Now Reading: Lost Things

Wren Long, January, 2024

On the east coast of America there was a town called Little Feild. It was below the Mason-Dixon line, and therefore not claimed by its northeastern neighbors, but the true southerners of the country wouldn't take it either. It sat in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in the forgotten part of its state. If a traveler did happen upon it– though that rarely happened– they would be struck by the image of one great white mansion on a hill, and the rest of the town down below on flatter terrain. That same visitor might enter the town's one-and-only grocery store, and find a framed page of a Rand McNally 1974 Road Atlas. The town's old timers would proudly explain that ‘74 was the only year Little Field had ever been on a map. Few people ever left Little Feild, and even fewer ever arrived there, but one traveler, a girl named Darcie Jones, was the talk of the town when she appeared on mainstreet one day. Ten years later and she hasn't left yet, though they joke it'll be any day until she realizes she's lost.

It was difficult for Darcie not to stand out, she had bright ginger hair, and her voice, absent of any Appalachian accent, always caught the rare stranger by surprise. Then there was the issue of her daughter. She was a firecracker, just like Darcie, with a hot temper and a big bright smile. They had the same red hair and the same brown eyes. Her name was Dove. When the pair arrived in town, Darcie was fourteen, and little Dove had just been a bundle in her arms. They both grew like weeds, until, wouldn't you know it, little Dove's off to fifth grade already. This posed a problem for Darcie. The town had a small primary school but for fifth grade, the nearest option was an hour's drive away. With no car of her own, Darcie turned to the only option she knew: carpool.

There was only one other kid who would be attending the same middle school as Dove. That was how Darcie Jones found herself climbing the hill to the big white mansion in the late days of August. It wasn't quite a mansion per se, but among the boxy two-bedrooms over which the house towered, it was practically Buckingham Palace. Darcie carried a plastic box of M&M cookies under her arm, a gift and a peace offering for the residents of the mansion: the Yorklinds. The relationship between Little Feild and the Yorklinds was– put kindly– contentious.

The Yorklind family had founded the town. It began as a small logging camp, and soon a bonafide lumber mill, but then when unionized labor demanded a safer working environment, they sent the mill overseas, putting fifteen hundred people out of work. Since then the mill has sat abandoned. The Yorklinds, still the owners of Little Field Lumber Incorporated, stayed in the town because, well, a thousand acres of land is only ever free as inheritance.

Darcie had expected to catch her breath on the porch before knocking, but as she leaned breathlessly against the trendy iron banister, the camera on the doorbell chirped loudly, and a woman's voice came on over the intercom.

“Just leave it there,” the voice said, “no need to knock.” Darcie jumped, looking around wildly for the source of the voice before noticing the camera.

“What?” She asked, squinting at the glowing LED which pulsated as the woman spoke.

“The package,” she said impatiently, “you can leave it out there.” Darcie held up the tupperware and shook it gently.

“These are cookies, ma'am,” she explained, “I was hoping to talk to Marianne Yorklind.” There was an audible sigh on the other line, and a seconds-long pause.

“Speaking,” she said, “what do you want?”

“My name is Darcie Jones, I live in town. My kid, Dove, she's going into fifth grade at the school in Tappenville, I don't have a car. I was wondering if you'd maybe be interested in carpooling?” Another long pause from the speaker.

“Stay there, I'll come down.” After a long five minutes, the door opened to reveal Marianne Yorklind, she was skinny as a twig and very blonde. Her lips had the puffy duck-like appearance of too much filler. But most of all, Darcie was stricken by how young she was. Douglas Yorklind, the Lumber Baron himself, was well known to be a sixty-something recluse, with a body shaped like an egg and half-losing his mind. Any preconceived notions about what his wife must have looked like vanished once Darcie saw the stunning twenty-something in front of her. It would seem Marianne was having a similar realization, the two of them simply stared at each other for a moment, trying to do the math. They spoke their astonishment in unison.

“You have a kid?!” There wasn't much else to do but laugh. They recognized each other in a strange, slightly melancholy way. The tension melted away.

“Oh my gosh hi!” Marianne squealed once their laughter had died down, “that's crazy, right?”

“I'll say!” Darcie sighed, “How old is yours?”

“Technically my stepdaughter,” Marianne explained quickly, “but I love her to bits. She's ten.”

