A journal of narrative writing.
Hoping To

Since the cops quit searching, Jim often meets me on my porch. It offers a view of highway and raw sun. We join hands and pray. We ask God to restore his lost Anna Bee. While we drink, I speak to him of Job. He listens. I love him too much to wonder aloud where she might be buried and whether or not she was molested in her vaginal parts beforehand. Besides, I couldn’t stand for her to be dead.

One newsman has stuck around to document their story. Each time he interviews me, I tell him about the way they hold hands on their porch while the traffic doesn’t pass and the sun whitens our lawns. They love each other, I say. Today he wants a more specific story. He’s freelancing this and thinking of heading home. Something to keep my spirits up, he says.

Once, I say, she related this dream of leading a caravan across the Maghreb, peddling spices in the guise of a man. She spun such pleasant fantasies. The newsman asks if there’s anything else. Listen, I say, this is important. I have never before worried about any one missing body. I’m young enough and rich enough to live along this nowhere highway and drink whiskey non-stop and play rock n’ roll loud as I like and wax my Porsche, so I do. Look at that Porsche, I tell him. He looks. Its beauty has made men kneel. He doesn’t doubt that. But, I say, since Anna Bee’s been gone I’ve been thinking about the way those two hold hands. It’s made me contemplate the Lord. I’ve never believed. For their sake, I’m hoping to.

Jim’s trouble messes with me at night. I can no longer air guitar “Whole Lotta Rosie” in peace. Mr. Angus Young will be cranking his first solo when my heart’ll start leaping around. I’m scared of what it might mean, this heart-leaping thing. My doctor says it’s not a physical issue. He asks: do you feel the black hug of despair?

No, not exactly. Not if I drink enough. I just have these moments when my heart cannot rest over Jim and Anna Bee.

My doctor, a pushy SOB, says he’s no shrink and doesn’t trust them but I need to go out more.

I go out, I tell him.

At dusk, I go again. It’s Jim and me waving flashlights over our neighbors’ lawns. The newsman follows behind. Everybody else has given up. We’ve hunted the same lawns thirty-three consecutive nights, but we’re doing it again, saying it might be different this time. We do not mention crossing the highway and looking there. We drink during our hunts, as is natural. We find fast food wrappers, pennies from fourteen different states, condoms still in their packaging, minaret-shaped feces, popsicle sticks, shoelaces, littered advertisements for Ming Hop’s Chinese, and toy soldiers in random states of melting. In Ben Grissly’s yard, I discover a lime green thong. But Jim says it’s four sizes too small and she didn’t appreciate that hue no how. Well, for a moment I thought I’d caught true glory. Perhaps she was close by after all. Alas.

The newsman asks about my level of hope following the thong’s disqualification. I ask if “disqualification” is the precise word.

Hey, the newsman asks, I’m tired too. I’m only doing my job and angling for a bigger gig in a bigger market that has, like, grocery stores and maybe there’s a book deal in it, too, if things work out, but it isn’t turning in that direction, is it?

His idea of glory is certainly more concrete than mine. I go home and measure out several ounces of whiskey several times. I play rock so loud the carpet bounces. I want to dance but have no one to call.

In the morning, I don sunglasses. Jim’s outside. He’s still getting drunk. He holds the thong to his nose. He says he wants to smell her but this ain’t no substitute. The newsman’s gone. It’s us two, road, and sun. Jim’s crying again. He tells me it’s no use.

I say, You don’t look like Job now.

I never aimed to be.

You’ll never have the faith to cure me.

At least I own a Porsche. It has a solid, identifiable majesty. On the highway, I open the engine. Soon, love bugs spatter their guts across its cherry hood and windshield. I put on tunes. Let There Be Rock is a fine album on a sun-drenched, indifferent day. Further north, there are no houses. The trees sway a quarter-mile from the road. Between them and the Porsche are great squares of high yellow grass. It’s the place, I think, for a man or men to drag a woman and touch her vaginal parts if they are so inclined.

The statistics are grim for these taken women. Everybody knows after thirty-four days that it’s the pure matter of how they finished her. Maybe they bashed her face with a tire iron. Left her tied and bound for raccoons to munch. Made her drink gasoline till her throat burned and her tongue melted and the gas leaked out her nostrils and eyes. Imagining these ends, some hearts break. Mine hippity-hops.

If she was alive, though, I could believe again.

I could park. I could enter the fields and comb the grass. I could call her name. If she were out here, she’d know my voice. The sun would pound my back. I could. The probabilities are low, but what if?