Jake and The Sage of Lost Lake

Jake was hot, tired, and very, very hungry. It was late afternoon and he’d been crawling through these woods for the last two days. His quest to find Lost Lake and the Ancient Sage that lived there had so far been in vain. “Maybe I’ll stop for a bit, have a snack and catch my breath” he thought as he slipped out of his specially modified backpack. Pulling back the flap and reaching in, he encountered something sticky. “Great, my lemon jellied spiders have spilled and made a huge mess! Aw man, it’s all over everything! My whistle’s stuck to my water bottle, my shovel is all gunked up, even my toilet paper is covered. I guess I might as well get back on the trail.” And with that, he closed his pack, threw it over his…back, and away he went.

Jake had been planning this trip for months, and with the help of Brother BudPie, his clever, capable, wise-in-the-ways-of-the-woods roomie, was pretty sure he had everything he would need to get him through the next couple of days. Except maps. There were no maps of Lost Lake. There was no point in recording its location, since it moved around, from place to place, popping up here, showing up there, never in the same place twice. “Maybe I’ll find some sign along the trail” he thought, as he slithered under a log, his backpack scraping on the way through. And it wasn’t long before one such sign appeared, nailed to a tree, a few feet off the ground. Looking up, squinting, he could barely make out the faded words: “LOST LAKE AHEAD. SOMEWHERE. MAYBE.”

“At least I’m on the right track” he thought, as he continued on. And soon enough, he came upon a stump in the middle of the trail, and perched atop the stump, both eyes closed, was an owl. “Sir Owl” said Jake, “can you tell me how to get to lost lake?” Opening one eye, peering down at Jake, the owl said “Who?” “Not who” said Jake, “what.” “Lost Lake. I’m looking for Lost Lake and the Ancient Sage that lives there.” “Who?” said the owl again. By this time Jake’s patience was wearing thin. “Lost Lake. Looking for Lost Lake.” “Who?” “Arghh! Sage. Lost Lake.” “Oh! Why didn’t you say so?” said the owl, shaking out his feathers and opening his other eye. “You can’t find Lost Lake by looking for it. You have to be lost. It will find you.”

“Then things are looking up” thought Jake to himself, as he bid the owl farewell and continued on his journey. “I don’t see how I could be any more lost than I am.” Jake was determined to see this quest through to the end. Lost in thought, he was brought up short when he stumbled into a warm, brown, furry body. Before him stood a weasel, with crossed arms, tapping his toe on the ground. “Going somewhere boy?” asked the weasel. “Mr. Weasel, I’m trying to find Lost Lake and the Sage who lives there. I’m seeking sage advice.” The weasel, smiling a broad smile, revealing a mouth full of shiny, white, pointed teeth, replied “You can’t get there from here, boy, but I would be more than happy to show you where you have to be to get there. I’m sure you won’t mind if we stop by my den on the way, for a bite of lunch. Hmm?” Suddenly quite afraid, Jake darted around the weasel and down the trail as fast as he could. He could hear the weasel laughing, “You’ll be back boy, then we’ll have lunch. Hey! You have toilet paper stuck to your tail!”

“I could swear I passed by this very rock twice already” he thought, “and this is the same valley I was in an hour ago. I hope I haven’t been crawling in circles all day.” But as he descended into the valley, for what he thought might be the third time, a fog began to roll in, and soon he was totally immersed in a dense, heavy mist. Not wanting to wander aimlessly and risk possible injury, he curled up at the base of a tree. Soon, his eyes grew heavy and he slept.

Jake awakened to bright sunshine and the sound of birds singing. And down in the valley was a lake. The lake was small, and blue and sparkled in the sunlight. Around the lake, on the far shore, was a small hut, made of stone. Jake hurried down, afraid it might vanish before his eyes. And crawling up to the hut, at journey’s end, he came upon an old man, sitting with crossed legs, his fingers intertwined in his lap, his eyes closed.