“So's mine!” At that, Marianne's face fell.

“And she's–” she paused mouth open slightly, eyes darting back and forth, “yours?”

“Yeah.” Darcie shrugged. She knew this conversation like a dance. She braced herself for the litany of pity or the backhanded remarks, but none came, instead Marianne let out a low impressed whistle.

“Dang girl,” she said, “do you want to come in?”

“Please!” Darcie and Marianne sat together on a massive white plush sofa in a living room with high vaulted ceilings. Their voices echoed as they spoke. A kind-looking woman in business casual dress brought them a tray with two mugs of boiling water and a wide array of tea bags to choose from.

“So,” Marianne said, as she dunked her chosen tea into the mug, “carpool?”

“It's pretty much what I said,” Darcie explained, “Dove needs a ride to school. I don't have a car, but I could watch them in the evenings, or run errands in town for you in exchange.”

“There's no need for that,” Marianne spoke as she took a bite of an M&M cookie, “we have a driver who takes Kaelynn to Tappenville, it's no trouble for him to pick up Dove on their way.”

“Really?!” Darcie squeaked, “are you sure?”

“Oh yeah,” Marianne waved her hand dismissively, “One condition though?”


“Would you and your daughter join us for dinner on Fridays?” She laughed at herself, maybe a little embarrassed, “Kaelynn doesn't have any friends in town, and I–” She looked up at Darcie, and then shrugged, “well it's nice to meet someone like me in this place, y'know?”

“Deal!” Darcie offered her hand to shake, “Thank you so much!”

Darcie left the Yorklind house with a little swagger in her step, and descent back into town passed quickly, and soon she found herself standing in front of the Mechanics Shop on the edge of town. Once upon a time, there were other businesses on the strip of road where the shop sat, but one by one their business dried up, leaving only Marco and his shop on the south side of town. Dove was inside, prized stuffed animal on her lap, watching cartoons on the office computer, she saw Darcie and sprang up to greet her. “Darcie!” Dove smiled, grabbing her by the hand, “look! Come watch this with me.”

“In a second, Lovey-Dove, where's Marco?”

“Polo!” He responded as he entered the office, wiping his hands on a rag. Darcie groaned.

“The same damn joke for ten years!” she teased, “ever get tired of it?”

“Not even once,” Marco laughed, “how'd it go?”

“Great!” Darcie smiled, turning to look at Dove “we got you a ride, missy!” At this, Dove jumped up and down with joy. Marco made some remark under his breath about wishing he'd been more enthusiastic in his school days. Darcie sat with Dove in her lap in the office chair, half-paying attention to the cartoons which Dove was captivated by. Meanwhile, Marco began to close up the shop. On Dove's bouncing knees, rested a stuffed thing called Lumbie. Originally a teddy bear named Douglas Lumber, it had been Dove's since their first day in Little Field. He was promptly renamed Lumbie by a two-year old Dove, and a decade of cuddles had worn his plush exterior away, until he became a threadbare, floppy little thing. Dove adored him, and though she was ten years old now, and– Darcie worried– a bit too old for stuffed animals, she still carried Lumbie with her when she wasn't at school.

“Alright,” Marco clapped his hands together definitively, “you know I love y'all, but if you stay here you'll be locked in ‘til tomorrow.” Dove took this as a serious threat, and promptly dashed for the exit door. Darcie lingered a little longer.

“Thanks for keeping an eye on her today, I hope it wasn't too much trouble.”

“She was great!” Marco assured her, “I taught her how to put air in some tires; wouldn't stop talking about how she was just like you.”


“Yeah,” Marco said with a proud smile, “hey speaking of, do you think you could work Saturday? My sister's coming to town for the weekend.”

“Ah, Little Feild's one-and-only escapee graces us with her presence?”

“Oh shush you like her!”

“You're right, I do,” Darcie laughed, “and Saturday should be fine.” Darcie said goodbye to Marco, and jogged to catch up with Dove, who was pacing boredly outside the shop.

“Ugh!” she groaned at the sight of Darcie, “you and Mister Marco talk too much.” All the young woman could do was laugh at Dove's indignant posture. She had so much attitude for such a little girl.

