“Ma’am, you have to understand: missing persons are pretty hard. I mean, he might have actually been taken or something. And then how are we supposed to find him?”
“I don’t know!”
Melora Morris had been shrieking at the policeman for the better part of a half hour. He just kept standing there, eating a sandwich that seemed to be never-ending. She always felt like he had almost finished it, and then the next time she ramped up and he became stressed there he was with a nearly fresh sandwich all over again. She took a deep breath.
“I don’t know, Mr. Policeman-”
“Call me Bob.”
Melora sighed. “Bob.”
“What can you tell me, then? About finding my son?”
“I can tell you we’re definitely doing our best. We guarantee that. Our very best.”
“And what is your best?”
Bob shifted, and shuffled his feet. He looked at the ground and then at Melora as if she were a not-so-bright child. He took a deep breath, and opened his mouth as if to speak. Then he pulled out his sandwich and took a medium-sized bite. Chewing slowly and ponderously, he peered past her at nothing in particular. He swallowed his bite and then looked her in the eye. Melora felt nothing so much as a very keen and sharp calmness emanating from him, and began to perhaps suspect that he might give her some sort of useful answer. He opened his mouth and calmly raised his hands in a comforting gesture.
“Our best is...the best we can do.”
Melora swung at him.
“Ma’am, please, there is no call to get violent!”
“I know what your best means!”
“Ma’am, then why did you ask me? I thought you’d know but then you asked and it was very confusing...”
“I meant specifically. What is it you are doing that constitutes your best you-”
“Now no name-calling ma’am. I understand your son’s gone missing but that’s no call for being exceptionally rude or anything. As for what we’re doing- aside from our best, you see- well we had a man walk around town for a bit, and we shouted his name in the alleys that we know about. Other than that, we’re sort of relying on him coming home after awhile.”
“You...shouted his name...?”
“Pretty loudly, I must say. I was one of the ones shouting. It was almost loud enough that I was worried I’d get an official complaint. You’ll be happy to know we didn’t get one though. It was just under a full yell, I’d say. Something like...if you’ll take a step back and cover your ears-” Dumbfounded Melora did as Bob asked and he, satisfied at the distance, filled his lungs and at a volume barely over that with which he had been speaking shouted “Jason!”
“Who the....who IS JASON!”
The poor policeman was clearly confused by this, and the sandwich came out so fast that most of it fell on the floor and his face fell as he dropped to his knees to pick it up and perhaps try to salvage some of it.
“Now see what you’ve done? I spilled my sandwich and everything and I....this has been one ruddy bad day and now-” Melora kicked his sandwich bits and he stood up, red-faced and horrified as she went back to shrieking.
“I don’t CARE about your SANDWICH! I want you to FIND my SON!”
\ “And as I said ma’am, we’re doing our very best, but you can’t go off all half-cocked, screaming at people and making them spill their sandwiches. I told you, we shouted ’Jason’ after him and everything. He didn’t come out, so he must just not be ready to come home yet. Or maybe he’s dead. This sort of thing happens, you know.”
Melora seethed, breathing through clenched teeth at the incompetence of the policeman who was standing in front of her, half a spilled sandwich in his hand and the other half on her carpets. He was looking down at the spilled bits and was clearly more upset with the sandwich than his failure. She grabbed his face.
“MA’AM! Please! This is highly uncomfortable!”
“My son’s name is JAMES!”
“Please, let me- James?”
The policeman seemed to forget that she had his face in a vicegrip because he started laughing so hard he shook, so hard he shook himself loose from Melora’s weakening grip.
“Oh...oh, that’s one for the books, eh? Here we’ve been shouting Jason all day, risking complaints and whatnot, and that’s not even the boy’s name! Suppose someone had come out! Oh, that would have been a hoot. I guess you’re happy he’s not home now- proves he knows his name, doesn’t it? Smart lad, your boy. Oh, oh, oh.” He laughed himself out the door, and down off her porch, and down Melora’s driveway and back into the street. He waved back to her.
“Well you have yourself a wonderful rest of the day! Hopefully young James comes back home. And, oh oh oh, if any Jasons come calling, you just let them know we were looking for a James in fact. Oh, wait until I tell the boys down at the station. They’ll never believe it, looking for a Jason for a whole morning and...” he tailed off as he walked down the street until he turned the corner and Melora couldn’t hear him any more. She dropped to her knees amid the leftover sandwich and began to sob deep, sorrowful sobs.