Seven Months


Caroline Restrepo, Writer

Seven months. That was how long it had been since Alan Murray had vanished. Long enough for the missing posters holding onto telephone poles to fade. Long enough for the case to go cold. Long enough for Tara Murray to fall from fervorous search into quiet apathy. Today, like many before, she sat alone on the porch with a glass of water. Staring out listlessly, she felt her mind escaping into fantasy.

If her son were here, he’d be running back from school to play. He might hide a fake bug or snake in the house, and she’d tell him he would give her a heart attack at fifty. But not anymore. Now, she could only dream of what his future could have held. She wasted away in the shoe-melting heat. Sweltering.

A tiny dog strained against the leash attached to its collar, finally freeing itself and bolting from the sidewalk towards the house. Its owner followed, but Tara remained rooted to the spot. The dog darted beneath the home in a lattice-covered crawlspace, barely making it through. The owner dove at the dog and began reaching for it. A sharp yelp signified the snag of the collar on a broken bit of wood. Trapped. Tara tried and failed to move herself to action.

The owner murmured curses and asked Tara why she wasn’t helping. Only then did Tara get up and acknowledge the problem. It was just beneath the house, and it wouldn’t quickly get out. The two searched. Well, the dog owner searched while Tara watched the difficult rescue with sad eyes. Distracted by her past failures when taking charge, she waited to see if there was better luck for the Yorkie. The person reached in and pulled the tiny thing into their arms by some miracle. It whimpered and whined, but it was safe. That was the real miracle. Pulled up like a weed from the garden.

They’d done that before in the flower patch by the house. The flowers had died in the autumn and shriveled to nothing but stalks dry as her bitter memories. Alan complained the whole time, growling about the heat, but she had paid no mind. She wished she had. It was more to hold onto.

“Hey, you should really take another look at that crawlspace. There’s a big hole. Something could get in there and cause some damage.” Tara followed their advice and knelt beside the hole in the fencing. It was just large enough for an adult to get their arms through. The wood bent inwards, inviting as a crab trap with the secrets held inside.

A glass of water dropped to the ground. Tara’s breaths grew unsteady.

“Why?” She whispered.

“Are you okay?”

“Why did I never think of that?”