The two of them rented a room in a larger house near mainstreet. Their landlord, an elderly woman named Joanna Lee, seemed to prefer their company over their money; she didn't charge them nearly enough for rent. The week passed by slowly, Dove quickly came to love Tappenville Middle School. She and Kaelynn were practically attached at the hip by the end of their second day. By the time Friday rolled around, their dinner plans had transformed into a whole sleepover, with Marianne excitedly offering to host. She asked Darice what her favorite food was, and said she would have the Yorklinds' personal chef whip up something special. Needless to say, both of the Jones girls were glad to see Friday finally arrive. Darcie packed her daughter's overnight bag, careful to include her toothbrush, pajamas, an extra blanket, and of course, Lumbie.

At the house on the top of the hill, Marianne greeted them excitedly. Like her mother, Kaelynn squealed at the sight of Dove and wrapped her in a tight hug. They disappeared into the basement before Darcie could even process what was happening. Marianne just laughed at their enthusiasm.

“What energy!” She smiled, “They'd be millionaires if they could bottle it up and sell it.” She paused, noticing Darcie's inquisitive look, and then realizing her mistake. Kaelynn was already in line to become a millionaire; Dove not so much. Marianne cleared her throat awkwardly, brushing platinum blonde hair out of her eyes. “Well, anyway,” she said stiffly, “do you like games?”

“Sure,” Darcie answered with enthusiasm, glad for any way to change the subject. The two young women drank wine and played a game of Scrabble. Darcie had a strange knack for words with lots of vowels, but Marianne had a better grasp on how to maximize her score. Neither of them were ever in the lead by more than a few points.

“So,” Marianne spoke as she pushed tiled onto the board, “were you born in Little Feild?”

“Not even a little bit,” Darcie laughed, “the locals say I stick out like a sore thumb. It's been ten years and a lot of them still treat me like an outsider.”

“What a shame!”

“Nah it's not too bad. We've found our people. I work for my friend Marco, at the mechanic shop in town. Marco and I have been best friends since I got here,” Darcie paused, a loud burst of giggles sounded from the basement stairwell. She smiled, “I'm so glad they get along. Dove's never really had a friend her own age before.”

“Neither has Kaelynn.”

“So, how'd you get involved with the Yorklind family?”

“My Dad's the COO of the lumber company,” Marianne explained between sips of wine, “I think Douglas had his eyes on me since I was fifteen.” Darcie froze at the mention of this, but Marianne just kept talking nonchalantly, “He divorced Kaelynn's mom when I turned eighteen, and by nineteen I was married.”

“Oh,” Darcie tried and failed to stifle a gasp, “wow”

“Yeah, I know,” Marianne waved her hand dismissively, “but look where it got me.”

“Not a bad place to be.”

“Not at all.”

Then Mr. Yorklind arrived home for dinner, the chatting and the games were quickly put away. Darcie watched as Marianne seemed to slip into the act of the brainless doting blonde, giggling at everything her husband said, clueless and demure. Douglas Yorklind lived up to the legends. His eyes were pale blue and gaunt. His gaze sent shivers down Darcie's spine. They greeted each other, briefly.

“My, my” he said, looking her up and down, “well aren't you pretty.”

Darcie forced the corner of her lips up into a smile. There was something haunting about the man before her. He was small, and so skinny. Darcie was sure a good kick to the shins would be enough to warrant a hospital visit, but on paper, economically, he had the power to make Darcie disappear.

“Thank you,” she choked out the words like poison, “will you be joining us for dinner?”

The moment the words left her lips, she could feel the air being sucked out of the room. Mariannes lips pursed in a microscopic moment of panic. Mr. Yorklind's gaze turned to his wife, eyes wide and demanding.

“Dinner?” He demanded, “you didn't mention dinner.”

“You're right,” Marianne responded instantly, “I'm sorry I–”

Mr. Yorklind was still smiling, his voice was still the professional casual one he had entered with, but his eyes were bulging out of his face, he seemed to stop blinking entirely, “Tell your guest to leave, I am too tired to host tonight.”

“I'll go,” Darcie said, working hard to shoot apologetic glances in Marianne's direction, “just let me go get my kid and I'll be out of your hair.”

“Please do,” Was Mr. Yorklinds strained response.

