“Kevin! Jesse!” The boys’ mother calls. It will be time for supper soon. She stands in the open doorway looking out at the backyard. “Now where did those boys get to?”
She calls again, her voice lilting up in the form of a question. “Kevin? Jesse? Dinner!”
She looks at the kitchen counter where she set out flour, sugar, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a measuring cup in preparation of baking a cake.
That is as far as she got before she had to go deal with the unbalanced washing machine in the basement jigging across the floor with loud thumping that sounded like the drum would come right out through its side.
After dinner. The cake will have to wait.
She washes and peels the potatoes and carrots, setting them in a pot of water on the stovetop to boil.
She opens the oven door to check the roast. Pulling the fat baster from a drawer, she turns back to the open oven, sucking up the juices starting to leak out of the meat and dribbling them over the roast. Finished, she closes the door and sets the baster down.
June returns to the back door, looking out. Still no sign of the boys. She frowns and goes to the front door. She opens it and steps out on the front steps, looking up and down the street. No boys in sight.
“Kevin! Jesse!” She yells loud and clear. Half the neighbourhood would have heard, maybe more. She stands there looking and finally goes back in, closing the door.
She waits, she paces, and she checks the supper cooking again. “Where are they?”
Finally, June pulls out the little phone book with names and numbers neatly written in. She goes to the tan phone on the kitchen wall, taking the receiver off its hook.
She wanted to get a newer phone. Everyone else is moving to the new push button phones and they still have the old rotary dial. But, the phone still works and until it quits, they can’t get a new one.
She flips through the little book and dials the first number, waiting through the rings. Finally, someone answers.
“Hi, it’s June. Are my boys at your house?” She listens. “Well, if you see them, can you send them home please? It’s dinner time.” She listens again. “Thank you.” She hangs up.
June goes down the list, calling neighbours and all the boys’ friends. No one has seen them. The first flutter of fear dances in her stomach.
June checks the cooking dinner again. It’s almost ready. She hears the back door and turns.
“Smells good!” Henry takes his shoes off at the door. Like the boys, he is trained to use the back door so as to not to cause her that extra cleaning assumed from the use of the front door.
He enters the living room, walking past the discarded comic book and socks, towards the kitchen. She meets him at the kitchen door and he takes her in his arms, giving her a quick kiss and releasing her.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes and the boys haven’t come back from playing outside.” “Did you call them?”
“Yes. I phoned their friends’ houses too, and the neighbours. No one has seen them.”
He sees the worry on her face, and in her eyes. “They can’t have gone far. I’ll go out and take a look.”
While Henry goes out to look for the boys, June drains the carrots and potatoes, pulls the roast out, and makes gravy, straining it into a gravy bowl. She looks at the finished meal on the stovetop and frowns at the dinner table, set for four and with no one sitting at it.
She keeps the elements on low, trying to keep dinner warm without ruining it.
By the time Henry comes back, the roast is over-cooked and dry and the carrots and potatoes have started to brown in the pot. In an attempt to salvage the meal, June had turned it off and it’s now cold.
Henry comes in the back door, stomping the snow off his boots and taking his boots off. His face is ruddy from the cold air. He pulls his gloves off and blows on his hands, warming them up. The sun is getting low in the Western sky and with it the temperatures are dropping.
June stops anxiously pacing and rushes to him. The butterflies are having a fluttering fit in her stomach. “You didn’t find them?”
“No. Let’s call again.” She watches him go past her, her look pained.
Henry goes into the kitchen, finding the little phone book where she left it on the kitchen table next to the empty table settings. He starts making phone calls, starting with the boys’ friends, and then working through their neighbours.
He puts the little book down, taking a break. He points to the now cold pots on the stove. “We should eat.”
June looks to the stove, then at the table, and finally at him. “But, the boys.” She looks like she just lost something very important and doesn’t know what to do.
“I know,” Henry says heavily. “We’ll find them. For now, we need to eat. I don’t feel like eating either, but I have a feeling this is going to be a very long night. We’ll feed the boys when we find them.”
He looks to the bowl, flour, and sugar on the counter. “You can bake them that cake for when they come home.” Normally they would be annoyed, angry with the boys for not being home for supper and not telling them where they are
But, after calling every one of the boys’ friends again, each of them accounted for and having not seen the boys, Henry and June both have a heavy feeling in their hearts about this.
June moves stiffly, feeling like everything is unreal. This is not her kitchen, not her meal. It is not her. She puts the cold roast on the table with a long fork and carving knife. Henry carves it into slices while she serves two plates with carrots and potatoes. She scoops out a large spoon each of gravy.
The congealed gravy slaps onto the plates with a plop, jiggling and perfectly keeping its shape like puke coloured cranberry sauce out of a can, which perfectly keeps the can shape after being unceremoniously dumped into a bowl.
She sits down and they both stare at their plates, feeling shocked and empty and worried. They both look at the unappetizing gravy and then at each other, and they both burst into laughter.
They turn their attention back to their plates, the moment of levity gone, and eat to the sound of their cutlery clinking on their plates. There is none of the usual dinner conversation, asking and telling about their day, sharing a little of the time they spend apart during this family moment.
When they are finished eating, Henry is back on the phone and June washing their dinner plates. She packages up the leftovers and puts it in the fridge. She can warm it later, after they find the boys; or make them something else to eat. Whatever the boys want.
June takes the washed and dried place settings, carefully setting the plates back on the table. Henry watches her as he talks on the phone. She sets the cutlery for their two places.
Finished the call, Henry hangs up. “June, what are you doing?” “I’m setting the table.” She returns to the sink and picks up their glasses.
“Why? We’re done eating.” “For the boys.” She returns to the table, setting their glasses in place. “The boys’ plates are still on the table.”
She stops and looks at him, then returns to making sure the table is perfect. Henry watches her for a moment, and then goes back to his phone calls. June turns her attention to baking the boys’ cake.
The cake is cooling in the pan on top of the stove and June washes out the bowl, spoon, and measuring utensils.
Henry is finished calling. He has run out of people to phone. He sits in that kitchen chair as if the air pressing down on him is heavy. “June, I think it’s time we phone the police.”