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Mark Trail, 11/12/12

It seemed so natural, right from the start. The kindly old man who taught him the island’s secrets. The boy, normally proportioned, pre-orphaned and adoption-ready — who made no demands and cared nothing for fishing, content to play in the sand. The young widow, Ava, fit and eager like Cherry when they were new in love, a spark of interest in her soft eyes smoldering slowly into something more. And Andy, his rock. No place could be home without Andy. But this place — this could be home. Had always been his home.

Cherry filled her days making coffee and pancakes. Bill’s calls, full of wild excuses about a ransom no one ever expected to be paid, slowed and then stopped, to their mutual relief. But she watched in growing horror as Rusty huddled dead-eyed in the shack he built near the rotting pier, tying ever more garish and disturbing trout flies that he never used, wouldn’t sell, and finally grew too ashamed even to show her.

They met again, once — even touched. Mark on a supply run from the small island, Cherry on a desperate vacation from Doc’s endless gibbering and Rusty’s nightlong howls, their hands brushed reaching for the store’s last box of Bisquick. Cherry gasped as the caress of ruined, sinew-knotted knuckles resurrected longings she thought had been buried years before. Their eyes met, but Mark’s saw only an old woman, face frozen into a mask of bitterness and resignation. He let her keep the box out of pity, and never thought of her again.

The boy tried to run Otto’s kidnapping operation but had no head for the business side. The small island filled with unclaimed hostages, taxing the feeble aquifer — and the ocean only rose. At last one day, when the typhoid had claimed Ava and the boy sat in jail from a ransom sting, Mark brought Andy to the remaining boat and set sail for the mainland. He would keep them alive by fishing — surely a Man of Nature could remember how.

Dick Tracy, 11/12/12

Walt Wallet is at least one hundred and twelve years old, but despite a failed attempt to send him to the Old Comics Home in 2006, Gasoline Alley just can’t seem to pull the trigger on the old coot. So they’re outsourcing the job to Dick Tracy, the most efficient killing machine on Planet Earth. ‘Bye, Walt.

Slylock Fox, 11/12/12

With Mark on extended leave, the King brings in a couple temps to manage poacher-catching. Since Slylock knows only one human, expect Slick Smitty to be hauled off to jail any minute on some far-fetched pretext: “There are no taxis to Liberty Island!” “You ate the vegetables while standing in the garden!” “Only the real mouse has a tail!” “Anteaters don’t have teeth!” “Your earrings are cold!”

Is anybody else troubled by what “poaching” might mean in a kingdom populated exclusively by animals? I believe the rhino has given the matter some thought.

Say, I don’t see a ring on King Dandy Lion’s fingertoe — could he and Princess Pussycat be planning a merger of the realms once Slylock has exterminated the remaining humans? I hear wedding bells! Oh, wait — those are death knells. Catchy tune, though.

— Uncle Lumpy