“Ancient Sage, my name is Jake, and I have traveled far, seeking you out in the hopes that you might impart some of your wisdom.” Opening his eyes, the Sage beckoned, “Come young one, come sit before me, that you may hear what I have to say.” Jake leaned close, that he might miss not a single word. This is why he had come. This was the culmination of months spent planning and preparing. “Young one” said the old man, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Jake leaned closer, for he sensed there was more. “But three lefts do.” And with that, the old man closed his eyes once more. “But wait!” said Jake. “How do I get home?” Opening one eye, The Sage of Lost Lake replied, “Follow the trail from the back of the hut for approximately one hundred yards. There you will find a bench. Sit on the bench. The bus runs every half hour.”  

Jake and the Scary Movie

It had been raining all week, and a very bored Jake was stuck inside. With Brother BudPie, his tall, lean, muscular but not totally ripped roomie, down in the tropics, selling a load of space heaters, Jake found himself all alone.  Going outside to play was not an option. Everyone knows that no matter how bored, little snakes do not like to get wet. Even getting Jake to take a bath was a daunting task, and the repercussions of his less than perfect hygiene were starting to show. “I could have some friends over, I suppose” he thought, but he couldn’t get very excited about that. It’s no fun having people over when constantly, under their breath, they made comments like “What’s that smell?” or “Who died?” or “Are you burning dirty socks?”

“Maybe a little TV” thought Jake, but as he flipped through the channels, there didn’t seem to be much of anything on. Sure, he could watch the Lemon Cake Bakeoffs, or The Citrus Squeezers Semi-Finals, or even an infomercial, but with Billy Mays gone, even that couldn’t hold his interest for long. “I need something exciting” he thought to himself. “Maybe I’ll watch a movie”

“Let’s see what we have…..The Little Snake That Could….Babycakes and Little Snakes….Boa Bob Gets a Charlie Horse…”. “This isn’t going to cut it” thought Jake. “Maybe a thriller, something scary, would get my heart rate up….hmmm…..Dracula and the Tooth Fairy….Sister Sue and the Headless Python….The Lemon Juice Nightmare….The Mongoose Who Came to Dinner….”.

“Ahhh! Here we go. The Haunted Hotel.” In his favorite spot, with a big bowl of lemon jellied spiders on what would be his lap if he had a one, and a glass of lemon fizz close at hand, Jake the bored little snake settled in to watch the movie.

(Fade to movie…)

A piercing scream split the night, startling the young, P.I. and Super Sleuth Extraordinaire, nearly causing him to drop his magnifying glass. He would have jumped right out of his skin if he hadn’t already shed it, just last week. “Pumpkin warts!” he thought to himself, “I was not expecting that! That’s enough to cause a guy to molt.” He was making his way up the stairs, looking for clues, anything that might shed some light on what was really going on in the Citrus Hotel. Reports of spooky specters, ghoulish ghosts, annoying apparitions, were in his opinion, tales concocted by the only other hotel in town, in an attempt to scare more business their way.

Of the two hotels in Lemon Land, the Citrus was by far the older, with creaking stairs, musty hallways, and dark, cobweb filled corners. Across the street, the Chateau de Marmalade, spanky, sparkly, newly built, beckoned, with a flashing sign that announced “Vacancy! Free WiFi! No Ghosts!”

As more and more business drifted away, across the street, the manager at the Citrus knew there was only one person he could call. The best detective in town, Catcher of Crooks, Master of Mystery, Banisher of Banshees, Jake the Snake.

Jake loved being a detective, from the trench coat and fedora tilted at a rakish angle, to the gum on his shoe. “All I need are sunglasses, a mustache and a big nose and I’d look just like Leon Redbone” And, with a few gigs under his belt, and a steady stream of clients, he liked knowing that he was pulling his own weight.

