It's Only Money
- "Mal, Mel, we have something to tell you about the money sack that was lost in the sand," Mort said to the twins at dinner that evening.
"What? What?" they both asked excitedly.
- "It's not quite what you are expecting," Agnes started. Then both parents took turns explaining the circumstances as the bank president told it to them.
"Well, it's only money," Mal said, after a pause. "That's what Grandpa says."
- "I feel sorry for that old man," said Mel softly.
- Mort and Agnes looked at each other, surprised, relieved and with a touch of embarrassment as possible uses of the reward money appeared spontaneously as their first thoughts, before reason and compassion took over.
- "Now that we know the situation, let's leave everything to the bank president," Mort advised.
- "Yes, it's in good hands," Agnes responded.
- Arriving at Door County
- A few weeks later the family headed to Door County, Wisconsin at mid-afternoon on a Thursday to extend their exploration time, as the drive would take about a half day each way. They selected an inn at the farthest point they could drive so they could take the first ferry out to Washington Island the next morning and return in time to enjoy a traditional fish boil at one of the lakeside inns.
- Mal and Mel scrambled out of the car to explore nearby with Rufus as the adults went to register where they booked their resservations. Mike took in a great big breath, enjoying freedom from the normal plant allergens that tended to annoy him at this time of year.
- "How have the twins' allergies been this year," Mike asked Agnes.
- "About the same. They sneeze a little during the day; some nights one or the other will wake up with a stuffy nose, but it's not been really bad," Agnes replied. "How about you?"
- "About the same with me. The air certainly seems cleaner up here."
- The inn had plenty of maps and brochures of the area, including Washington and Rock Islands, so the collected a number of them with the intent of planning their "island hopping" excursion over dinner.
- As everyone was quite hungry, they quickly settled in their rooms and arrived at the dining room in less than 15 minutes. It was a big room that looked even bigger with only a few diners remaining. The owner and his wife greeted the family and showed them to their table overlooking Ellison Bay to the west, where a path of water sparkled from the setting sun.
- The Many Flavors of Perch
- “Fish is always on the menu. Perch is tonight’s special. It was still swimming this morning,” Tom suggested. “Wine or beer for the adults? Children, milk or juice?”
- “A beer sounds good to me if the perch is batter fried,” answered Mike. “Otherwise, a glass of your house white. Don’t want to overwhelm a delicate taste.”
- “Take your pick,” said Karen, Tom’s wife. “Our cook can steam, bake, broil, fry, and season to your liking. But better save room for dessert – Door County cherries are legendary.”
- The twins weren’t particularly fond of fish, but their parents encouraged them to taste the local fare. “After all, you can get hamburgers or pizza any time, but food so fresh it was swimming this morning...”
- Everyone placed their orders, five different variations on the perch theme so they could “share and compare” flavors.
- Tom brought the dishes himself and asked how long they were staying in Door County and what their plans were for the next two days. Agnes brought out the maps and pamphlets she collected from the inn’s information rack. Mort explained what they had planned...take ferries to Washington and Rock islands and fish boil tomorrow and exploring the coves and beaches along both Lake Michigan and Green Bay on Saturday and part of Sunday before heading back home.
- No Isthmus? Then Could It Be a Peninsula?
- “Excellent plan,” said Tom. The Washington Island ferries start early in the morning and run frequently to and from the mainland here, so you should have plenty of flexibility. By the way, you DO know that Door County isn’t really a peninsula, even though most folks call it that?”
- “Really”? Mort noted that most of the materials refer to Door County as a peninsula. “It’s a narrow strip of land that sticks out into water, right?”
- “That’s right, but a peninsula is almost like an island except that it is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. Would you like me to show you an example?”
- “Certainly,” said Agnes. “As a matter of fact, if you’re not too busy, we’d love to have you join us as we enjoy your wonderful perch and hear more about this area, wouldn’t we,” Agnes asked her family, who all nodded in agreement. “Your wife, too, if she can.”
- There was plenty of room at the table; it was almost as though Tom seated them deliberately at the big table and was looking for a good excuse to join the family.
“Start in on your dinners and enjoy the fish while it’s hot. I’ll be back in a bit,” said Tom.
- Everyone tasted their own order of perch and then took a piece of fish from the plate to their left and then from the right. Once those were tasted, pieces were offered from the remaining two plates. Karen watched in amusement at the orderly way in which everyone had a taste of everyone else’s fish, noting that Mike was orchestrating the whole process. He must be a schoolteacher, she thought.
- When the sharing appeared to be finished, Tom arrived back at the table carrying two elongated balloons he had blown up, but not all the way. “How about a bit of a geography lesson while you’re eating?” he asked, mostly addressing Mal and Mel.
