Dee Anna stretched her arms over her head, bent and touched her toes, and then jogged in place, drawing a few sideways glances from others at the rest stop. Her shoulders were stiff and her backside was getting sore from the drive. It had been a long day.
She and Madeline, along with their dog, Charlie, had left Mrs. Herdon's home at 4:00 a.m. just as the birds began their pre-dawn singing. They had hoped to arrive in Little Big Foot by lunch, but an accident involving two cars and two deer on State Highway 51 had left the road impassable for some time while police cars and then tow trucks arrived. Madeline had cried about the deer.
Just as they'd gotten moving again, a peal of thunder rumbled across the sky and large raindrops had spattered the windshield. The ensuing storm had left them sitting on the side of the road for over half an hour, just one in a string of vehicles, while sheets of rain sluiced down the windshield and pellets of hail bounced off the hood of the U-Haul moving truck. The cab had grown steamy as the humidity had risen, but when Madeline had rolled down the window she'd gotten pelted by small ice balls and had quickly rolled it up again. Charlie had panted and pressed his nose against the side window, and Madeline had groaned that he was filling the truck cab with "dragon breath."
No sooner had they pulled back out onto the highway than Madeline had asked for something to drink. Dee Anna had sighed, but had realized she was thirsty too. It was a relief to see a rest stop sign and Dee Anna had pulled off the highway once again. Madeline had snapped Charlie's leash on his collar and they had happily headed for the dog walking area as her mother deposited two dollars in the vending machine for a Dr. Pepper. "Two dollars!" she'd thought, "why on earth did I not pack an ice chest?"
Now Madeline was at a nearby vending machine trying to decide whether to purchase a bag of M&Ms or a Payday candy bar and Charlie was howling from the parking lot where he stood tied to the passenger-side door handle.
Madeline decided on M&Ms and skipped outside with her purchase. "No chocolate for Charlie" Dee Anna had warned as she'd stretched. She stood near a large State of Wisconsin map near the women's restroom. She noted the bright yellow arrow with the words "YOU ARE HERE." She guessed they'd make it to North Woods Chapel in about an hour unless something unexpected happened. "Expect the unexpected" she thought ruefully as she looked at the dot that represented the town of Little Big Foot.
She saw that there were two lakes nearby. Why hadn't she noticed that before? She wondered absently if that was why the town had so many businesses that appeared to be geared to tourists.
Squinting, she read the tiny letters that identified one of the blue circles as "Big Foot Lake." Why, she realized, it does look a lot like a big foot. Dee Anna looked closer and saw that the small lake also had a vague resemblance to a human foot. She could even see what looked like a big toe. What a coincidence, she thought, two lakes and both looking like a foot. The smaller lake was just on the edge of town and she saw that it was called Little Big Foot Lake.
"Aha! So that's the reason for the odd name of the town. I guess they just named the town after the lake. How odd. I wonder why they didn't just call one lake Big Foot and the other one Little Foot?"
Her thoughts were interrupted by Madeline's voice from the doorway. "Mommy," she wailed, "Charlie just pooped right on the parking lot!"
Groaning, Dee Anna headed for the restroom for some paper towels. "It's okay, kiddo" she said to Madeline. "He's just a little mixed up from being in the truck all day." She dodged a giggling toddler who was running from her distracted mother. "Let's clean up the doggy doo doo and get outta here!" "Doggy doo doo?" asked Madeline with a giggle, "Mommy!"
A few minutes later, with Madeline and Charlie settled on the seat, she pulled out her cell phone and called the church to let folks know they were running a little late. Climbing into the cab after a quick conversation with Lee Coats, she smiled and said, "All righty. Little Big Foot or bust!"
A few miles later she saw that both Madeline and Charlie were asleep, Charlie's head in Madeline's lap and Madeline's head against the window. Well, an hour's nap would do Madeline good, she decided. Her thoughts returned to the map and the two lakes near the town that was going to be her new home. "How odd," she mused once more. I wonder what else is odd about that place?"