His pal and roomie, Brother BudPie, a strong, well-muscled, great looking hunk of humanity was a highly successful salesman specializing in refrigerators and space heaters, and was more than capable of providing for himself and a little snake. But Jake liked the idea of being a contributing member of the small family, and getting the handle on this ghost situation was a step in the right direction.

As his thoughts drifted away from his personal life and back to the matter at hand, his attention was captured by what sounded like faint, indistinct but distressed sobbing. “That sounds like faint, indistinct but distressed sobbing” he thought as he slithered up to a closed door halfway down the hall. Pressing his ear to the door, he heard a voice, soft and afraid, “No, no, please don’t!” Pressing closer to the door, wishing he could peek through the keyhole, and knowing that without a ladder it was not an option, heard a cold, creepy, ethereally eerie voice say “Caaaaaakkkkke, muuusssstttt haaaaavvve caaaaaaakkke…..”

(Fade back to reality…)

“That’s right folks, for just three easy payments of $25.00, or one single payment of $100.00, plus shipping and handling, you get the Automatic Cake Slicer, four paper plates, and Frosting Buddy! But wait! Order now and we’ll double your order. Just pay shipping and handling for the additional……”

Not paying attention to the commercial (they weren’t the same without Billy), Jake reached for his glass of lemon fizz, and when startled by a noise, would have dropped it in what would have been his lap if he’d had one. Was that a scratching at the window, or the scrape of a windblown branch? Did he hear a tap-tap-tap at the front door or was it his imagination? He was certain that he had locked all the windows and doors before settling in to his movie, and while afraid to know, but more afraid not to know, he raced over to the door, and straining to listen, heard nothing. Crawling to the window, he pressed his face against the glass, and peered into the darkness. “Can’t see anything out there” thought Jake, crawling back down from the window, only to hear a scraping at the back door! The combination of the movie and being home alone had the little snake on edge. Frantic, he raced around the room, turning off lights and the TV, hoping to make himself less visible to whomever, whatever, lurked about in the darkness. “Good thinking Jakey Boy, keep your wits about you” he muttered to himself.

Willing his heartbeat to slow down, catching his breath and pondering his next move, he was startled by a bumping sound in the hallway. “It’s inside! How did it get inside?!” thought the terrified little snake, wishing he’d gone to Ecuador with Brother BudPie, his brave, clever, extremely attractive roomie. Not knowing if it would be of any use, he began casting about for anything with which he might defend himself. In the bravest, if somewhat squeaky, voice he could muster, he said “Who’s there? Come out, show your face, prepare to meet your doom.” “Jake, is that you? It’s me, Prissscila. I came over to watch a movie, but you wouldn’t answer the door. I had to come in through the kitchen drain. Ewwww…what’s that smell? Are you burning dirty socks?”    

Jake’s Vacation

One time, not so long ago, and pretty far from here, there was a little snake named Jake. And today, Jake was an excited snake indeed. He was going to visit his very best friend Lemon Lady. Brother BudPie, Jake’s ruggedly handsome human, was going to be gone all summer, on a business trip. Brother Budpie was a refrigerator salesman, and a darn good one. He was going to Alaska, and north, toward the Arctic Circle. He was excited to take advantage of an untapped market, and had no doubt he would sell oodles of refrigerators. And Jake was going on vacation! For the whole summer!

“Are you packed and ready to go, Jakey Boy?” said Brother BudPie, with a twinkle in his eye and a roguish smile, for which he was well known. “I’m ready! I’m ready!” said Jake, fairly bursting with excitement, wishing he could jump up and down. But we all know that little snakes cannot jump up and down.

So off they went, to the airport, Brother BudPie, a confident, conscientious driver, and all-around charismatic individual, with his bag of refrigerator brochures, and Jake, who liked to travel light, wearing his tiny Seahawks hat, and sweater that said ‘Go Hawks!’. For Jake did indeed love football, and dreamed of one day becoming a tight end for his favorite team. But that was for another time. Today he was going to Lemon Lady’s house!