Darcie rushed down the stairwell into the basement, which was well stocked with all the games and snacks two ten year olds could have ever wanted. Dove and Kaelynn were sitting on the couch together, each with a game controller in their hands, playing some kind of puzzle video game. They didn't notice her. For a moment, Darcie hesitated, the two girls were absolutely entranced by the game, they spoke back and forth, directing each other, giving suggestions, and they looked to be doing a damn good job with the level they were on. She almost considered turning on her heel and asking Mr. Yorklind to reconsider, but then she heard the arguing.

“What makes you think you can invite just anybody into my house without my permission!?” Mr. Yorklinds voice hissed as he whispered to his wife, “These people are greedy layabouts, I won't have you spending my money on your charity!” That confirmed it for her, it was time to get out of there.

“Hey Lovey-Dove,” she sighed, Dove and Kaelynn startled at the sound of her voice, “we gotta get going now, sweetheart.”

Dove pouted, “what?! No fair, this is supposed to be a sleepover!”

“I know hun,” Darcie spoke as she tried to quickly gather up Dove's possessions, “but Mr. Yorklind asked us to leave, so we're leaving.”

“Can we at least finish this level?”

“You have no respect for everything I do for you! None at all!” His voice was getting louder now.

“Another time, baby. C'mon let's go.”


“Lucille Dove Jones, we're leaving!” Darcie snapped, shocking Dove into silence, “Let's go.” Darcie took Dove by the hand and marched her up the stairs. At the sound of footsteps ascending into the living room, the arguing stopped all at once. Mr. Yorklind stood straight as a post with his same uncanny smile.

“Well then miss,” Mr. Yorklin said, “I trust you can see yourself out.”

Once they made it outside, and through the gate of the Yorklind property, Darcie's shoulders finally relaxed. Dove looked up at her with wide glassy eyes, her footsteps were heavy and her lower lip began to pout.

“You're so mean!” Her face screwed up and she began to cry, “you said we could have a sleepover!”

“I know I did, baby, I'm sorry!” Darcie winced, “but when people ask you to leave their houses, you gotta leave.”

“But you promised!”

“I know,” Darcie crouched down to be on Dove's eyeline, shuffling to find her footing on the slope of the terrain, “I know I promised, I know. I'm really sorry you couldn't have your sleepover.”

“Do you think Kaelynn hates me?”

“What? Darcie couldn't hide her confusion, “why would Kaelynn hate you?”

“Cause I messed up her game,” Dove was sobbing now, breathing in short gasps, “and now she's gonna lose and now she's gonna hate me.”

“Oh,” Darcie pulled her kid into a tight hug taking deep breaths so Dove could copy it, “let's take a breath, ok Dovey?”

“Ok,” Dove's voice was so shaky it was barely understandable. Darcie counted up and down rhythmically, and Dove followed along. Soon, she was breathing normally again.

“ We feeling a bit better?”

“Yeah,” Dove sniffed.

“Good,” Darcie smiled, rubbing her thumb gently across Dove's cheek, “this has been a rough day, huh?”

“Uh huh.” Darcie checked her watch, it was only 7:30.

“Hey,” she put on a smile, trying to brighten up the night, “why don't we go home and I'll make you some tea?” This put a smile on Dove's face. As a treat to herself, Darcie always had a box of some kind of fancy black tea. It was off limits to Dove, because of the caffeine. But, tucked away in Darcie's nightstand was a box of cheap Twinings Chamomile, for nights like this when Dove needed a treat: for when she needed to feel special.

The two of them sat in the kitchen they shared with Mrs. Joanna, who was out at a dinner party with some old friend Darcie didn't know. They sipped their tea quietly, and Darcie watched as Dove sat up straight, and began to look at her reflection in the dark kitchen windows. This was what she did when she felt grown up, look at her reflection and smile, just a little bit.

“Big day,” Dove parroted something she'd heard Marco say a million times, “I'm sure when my head hits that pillow I'll be out in two seconds flat.” “Is that right?” Darcie grinned, charmed by Dove's antics, “does that mean it's bedtime?” It was a quarter ‘till nine, Dove had about five minutes before she absolutely knocked out for the night.

“No” she protested, through a long, deep yawn, “I'm not tired!”

“Ok,” Darcie played along, “Well, I'm going to get ready for bed.”

“Can I come with you?”

“Of course you can Lovey-Dove.”

