He had a clear view of her from his car, parked along the side of the street bordering the playground where her two children were playing. There were many cars parked along the street; the playground was busy that pleasant afternoon. A man sitting in his car drew no attention. Had he picked up the binoculars laying on the seat beside him he might have – drawn attention, that is. He was darker than most of them, and that in and of itself tended to raise suspicions in a small town. He kept the binoculars where they were. He didn’t need them to see her. He didn’t need to draw attention to himself. Not yet.
He'd found her two months ago. Followed her; studied her routines until he found the opportunity to enter her home while she was away. Not legal, but not strictly illegal if he got away with it. He disabled the home’s security system; avoided the video doorbell by going around to the back. He examined the pictures on her wall, studied mementos on her shelves, looked through her drawers and found no obvious indications of self-awareness. Then took what he’d come for – hair follicles from her hairbrush. He collected them into a sample bag and placed the bag into a pocket of the workman’s clothes he’d worn. Then he left the house, reenabled all the security devices and was gone, unnoticed. The hair follicles went straight to the lab.
Six weeks later now, the DNA results were in an envelope next to the binoculars. The results confirmed the circumstantial evidence he’d already accumulated. He’d spent much of that time observing her from a distance. He’d had no doubt – even now he was struck by how much she looked like her mother at that age. Her real mother. Not the mother who raised her, who now sat on the bench next to her. The two women smiled as they chatted, watching the children playing.
He heard and recognized the raspy muffler of the man’s pickup as it turned the corner and parked along the street opposite him. He ambled towards them in his blue jeans and tennis shoes and untucked button-down shirt and as he was greeted with happy shouts of ‘grandpa, grandpa’ he knelt down and scooped both children up in his arms. They all came together, and he thought, as he had so often as he’d observed her, that her life was perfect. Married to a local banker, living in a quiet town, surrounded by loving family and friends. And thanks to him that perfection was about to explode.
The man, who she thought was her dad, was actually her real mother’s ex-lover. Her real mom had dumped him and married a bible college student, and when a child was soon born the ex-lover was convinced it was his. It wasn’t, but as he believed it was, he took her. He feared his child was in danger of being raised by a deviant cult (Baptists) and taking her was his means of protecting her. He took her just before she turned eighteen months old, after studying ways of disappearing. He took her and vanished into the American interior under an assumed name, with perfectly forged identity papers. He took her and a year later married the woman who would raise her, believing the man’s tale that her mother had died and promising to never tell her she wasn’t her real mother. He took her and created for her a perfect life in a perfect town. He took her and left behind devastation. Her real mom and dad were frantic. The police had no clue. Somebody got the FBI involved; still no clue. Mom and Dad searched through their cult network (Baptists). Nothing. They hired private investigators and lawyers and ex-police and internet search experts and so on and so forth, for years and years and years. They spent most of their money trying to find her; bounced from church to church, always an associate pastor, a dark presence everywhere they went, preaching God’s word without joy, all happiness sucked down the hole in their hearts.
After nearly three decades, they cycled around to him. He was an indigenous American, a member of the Osage Nation, which had been forced to move from the lush Missouri River valley to the desert called Oklahoma. Professionally, he was a veteran of Army Intel, had studied and achieved a juris doctorate, worked for Homeland Security before entering private practice, specializing in finding people. He was expensive. Mom and Dad had mortgaged their home. He had no idea how he had succeeded after everybody else failed; maybe he’d just played the right hunches. But he was good at that and that’s why he made the big bucks.
Mom and Dad were going to absolutely ruin this woman’s life. He knew that. In the envelope next to him were the DNA results, a letter from Mom and Dad announcing their desire to see her and enter her life, photographs of her as a baby and in her mother’s arms. They were already on their way.
Perfect illusion, he thought. Why did it have to end? Was this accomplishing anything? Was anybody – even Mom and Dad – going to feel better afterwards? After the ex-lover was prosecuted? Would the woman even accept them as her real parents? He doubted it, and that troubled him.
And then he thought, well shoot, all these people’s lives are an illusion. Everything had been appropriated, extorted, exploited, then misrepresented and swallowed whole, and as the DNA had begun emerging people were angry. Pissed off not that they had been deceived but that the deception had been pointed out to them. They preferred the illusion to the reality. The sound of bubbles bursting was deafening.
So he said to himself, “Why should she be any different,” picked up the envelope, and got out of the car.
Small Literature is also sometimes called micro-stories or short-short-stories. Nothing seems to appeal to my writing instincts as well as this format, and I've written everything from journalism to full novels. I set a goal of 1,000 words, in the space of which I will create character, setting, plot, and resolution; don't always make it, sometimes it takes a few hundred more words, but most of the time I get there.