Hills & Dales Shopping Centre

by Eric Van Hoose

Chad doesn’t disappear at once; it happens gradually.

He is there, standing in the kitchen.

He doesn’t mind the March cold. He leaves, toting his skateboard, through the side door. He’s going, Bonnie knows, to one of his favorite spots: down the block and across the street to the small, flat parking lot of the Hills & Dales Shopping Centre (perfect for skating, so close that it is visible, in part, through the living room window).

Bonnie reminds him to be back for dinner.

He says, in his kind, agreeable way, that this is no problem.

He asks what she is making, and when she says chicken breasts and loaded baked potatoes, he becomes delighted (he pumps his fist into the air).

She says that she will see him later, that there will be brownies for dessert. He says Alright, and part of him disappears this way. (Now, she knows this, but she did not know it then.)

Chad is late for dinner.

Her text messages receive no reply.

She calls Chad’s best friend, David, who has not seen him since they left school.

Bonnie eats half her potato with her eyes on the window.

She leaves Chad’s plate at the table.

Later, when she clears the dishes and packs the uneaten food into Tupperware and stacks it in the fridge, another, small part of him disappears.

(The sun sets, and he vanishes this way, also.)

Bonnie visits each shop at Hills & Dales, walks every aisle of the IGA (where, just yesterday, they’d shopped). She asks the employees, the managers. She jogs, yelling his name, through the neighborhood streets. She describes him to an officer of the KPD, and there will be (in less than a day, the officer explains) an official missing person’s report.

It is dark. Her throat stings.

She knocks on doors.

She holds out, to the men and women and children who answer, her phone: on the screen are Chad and David, together, only weeks ago.

On the left, she says.

They shake their heads.

No, they tell her.

They tell her they are sorry, that they will keep their eyes open. They tell her Chad is a good-looking boy. They are sure, they explain, that he will turn up.

The night expands.

Bonnie doesn’t know if she has done enough.

Sunrise comes too early and too late.

Day and night, he goes missing, over and over.

Sometimes (in the day or at night) she opens his bedroom door and looks in.

She has done this four times, tonight, already (part of her believing, each time, that she will pluck up the light switch and find Chad asleep in his bed).

Now, for the fifth time, she walks down the hallway. She opens the door and turns on the light, and part of him disappears like this.

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