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  • Writer's picturePaul Mouchet

The Case of the Missing Munk - Part II

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

I raced along the river’s edge, my feet barely touching the ground as I dashed around large rocks and leapt over fallen trees. The ground here was treacherous and uneven. One false step and I’d be in the river, swimming to save my life. While I paid attention to where I was going, Chippy and Nutsy kept track of the squirrels. Then, after running for what felt like an eternity, my munk buddies went quiet. They were no longer shouting directions to me.

I dug my feet into the soft, wet ground and skidded to a stop. “What’s wrong? Which way did they take Cheeks?” Neither of my riders answered. I could feel them shaking on my back, terrified of something I had yet to discover. My gaze darted around the forest, fearing a coyote, a wolf, or a bear (oh my) had shown up. But I saw nothing but trees, rocks, and a lot of snow.

“What’s wrong?” I asked again. “Where did they go?”

Chippy crawled up beside my ear. I could hear his little heart fluttering like a bird’s wings in flight. “They took him across the river.” He sounded terrified, as though he was struggling to speak a single word.

My nose shot up into the air and I sucked air through my bared teeth. My munk was quite right. They had used the branches of trees that spanned the small river to cross over, beyond where we could follow them.

I looked up ahead along the riverbank of the raging river. There, maybe two hundred paces away, was a bridge. It was both our salvation and our ruin. If I ran for the bridge, we’d lose sight of Cheeks, and there would be no way to ever find him again. My nose is extremely powerful, but I couldn’t track my little buddy way high in the trees, not when there were so many other scents around to throw me off his trail.

“Grab on to my fur and hold on,” I yelled. “I’m going to take you across the river.” I didn’t care if it was dangerous. I was going to rescue my friend, whatever the risk. I thought about this a bit more. It was one thing to put myself at risk, but I couldn’t do that to my friends. “Or you can jump off and cross the bridge up ahead. I’ll bark so that you’ll be able to find me after you cross over.”

“I’m coming with you,” Chippy said, grabbing tightly onto my fur with his tiny paws. “You need someone to look up into the trees while you’re running.”

“I’m coming, too,” Nutsy yelled. “I’ll keep an eye out for the other squirrels. We need to make sure they don’t sneak up behind us.”

“It’s going to be dangerous,” I said. My own heart was racing out-of-control right now, fearful that the raging water would be more than I could handle. “Are you sure?”

I felt their grip on my fur tighten. They were sure.

I quickly turned away from the river, giving myself some room to run and jump. The farther I could jump across the river, the less water I’d have to swim through. When I was about fifteen paces away, I turned, clamped my jaw tight, and ran faster than I’d ever run before.

As I neared the roaring river’s edge, I thought back to my dock-diving training. How I needed to get as close to the edge before launching myself into the air. I remembered that I needed to keep my front legs tucked tight and my body stretched out. While I was airborne, I would use my long tail like a rudder, making sure I flew straight and true.

With all my might, I pushed off with my hind legs, propelling myself into the air. I kept my nose up for maximum distance, so I couldn’t see how close I was to the far shore when I plunged into the icy water. Me and the munks all dropped beneath the surface for a moment, as the river tried to sweep me downstream. Spreading my webbed toes as wide as possible, I paddled with all my might. The lives of Cheeks, Chippy, and Nutsy were all at stake, and I wasn’t going to let them down.

Relief, along with lots of icy cold water, washed over me as my feet made contact with the riverbed. Curling my toes, I gripped firmly onto the rocky bottom and drove myself forward. “Everyone okay?” I yelled as I sloshed through the shallow water. I could still feel their tiny paws gripping my fur, but I needed to hear their voices.

“All good,” Chippy yelled. “I’m a bit frozen and waterlogged, but otherwise undamaged.”

“Are you okay, Nutsy?” I called out as I bounded out of the water onto the snowy riverbank. “Nutsy?”

“Woo Hoo!” the little furball screamed. Oh, my dog, he thought that was fun. I was terrified for their safety and that silly munk was having the time of his life. “After we save Cheeks, we need to do that again. Climb up the side of this hill and turn left. I saw them head off in that direction. They’re heading for a bunch of pine trees. They’re going to try to give us the slip in the thick branches.”

I didn’t waste a single moment. My muscles were stiff from the frigid water, but my heart was beating so fast it wouldn’t take long for me to warm up. My thick double coat was designed for exactly this purpose. The fact that it made me adorable and irresistible was just a nice bonus.

While I continued to race through the forest, my buddies kept a close eye on their brother. Despite the dense foliage of the pine trees, they never lost sight of him. From their lofty perch on my back, they continued to give me directions until we reached our destination. It was a squat apple tree with an extremely thick truck and wide, twisting branches. There was a large opening at the base of the tree and another up near the top.

“They went in there,” Chippy said, pointing to the round opening near the top of the tree. “I saw them drag Cheeks into their home.”


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