Lost Boys

KIM McCUL­LOUGH

Room Magazine - - MCCULLOUGH -

First, it was cats duct taped to light posts and mail­boxes. Not the cats them­selves, of course, but the miss­ing cat signs. Jagged phone numbers hand-printed in thick marker, many writ­ten by some child’s hand. Faded colour print­outs, photos rain-smeared, numbers il­leg­i­ble. Lost: one-eared tabby. An­swers to Roddy. Lost: cal­ico kit­ten named Perse­phone, no claws, blue col­lar.

Coy­otes, of course. They’d shown up when the rab­bits came in the sum­mer. They skulked through the ravines and per­formed loud, yip­ping mat­ing rit­u­als in the but­ter­fly gar­den at the com­mu­nity cen­tre, keep­ing us all awake at night.

Then, in the fall, not long af­ter the coy­otes si­lenced the neigh­bour­hood dogs— Miss­ing: Scruffy, white cock­apoo, Re­ward, 50 dol­lars; Lost: Becky, brown and black Col­lie, like a fam­ily mem­ber, no re­ward; and

Lost: Jonesy, St. Bernard— we put up the first miss­ing boy poster.

Ken­ton Schmidt, age 14, last seen at the Husky in a pair of jeans, red Con­verse and a green and black full-zip-over-the-head Minecraft hoodie— the kind we all bought our boys last Christ­mas.

We at the Belle Acres Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion didn’t get in­volved right away. Why would we? We all thought it was a one-time thing. Ken­ton was known as a bit of a trou­ble­maker—swear­ing, drink­ing in the ravine, smok­ing in the train tun­nels that joined us to the city of Carmichael. Ken­ton of­ten fol­lowed our girls through the de­serted soc­cer fields on the way home from the train sta­tion af­ter school. We all know there are worse things than a lit­tle booze, some smok­ing, a lit­tle teas­ing. Still, he was not a nice boy. Not a huge loss, some of us thought. Prob­a­bly ran away. Who knew?

Then the sec­ond boy went miss­ing. Bodhi Jones was a good kid, the kind of kid ev­ery one of us moth­ers would die to have. Flaxen-haired, po­lite, hand­some and blue-eyed, Bodhi con­sis­tently got the best marks at the high school in Carmichael, and all the schol­ar­ships and op­por­tu­ni­ties that went with the hon­our.

Belle Acres’ tiny po­lice depart­ment of one was con­cerned, but not enough to add a pa­trol or two. Con­sta­ble Louis said he’d leave it to Carmichael’s larger po­lice force. More of a se­cu­rity guard than a cop,

Con­sta­ble Louis spent most of his time in­ves­ti­gat­ing the break-ins af­flict­ing the man­sions that hugged the river that marked the edge of town. As though thefts of a few rolls of duct tape, shov­els, and rope were more im­por­tant than the loss of our best and bright­est. The Carmichael po­lice were more than ca­pa­ble of run­ning the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the con­sta­ble told us on numer­ous oc­ca­sions.

If only that were true.

Billy Yakowski, Fran­cisco San­torini, and John Toro. Paul Rankin. Cal­lum McKnight. So many boys, so few mail­boxes. With no as­sis­tance from the au­thor­i­ties, and with our hus­bands al­ways working such late hours, we took it upon our­selves to find out where our miss­ing sons had gone. We set up these meet­ings at the Belle Acres Com­mu­nity Hall. Beth John­son made the ap­pe­tiz­ers—green spinach-flavoured tor­tilla wraps spread with cream cheese and lay­ered with ham and turkey— the ones with the as­para­gus in the mid­dle. Beth was prob­a­bly the best cook of all of us. He­len Schultz of­fered to make punch, but this wasn’t a so­cial event. Kathy Lavoie al­ways drinks too much and needs to be picked up by one of her sons, and we just couldn’t take the chance of los­ing another boy.

We went to the high school our­selves and spoke with teach­ers and friends and girl­friends. Billy was last seen at a local diner with a cou­ple of cheer­lead­ers from Belle Acres. Janet Vron­sky’s daugh­ter Carla was very help­ful and of­fered up that she had seen John Toro at the record store in town the Satur­day he went miss­ing. The other boys had left school af­ter var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties, caught the 5:40 train to Belle Acres—the ticket scans showed that much—and were never seen again.

Cal­lum and Fran­cisco had both spent their last evenings at home. When their moms went to get them up for school, each boy’s bed was as per­fect as they were when their moth­ers made them the day be­fore. No pat­terns. No clues. No bod­ies. No blood.

Mary Jane Feller quizzed Cal­lum McKnight’s girl­friend, Rosie Os­borne. “There’s some­thing not right there,” Mary Jane told us at the next week’s meet­ing. “She knows some­thing.”

We laughed, as much as we dared laugh, what with Cal­lum’s mom sit­ting at the back of the hall like she was. Oh, Mary Jane, we said. Rosie is such a good girl. In fact, with Bodhi Jones gone, Rosie had moved into the top aca­demic spot at the high school.

It was clear that it was only the boys who were go­ing miss­ing. The Belle Acres’ girls were un­touched.

By Christ­mas, we had to move our meet­ings to Tues­days. The girls started hav­ing meet­ings of their own, and the Thurs­day times­lot worked bet­ter for them. Soon, they started bring­ing sug­ges­tions of help to us.

“We could build a trap,” said Rosie Os­borne’s sis­ter Cheyanne. “Catch what­ever it is be­fore it can strike.” Jo-Ellen Thorp sug­gested that maybe the boys should wear black, to make them­selves less of a tar­get. Sarah Frank, pro­moted to first chair vi­o­lin when John Car­son was taken, sug­gested send­ing out packs of girls with guns to es­cort the boys to and from school and their ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

In the end it just seemed wiser and safer to keep the boys at home, where no one could hurt them.

It was Bon­nie Thornton, Philip’s mom, who brought the pa­per to us. A list, of all our boys, some with care­fully drawn pur­ple stars next to their names, some—the lost boys—with messy check­marks. She’d found the list tucked into her daugh­ter’s copy of Val­ley of the Dolls. What could it mean, we won­dered.

Last Thurs­day night we showed up at the girls’ meet­ing. Rosie Os­borne sat on the raised stage, tap­ping her gavel against her leg as we spoke. Ta­bles sagged un­der the weight of the snacks: chips and dip, two cheese­balls, and a good mix of gluten-free crack­ers. In the cen­tre of the ta­ble sat a big bowl of punch. Ta­mara Wil­liams went to get her­self a glass just to make sure it wasn’t spiked. Teenagers can get into trou­ble some­times. Jamie San­ders, newly-minted head of the year­book com­mit­tee, reached over and took the la­dle from Ta­mara, telling her it was for the girls only.

We re­ceived no sat­is­fac­tion on the ques­tion of the list.

“Per­haps you all should re­con­sider your in­volve­ment,” said Rosie with a dis­mis­sive wave of her hand.

“We have the sit­u­a­tion well in hand,” said Jen­nifer Ducharme, Carmichael High’s freshly-minted ath­lete of the month. “Not to worry.” “Next item,” called out Rosie.

She smacked her gavel down hard and we were dis­missed.

At the next meet­ing of the Belle Acres Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion, we drank laven­der lemon­ade with gin and ate mat­ri­mo­nial squares made

by Beth and rem­i­nisced about the good old days. Told sto­ries of our boys, and of our girls.

Then we took a head count.

We put up the first miss­ing mother poster on the mail­boxes the next day.

What else could we do?

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