“Okay Jake” said Brother BudPie, in his firm but loving voice, as they stood on Lemon Lady’s front porch, “No monkey business this summer (Jake had no idea what monkey business was, but was sure it wouldn’t be a problem), promise me you’ll be a good little snake.” And bending down, way , way down, (for Brother BudPie’s broad shoulders, narrow waist, and exceedingly well toned legs were only surpassed by his near-perfect height) gave Jake a kiss on the nose and was on his way.

“I’m so glad you’re here Jakey. It will be just like old times. What great fun we will have!” Lemon Lady’s voice flowed over Jake like warm honey down the back of a mongoose. “But now, we need to get you ready for bed. You’ve had a long day, and I’m sure you will be up early tomorrow, eager to start having fun. So off you go, brush both your teeth, polish your scales, and get into your Bob’s Burgers jammies.” And with a wink, Lemon Lady said “Be careful not to ‘accidently’ fall down the sink drain. I know how you love to play Down the Drain and Back Up Through the Toilet, and the toilet lid is closed. You might get trapped! Then, come give me hug and a goodnight kiss. Actually, maybe I’d better give you the hug.” And with that, Lemon Lady was off to the kitchen, to preheat the oven for the delightfully delectable double-delicious lemon cake she was going to bake. If there was one thing she knew how to do, it was baking lemon cakes.

The next morning bright and early, Jake was in the kitchen, just finishing his second bowl of Spider Puffs, when Lemon Lady, a twinkle in her eye and piece of lemon zest hanging from the end of her nose (“I hope it’s lemon zest” thought Jake), cleared her throat and said “You’re on your own today Baby Jakes, I have friends from The Lemon Lovers League coming over for a lemon popover bake-off. After that we’re going to play bingo.” (Lemon Lady loved bingo, and had developed a strategy that had paid off handsomely over the years.)

Jake was excited! The last time he visited Lemon Lady, he was too young to play outside by himself. “This is looking to be an awesome day” thought Jake, grabbing his Seahawks hat on his way out the door. “Today I’m going to make some friends.”

Lemon Lady’s back yard was a magical place, with lots of grass, bushes and trees, nooks and crannies. Jake wasn’t too familiar with nooks, and even less so with crannies. “I’ll learn as I go” thought Jake, as he slithered down the back steps, past the rock garden, where rocks of all colors and sizes grew in abundance.

Making his way through the grass, Jake stumbled upon a group of frogs, small and green, all lined up and jumping over each other. “What are you doing?” asked Jake in his most friendly voice. “It’s pretty obvious kid, if you were a frog you would know” croaked the biggest, meanest looking frog of the bunch. “Can I play?” asked Jake, with hope in is voice and a smile on his face. Evidently, the frogs found this to be extremely funny, hilarious even. “Oh that’s brilliant!” croaked the biggest meanest looking frog of the bunch. “He wants to play leapfrog! Come back when you got arms and legs kid. Now scram!” 

With head hanging low, his tail tucked between his…..his tail tucked, a dejected Jake swallowed his humiliation and slithered away through the tall grass. For even though Lemon Lady’s lawn was meticulously manicured, all grass seemed tall to a little snake.

It wasn’t too long before the little snake heard laughter and singing from somewhere up ahead. “Maybe it’s someone that will play with me” thought Jake, as he burst upon the scene. And what he saw did indeed look like fun. There before him was a small flock of birds, performing aerial acrobatics the likes of which he had never before seen. Swerving and diving, singing and laughing! Jake waited for the flock to take a worm break, perched side by side on a branch low to the ground, before he dared approach. “Hi! My name is Jake, I’m from out of town, visiting my friend Lemon Lady. Can I play? “Yeah you can play” chirped the biggest bird of the bunch. “You can play ‘get lost’. Come back when you got wings.”

Needless to say, this was devastating to the little snake. No one wanted to play with him. Jake had always known he was different, but it had never occurred to him that others would shun him because of it. It didn’t seem fair. Brother BudPie, his compassionate, wise, easy on the eyes, mentor had taught him that diversity made things better, not worse.

