Rosalie McGinnis disappeared from her bathroom on Wednesday afternoon. Her mom was home when it happened, but when interviewed by police she claimed to hear no forced entry and no sounds of Rosalie in distress. In fact, her mother only noted the disappearance a full two hours after Rosalie went into said bathroom to get ready for the movies with two of her friends. Mrs. McGinnis was supposed to drop all three girls off for the matinee, and noted it suspicious that her daughter didn’t come out of the bathroom. She opened the door, fearing she would find her beloved Rosalie unconscious, maybe from hitting her head on the tub. Mrs. McGinnis was taken by quite the surprise, you can imagine, when she opened the door to find no Rosalie at all, only her comb on the floor next to the toilet. The window, still locked from the inside, lacked even a smudge of dust. It was all very abnormal. The police agreed, and Mrs. McGinnis’s alibi was solid. The members of the McGinnis family themselves are a very normal, boring, happy foursome – Rosalie the big sister to Tyler McGinnis, my best friend.
“My mom says I can’t play with you anymore, Barry.” We sat in Tyler’s backyard under the only tree. He jabbed a pointy stick into the dirt over and over.
“Me? What did I do? I didn’t kidnap your sister.” The words felt harsh coming out of my mouth, meaner than I meant. But Tyler didn’t react, just kept prodding the lawn.
“It’s not just you,” he sighed. He paused his excavation and looked up. “She says I can’t go anywhere with anybody. I can’t leave this stupid yard, and they said something about liability of other kids here.”
“That’s dumb,” I said. I sat back and put my hands behind me to support myself. “Parents are dumb.”
“Yup.” Tyler lifted his stick and continued to dig. Rosalie went missing two weeks earlier and the cops were none the wiser to who did the kidnapping or how it happened. I felt bad. Tyler was my best friend and I was also madly in love with Rosalie. You’re supposed to fall in love with your best friend’s sister, at least, that’s how it always looks in the movies. She was two grades older than us but she was always so nice to me – how could I not fall in love with a nice girl? No other girls wanted to date a guy named Barry.
Last year, Greg Hargrove told me I looked like a Barry. I looked up at him from where I landed after he pushed me down on the playground. I didn’t know how someone could look like their name. A name was just a name.
“Because,” he laughed, “you’re fat and awkward. You have an old man’s name.”
“It is my old man’s name,” I said, still on the ground. I figured if I got up again, he’d just push me down again. And I didn’t like confrontation.
“Dumb Barry’s parents can’t even think of a new name for him! Come on, get up!” He egged me on, but I just said no thank you.
“You’re so weird.” Greg grimaced at me and walked away. I made sure he was far enough that I could get up without a fight, and that’s when Tyler walked over and extended a hand.
“He’s a jerk,” he said.
“No doubt in my mind.” I took Tyler’s hand and he helped me up. Greg was right though – I was a fat kid named Barry. But those were facts and I couldn’t take facts as insults. I wiped any dirt from the butt of my pants when she walked up to us.
“You alright? Greg is just a sad kid, don’t worry about him.” Rosalie smiled like an angel and put her hand on my shoulder and that was when I fell in love.
“Hello?” I popped out of my daydream to see Tyler staring at me.
“Did you hear anything I just said? You looked like you were in space.”
“I wish I was in space,” I laughed. “Sorry, I was just thinking about… Rosalie. And how weird this all is.” I moved off of my hands that were both very much asleep and leaned forward with my elbows on my knees. “Sorry,” I said again.
“It’s cool. I guess I’m thinking a lot about it too.” Tyler let out a long sigh and lay backwards onto the grass; his head just missed the base of the tree.
“What if she’s dead?”
“What?” I asked, not because I didn’t hear Tyler, but because I thought he could read my thoughts.
“I shouldn’t say that,” he corrected himself.
“Try to be positive, Tyler.” I patted him on his outstretched foot. We sat in the sun and baked a while longer, the dirt mound between us.
“Thanks for hanging out,” he said.
“Hey! Maybe if my ma talks to your ma, you can come over to our house to hang out.”
