A few days later she received this:
These mountains pretty. Sorry, my bovine getting dirty since can’t talk it at you. Lots friendly deers and polar bears here along with arctic tern or two. Gus, the tuna salesman, and have been rolling through Canada in old Studebaker. Horn doesn’t work. I quack out window if someone ‘splash in his pond.’ He’s made me honorary mascot and gives cans tuna. Hard on beak though.
A day or two later Agnes sent a reply:
I hope Gus is treating you well and that drivers don’t ‘splash in his pond’ too often. Please ask for can opener so you don’t ruin your bill.
Farmer Johnson has it in his head to get an early start on mowing and has forced the cows up into the North pasture. There’s nothing to do up there but eat frozen grass and shiver. Hopefully he’ll let us stay near the barn soon.
Without you it has been hard to keep up my Quackish too, but a few of the ducks who’ve flown through let me speak with them. It’s not much but it’s something and at least I can practice in my emails, although Pudding thinks I’m silly [very silly].
Hope to see you soon,
I had to ‘paddle Gus to shore.’ He took me to diner and order an steak. ‘What next?’ I asked, ‘broiled duck?’ He did not understand seem to. Been flying round Saskatchewan since ever. Built snow cow that reminder me to you.
Sorry to hear about Gus. Carnivores are some of my least favorite animals. I know you enjoy quacking at inept motorists, so I hope you can find another opportunity soon.
Farmer Johnson hasn’t gotten any sense yet. He forced the horses, the sheep and Curly, the pig, up to the north pasture too this week, but all we do is huddle together for warmth. From what I understand the horses just talk about the days before tractors, though none of them are old enough to remember those days, the sheep gossip about the Australian Shepherd and his accent, and you know Curly, always playing practical jokes and oinking inappropriate stories.
When do you think you’ll fly back South?
The days got warmer and buds began to poke out of the nubs and branches of trees.
Got into bit trouble. Flying with the wrong V. Flying South complicated.
Will see what Judge says.
Agnes did not hear from Waddles for three whole weeks, though she sent several emails and had promised Pudding more cream than she could provide. However, before she had heard anything, Farmer Johnson found his email account had sent a number of emails filled with quacking and moos. He thought it was some scam to get his bank account information and changed his password. (He now knew you couldn’t win a British email lottery worth millions of pounds and he wasn’t taking any chances on this.) With the cases of catnip that kept showing up, he was very careful to prevent anyone, even and especially Pudding, from seeing the new password.
Days bled into weeks which bled into months. By mid May Agnes despaired of ever seeing her friend again. She hoped he had not been sent to prison.
On the second of June a chartered tour bus pulled up the long gravel driveway and stopped in front of the farmhouse. Farmer Johnson came out of the barn to see what the commotion was about. A flamboyant man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts embraced him. “We’re here!” The man shouted, “We’re finally here! Now where should we start with the tour? I do hope you’ll let us get our hands dirty!” The man waved his finger at Farmer Johnson and chuckled to himself as if he’d never gotten his hands dirty in his life. Before Farmer Johnson could protest Waddles hopped off the bus and slipped a wad of bills into Farmer Johnson’s hand. It was mostly Canadian, but the principle was not lost on the farmer.
“W-w-why it starts in the barn…” Farmer Johnson said. “F-follow me.” And thus agritourism was introduced to the Johnson farm.
After the tourists had moved on to an impromptu hay ride. Waddles waddled into the barn.
Bessemer caught site of him first. “Why if it isn’t that strange duck who flew North for the winter. I thought you’d never come back… You didn’t want to stay in Canada?”
Bessemer somehow connected this to her third blue ribbon winning and launched into the story of how she came into the competition as an underdog, “on account of no one thinking she could win it three years in a row.” She had continued talking for a full ten minutes before she realized Waddles had walked past her to Agnes’ stall.
Agnes swallowed the hay in her mouth and blinked at him. A thousand questions flooded into her mind. “What happened? Where were you? Did you go to prison? How did you charter a bus? Where did all those people come from? Why would that man ever think it was a good idea to wear a Hawaiian shirt with Bermuda shorts?” Waddles flew up to the top of the stall door. He blinked his red eyes back at her. He closed his eyes, leaned his crooked neck toward her and rested his forehead on hers. Agnes smiled, closed her eyes, and let all the questions slip away. Waddles was home.