LAST NIGHT as I was reading my daughter a bedtime story, I heard a female voice cry out in haste from the street just outside our home.

A name.

John, Josh.

INAUDIBLE

The tone desperate, concerned.

Living on a street with so many small children, it’s not uncommon to hear a parent call out to their child. Perhaps there was a car coming down the street. A parent was warning a child too close to the road, though it seemed too late in the evening for that.

After I tucked in my daughter, I walked downstairs, and as I did, I heard sirens piercing into the night, closer and closer. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, blinking lights found their way into our foyer and back out, marching down the street lighting the front of my neighbors’ homes at the end of the cul de sac.

My wife was outside now, standing at the edge of our property looking down toward the cul de sac. The front doors of other homes opened and bodies flowed into the street.

There was an ambulance and police cars, a fire truck. First responders were descending a staircase that leads to a small lake at the bottom of the hill.

— “Oh, I hope a child has not fallen into the lake,” someone said.

It was dark, around 8:15 PM.

***

Last winter during a heavy snow, a little girl came walking down my street as I was building an igloo for my two children. She wore a stocking cap, mittens, a heavy coat, and pajama bottoms. As she pushed her way through the 15” of snow that was banked in some areas, her body emerging onto the road where flattened sheets of ice and snow lay where kids in the neighborhood were sleigh riding, I saw her bare toes. They were bright red and painful looking. She wore no shoes, no socks.

— “Let’s get you back to your house and get some shoes and socks on,” I said to her.

***

Sometimes she slips out the house unbeknownst to her parents, and then a few minutes later, her mom will walk down the street looking for her.

***

More police arrive. More sirens. Flashlights descend the staircase down by the water. There are so many children in the neighborhood. Don’t let it be her.

***

“Are your kids okay?”
reads a text on my wife’s phone.
It’s from one of her co-workers
who lives not far away.

***

A missed phone call, another.

***

The little girl’s mother appears from the shadows, and begins talking to my wife. It’s not her. For a brief moment, relief, until my thoughts turn to a little boy who lives near the lake. I haven’t seen him for some time. He and his mom used to walk his dog every day by our house.

***

Thirty minutes have passed.

***

I go upstairs to check on my kids. They are asleep, peaceful. The sirens and flashing lights have not pulled them from their slumber.

***

“Please don’t let someone’s child
have fallen into the lake.”

***

Except, this wasn’t a child.

***

Atop the staircase leading
to the lake, men appear,
with flashlights in hand
—first responders.
And with them,
a young adult male,
who had threatened suicide.

***

Except, it was someone’s child.

***

Someone had frantically called 911.
Perhaps the voice I heard earlier.
The voice called out a name.
John, Josh.

INAUDIBLE

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