So Jake found himself, sad, miserable and alone, curled up beside an especially colorful rock. With tears in his eyes and his chin on the ground, albeit the distance between his chin and the ground wasn’t that great to begin with, he almost missed the slight rustling of the grass. “Go away” said Jake, in a trembling voice. “Go back and play with your friends. Did they send you to taunt me”?

“I don’t have any friends” said a silky voice. “I was hoping you would be my friend. I saw you talking to the unfriendly frogs, and the belligerent birds. They wouldn’t play with me either.”

Jake’s chin came up so fast he was momentarily airborne. He whipped his head around, looking over what would have been his shoulder, if he had shoulders, and this is what he saw: The most beautiful, the most perfect, the most snakiest girl he had ever seen. Popping his neck back into joint, wiping the tears from his eyes and the sheepleg from his little nose, in a warbly voice, cracking on the high notes, he managed to utter “Ummm, hullo. My name’s Jake. What’s yours?” “Prissscilla” whispered the young lady snake, in a warm voice that flowed like melted butter down a duck’s back. “Her eyes” thought Jake, “Are like diamonds, her scales shine like the sun itself.” Willing his heart to slow down to below the recommended maximum heart rate for a little snake, Jake gathered his courage, rounded up his wits, winked, and said “Prissscilla, do you like lemon jellied spiders?”

And that’s how Jake, a little snake, began what turned out to be the best vacation he ever had.

As a footnote, Brother Budpie sold all of his refrigerators in the first two weeks in the Arctic. With the handsome profit from that venture, he purchased a container load of space heaters, and was on his way to Ecuador.

My First Girlfriend

I was in the sixth grade before it dawned on me that girls might have other purposes aside from being utility ball targets. The realization wasn’t something that came creeping up on little cat feet, more like a blow between the eyes with one of those same utility balls.

She was in the fifth grade and her name was Gloria, and it reminded me of glorious, and she was. Her hair was red, silky and smooth, and shone like the morning sun. A dusting of freckles marched across her nose like the first scattered stars of evening, and her eyes were so big and green you’d swear they held the ocean.

It must have been early in the school year, within the first few days, when I saw her in the hallway for the first time. She may have been a new student, or was there all along, but that was the first time I saw her as something other than a potential utility ball target. I promised myself at that instant that she would be my girlfriend. And she was, right away. And I thought to myself “How wonderful life is to have so lovely a girlfriend, and how much better it would be if she knew she were my girlfriend.” But like little green men and bigfoot sightings, it had yet to be confirmed.

I found myself loitering in the hall at the end of recess, hoping to catch a glimpse as she made her way into her classroom, or maybe hear a few words spoken to a friend, in the hope she might be talking about me. On the playground, I purposely avoided targeting her with utility balls, and may have even put myself between her and those thrown by others, as a display of my affection and my willingness to take a hit for her. I thought to approach her and nonchalantly ask “Where have I been all your life?” or “Do you work out?”. And if that didn’t work, I still had the ace up my sleeve, a question designed to elicit a response that would, I was assured by friends, do the trick. Me: “Did it hurt?” Her: What?” Me again: “When you fell from Heaven.” Her again: “Did you just call me Satan?” But I didn’t approach her, and I didn’t ask those questions, despite their obvious potential for success. Instead, like sixth grade boys do, at least the ones I knew, I did nothing. Nothing other than love her from afar, wishing that I were brave enough and suave enough to step up and bare my soul, to make my feelings known. And I would say that I pined for her, but how could I grieve the loss of something I never had?

That set a pattern for the way I would approach courtship for many years to come. I’d like to think that as I’ve grown older, and maybe a bit more swift in the way of things, I’ve learned that to never try is to never win.

And I’ve upped my standards. Red hair is ok, and freckles are fine, but to get to know someone, and discover the beauty that’s on the inside, and let it determine how I see the outside, well, that’s how all relationships should begin. I wonder how much different life would be if I’d known that when I was in the sixth grade.

