Brad pulled his pickup truck in front of Grace’s cabin. He turned to her and said, “Grace, I really had a great time this morning. Thanks for having coffee with me.”
Grace extended her hand toward Brad, “I did as well, Brad. Now, I’m going in and find out what Matt’s been up to. He’ll say, ‘Nothing much, Mom. You know. I hung around.'”
Brad laughed and said, “Matt’s sounds a lot like me when I was his age. I’m going to change and if you don’t mind, I’ll stop by and walk over to the fireplace with you and Matt. I’ll bet Larry already has it fired up and is making a great lunch.”
“I don’t mind at all. Give me five minutes to freshen up,” Grace said. She opened the door. Stepped out of the pickup truck, grave Brad a smile, closed the door, turned and walked toward the cabin. She heard the pickup drive off the short distance to Brad’s cabin. It was only when she was at the cabin door she dared to turn back towards Brad’s cabin and watch him. Grace watched he get out of the pickup. He closed the door and raised his arms over his head and stretched. She thought he was happy and peaceful. When Brad turned toward his cabin, Grace quickly turned away and opened her cabin door. She stepped inside, she didn’t see Matt, She called, “Matt?”
Thirty seconds later, Grace swung the cabin door open and raced towards Brad’s cabin. She opened the door to the cabin, Brad was stripped down to his boxers. He looked startled to see her. Then, he sensed something was wrong, he grabbed hold of his dirty jeans and said, “Grace, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Matt. He’s not in the cabin. It’s not like him. I should have never left him alone,” said Grace. Her brown eyes wore all the marks of a coming super storm.
Brad slipped on jeans. He sat on the edge of his cot, and pulled his boots on. “We stayed a bit longer than we expected. Matt may have taken a walk around the lake. Do you have your cell? Call him,” he said.
“Why didn’t I think of that? That’s the first thing I should have tried. My cell is in my handbag. I left it in the cabin,” said Grace as she turned toward the door.
“I’ll go with you, Grace,” said Brad following her out the door, hitching up his pants, holding his boots in his right hand, and running in stocking feet behind Grace.
Grace ran to the cabin, jump up the two steps and went through the door. Her handbag was on the floor by her cot, right where she dropped it when she called for Matt.
She picked up her handbag and began to dig through it for her cell.
Brad said, “Matt left his phone on his cot.” Brad walked over to pick it up. He turned and took a step toward Grace handed it to her.
“I just know something terrible happened to him. I just know it, Brad. We’ve got to look for him,” Grace said with a sense of urgency.
Brad took hold of Grace’s hand, “Panicking is the wrong thing. We can only help him if we are calm. Remember how Matt said he wanted to go for a hike? Boys are boys and the lure of the hike may have gotten the best of him.”
“You think so, Brad? I couldn’t bear to lose Matt after losing Mike.”
“Let’s think positive. We’ll talk to Jane and Larry and see if they saw Matt. If they haven’t, we’ll go to the park ranger and get help. We’ll find Matt, don’t worry,” said Brad.
Grace felt reassured. There was something in Brad’s voice that settled her and eased the deepest fears within her.
“Give me a moment to slip my boots on and we’ll head to Jane and Larry’s cabin,” said Brad.
Grace walked over to Matt’s cot. She looked underneath it. She looked behind it. She said, “Brad, I think you’re right about Matt taking a hike. His backpack isn’t here. Do you have any idea where he might have gone?”
Brad pulled his last boot on and slipped his jeans down over the boot. He stood up and motioned toward the door. Grace followed Brad’s arm and walked out of the cabin. Brad was right behind her. He said, “When we went running this morning, I saw four trailheads. All four were temporarily closed because of the frequent sightings of black bears and mountain lions.”
“Oh God, no!” said Grace and turned around to look at Brad. Her eyes were filled with tears.
Brad gently placed his right hand on Grace’s arm and turned her toward Jane and Larry’s cabin. He said, “Animals generally stay away from humans, unless they think the human is a threat. It’s hard to predict how an animal will respond. I think Matt may be in more danger from poison oak and poison ivy than a bear or mountain lion.”
“You really think so,” said Grace.
“I do, Grace,” said Brad, knocking on the door to Jane and Larry’s cabin.
The door opened, the fringe bikini clad Jane answered, “Oh Brad, I’m so happy you came by. I’m feeling better now, thanks to you. Larry went to town to get some steaks, do you want to come in. Oh, hello, Grace.”
Brad said, “We’re not here for lunch or a social call, Jane. Matt’s missing. Did you see him after we went to the coffee shop?”
