She had always heard that if she ventured beyond the valley she must stick to the center of the river. She would be safe there.
She had spent the last two days travelling this waterway. Sometimes she could wade, sometimes she had to swim but so far she had remained safe, just as the elders had said she would.
She had food enough for one more day, two if she was careful. She thought she should have found him by now. She could still make it home with the food she had; or she could continue her search and hope she found him before she had to risk moving to the bank to forage. That, she knew, would not be safe.
Milo stumbled down the stairs, looking for coffee. He had dutifully set up the new fangled pot last night and armed the timer for 0530. It was now 0600 so he wouldn’t have to wait for his morning Joe. He would just be able to pour it and enjoy it as he read the paper. He wanted to see what Little Orphan Annie was up to today. He loved to spend his mornings with Annie, Rex Morgan, Mary Worth, and Prince Valiant. Judge Parker used to be a good read too till that bastard Sam Driver elbowed his way into the strip and took over. He seldom bothered to read that one anymore. Milo didn’t care much for Sam Driver.
Milo cracked open the front door at the bottom of the stairs and peered out. There was the paper, about halfway down the walk. The street appeared deserted so he risked running out in only his boxers to fetch it. When he came back in he tossed the paper on the table, poured a cup and settled in. He unrolled the paper and pulled out the advertisements. He stacked all the sections, in order, on the table in front of him and turned them over one by one until he found the “Family and Life” section. That was where the word search, Ann Landers, and his favorite comics were to be found. That was where he always went first.
Paging through “Family and Life” he skimmed the movie listings and eventually found Ann Landers. The first letter was absurd. A woman had written in, asking about little creatures that looked like brightly coloured mustaches with eyes. She said that there was a colony of them living in her house. She didn’t know what they ate but she suspected that they liked cat food. She wanted to know how to get rid of them. He thought Ann would call her out. He thought sure it was a crank letter from one of those frat houses at Princeton but Ann told her that she had had a couple of these in her house as well. She had called the Truly Nolen guys and they had come out and taken care of the problem. She cautioned the writer that she should take care of it quickly because these things could get big and then they would be hard to be shed of.
The second letter was from a high school girl who asked if she should let Timmy get to second base. She loved him and thought that he might love her too. She couldn’t ask her parents and was conflicted. Ann Landers was her only hope for good advice. Ann told her she was a fool. Timmy was after only one thing. She advised against it, saying that true love could stand the test of time. Then there was an ad for her booklet on adolescence. The police log filled the rest of that column.
Milo set the paper down so that he could page through to the comics and that was when he saw the little guy. He looked like a red mustache with googly eyes. He was watching from across the table. Milo reached for the phone and dialed 411.
“Directory assistance, what city please?”
“I need a number for a pest control company. Maybe, Truly Nolen?”
“Do you have those little mustache guys?” The operator asked.
“Yeah, I’m looking at one right now.”
“Keep your eye on him,” she said, “they multiply fast. I’ll connect you.”