- “We get balloons?” Mel asked. “Neat!” Mal exclaimed.
- “Yes, they are for you. But first, the lesson.” Tom took one of the balloons and squeezed a section of it with his thumb and forefinger so that about one quarter of the balloon was above and three quarters were below where he squeezed it. With his other hand, Tom then squeezed the balloon a little farther down. The lower portion of the balloon bulged out he squeezed. Then he slowly pulled his hands apart, stretching the section of balloon between his two hands.
- “You see this smaller top section of the balloon? It’s joined to the fatter bottom section by this skinny part of the balloon. Think of the whole balloon as land. The smaller, top part is the peninsula, the bottom part could be called the “mainland” and the skinny part connecting the two land masses is called an isthmus.
- “It sounds like ‘Christmas’,” Mel observed.
- The adults smiled at the thought of Christmas in August; each of them remembered having heard the word isthmus somewhere in their early studies, but none of them recalled ever using it.
- “Now, look at the map of Door County, here,” Tom continued, taking one of the pamphlets lying on the table. “And now look at the balloon. What’s different?”
- “I know! I see it! There’s no Christmas in Door County!” Mal, giggled, quite amused at the joke he just made up. Everyone else thought it was pretty clever too.
- “Very observant, young man,” Tom complimented Mal. “You get to pick the balloon you want and your sister gets the other one.”
- “That’s easy,” Mal said. “I’m not picking the pink one. That’s a girl’s color,” he said, reaching for the blue balloon.
- Just then, Karen came out carrying two more fish dinners and placed them at the two empty places at the table.
- “We haven’t eaten yet, and Tom told me it would be alright if we joined you.”
- “We’re delighted,” Agnes said. “Please do join us. We’d love to hear more about the area from someone who actually lives here.”
- “We’re third generation innkeepers,” Tom said. “Karen’s grandfather built this inn in the early 1900’s, her mother and father ran it and now we do. Most of the wood you see here is the original timber; we’ve tried to preserve everything we can while adding modern touches such as the free Wi-Fi. People can’t seem to get enough of the Internet, even on vacation.”
- The family looked around, admiring the craftsmanship surrounding them. Then Mal spoke up.
- “I really like the fish with the stuff sprinkled on top. What’s it called?”
- “It’s parmesan cheese mixed together with herbs and a special kind of crumb, like bread crumbs,” Karen answered. “It’s our cook’s secret recipe. We’ll be sure to tell him that you like it.”
- Mort and Agnes looked at each other, surprised. Fish was not on Mal’s list of favorite foods.
- “I hear you’re planning to go up to Washington and Rock Islands tomorrow,” said Tom, “so you’ll be passing ‘Death’s Door’ on the way.” His announcement would not only get everyone’s attention, but also give him a chance to impart another geography lesson.
- “Sounds spooky,” said Mike. “And dangerous. But the ferries are safe, aren’t they?”
- Karen laughed. “Don’t let Tom scare you. Do you think they’d call anything ‘Death’s Door’ if that’s what it REALLY was? I doubt there’d be many tourists going over to the islands.”
- “Actually, there WERE a lot of shipwrecks, especially among the Native Americans who used small canoes to cross the strait. But that was a long time ago. There haven’t been any accidents in, oh, maybe 80 years. Well before my time,” Tom started.
- “But let me ask you another question. Matter of fact, I already gave you the answer. If an isthmus is a skinny piece of land connecting a peninsula to a mainland (and you now know that Door County is not a peninsula, regardless of what people or brochures say), what is a skinny piece of water, with land on either side, which connects two bodies of water?”
- This time the adults knew right away, as they thought of the Strait of Gibraltar or the phrase “in dire straits.”
- “Children?” Tom asked.
- Mal and Mel shrugged their shoulders, not remembering anything but ‘Death’s Door’.
- “Let me say it again,” said Tom. “The Native Americans used small canoes to cross the strait.”
- This time Mel figured it out. “But what if it’s crooked, and not straight? Do they still call it straight?”
- The adults roared with laughter. The remaining couple who were enjoying the last of their coffee after dinner looked over and smiled. Mal finally got his sister’s joke and poked her. “Pretty good, Mel. Too bad there aren’t any more balloons.”
- Everyone had finished their dinner by this time, so Karen announced dessert. “I hope you’ve all saved room for our famous cherry desserts. Let me bring out samples. And guess who gets to pick first!”
- That was more of a statement than a question.
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- LINKS: BOOK 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS
BioFables 1 & 2: Word Counts, Reading Levels
iNTRODUCTION TO BOOK 2
INTRODUCTION TO THE BIOFABLES SERIES