Spearfishing

As children, we spent a considerable amount of time down by the river. Exploring along its banks, we would find arrowheads and other evidence of encampments by the indigenous people of an earlier time. With the raisings of the Rock Island Dam, most if not all of those areas are now submerged.

One of the things we used to do was go spearfishing for carp in an area behind the old Keokuk silicon smelter. In the picture, to the right of the buildings, you can see a small inlet of the Columbia River. It wasn’t so deep that you couldn’t see the bottom all the way across to the small isthmus on the river side. For some reason, carp would congregate there, maybe to bask in the sun-warmed water of the little estuary. We would take our bows and hand-made spears, and attempt to spear them.

I don’t recall us ever having any great success, but in our minds we were mountain men, catching what we ate and eating what we caught. Of course, had we ever actually caught any, it’s not likely we would even have attempted to eat it. Based on the location, I doubt if those fish could make it through a TSA checkpoint at the airport without setting off every alarm in the building. That’s if they were of a mind to travel by air rather by water.

The Pit

There was a place in my hometown of Rock Island, Washington, where we gathered on hot summer days, when we weren’t playing baseball. Though we played baseball nearly every day, even youngsters sometimes need a little R&R. On those occasions, we would meet up at The Pit. It sounds kind of ominous, but it was actually just our swimming hole.

It came into being as a gravel pit, many years ago, before the Rock Island Dam, a mile or so downriver from Rock Island was constructed, blocking the river and raising the water table. Some of that gravel may even have been used in the construction of the dam. Some people, not from Rock Island, or newcomers to our little town, may have called it The Gravel Pit. We just called it The Pit. I doubt if the first letters of each word were actually granted upper case status in how we thought of it, but it does make it easier to pick them out of the story.

So, the hole was there, and when the water table rose, it filled with water, deep and cold. Legend has it that people had drowned there, their bodies never to be found. Did they disappear down a hole at the bottom, to pop up in the Columbia River somewhere, eventually becoming food for the giant sturgeon that congregated below the dam? I don’t know. Could it be that it was a story, fabricated by Rock Island mothers, in an attempt to keep their children from going there, or at least to be careful? Maybe. Was it effective? Not to my knowledge.

For me, The Pit had two purposes: As a place to gather socially, and as a fishing hole. At certain times of the year, it was stocked with trout. I’m not sure who was behind that, whether it was The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, or one of the benevolent scions of Rock Island. Suffice to say that as a child, I had wrestled a decent amount of fish from that hole. My brother would take me fishing, out on a point which, if memory serves me (along with a quick check of Google Maps) was at the north end of the pond. But those occasions, though enjoyable, were irregular, and subject to my brother’s availability and willingness. I will say that when he was available, he was always willing. Besides being my baseball mentor, he also instilled in me a love of fishing.

Far more often, we were there for its primary purpose, as a swimming hole. In those days, it was just one body of water, and most of the gathering and splashing about took place on the eastern side. That was the only place flat enough and roomy enough for cars to park. The other three sides were higher, steeper, and the water was deeper. But we would gather there, and laugh and swim and play, and sometimes, catch a glimpse of the girls in their swimsuits.

At some point, I don’t exactly know when, and more than once, the water level behind the dam was raised, and along with that, the water table, creating more and bigger lakes. The golf course expanded, new houses were built, and the last time I was there, not long ago, my view from the rabbit humps showed a greener, lusher place than seen from my memory’s eye.

When strangers or acquaintances ask me where I’m from, my first answer is “Wenatchee”, because that’s more likely to be recognized by out-of-staters. Then, I usually go on to reduce that down to “East Wenatchee”, because as we know, there is a huge difference between the two. Then I end up boldly and proudly proclaiming “But I’m actually from Rock Island.” And that’s what defines me, and all the kids I grew up with. It’s why we are who we are, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.   

