What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?
Monday, April 1, 2019, At School
Before his first class started, Kevin received a reply to the message he’d sent his counselor, Mr. Langer. He was available to meet Kevin at one-fifteen on Tuesday.
Kevin needed to call Lieutenant Richardson to tell him that his uncle Graeme would be at the meeting. He decided to do that during lunch, so he went to his Monday morning classes. They seemed to take forever. When lunch period finally arrived, he went to the cafeteria, got the special tennis lunch, then went outside. He jogged to the bench at the end of Building 400; as usual, no one was there. After setting his lunch aside, he placed his call to the Walnut Creek police department and was connected to Lieutenant Richardson.
“Hi, Kevin. I’m on another call, but I need to talk to you. I’ll call you back in a few minutes on your cell number. Is that okay?”
“Yes, it’s okay. I’m eating my lunch, so I’ve got about twenty minutes before I have to go to my next class.”
“I’ll get back to you before then.”
Kevin opened his lunch. It was a salad with chicken, and it was good. He heard his phone’s ringtone just as he finished eating. Caller ID showed it was from the police department, so he answered.
“Kevin, I have some information for you. The FBI has to change the date of the meeting. George Bradford and Lynn Camorly have been called to a meeting at FBI headquarters in Washington about several cases that involve what happened to your family. They need to move up our meeting to this Saturday, April sixth.”
Kevin groaned, “Shit!”
“I know this is short notice. I hope the people you want to have at the meeting will be able to adjust their schedules.”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to contact all of them. I’ve just arranged for my uncle to be there. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has already reserved his flights. There’s no other later date?”
“Yes, but they thought you’d want to know what happened before it ends up on the news.”
“On the news!” Kevin shouted. “It’s going to be released to the press?”
“Yes. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. What happened to your family is just one part of a much larger case, parts of which have just been solved — including what happened to your family. They were sure you’d want to know everything before the story broke, not just what will be on the news.”
“You’re making it sound like it’s going to be on the national news, not just in the Bay Area.”
“So, what’s this larger case?”
“I can’t say anything about it now. The FBI will explain everything at the start of the meeting on Saturday.”
“You said this was being released to the press. Will my name and address be released to the press?”
“The FBI is going to make every effort so the names and addresses of the victims and their relatives won’t be identified. But there’s no way to guarantee that won’t happen.”
“I’m sorry, Kevin. Right now, I’ll need the information about your uncle. His name, relationship to you, address, phone number, and why you want him at the meeting.”
Kevin opened the contacts on his phone and dictated his uncle’s information, and that he was invited because Graeme was his father’s brother and lived closest to Walnut Creek. Then he asked, “Will the names of the people I’m having with me at the meeting be released to the press?”
“No. Information about the meeting — including that there will be a meeting, will be kept confidential.”
That made Kevin think, ‘What a pile of crap. They can’t guarantee to keep my name confidential, but they say they can keep the meeting confidential. As if!’
“Okay, I guess,” he said. “I’ll have to call the five people I’ve asked to be there and find out if they can change their schedules. So that’s about it for now.”
“Alright. If you have any questions, give me a call.”
“Wait, I have a question. Do I have to let you know who won’t be coming to the meeting?”
“No. You can tell me at the meeting. Anyway, it’ll be obvious.”
Kevin shook his head and took a deep breath. Letting it out, he realized, ‘What he just said should have been obvious to me, but I totally missed it.’
“Okay. G’bye for now. I’ll see you on Saturday,” then he ended the call.
The most complicated change was Graeme’s. But he returned Kevin’s call in ten minutes.
“Kevin, I had to switch to a different flight to San Francisco. I’m on Air Canada AC8840, leaving at 8:45 AM and arriving at 11:12 AM this Thursday. My return flight is the same flight that I’d texted you, except that it’s on Tuesday the ninth instead of the sixteenth. Is that okay?”
“Absolutely. I’ll take this Thursday and Friday off school instead of next week. So I’ll be at home when you get here.”
