“Nonsense, we’ll spend the evening,” said Anna.

They crossed a street, and three drunken men careened into them. There was much confusion, a separation, a wheeling about, and then LaFarge stood stunned.

Tom was gone.

“Where is he?” asked Anna irritably. “Him always running off alone any chance he gets. Tom!” she called.

Mr. LaFarge hurried through the crowd, but Tom was gone.

“He’ll come back; he’ll be at the boat when we leave,” said Anna certainly, steering her husband back toward the motion-picture theater. There was a sudden commotion in the crowd, and a man and woman rushed by LaFarge. He recognized them. Joe Spaulding and his wife. They were gone before he could speak to them.

Looking back anxiously, he purchased the tickets for the theater and allowed his wife to draw him into the unwelcome darkness.

Tom was not at the landing at eleven o’clock. Mrs. LaFarge turned very pale.

“Now, Mother,” said LaFarge, “don’t worry. I’ll find him. Wait here.”

“Hurry back.” Her voice faded into the ripple of the water.

He walked through the night streets, hands in pockets. All about, lights were going out one by one. A few people were still leaning out their windows, for the night was warm, even though the sky still held storm clouds from time to time among the stars. As he walked he recalled the boy’s constant references to being trapped, his fear of crowds and cities. There was no sense in it, thought the old man tiredly. Perhaps the boy was gone forever, perhaps he had never been. LaFarge turned in at a particular alley, watching the numbers.

“Hello there, LaFarge.”

A man sat in his doorway, smoking a pipe.

“Hello, Mike.”

“You and your woman quarrel? You out walking it off?”

“No. Just walking.”

“You look like you lost something. Speaking of lost things,” said Mike, “somebody got found this evening. You know Joe Spaulding? You remember his daughter Lavinia?”

“Yes.” LaFarge was cold. It all seemed a repeated dream, He knew which words would come next.

“Lavinia came home tonight,” said Mike, smoking. “You recall, she was lost on the dead sea bottoms about a month ago? They found what they thought was her body, badly deteriorated, and ever since the Spaulding family’s been no good. Joe went around saying she wasn’t dead, that wasn’t really her body. Guess he was right Tonight Lavinia showed up.”

“Where?” LaFarge felt his breath come swiftly, his heart pounding.

“On Main Street. The Spauldings were buying tickets for a show. And there, all of a sudden, in the crowd, was Lavinia. Must have been quite a scene. She didn’t know them first off. They followed her half down a street and spoke to her. Then she remembered.”

“Did you see her?”

“No, but I heard her singing. Remember how she used to sing ‘The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’? I heard her trilling out for her father a while ago over there in their house. It was good to hear; her such a beautiful girl. A shame, I thought, her dead; and now with her back again it’s fine. Here now, you look weak yourself. Better come in for a spot of whisky …”

“Thanks, no, Mike.” The old man moved away. He heard Mike say good night and did not answer, but fixed his eyes upon the two-story building where rambling clusters of crimson Martian flowers lay upon the high crystal roof. Around back, above the garden, was a twisted iron balcony, and the windows above were lighted. It was very late, and still he thought to himself: What will happen to Anna if I don’t bring Tom home with me? This second shock, this second death, what will it do to her? Will she remember the first death, too, and this dream, and the sudden vanishing? Oh God, I’ve got to find Tom, or what will come of Anna? Poor Anna, waiting there at the landing. He paused and lifted his head. Somewhere above, voices bade other soft voices good night, doors turned and shut, lights dimmed, and a gentle singing continued. A moment later a girl no more than eighteen, very lovely, came out upon the balcony.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray