A short canoeing adventure set in Ontario's Massassauga Provincial Park. With canoes, a bear, a nuke, a B-52 and a guy with a gun.
At less than 10,000 words, this is perfect for someone with limited time or a short attention span.
"There's a loon over about five o'clock," Tony said, pointing with his paddle. He was beginning to natter; he was sure of it. He'd known it was bound to happen. He liked to think of himself as the strong, silent type, but he was sure the truth would come out.
The truth was, good-looking women made him nervous.
At the front of the yellow canoe, Connie stopped paddling, took up a small pair of binoculars, and observed the bird in silence for a moment. Then she said, "That's a pretty bird. Are they edible?"
"Ah, I doubt it," he said, a bit startled. "I imagine they'd taste of fish." "I guess she really is from out of country," he thought, still trying to place the slight accent. He'd wondered if she was American at first, but the accent had a definite trace of Old World.
He was till trying to accept the fact that he'd started out from Oshawa on a solo canoe trip, and was now paddling down South Channel with an astonishingly good-looking redhead. "Life changes so quickly," he thought. "Would you pass me one of those apples?" he asked. His stomach was a bit aflutter.
Overhead, a small red float plane buzzed its way to the west, and was gone.
"No problem." She reached under the canoe seat, and pulled out a Granny Smith. She briefly contemplated the syringe in one of the pockets of her packsack. No, she decided. There'd be plenty of time to do the deed at Creswicke Lake. She passed him the apple, smiling.
Several miles to the south, a tan-and-brown car pulled up to a public launch point, where the lake came close to the road. For a moment it sat there, just another car with a canoe in this lakeland, until the only other there car loaded its canoe and left.
Two men, both in their late 30s, got out of the car without speaking. They unloaded a small, light canoe in seconds, sliding it down the embankment and into the lake. The taller man then took a day pack and an aluminum case out of the car and tossed it to the other one, a short man.
In less than three minutes, the canoe was disappearing around a point in the lake. The man in the car watched it without emotion. Then he drove back to the highway, watching for other vehicles on the road.
The car drove less than a mile down the highway, before pulling off into a laneway leading towards a cottage.
Once out of sight of the highway, the car came to a halt. The tall man removed the roof racks, then peeled a layer of brown vinyl off the roof, turning the car into an all-tan vehicle. Finally, he removed the Quebec plates from the car, replacing them with a set of Ontario plates. Satisfied, he removed his blond wig, got in the car and returned to the highway.
Out on the lake, the short man in the canoe got out a map and a GPS. He figured he was five hours at most from Creswicke Lake. Tony would pass through Creswicke Lake, he decided, maybe camp there, so Creswicke Lake it would be. Satisfied, he continued paddling quickly towards the west shore, where a portage sign was tacked to a beech tree.
Under his seat, in the aluminum case, was a small rifle with a very long barrel and a very expensive scope. And ten bullets, each hand-loaded. He could put out the eye of a squirrel at three hundred yards. A guy in a canoe would be no problem.
A small red float plane passed high overhead. The lone pilot, a singer by trade, took a long look below him, picking out Creswicke Lake.
Further away, he saw a yellow canoe. It matched the description, and was in the right place. It puzzled him a bit that there were two people in the canoe, but maybe someone had just forgotten to tell him the details.
He sighed, knowing what he had to do.
Oh, well, maybe he could make a song about it. He tilted the plane to the east, towards Parry Sound. He'd be back in a couple of hours, looking for the yellow canoe.
Crouched in the shade of a rock, the bear looked out over Creswicke Lake, and licked her back leg.
Coming here this summer had been a mistake; for she'd been injured in a fight with a bigger male bear a week earlier. She'd come to this point of land for the blueberries, not knowing the land had been claimed by the other bear.
The resting place was on the end of a rocky point, and there was hard country and maybe the other bear between her and the deep woods. Her attempts to climb the rocks then to swim across the lake had been turned back by the pain.