“I’ll text you when I arrive, when I get on BART, and when I get to the BART Walnut Creek station.”
“Thanks. That will give me plenty of advance notice.”
“Okay. I’ll see you early Thursday afternoon.”
“See you then, Graeme.”
Kevin would have to change the days he’d be off school. And Alex would, too.
He sent a text to Alex, who called him back immediately.
“Why are you changing the date?”
Kevin briefly summarized the call he’d received. “We need to go to the office and change our approved absence dates.”
“Let’s do it now.”
Kevin met Alex at the office, and he and Alex explained why they needed Thursday and Friday off this week instead of next week. Kevin also needed Monday the eighth off instead of the fifteenth. They got their new approved absence permits, one for each of their teachers. They also got late slips because they wouldn’t be able to get to their next class on time.
Alex said he’d call his dad about the change.
Kevin returned to the bench where he’d been sitting and made the other calls. He phoned Mr. MacIntosh and Dr. Ranse. They both said the change was okay. Alex sent a text that his dad said the sixth was fine for him.
That was quick! It meant everyone was okay with the change. Kevin still had to tell Laura and Jeff; he’d do that when he got home. Tuesday morning, he’d ask Connie to pick up the bagels on Saturday morning.
After school, Kevin and Alex rode their bikes to Kevin’s house. They sat at the kitchen table, and each had a banana as a snack. As they ate, Kevin told Alex that his uncle would be at the meeting and a few additional details about the change that Lieutenant Richardson had discussed with him.
“Whoa! It sounds like this is some sort of big deal national crime, not just a Walnut Creek crime.”
“Yeah, it sounds like it could be,” Kevin replied. He sat, thinking. Alex didn’t intrude.
“You know, I’m glad they moved the meeting to this Saturday. That way, I won’t be waiting around another week for whatever answers they have. It also proves they have answers.”
“Or at least something to tell you, if they don’t have the answers you want, ” Alex said. “Did everyone you wanted at the meeting get back to you?”
“Yes, everyone will be here on the sixth.” He looked at Alex. “Especially you.”
Alex smiled. “Thanks. I’d be here with you no matter what.” He reached across and put his right hand on top of Kevin’s left. “I love you,” he said softly.
“I love you, too,” Kevin replied just as softly. “I don’t know how I’d be able to handle all this if we hadn’t met.”
“Thinking about handling things,” Alex said. “I’ve got a ton of homework that I need to finish. How about you?”
“Yeah, I have a lot, too. Most of my teachers have exams and quizzes on Mondays, and they always top that off by giving us homework assignments. Sometimes for just the next day, sometimes for the rest of the week.
Kevin sighed. “We’re into Pre-Calc now that we’ve finished the Algebra 2 part of the class. The homework seems more complicated.”
“If you get stuck, let me know and I’ll give you some tips. I took the Pre-Calc class, and now I’m taking AP Calculus AB.”
“Thanks, I will. Right now, I’m going upstairs and get my laptop. I have to translate a story from English to Spanish, and I want to turn it in on School Loop tonight.”
Alex started on his homework.
Kevin returned with his laptop and his English/Spanish dictionary and started on his translation.
Alex finished first. “You have much more to do?”
“I’m checking my translation to make sure I didn’t make any stupid mistakes. I’ll need about ten, maybe fifteen minutes. Then I’ll be finished with everything.”
When he finished, he took a deep breath and let it out noisily.
That made Alex laugh. “You do that a lot,” he said.
Kevin looked at him. “I do what a lot?”
“Take a deep breath and let it all out noisily.”
“I do?” He thought about it for a few seconds, then grinned. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
“So, what’s for dinner tonight?” Alex asked.
“Let’s take a look at what Connie made that we can reheat.”
They agreed on having a tuna-noodle casserole and a salad with avocado and cherry tomatoes. The servings were large, so they skipped dessert.
