Zero at the Bone

Zero at the Bone by Michael Cadnum

Book: Zero at the Bone by Michael Cadnum Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Cadnum
anything?” my mother asked when I closed the book.
    For a moment I could not speak, almost blaming Anita for whatever had happened.

    I put the diary in the top drawer of my dresser. I would be able to say I had taken good care of it.
    Downstairs, I stirred some tuna into some tomato soup. The soup had some nonfat milk stirred into it first, and when it starts to simmer, the recipe calls for two cans of tuna. I don’t like using the kind packed with spring water; it reminds me of what we sometimes feed Bronto.
    There was a knock at the front door. Dad had a brief conversation in the doorway, and I heard the crackle of money, and that flat silence of cash being counted out. He hustled back into the kitchen with a large package wrapped in brown paper.
    He began peeling open the wrapping before I could warn him. I had fragmentary mental warnings, too hideous to think: kidnappers sometimes sent body parts of their victims. But Dad was eager, confident, whisking away the last of the paper.
    He stopped ripping paper and stared, putting his hands on his hips. “I didn’t know it would be that color,” he said.
    â€œIt looks fine,” said Mother.
    â€œI picked it out,” he corrected himself, “but I didn’t know it would look so awful.”
    â€œIt looks good,” I said.
    â€œDo you really think so?” he asked hopefully.
    When my dad gets into a mood like this, he has to be reassured. There were five flimsy boxes, electric blue sheets of my sister’s graduation picture reproduced in black and white. At the top border was the word: Missing. At the bottom of the sheet was another black word: Reward.
    Smaller lettering gave the Oakland Police Department telephone numbers, and our number, along with a description of Anita and a phrase that hit me: last seen near MacArthur BART station at approx. 8:00 P . M . It added further information, and I wondered which of Anita’s acquaintances at the shelving company had volunteered so much.
    The phrase bothered me. Even the abbreviation for approximately didn’t look right. Anita deserved a more dignified poster, not something thrown together in such haste. Her picture looked more unreal than ever reproduced on this shade of blue. And besides—when she came home she would look at all this and tell us what a waste of paper it was, and how polluting the dye would be, deposited in landfill.
    â€œThe manager at Copymat suggested goldenrod,” Dad said. “That’s a kind of orange yellow,” he added, making a face to show what he thought of orange yellow.
    â€œWhat color is this supposed to be?” I heard myself ask.
    â€œIt’s called Florida blue,” he said. “I just stood there looking at reams of paper. Lime green, circus pink. And all I could think of was that satin dress she wore to the banquet when I got that award.”
    He had been Bay Area Businessperson of the Year, and the mayor had given him a wooden plaque with a brass plate. Dad had given a very funny speech, and we were all proud. It was the first time in my life I had ever worn a tux, rented, all except for the shoes, at Selix. We had all felt happy, and joined in giving Dad a standing ovation. Anita had worn a shiny blue dress, Florida blue, more or less.
    â€œTwo thousand five hundred of them,” he said. “I’ll swing by the office, grab some staplers. Not furniture staplers, the standard office kind. You probably want to hit each one with a stapler in each corner, so we’re looking at ten thousand staples.”
    Mom and I did not say anything, but Dad responded as though we had. “That’s not as many as it sounds. A box of Bostitch standard staples holds five thousand, a little box the size of a chalkboard eraser. Two boxes like that and we’re all set.”
    The pot behind me sputtered. Little specks of tomato and tuna appeared on the stovetop. I spooned the steaming stuff out onto slices of

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