The dashboard thermometer read 98 degrees. The weather app on my phone announced a heat index of 110. Haze hung over the streets I drove and the breeze had gone silent, leaving the air to the hum of cicadas. I rolled the windows up then, and turned down the street I didn’t realize I was looking for. The road was cracked and bumpy, streaked and lined with dark asphalt bandages. An elderly man sat shirtless on a broken down porch while his old, fat lab nosed around an overgrown bush. I saw no one else in the neighborhood.
The houses and garages were closed. An aluminum swing set sat abandoned and alone behind a rusted chain link fence.
I didn’t want to see anymore.
And it was hot, perhaps too hot for anyone to be outside.
On Main Street, a few people still stood smoking outside the taverns. Cars sat at the mis-timed stoplights. The man with the long pony tail hanging out from under his hat peddled his unicycle furiously down the sidewalk.
But there were no kids anywhere. Not on Main Street. Not in that other neighborhood. Not out in the other residential areas I drove through as I circled around and came back towards Main Street—towards the vending company building with the three white vans parked along the side.
I wanted to see those vans, see if any of them had Michigan license plates. None did.
And the windows weren’t tinted.
I stopped to see a friend and his wife. I tried to talk my way out of coaching youth soccer and he showed me a spice rub he plans to put on a pork shoulder he’ll put on the smoker this weekend.
For a moment, things felt right again. I went back out in the heat and drove around the quiet streets, still looking for kids out playing in a sprinkler, maybe in a plastic pool pushed in the shade of a tall tree.
More people were out and about—a woman watered her border plants, a man in a work uniform hauled his garbage cans behind the garage, a technician from Direct TV installed a dish on someone’s roof. I passed more cars on the streets and found myself looking maybe too closely at them, wondering if I recognized the person driving, wondering if a white, single cab truck would appear like a lion from the shade of the tall grasses.
I saw a county squad car.
But I still did not see any children.
I went home then. My wife and children weren’t home so I turned the TV to a broadcast of a London Pearl Jam concert, ate the tacos I made earlier and watched the dog scramble after the green whiffle ball. The music soothed me. The tacos filled my belly. The dog made me smile, and I was content.
For a moment, I felt as if I had spent the earlier part of the day reading a crime novel, or maybe planning and taking notes about the small town crime that occurs in the current book I’m writing.
But I hadn’t been doing either of those things.
All I had read were Facebook posts warning of the child abduction attempt that took place here in my home town a couple hours earlier, the second in twenty four hours, the third in under two weeks.
For not the first time in the last day, I found myself standing at the kitchen window, my hand on the shade, about to peek out at the car driving by my house.
After reminding myself that my kids weren’t home, I stopped myself though, and let the shade fall back into place.
When my kids get home and that urge to look comes, I’ll do it. I’ll be cautious and wary. But for now, I’ll act like things are normal.
Maybe my refusal to lift that shade, for right now at least, is my “fuck you” to the guy in the white van from today and to whoever the three people were in the single-cab pick-up who tried to abduct the 11-year old girl yesterday.