Kevin told Alex he needed to talk to Laura and Jeff about the meeting change. He called Jeff first; he got his voicemail, so he left a detailed message. Since Laura was coming home with him on Tuesday, he decided he’d tell her then.
“So, what do you want to do now?” he asked.
“Do you know that there’s a lacrosse video game?”
“I didn’t either until last week. There are several. A couple are for cellphones. Trouble is, the graphics really suck on those. There’s one for Windows. And there are three for PS4 and Xbox. If you have one of those consoles, I can load it and let you see how it works.”
“Okay. Let’s go to my room. My PS4 is hooked up to my TV.”
Alex installed the game. “I don’t think we’ll try to play it. You don’t know lacrosse, and it would take too long to teach you. So, I’ll run one of the demos instead. Don’t expect Madden Football quality graphics. If you do, you’ll be disappointed.”
“I’m not a gamer, so I won’t be critical.”
Alex ran through the demo. He explained what was happening and how lacrosse was played.
“There’s a lot of hitting, isn’t there,” Kevin commented.
“In lacrosse, it’s called blocking. This demo has a lot of blocking. There’s less in an actual high school game.”
“How’s it played?”
“In high school lacrosse each game has two halves, each of which has two quarters, and each quarter lasts twelve minutes, not including time-outs. There’s a ten-minute halftime.”
“Can there be a tie?”
“There’s one overtime, and the first team to score wins the game. If neither team scores in overtime, it’s a tie.”
“So, in a way, it’s like basketball?”
“Uh-huh. But our games are very fast, they’re played on a grass field, and we carry sticks with a mesh pouch at the end. Lacrosse balls sort of look like softballs, but are very hard. You don’t want to get hit by one of them. If you get hit, it really, really hurts. That’s why players are required to wear helmets with face masks, a mouthpiece, and body armor.” Alex grinned.
“Body armor?” Kevin asked.
“It’s strong, durable padding. Shoulder pads, arm pads, rib pads, gloves, and athletic supporters with protective cups.
“How’s Edison doing this year?”
“So-so. We play sixteen games. So far, we’ve won five and lost five, so we have six more. Our next home game is at five-thirty tomorrow. Our games are played on the football field. You should come and watch.”
“Who’re we playing?”
“I’ll have to bring Laura with me.”
“Does she like to watch sports? Does she go to our football games?”
“I don’t know about watching many sports, but she goes to our home football games. So do I. We’ll go to your next game, now that I know when and where it is.”
“Good luck getting Laura to go to the game.”
“Hmm… actually, that could be a problem. I’ll need to find someone that can give us a ride to and from the game. It’ll be dark when the game is over, and riding a bike home in the dark isn’t a good idea.”
“How about my dad? He goes to our home games, and Rick comes with him.”
“Could you ask him for me?”
“Sure. I’ll call him now.”
Kevin grabbed his laptop and went upstairs to his bedroom to put it away — and to let Alex talk to his dad without being overheard. When he returned to the dining room, Alex was just ending the call to his dad. He grinned and gave Kevin a thumbs-up. “Everything is set. My dad will pick you up at five o’clock, and Laura a few minutes later.”
“Thank you,” Kevin said. “Now, I have to get Laura to agree.” He pulled out his phone, went into the family room, and called her.
“Hi, Kevin. “What’s up?”
“I got a call today from the Walnut Creek Police. The meeting has been moved to the sixth. My uncle is here from Vancouver, British Columbia, for the meeting, and he’s staying with me until Tuesday. So, we won’t be able to have our usual Sunday study session this week. Sorry about that.”
“I understand. Will I still see you on Tuesday after school?”
“Yes. There’s something else. Alex is playing in the lacrosse game on Tuesday. It’s at Edison, and he asked us to go.”
“Yeah, I’d like to go. What time is it, and how do we get there?”
“It starts at five-thirty. You come with me after school, we’ll have one of Connie’s dinners, then you ride your bike home. After picking me up, Mr. Burney will pick you up a little after five, and we’ll go to the game with him and Alex’s brother, Rick. He’ll bring us home, too.”