“No, matter of fact we didn’t. When Larry came to pick me up in the canoe, we decided to lay out on the raft for a while and enjoy the sun. Why? You know boys, they have a mind of their own. He’ll come home when he smells the steaks cooking.”
Grace was about to say something, when Brad said, “Thanks anyway, but we’re headed to the Ranger station.”
Grace stood on the front porch of her brick, ranch style home with her right hand across the top of her eyes blocking out the sun’s rays. She looked toward Ellen and Dan’s home. Matt was ten minutes late. Grace held her iPhone in her hand. Five more minutes, she thought. That’s all the time she’d give Matt. She had to give him some leeway, but still, she gave him a deadline.
Grace’s grip tightened on her iPhone. She typed in her passcode and went to her speed dial. She looked at Ellen’s number. She looked toward their house and smiled. She saw Matt turn out of Ellen’s driveway on his skateboard. He turned up the street toward home and waved.
Ellen waved back. She felt a huge sense of relief through her body. Will I ever stop worrying about him, she thought. No, she answered herself. She tracked Matt and his skateboard the same way an air traffic controller tracks air traffic in and out of a high volume airport.
Sixty seconds later, Matt coasted his skateboard into the driveway, kicked the backend of it, causing it to flip up. Matt caught it his hand. He carried his skateboard with his right hand, cut across the lawn, and climbed the steps.
“Hi, mom. Sorry, I’m late,” said Matt walking past Grace.
“Wait a minute, Matt. Don’t I get a hug or a kiss?” Said Grace.
“I have to run to the bathroom, Mom. I’ll see you in a couple of minutes,” said Matt, opening the door.
“Matthew Zinkowitz come back here, right now,” said Grace. She knew when Matt was telling the truth and when he was hiding something.
Matt called from the hallway, “Do I have to?”
“Yes,” said Grace adding a firmness to her tone.
Grace stood arms akimbo watching Matt walk toward her. Her heart started racing, “Matt, what happened to you? Come here, right now. Let me see your eye.”
Matt walked up to his mother, “Mom it’s nothing. Don’t make a big deal about it.”
“Who hit you? How did this happen?” Said Grace sounding like cop interrogating a suspect.
Matt looked down at his Nike’s, “It happened, that’s all. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m okay.”
Grace put her hands on Matt’s shoulders and began to slowly inspect Matt’s face, his shirt, his arms, and hands. “Turn your hands over, I want to see your knuckles.
Matt turned his hands over. “Your hands are bruised. You were in a fight. Who were you fighting with, Matthew.”
Matt didn’t like it when he heard Matthew. It meant only one thing to him and it wasn’t good. He said, “I don’t want to talk about it, Mom.”
“Oh, you are going to talk about it. I want to know who you were fighting with. Why you were fighting. And, why you broke my rule and didn’t walk away when trouble is starting?”
Matt kept staring at his Nike’s.
Grace’s iPhone rang. “Don’t you leave. You stay right here.” Grace reached into the back pocket on her jeans and looked at caller ID. It was Ellen.
“Hello, Ellen,” said Grace.
Grace listened. She nodded her head. Occasionally turned her head toward Matt and shook her head disapprovingly. She ended the conversation, “Thank you, Ellen. Matt and will talk about this tonight.”
Grace slipped her iPhone into her rear jean’s pocket and turned and faced Matt, “You fought with Tommy?”
“Mom, please let it go. It will all work out. Everything will be okay,” said Matt, kicking at a non existing rock on the floor.
“How can I forget about the bruise under your eye? How can Ellen forget about Tim getting a tooth knocked out of his mouth and his bloody nose? She’s rushing him to the dentist to try to save the tooth.”
Matt looked up and gave his mom a sheepish smile, “I caught him a couple of good ones.”
“Matthew! Matthew what have I told you about fighting?”
“I know, Mom. Can I get cleaned up. I promise to tell you the whole story at lunch. Okay?”
Grace shook her head, she thought, he’s not yet in his teens. What will I do then? Then she said, “Okay, get cleaned up. We’ll talk about it at lunch. No texting or talking to anyone between now and then, do I have your word?”
Matt shrugged, “Yes, Mom. What if someone texts or calls me?”
“I was only kidding, Mom. Thanks for waiting,” said Matt. He turned and headed toward his room.
Grace’s iPhone rang. She pulled it out of her rear jean’s pocket. She was relieved to see it wasn’t Ellen. It was her friend Jane.
“Hi, Jane,” said Grace.
“Ellen and Dan are not going? Are you going to cancel? It’s okay with me,” said Grace.
Grace bit on her lower lip as she listened, occasionally nodding. She said, “I know I promised. Okay, but this is the last time. I have your word. See you next Saturday.”