They put up flyers all over town, several hundred full-color prints from the Kinko’s, and they returned soon after--unsure what else to do, needing something they could do--for another several hundred. The police would not consider their son missing until seventy-two hours had passed, and when it had there was little information for them to go on, knocking on neighbor’s doors, asking if anyone had seen him. Identical papers flickered from every light post and stop sign:
Rosebud “Bud” Thompson
Have you seen our son?!
Bud looked happy, smiling, innocent, in his class picture from the year before, echoing every few feet down the streets.
They returned home and immediately went in separate directions. Bud’s mother took the bedroom, closing the door and locking it so she would not be bothered as she lay on the bed and numbly rocked herself in and out of sleep. And Bud’s father sat on a grimy chair in the garage, dust spinning in the filtered sunlight about his face, unshaven, trying to breath and not think about what he really wanted to do.
Meeting briefly in the kitchen several hours later, Bud’s mother said, “Hungry?”
“We’re going to find him,” Bud’s father said.
“We can’t give up hope.”
Bud’s father could tell his wife had numbed herself on Xanax from the bottle she kept pushed all the way to the back of the medicine cabinet. But he couldn’t do the same. Someone had to stay sharp. What if the police called?
When the police did call a couple of days later and told him over the phone they’d found his son’s body, that his son was dead, he couldn’t believe it--how could he believe something like that? He was asked to come down to the police station to identify the body and he went without a jacket and without a word to his wife, driving with his jaw clenched and his eyes fixed only on what was straight in front of him.
When he got home several hours later, he went directly to his workshop in the garage, flicked the table saw to life, and dropped his wrists over the spinning blade. He couldn’t get the image of his son’s body out of his head, even as the world began to pulse away to the beat of the blood pumping from his mangled stumps. Bud had been covered with blood, globbed in his hair, caked on his face, filling his throat so he had choked to death. Bud’s father was thankful when the throbbing hot redness finally began to relax, and he could escape into darkness.
In the bedroom at the other side of the house, Bud’s mother smiled. She knew better. Sometimes Bud came to her, slipped into the bed next to her while she slept. She cradled his tiny boy’s body. She ran her hands down his cold back. She patted the back of his sticky head. She loved her son--she loved Bud so much! Stickiness filled her hands. Gradually, over the past couple of days, she’d realized she was not dreaming, that her son was actually here. Bud’s eyes began to open.
She had a choice, she knew. Her son was giving her a choice. She could join him if she wanted, and she wanted to join him more than anything ever in life.
Later, Bud’s father came with them as well, and their bodies’ were never found.
--From novel in progress, now called THE LAND BENEATH