Chapter Two - A Year Goes By
Over the next year Jonathan visited Agnes on a regular basis. Although Bart’s leg had healed, the raccoon decided living with his caregiver was a pretty good deal. After all, with certain limitations, he had the run of the place and could come & go as he pleased. Avoiding the barnyard when old Tom was about. Jonathan would often see him heading into the woods in the early evening and not return until the morning when he would spot him as he headed off to school. Like most raccoons, Bart loved the nightlife.
At some point Mrs. Sweetwater decided they should be on a first name basis and instructed Jonathan to address her as Agnes. They would work in the barn or out in her garden tilling, weeding, bundling hay and feeding the animals. Sometimes they would talk, other times just work away enjoying the sunshine laughing at old Tom & Bart during one of their confrontations. As a treat, Agnes would always have a cold glass of lemonade on warm days or a piece of maple candy as a reward for the work Jonathan did.
Sometimes they would gather things for sacks that hung from the rafters in her cottage. Seeds from the wildflowers, dried sunflowers and cobs of corn, an endless variety of items they dried, and preserved.
One day she joined Jonathan and his dad as they went to town to buy some supplies. It was late in the fall and the young boy was already starting to create his Christmas list as he looked over the toy display. A flash of red caught his attention from high above the shelves and there it was, hanging on the wall. The most amazing red racing sled he had ever seen. It was called ‘The Flexible Flyer’. He pictured himself flying down the local tobogganing hill, ahead of the pack. With this sled, he could show the local braggart and bully Charles Barnes, what a good driver on a fast sled could do. For too many years now, Charles had been king of the hill.
With this sled Jonathan would have him be eating the snow
that flew in his face as he passed him. Agnes approached him.
“let’s go Giggles. You’ve been standing there for a full ten minutes looking up at that contraption”
“I know Agnes, but isn’t it just the sweetest looking sled in the entire world.”
“Oh I suppose so Giggles, but we have to get going your dad’s locking up the store.”
He knew for sure that sled would be at the top of his wish list, but it was more than he had ever asked for in the past.
Within a week, the snow started falling, and soon the all-important list was handed to his dad.
What’s this? Just one thing on the list?
“Yup it’s really the only thing I would like for Christmas.”
“Oh my, its that sled you’ve been drooling over down at the store. The one at the store was sold and that’s a pretty tall order for Santa Claus son, you’d better write down a couple more things just in case.”
Somehow, he knew that meant the sled was not going to happen. He reluctantly took back the piece of paper and jotted down a few more things. Skates, a Meccano expansion set, and just for effect socks and underwear. He figured Santa might be impressed that he was being very practical and maybe come through with that sled.
He visited Agnes about two days before Christmas, and asked if he could join her on her Christmas morning hike into the woods. She smiled and gave it some thought before replying.
“I don’t think you’re quite ready for that and what about your gifts under the tree?”
“I’ll open them when we got back.”
“Maybe next year, now come along, help me fill these sacks and then we’ll have some cocoa.
It was driving him crazy. He knew what she carried in the sack, he knew she headed off into the woods, but where was she going? Was there an old hermit that lived in a cave somewhere out there? He had to know, and that’s when he decided what he must to do. He would follow her.
That Christmas Eve, he fell into a fitful sleep, worried that he would miss waking up on time, to follow Agnes…
into the woods.
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