He looked up from the pages.
He handed the pages to his father. “Go on, Dad. Read it. Please?”
“You gonna make your old man cry, now, too?”
“Not me,” Jack said, sniffling. “That’ll be all Beth.” Jack got up, brushing leaves off his jeans. He picked up the coffee can, with the professor’s letter still in it.
“I’m going to go back,” Jack said, wiping at his nose.
“Sure you know the way back?”
Jack plucked at the yarn. “Yeah. I’ll make it.”
* * * * *
The yarn trail ended at the trees behind the professor’s house, in plain view from Beth’s bedroom window.
Jack let himself in, set the envelope addressed to the professor on his desk. He went up the stairs, to Beth’s room. The floor was still a mess of crumpled newspapers and half-unpacked boxes. He wiped his nose again, then got to work straightening things up.
As he worked, he thought things over. Things seemed fine until she hurt her ankle. She was scared to death of going to the doctor, and now he knew why. He wondered just how they would have been able to pay for the exploding x-ray machine.
So she disappeared because she was scared? He stuffed another wad of newspapers in the box he was using to hold all the discarded packing material.
There was that thing in the mail from the attorney’s office. He wondered what that was — maybe her adoption had finally gone through? Or maybe it was the courts ordering the professor to turn her back over to the State. Jack swallowed a lump in his throat. He didn’t think he liked that outcome any more than Beth did.
What did the professor mean when he said that she’d found “another way?” Another way of what? Jack leaned back against a stack of boxes. He was getting a headache.
He found a broom in a downstairs closet, brought it back up and swept up as many of the packing peanuts as he could get to. It wasn’t a perfect cleaning job, but at least he could see the floor.
He set the broom in the corner.
“You’ll just mess it up when you finish unpacking,” Jack said, hoping that Beth was somewhere around. “And I’ll help you clean it up, then, too.”
* * * * *
Jack met his father halfway across the yard. The man’s eyes were red.
“Jack, I’d like to show this to your mother. It might do you good to get a sane, female opinion on what it says.”
“I meant that your mother is. Or would you rather Charlotte or Hannah get ahold of this?”
“The teasing was bad enough from them when Beth was here!” Jack said, and his father laughed.
Jack nodded. “So you believe me now?”
“Son, I never doubted that there was something going on that had you bothered. But…” his voice trailed off, and he gestured towards the envelope. “I’m a simple man. I go to work, I pay the bills. I leave the dreaming to you and the girls.”
“I don’t know what to do, Dad. She’s… she’s stuck there.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Son. Could always try looking up ‘medicine man’ in the yellow pages.”
“What about this ‘Sam Hain’ guy?”
“Try the white pages?” Jack’s dad shrugged. “Can’t say I know anybody by that name.”
Jack kicked at the gravel as they crunched across it. He angled off towards the tool shed as they got closer to the house.
“I’m going to finish Ellie’s wings,” he said. The cleaning hadn’t been enough. He needed something else to keep his mind occupied, something he could do and finish.