Remember Me Like This

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

Book: Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bret Anthony Johnston
Saturday night. Eric lay behind her, his hand lightly on her hip. They were listening to Justin make a sandwich in the kitchen. The knife swirling in the mayo jar was like music.
    “His schedule will even out soon enough,” Eric said.
    “Insomnia can come from fear. Our minds won’t shut off. We’re reduced to our animal selves, too alert to sleep. We’re afraid we’ll be eaten. I read about it in one of my books.”
    “He’ll get back on track.”
    “He must’ve been so scared.”
    “He’s safe now. We all are.”
    A cupboard door squeaked in the kitchen. For a year, Eric had meant to WD-40 the hinges; now he knew he’d been right to neglect them. The sound confirmed that his son was alive, a healthy boy looking for a glass for juice.
    Laura said, “Dolphins never sleep, not fully. They’re always at least half awake. Each side of their brain sleeps at different times.”
    “Because they’re afraid?”
    “No,” she said sweetly, proudly, taking his hand and rolling into his arm like a blanket. “Because they’re smart.”
    The next day, Eric drove the boys by the Teepee Motel—Griff wanted to show Justin the drained pool and to make sure the coping hadn’t been stolen—and then they went to pick up Whataburgers. In the drive-thru, the cashier gave them their order for free. It was something that had been happening to Eric: When he’d gone to the wireless store to buy Justin a cell phone, the manager gave Eric two high-end phones for free (the second was for Griff, so he wouldn’t be jealous) and waived the activation charges. When Eric went through the checkout at H-E-B, the old couple behind him insisted on buying his groceries. When he returned Laura’s library books,the librarian cleared all of her late fees. He tried to decline the offers, but it was clear his refusal would have been an affront. “We appreciate you thinking of us,” he’d finally say. At Whataburger, he was about to thank the cashier when she glanced over her shoulder and passed a paper napkin and pen through the window: Justin’s autograph. Eric thought she was joking, but then when he saw she wasn’t, he was appalled. He was about to pull forward, park, and complain to the manager, but Justin calmly took the napkin and signed his name, using the pickup’s dashboard as a desk.
    “Dad, it’s fine,” he said, sounding more annoyed with Eric than with the cashier. His signature was spiky, like the logo of a heavy metal band. It wasn’t handwriting Eric recognized.
    As they pulled forward and turned onto Station Street, Griff said, “You’re famous. That’s so sick.”
    Justin shrugged, then pushed his straw through the plastic lid on his Coke. Eric steered into the sun. He drove slowly, carefully, as if he’d just avoided an accident.
    H IS NAME WAS D WIGHT B UFORD . H E HAD BEEN BORN AND raised outside Dallas, and he’d lived for some five years in Flour Bluff, a stripped-down stilt-house section of Corpus Christi. He was unmarried and had no criminal record, not even a parking ticket. So far, he’d been charged with one count of the Class A felony of kidnapping, though more charges were expected. He was being held on a one-million-dollar bond.
    “He’s not going anywhere,” Garcia had told Eric and Laura. “Not on my watch.”
    They didn’t know what he looked like, and for Eric, not being able to fix an image of him in his mind was menacing. Sometimes he pictured him as obese and towering. Sometimes he appeared gaunt and wiry, his face made up of gruesome angles, concave cheeks and eyes. The first time they’d see him would be Friday morning when Buford’s arraignment was broadcast on television and streamed onthe Internet. The proceeding weighed on Eric; it seemed a cliff toward which his family was being inevitably—powerlessly—borne. A search of Buford’s apartment in Flour Bluff had yielded weapons—pistols and rifles and knives. There were duct tape and a saggy cardboard box of pornographic VHS

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