Intrepid Are We Now
Story by Brian K. Jones
Photography by Adam W. Chapman
His name could be heard cutting through the gentle hum of background noise at all of the local diners, bars, and halls. Pictures of him were all over people’s social network feeds, the local newspaper had two reporters dedicated to following the case, which was in fact all the reporters they had. In the six days he had been missing he had captured a town’s concern and maybe more so their curiosity.
I’ve had a long standing hatred of Red Deer, IL. When I graduated high school I swore I would leave and I swore that I would never come back. That plan worked for nearly 8 years until a certain girl brought me back home from the west coast. My nomadic tendencies giving way to the stability and boredom of responsibility and security; In many ways I was better off, but I couldn’t shake the hatred of Red Deer. It was every little small town; all of the strangers looking familiar, all of the restaurants looking the same from the outside and serving up the same slop with a smile from the inside. Everyone was a little too nice and a little too involved; somehow with far less people than an urban metropolis it seemed much harder to find yourself alone.
I suppose that’s why I couldn’t turn around without being reminded that Nick Morrow had gone missing. His face staring at mine every time I turned on my iphone or drove past a light pole, tranquil green eyes staring into me and a smile that suggested a jovial turbulence somewhere in the man’s soul. It’s strange that when someone goes missing or dies you imagine them in the best way possible perhaps hoping that’s how they would view you if it were you that had gone missing. Every time I saw his sad, steady stare I couldn’t help but feel that I was on a ship, a ship that was slowly but steadily sinking, adrift in a sea that bordered no land.
Under his picture read the following:
Nick Morrow age 36 Missing since Saturday evening, last seen at JoJo’s Pub on Carter Sreet at 1:00 am
Individuals with any information should call crime stoppers at 818-555-HELP immediately!!!
I was at a stop sign, my foot cemented to the brake pedal looking at one of the fliers when my phone rang. Looking down I saw a picture of my wife Claudia flash up on my phone. The sinking ship took on more water.
I held the phone to my ear and kept looking at the image of the smiling man, “Hello.”
“Hey, what did you do with the iron? I can’t find it.” The tone of her voice made me imagine her breathing fire as she spoke.
I sat for another moment without answering, I finally looked forward and lifted my foot off the brake and my truck moved forward. With the motion of the vehicle I was able to think again, to speak. “I used it in the laundry room this morning, sorry I forgot to take it back upstairs.”
“You always do that! Why can’t you put shit away?!?!” Again with the fire breath, I imagined a dragon setting a medieval kingdom on fire. Me the king, sitting on his throne as the town’s people scurried for shelter; the king with nothing to say but to ask his servants for more wine.
“I’m sorry honey…” The audible screams of our two year old daughter could be heard through the phone.
“Shit, I’ve gotta go Todd.”
I looked at the phone and saw I was three minutes late for work.
I made my way through the streets of Red Deer zigging and zagging through the traffic headed to the high school; passing stoned teenagers and nervous moms dropping off their kids one by one. Within minutes I was at the office.
My keys clanged on my desk and I sat in my chair, ready to start emailing clients when Mike Warner walked into my office. “Todd! What’s going on?”
I looked up feigning attention and enthusiasm, “Hey Buddy!”
Warner always knew when I was faking it, “Awww why are you being an asshole???”
“Why am I an asshole?”
“You just are man.”
Warner and I complained about work for a while before he was on his way back to his own office. I turned back to my computer and spent the morning performing various monotonous tasks.
Around noon our lunch order arrived and I went to the conference room with Arnie, Warner, and Grape to bullshit and watch some TV.
Warner turned on Sportscenter and we mindlessly watched while slurping at our collective soups.
Arnie looked up from his soup and broke the droning and staring. “You guys hear about that missing guy? Nick Morrow or something…”
“Yeah man, that’s fucked up.” Grape said as crushed some oyster crackers into his black bean soup.
I couldn’t help but chime in, “Did any of you guys know him? The name sounds familiar to me but I don’t think I knew him.”
Everyone muttered, “No” and looked down at their soup.
There was a long silence as we watched a commercial for a cleaning product. It was one of those infomercial type commercials that was so hackneyed and over the top that it was captivating.
Arnie again broke the silence, “So he’s gotta be dead right?”
Everyone nodded and agreed in silence, choosing to focus on their soup.
“Maybe he left his wife or something?” Grape posited with a hope that even he seemed to know was a lie.
“Maybe…” I muttered, wanting to believe it too. The ship was about to capsize.
We watched hockey highlights until we finished our soups and headed back to our respective offices.
I tried reading through a regulation for a client to help discern whether or not they were subject to a specific set of rules but I just couldn’t focus. I sat thinking about how sad it is to die publicly, to be the footnote to someone else’s lunch conversation. To have your life pried apart by every half-assed sleuth in some two horse town. Was he depressed? Was his marriage in turmoil? Was he fucking around on his wife? Was he a gambler or into drugs? I’d heard all the questions for six days and I didn’t really care about the why anymore, I’m not sure that I ever did. I just wanted to have a beer with guy and know him a little better.
Hours passed and I sat working, sometimes thinking of poor Nick Morrow and sometimes forgetting him all together.
The phone rang and I answered it, it was Arnie. “Hey Dickface, Claudia is on line four.”
I braced for the worst, “Hey hon.”
“Listen, I’m sorry about this morning. Things were stressful and I just kinda flipped. I didn’t mean to take it on you.” Claudia wasn’t very good at apologizing. It was one of the reasons I loved her, she didn’t plan on living life with regrets and she rarely had any. Occasionally I wondered if I was her only one. In any case for her to say the words was a rare and welcome occasion.
“Yeah, I know. It’s been stressful for everyone lately, I’m not sure why.”
There was a silence as we both seemed confused about what to say.
An email popped up on my screen from Grape, it contained a link to the Red Deer Times and one sentence that read:
They found him in a ditch, he’s dead.
I clicked on the link and sat staring at Poor Nick Morrow’s eyes once more as I held the phone to my ear waiting for Claudia to say something. I couldn’t help but think of his body bloated and rotten from a week of rot.
Claudia finally spoke, “I’m pregnant.” The words came out like one giant exhale.
The silence that had lingered was substituted with good cheer and hopeful remarks between the two of us. There was a resolute feeling of relief. The ship had been buoyed.
I gently hung up the receiver finally alone in my office. Nothing but me and Nick Morrow’s eyes, I stared at them and sighed, “What a week.”