Snoozin’ Susan and the Lemon Cookie Caper

Fast forward a few years…

Someone had been filching Susan’s lemon cookies. She always knew exactly how many she had at any given time, and of late, they had been mysteriously vanishing. The larcenous lemon lout had tried to cover up his cookie crimes by rearranging the sugar free, non-artificial sweetener, nuggets of lemon lusciousness. But Susan wasn’t fooled. Not by a longshot. And she knew exactly who to call for help with her dessert dilemma. She knew a lady that knew a guy.

“Give me a hand here” said Jake the Snake to his assistant Brother BudPie, stretching to his full four-inch height. I’ve almost got it” he muttered, as he shifted the push pins in his little mouth. It wouldn’t do to swallow push pins. Jake was attempting to hang the shingle above the door of his new office, proudly proclaiming “Jake the Snake, Super Sleuth Extraordinaire” to be open for business, when the phone rang.

“Jake the Snake, Super Sleuth Extraordinaire” gasped Jake, after his mad dash to answer the phone. “This could be my first case” thought Jake, as he struggled to catch his breath. Too many lemon jellied spiders and not enough exercise was beginning to take its toll.

“Hello Jake, this is Lemon Lady. How’s business?” “Business is good” said Jake. “It would be even better if I had some.” (Jake, always on the lookout for new career opportunities, had, at one point, considered standup comedy, but that came with its own unique set of challenges.)  Jake and Lemon Lady went way back. She was like a mother to him, from a time before he could even crawl. She actually taught him how to slither. Lemon Lady lived far away, in Apple Land, and he didn’t get to visit her often, but when he did, what fun they had! She always had a bowl full of spiders for snacks, and they would play such fun games! One of his favorite games was “Spider Fetch”. He also liked “Down the Kitchen Drain and Back up Through the Toilet”, although he was getting kind of big for that. And it didn’t help that he was developing quite the muffin top.

“Jake, I have a friend that needs your help. How soon can you get up to Apple Land?” asked Lemon Lady. The phone fell to the floor as Jake reached for a pen to take notes. “If only I had shoulders” thought Jake, as he picked up the phone. “I need to check with Brother BudPie, he takes care of my travel arrangements. But while he’s getting that set up, maybe you can tell me a little more about the case.” Jake loved official talk. And he loved the idea of being a detective. He’d considered other career opportunities before settling on being a gumshoe. At one point he thought about running away to join the circus, as many youngsters do, to become a juggler. Or going to Vegas to become a blackjack dealer. He even thought about stenography. But none of them excited him as much as being a private D, following in the footsteps of such greats as Boa Bob, Anaconda Annie, and Pete The Python. Jake shook himself out of his reverie. “No time for daydreaming boyo, there’s work to be done.”

“Sorry Lemon Lady, I got sidetracked there for a minute. Lay it on me.” (more hard-nosed, semi-dangerous, jaded but not too jaded detective talk) “Jake, my friend Susan needs your help” said Lemon Lady, with a hint of desperation in her voice. “Her sugar free, non-artificial sweetener lemon cookies are disappearing, into thin air it would seem.” Any crime involving lemon delectables was, to Lemon Lady, serious indeed. Jake would need to get right on this.

“Are we ready to go?” Jake shouted back to Brother BudPie, who was in the back room, which served as a break and conference room. “Just let me finish getting the frosting on this lemon cake” said Brother BudPie, a charming, well spoken, middle aged but still in peak physical condition fellow. Brother BudPie, besides being Jake’s assistant, was his cake decorator, personal secretary, and, more importantly, his principal mode of transportation. It can be a challenge even getting to the bathroom when you have no legs.

The airport in Apple Land, where goodness grows on trees and the Mexican food is superb, sat atop a flat hill, above what Jake now knew was a golf course. He still didn’t understand what the attraction was, but to him, it was a magical place for that is where he first met Brother BudPie, a jovial, even tempered, eye-catching, quite attractive but not in a girl-pretty kind of way, guy.