The next morning, Darcie could tell something was off. Dove was quiet and a little shaky. At breakfast, she barely touched her toaster waffles.

“What's up, Love Bug?” Darcie asked as she fished her own breakfast out of the toaster.

“You won't be mad?” Alarmed, Darcie put her plate down and turned to face her kid.

“Of course not.” Darcie promised. Dove was a good kid, she was afraid of breaking rules and she rarely ever got into any real trouble. Despite this, Darcie could never help but get nervous when she was asked not to get angry.

“I left Lumbie at Kaelynn's house.”

“Oh!” Darcie immediately let go of the tension she was holding, “well that's no big deal Lovebug, why don't I call up Mrs. Marianne after work, and figure out a way to get him back.”

“Can you call her right now?” Dove asked, as she speared some waffle bits on her fork.

Darcie agreed, and went to the other room, where the landline hung from the wall. It only took one ring before Marianne was on the other line.

“Hey! How are you?” Marianne sounded tired, and a little on edge, “I'm so sorry about last night, don't worry Dove still has a ride to school, I just–”

“It's alright!” Darcie soothed, “Families are difficult,”

“You're telling me!”

“As long as you're ok.”

“I am,” Marianne sucked in her breath, “but hey, there was something I should tell you about. There was this stuffed toy that Douglas found in the basement, apparently I was some licensed teddy bear that his dad sold in town a while back.”

“Douglas Lumber?” Darcie's breath caught in her throat.

“That's the one.” Marianne was audibly grimacing, “well, he found it on the floor and apparently took it as a personal attack and– well long story short he threw it away.”

“He WHAT?!” Darcie shouted, and then immediately regretted it. Dove peered through the kitchen doorway with a nervous expression.

Marianne's voice was getting ever higher, “so that was Dove's then?” she asked, “I am so sorry! I can send you cash to get a replacement, or I can have Kaelynn pick one out as a present. It really didn't occur to me that it might have been Doves until after the trash collectors came. I swear Darcie, I thought it was just some old thing the girls found while they were playing.”

“I know it's not your fault,” Darcie was acutely aware of Dove's eavesdropping in the next room. She put great effort into keeping her tone airy and disaffected, “Douglas seems like a difficult man to deal with.”

“Oh you know how it is.” Darcie couldn't help but wonder if Marianne's husband was in the room with her.

“Well anyway,” Darcie cleared her throat awkwardly, “I have to get ready for work, can I call you back this evening?”

The two said their goodbyes, and Darcie hung up the phone. When she went back into the kitchen, Dove's wide eyes were practically boring through her skull. “What happened?” She demanded, “where's Lumbie?”

One skill that Darcie had, though she never quite liked that she had it, was lying. She could spin a lie like silk. Her mother used to say that Darcie could convince a fish it knew how to fly. In stressful situations, it became an impulse. The falsehoods fell from her lips before Darcie had put anythough into concocting them. “You know you and Kaelynn's driver, Mr. Harold?”

“Uh huh,” Dove nodded.

“He found Lumbie in the basement, and asked if he could have it. Mrs. Marianne didn't realize it was yours, and said he could.”

“What?!” Dove gasped, “No he can't Lumbie's mine!”

“That's what I said,” Darcie exclaimed, “So I'm going to go to Tappenville after work today, and ask Mr. Harold to give him back, ok?”

“Really?” Dove sniffled.

“Of course Lovey-Dove.”

As soon as the conversation ended, a great chasm opened in Darcie's gut. The thought of telling Dove what had really happened made her hands shake. Lumbie was Dove's comfort, she slept with him in her arms every night since she was old enough to hold him. Sure, she didn't take him everywhere like she used to, but the thought of him being gone entirely was simply unfathomable. Dove spent Saturdays with Joanna, who had graciously offered to watch her while Darcie worked. They were called Saturdays with Granny.

Darcie was always very grateful to have met a sweet woman like Joanna. She was the only grandmother Dove had ever known, and the long Saturday shifts were a huge chunk of Darcie's income. Today though, she was a godsend. Having overheard the conversation, she immediately pulled out her old sewing kit, knowing that Dove wanted to be a fashion designer when she grew up, and offered to teach her how to finish a seam. It was clear through her hesitation that Dove hadn't entirely forgotten about Lumbie, but the distraction was a welcome one. Darcie mimed her thank-yous behind Doves back, before hurrying out the door.

