idea? He didn’t know. What was
the idea? What was it beneath what it appeared to be? He didn’t know. How long had she been planning to send him to find it?
He didn’t know. He didn’t know if she’d come up with it on the spot, that day, or if she’d known since she was a girl what
she’d send her husband out to do at the last minute. She was capable of either thing. Now, though, for the first time, it
occurred to Matt that the request was far more than a whim or an impulse. That Marissa’s greatest fear in life was the dissolution
of family. That she could not possibly bear to see it happen again. That for her to know it wouldn’t, it would take this absurd
string of duties accomplished in the eleventh hour. Was she capable of that? He didn’t know. Yes. He did know. She was. So
now the result was that he felt as though he were inside a well, one without time, where regular life couldn’t happen. To
get the cradle with miraculous speed—that was the best-case scenario. Of course, it was possible that he wouldn’t find anything
at all. If he didn’t, though, he would just go home and say he’d done what he could, and it was possible that this would satisfy
wasn’t the right word, but it was something.
Inside the Arby’s, there were ten or fifteen people at tables here and there, and a few in line, waiting. Matt looked over
the menu without paying any attention to it, then looked at the two women at the front of the line, both in their sixties,
both upset at the young kid behind the counter. “Does this look like cheese or something else?” one of them said, peeling
back the top of the bun of her sandwich and showing the boy. Matt couldn’t see what was there. But he did see the boy look
down at whatever she was showing him, nod his head slowly, then turn to his manager, a pimple-stained middle-aged woman, and
say, “I need another one, and quick.”
Matt filled the tank when he was finished eating and veered northeast before Green Bay, heading up toward Sturgeon Bay, listening
to talk radio on the AM station.
Seventy-eight 9th Avenue turned out to be a white house with blue shutters and flowers everywhere. Out front, there was an
iron bench that looked uncomfortable sitting dappled in sunlight, surrounded by rough beds of wildflowers. The grass had not
been mowed in weeks. The yard gave off few signs of interested human control. There was a car in the driveway, and Matt had
been sitting in his truck, across the street, for fifteen minutes, looking at the windows and waiting to see whether any shapes
passed by. So far he had seen none. All he had seen was a cat in the window staring back out at him, sometimes disappearing
for a moment, then reappearing in the same spot. It sat upright, its ears extended, as though straining toward him and probing
him with the best of its senses. From time to time, Matt stared straight back at it and tried to send it mental signals: I
am not your enemy, I am not your enemy. Then, later: meow.
It was colder than it should have been. It was June, and Matt doubted it was much more than fifty-five degrees. He knew both
the lake and the bay were capable of blasting this town, but it surprised him that the difference was so noticeable. His recollections
of Door County, which were fuzzy and came from a field trip he’d taken in the eighth grade, didn’t fit properly with where
he was now. He remembered blazing white homes and condos and small roads; he remembered somewhat confused-looking families
of six wandering down the sides of streets in Ephraim, each member holding a plastic bag filled with whatever shopping bounty
they’d come away with that day. He remembered sailboats and a feeling of money and he remembered thinking, It’s only farmland.
Why has this become what it is? It was different here. This was more like a little town where people lived, and it only had
a few of the signs