tolerable neutral gear, life ebbing out in a comfortable wake, long days astern.

And then one day, at a nearby park, when the seat of a swing hit another child and Marta rushed to help, Shag disappeared. Nobody, in all the hue and cry had seen him go. Nobody had seen anyone carry him off. Hundreds hunted all the fields and pathways. No Shag. On the second day the two sailors came by to help. And the old man sat on his porch sad, morose, and ready to scream. The authorities declared it a kidnapping. Brittan, for four days, sitting on his porch, waited for some
word. Marta started to speak one day coming up the stairs and the old man held his hand up, as if listening. He kept his hand in the air for a full five minutes. Marta did not speak. Later that afternoon, when the mailman
came by, Brittan Courvalais once more held his hand up for silence. At his next gossip stop, at Jed Hendry’s Barbershop, and again back at the post office, the mailman repeated the story; “The old soldier is listening for something, as if it’s going to come from out of space, a space probe, mind you. Should have seen his eyes, would scare the pants off you. Like he was hearing something!”

Marta and her husband came by each day after their visit to the police station. She’d make coffee, put nibbling food on the porch table, and look at her father’s face. She wanted to reach out and touch him, to be a child again for him, but the look in her father’s eyes frightened her. “I don’t know what he’s going to do, Earl,” she said, “he’s so locked up into something, something so very different.”

Then she’d go into the house and cry for an hour or more.

The weight of the world, thus, crushed down on the old man who sat waiting for good news only.

On the sixth day, all hope fading, to some all of it gone, one neighbor saw Brittan Courvalais standing on his porch, his head tipped, as if listening for a bird’s call or someone calling from out of sight, perhaps in the house or down the street. Brittan held his hand in the air as though he was asking for quiet or noting peaceful intentions to an unseen guest. The neighbor looked about and saw no other person except a delivery driver stepping down from his truck eight or nine houses away. Slanting rays of May sunlight were flashing down through young leaves and limbs and falling on Courvalais like pieces of

newly minted coin. On the porch floor pieces of shadow or shade were cast like dominoes. A slight breeze talked in the same leaves and began to whisper on the edges of gutters and down spouts. Two or three times the old man cocked his head, his mouth slightly ajar, stony in intent, inert. The wind whispered, the sun’s rays played tag, the gutters and down spouts answered. Then, as if coming from a slight paralysis, unfrozen for a moment, he picked his jacket off a chair, got into his old Plymouth Duster and drove down the road. At the end of the road he turned left, toward the highway.

Three days later he was still gone.

Marta was beside herself, now with a double worry. And the police came to the house,
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