“Sounds like fun. I’m in,” she said. “See you Tuesday.”
Kevin ended the call and grinned. “That was easy.”
“So, what should we do now?” he asked Alex.
“How about a movie, then we can go to bed after.” Alex grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
“Sounds like a very excellent plan.”
Tuesday, April 2, 2019, At Home
Kevin greeted Connie when he walked into the kitchen. “I have some information about the Saturday meeting. It’s been moved to this Saturday, April sixth. My uncle, Graeme Young, is flying here from Vancouver, British Columbia, to be at the meeting. He’ll arrive Thursday afternoon, and he’ll be staying in the guest bedroom. He’ll leave on Monday.
“Alex will be staying over with me on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.
“Everyone who was going to be here on the thirteenth will be here on the sixth, plus my uncle. That’s ten of us in all.
“Please get the bagels from Noah’s Saturday morning. A dozen sesame, a dozen asiago, and two containers of plain cream cheese. We’ll need two pots of coffee, too. It’s fine if there are leftovers. And you can have the rest of the day off starting at ten-thirty.”
“Is this change in the date of the meeting a good thing?” Connie asked.
“I sure hope so. I’ll find out on Saturday.
“I’ll be eating dinner early tonight. Laura and I are going to a lacrosse game at school that starts at five-thirty.
“Also, you wanted to know about Gott’s Roadside, the hamburger place we went to on Saturday. It’s great, but it’s expensive. My bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a shake were just over $23.00, not including tax or tip.”
“Was it worth it?” Connie asked.
“Yeah, I think so. The burger was excellent; the fries were crunchy on the outside, and they weren’t greasy or too salty; and the shake was made with real ice cream, not that soft-serve stuff. You order at the counter, not at your table.”
“Thank you. Paulo’s birthday — he’s my grandson — is next month, so I think I’ll take him there as a birthday treat.”
“How old will he be?”
“I think he’ll like it a lot. “Okay, time for me to get to school. I’ll see you on Thursday.”
Tuesday, April 2, 2019, At School
Kevin had difficulty staying focused on his classes. Fortunately, all the things that he’d had to make up were finished. No more make up chemistry experiments and exams, no more make up Spanish 3 exams.
His lack of focus ended when he got to English 2. Mr. Sommers started the discussion of chapter two of The Dream Weaver. Lots of the class said they couldn’t figure out if the beginning was a dream sequence or something else.
“Why did Ian talk about sneaking out of his bedroom through the window and into a tree, and then what’s this tube thing the old man made appear?” Laura asked. “It was really confusing. It was like a fantasy.”
“It seemed like the story was saying that there’s more than one you, or no you at all. Is that it?” Gary asked.
“I think it was telling us that there’s no personal identity, and that reality is a figment of our minds,” Kevin said.
“And I could never figure out what personhood is all about,” Marjorie added.
The discussion continued, and Mr. Sommers directed where he wanted it to go by asking questions, most of which were from the discussion questions at the end of the book.
When the class was over, Laura and Kevin walked to the cafeteria to have lunch.
“Did you understand any of what we discussed today?” she asked.
“Not really. Maybe.” He grinned. “It wasn’t explained in the book. It made it sound like identity and personhood aren’t definable, and might not even exist. Even though I read chapter two about four or five times, and wrote notes about what I was reading, I was more confused than ever once the discussion started.”
“Let’s eat lunch and forget chapter two. Chapter three made more sense for me,” she said.
When they finished eating, she asked, “So, did you get an appointment with your counselor?”
“Yeah. I’m going to see him as soon as I’m finished eating my lunch — at one-fifteen. Which is now. How about you?”
“Basically, no. He can’t see me until week after next. He’s loaded with seniors trying to get advice about going to college.”
“Well, I’m going to the counselors’ office now. I’ll see you later.”
“Have fun!” she said.
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