took some pictures of her standing next to her strawberry field. I figured that I had done my part in all of this, and that it was time to move on, but I decided to stick around for one more day, to see the newspaper the next morning. Besides, I loved those strawberries, and I would've made any excuse to remain there another day.
Sure enough, the next day, when the paper boy threw the morning newspaper onto Mrs. Chaney's front yard, there it was on the front page. I could see a photograph of Mrs. Chaney, and the title of the article had to do with the arrest of a group of nineteen year old delinquents, for stealing strawberries. They probably didn't get very much jail time, but I knew that whenever they do finally get released, their probation officer will be a thorn in their side for a very long time.
Knowing that I had made a difference in someone's life gave me a feeling of accomplishment. It had never occurred to me before that a six millimeter man could make a difference in someone's life, but I proved myself wrong. So I set out before I lost too much daylight, to continue my journey toward the coast, to find Jerrica. I made my way south, as my quest continued!
To Be Continued!