“Yeah, maybe.” He didn’t look at me when he responded. I knew it was futile. My family was poor and our house sucked. There was no way Mrs. McGinnis would let Tyler come over, even if Rosalie wasn’t missing.
Tyler really had no reason or need to be my friend. He was popular enough, and we all knew I was not. His parents were still together, and my dad left when I was eight. Not to mention both of Tyler’s parents made a lot of money. His dad managed the Duckworth Falls Power Plant, and his mom worked for the Duckworth Falls Town Hall. My mom managed the Till, the everything store that had a little bit of everything someone might need at a slightly elevated price. We didn’t shop there.
Before Tyler wasn’t allowed to leave his house, we would walk or ride our bikes to the comic book and baseball card store across town. My bicycle is Tyler’s old one; he got the new Schwinn for Christmas and gave me his old one the next day. His old bike was only two years old and I was still riding around on my dad’s ten-speed that he left at our house. The comic book store on Cornwall Street was our mecca. I’d just sit and watch him use his allowance to buy packs of baseball cards, always searching for one or two specific players. He tore through the shiny wrapping of each pack, and let out a huff here and there when the card he wanted was missing.
“Dang.” He slapped the fanned cards against the top of his leg. “No dice. Here.” Tyler handed me the whole pack, opened, to keep.
“Thanks,” I said. I didn’t know too much about baseball or their cards, but Tyler had a zillion of them and he was the only person who gave me things, so I put them in my backpack.
I was thinking about my backpack full of cards when the sliding glass door to Tyler’s back deck caused him to sit up straight, and me to crane my neck around. I expected to see Mrs. McGinnis at the ready to tell me it was time to leave. We were both shocked to see my mom, though, in the door.
I hated that nickname.
“Barry Bear! Time to go. Come on we have to go now.”
My mom has never set foot in the McGinnis house. She always said they were too stuffy for her, that they had too many things. She said it felt like a museum. Usually, when she picks me up from Tyler’s house she just honks from the street until I make my way outside. Something had to be wrong, I was sure of it. Maybe my dad came back and he was wondering where his ten-speed went.
“Well,” I sighed, “see ya later, Tyler.” I rolled over to my knees and pushed myself up to my feet and dusted the grass clippings from my shorts. My mom stood impatiently in the typical impatient mother stance: arms crossed, one foot out and leaning heavy to one side from carrying my inconvenience as a son, or even the phantom imprint of holding me constantly as a baby because I was very whiny and collicky. She liked to remind me.
I passed her into the McGinnis house with a smile and she raised her eyebrows in return. We walked to the car together and as I said goodbye and thank you to Mrs. McGinnis, she almost beamed at me, like she was happy to see me leave her house. It didn’t hurt, not really, because that’s just how she was.
“What’s going on?” I buckled myself into the front seat as my mom made a U-turn to head south back towards our neighborhood. She didn’t reply immediately so I asked again, thinking she just didn’t hear.
“I heard you the first time, Barry.”
“Well, then what’s going on?”
My mom bit her lip a moment and fumbled with the air conditioning unit before she slowed down. Only two blocks away from Tyler’s house there were three cop cars, a fire truck, and an ambulance in front of Chris Fleming’s house. He was my classmate.
“Woah what happened there? A fire?”
“Chris Fleming is missing.” My mom fiddled again with the air conditioning and then returned both hands to the steering wheel. She drove straight on, not looking at the Fleming house, only slowing down either out of respect for the emergency workers, or so I could see. It was then I realized why Mrs. McGinnis seemed so happy as I left – she was no longer suspicious for her child missing, especially if the circumstances were the same. She was relieved.
I didn’t reply to my mom and kept my face turned towards the window and watched the flashing daytime lights of emergency vehicles fade in the distance as we drove closer towards home. I tried to think of the last time I saw Chris Fleming. Homeroom? Gym? Why were the kids in my class going missing? And in Duckworth Falls of all places? It was a small town, easily overlooked, and generally only driven through by people trying to get to the major cities that shadowed us. There weren’t even any falls in Duckworth Falls. Come to think of it, there weren’t any ducks, either. And if things kept going the way they were, Duckworth Falls wouldn’t have any kids.