After a quick stop at Lemon Lady’s, a place that held many good memories for Jake, he and Brother BudPie headed straight to Susan’s house. Time was short, and sugar free non-artificial sweetener lemon cookies were vanishing at an alarming rate. No way was he going to allow anyone to purloin, pilfer, or otherwise swipe those tantalizingly tasty sugar free lemon fondant filled goodies, and get away with it. Especially since he’d just learned that they were also non GMO and gluten free.

When Susan opened the door of her warm, inviting, but not too ostentatious home, she saw an incredibly handsome, well dressed, impeccably groomed, really sweet looking guy. And then, as though from far away, she heard a small voice say “I’m down here. You must be Susan! I’m Jake, and the tall gorgeous hunk is my assistant Brother BudPie. We’re here to solve your cookie crisis.”

Susan looked down, tearing her gaze away from Brother BudPie’s hypnotic eyes, past his tanned, well chiseled, but not too prominent chin, down, down, until she saw the adorable little snake at his feet. Just like the salt melted the ice on her doorstep, her heart melted upon seeing the two little beady eyes that stared up at her. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she heard a little voice say “Good thing I’m not a slug”.

“I think we need to start by visiting the scene of the crime” said Jake. And so Susan, tripping on the entry rug because she couldn’t stop looking at the gallant, knightly, Brother BudPie, whose smile was so bright one could practically hear it sparkle, causing a faint but discernable ‘ding!’, ushered them both into the kitchen. “I keep my cookies in the freezer, and only bring them out, two at a time, each day, for coffee break. I love my coffee break, it’s a time to sit back and reflect on all of life’s…..” “Just the facts, Ma’am, time’s awastin’” piped up little Jake, in his most official detective voice.

“Every night, just before bedtime, I count my cookies, and arrange them just so” said Susan. “And for the last few weeks, my daily inventory shows cookies disappearing faster than I can replace them. Sometimes I try and stay awake to catch the despicable desperado, but he never shows up until after I fall asleep.”

While Jake had his own suspicions, he felt it was better to go where the evidence led. “Why don’t you two go relax in the living room while I attempt to get to the bottom of this” said Jake. And unbeknownst to either of them, he made up his mind to stick around that night and do a snakeout, for what better way to catch a cookie crook than during the commission of the crime? So, when Jake sent Brother BudPie, a faithful, dependable, compassionate man, with only a slight paunch, to the motel down the street, he crawled under the kitchen table and waited.

After Susan had gone to bed, in the wee hours of the night, Jake crept from under the table, and began to follow the trail of crumbs from their source to their destination. For while Susan was an impeccable house keeper, she understandably hadn’t been getting much sleep lately, so yes, there were crumbs on the floor. Jake followed the trail of crumbs. “Hmm,” he thought, “As long as I’m down here, and the crumbs are down here…..” Eating his way along the evidence trail, for the crumbs were truly delicious, Jake the Super Sleuth Extraordinaire soon grew full and sleepy. Before reaching the end of the trail, he thought “Just a little nap would be perfect.” And curling up in the hallway, he closed his beady little eyes, flicked his cute forked at the end tongue a couple times and went to sleep.

Rudely awakened by footsteps in the kitchen, he raced down the hall, just in time to see a shadowy figure, standing in front of the refrigerator, freezer door open. And though the only light was from a Donald Duck night light in the living room, he was fairly sure he recognized the nefarious nighttime nibbler of nutritious yet delicious cookies. Even the fuzzy tiger striped slippers, the Bob’s Burgers robe and the huge curlers could not camouflage the cookie fiend. Of course it was Susan, and of course she was asleep. A sleepwalking, cookie crunching culprit. “My work here is done” thought Jake.

And that’s how Jake the Little Snake, Super Sleuth Extraordinaire, solved the mystery of the vanishing sugar free, non-artificial sweetener, lemon cookies.