By this time, she had eaten all the berries and grass she could reach, and was hungry.Very hungry.
Her nose twitched, smelling the faint odors of food clinging to the campsite in front of her.
A couple of thousand miles to the south and west, an aging crew went over the old B-52 one last time. The desert winds blew grit against five hundred mothballed aircraft, most of them B-52s. This one, once named Buffalo Baby, was the only one with the protective covering removed.
General Paul Glosser, retired and leaning heavily on a wooden cane, considered his last mission, looking at the map of Ontario, and planning a route in his head.
He sighed, running his hand along the bomb bay doors of the old plane. War was hell. "Next stop," he thought to himself, "Creswicke Lake."
Wherever the hell that was.
It took a just over four hours to get to the first portage.
Connie seemed to catch on fairly quickly to the art of paddling. "You'll have to teach me," she'd told him, "I've never paddled anything but a rubber dinghy." But she turned out to be a surprisingly strong paddler. "Too bad we're paddling into the wind, she said at one point."
"Almost always into the wind," Tony assured her, "no matter which direction you're going. It's the Great Curse of the Canoe God." From a hillside there was a brief flash. Someone must be up there, he thought, watching through binoculars.
South Channel had a number of cottages along it, most of them unoccupied in this weekday in September. One tour boat wallowed by as they entered Seven Mile Narrows, and Tony showed Connie how to turn the canoe to face into the waves.
"So what are you going to call this book?" she asked as they coasted to the shore. A small indent in the rocky bank marked the best portage route. There was no sign on the tree, and almost none that any other canoe had ever stopped there. Tony knew better: there were few places that canoers or hunters hadn't scouted. Besides, he'd done a bit of scouting a couple of years before.
When they got out of the canoe, Connie handed him a copy of Canoeing the Georgian Bay Inlets and a pen. "Autograph, please," she demanded.
"Ah, the pleasures of being a famous author," he said, wondering what to put into the inscription. "I'm thinking of calling the next book, Canoeing the Massasauga Wildlands.But how did you figure I was going to write another book?"
"For the money?"
"My take on Georgian Bay Inlets was just over seventy-eight dollars, net."
"The fame?" She smiled broadly, hoisting her one large pack easily out of the canoe.
"Let's see; you're the .... third person that's recognized me in the last year.
"Well, then, maybe because you added a couple of pages at the back saying you were going to do your next book about this area."
"I guess I did." At the time it had been just a hope. He signed the book with "For my Favorite Paddler". Considering how unsocial he was and the fact that his previous girlfriend hadn't liked canoes, Tony figured it was a safe bet.
The portage to Speyer Lake wasn't too bad. Tony had never gone all the way to the lake, but there was a faint trail to follow.
Connie seemed enthralled by the lake. "And there's nobody here at all?"
"Nobody, as far as I can see. People don't bother to build cottages on a lake this small when there's all of Georgian Bay and thirty-thousand islands out there."
Rather than go straight across the small lake, Tony followed the shore, showing Connie the northern shoreline. They paused ten minutes to watch a mink search for food among the fallen logs, and he explained as much as he knew about the plants and animals. It was good to have an attentive listener.
For a moment, Tony thought he saw another flash of light from along the far shore. That puzzled him - he could see there was no-one else on the lake, and no hunting cabins. But the north country is full of strange things, and he put it out of his mind.
The portage to Creswicke Lake was shorter, but less pleasant. The first part of the trail was crossed with fallen trees, and the last part was squishy with pools of water forming in their boot tracks. He carried the canoe and one small pack, while Connie managed the two heavier packs.
It was past five when Tony and Connie launched the yellow canoe onto CreswickeLake, and the day was getting a little cooler.
They followed the north shore from the west end all the way to the east end, where the lake met a pink granite cliff. Almost all the shore was at a steep angle, looking like a boulder collection that had gone wild, covered with moss and deep forest.