Work at the shop was uneventful. Darcie sat behind the service counter waiting for any walk-in oil changes or even a car wash, but nobody came around. That was until Marco showed up with his sister in tow. His sister, Gabrielle, looked uncannily different then how Darcie remembered from when they were kids. She had highlights in her hair and her teenage acne had cleared up. But, it was still her, Darcie saw it in her big smile, and the tight hug she gave upon seeing Darcie.

“What's up Darcie?” Marco asked as he stuck his head into the office fridge, retrieving a silver can of Diet Coke, "you look tense.”

“Can I borrow your truck?” Darcie blurted out straight to the point. Marco's posture stiffened at this request.

“Look, Darce, you know I would, but Gabby and I were gonna take an overnight trip to the city and–”

“I wouldn't ask, but Lumbie got thrown away and I didn't know how to tell Dove, so I said I'd go into town to look for him.”

Gabby and Marco both knew Lumbie by name, of course they did. Back when Darcie first arrived in town, the three had become fast friends. Of course, wherever they went, Dove was always in her mom's arms, and wherever Dove was, Lumbie was.

“What?!” was Gabby's immediate response, “how'd he get thrown away?”

“What I want to know,” Marco interrupted his sister, “Is how you think you're gonna find him.”

“The county landfill is only a few miles past Tappanville,” Darcie explained, “I thought–”

“You realize that place is nearly a mile big right?”

“Yeah, but–”

“And you'd be trespassing,”


“And you can't–”

“Marco!” Gabby interrupted their back-and-forth, “let the poor girl get a word in, jeez!”

“Look,” Darcie spoke, nodding thankfully at Gabby, “Lumbie means the world to Dove. I can't just give up on him, ok? I need to at least try to get him back, and the longer I wait, the less of a chance I have.”

“You know what I think you should do?” Gabby needled at her brother.

“Let her borrow the truck?”

“Let her borrow the damn truck! I'm here for a few days, we can go to the city tomorrow.”

Marco looked at his sister, then at Darcie. He sighed. “Fine, just be careful.”

“I will,” Darcie grabbed the keys off of the hook.

“And don't get pulled over.”

“Wasn't planning on it.”

“And if you don't find him you gotta tell Dove the truth.”

This stopped Darcie in her tracks, “But, what if–”

“That's the deal,” Marco said, “If you can't find him you have to tell Dove what happened. She's getting too old to fall for that story for very long.”

“What do you care?” Darcie demanded, temper flaring, “she's my daughter.”

“I know,” Marco's voice softened, “I know that, but she's a smart kid Darce. She'll see through it eventually. I dunno, if it were me I'd want to be able to say that I'd been truthful with my kid. Wouldn't you?”

“Fine!” Darcie conceded, though she didn't really commit to it. She could tell Dove whatever she liked, Marco didn't know what he was talking about.

“Good,” Marco crossed his arms, “be safe!”

“I will!”

Darcie marched out of the shop, and hit the road. She knew how to drive, in fact she was a damn good driver. Learning with a toddler in the backseat is a good motivator. The problem was, she never got her license. Darcie was, as a rule, wary of government buildings, even after ten years, they sometimes had her missing posters still hanging from an unkempt corkboard in the corner. So, Darcie drove like a saint, despite every instinct in her body demanding that she put some pedal to the metal and tear down the wide open country road. She white-knuckled the wheel as she drove carefully through Tappanville, careful not to make eye contact with any of the other drivers. After two hours, the great mountains of trash which made up the landfill made their appearance on the horizon. She followed the example of the garbage trucks in front of her, and pulled into the workers-only parking lot with a disturbing amount of ease. Darcie turned her car off and waited for the lot to empty. Sure enough, she found her opening.

As soon as she was in the landfill, Darcie realized what a herculean task sat before her. She had wrongly assumed that there would be some sort of small pile that had been dropped off earlier that day. No, there was just a massive expanse of trash, and no way to discern where to start. She spent an hour surveying the surface, running to retrieve any stuffed animals she saw, only to toss them aside again. None of them were Lumbie, none of them were even close. Then, she resorted to just walking around, hoping that some small miracle would simply summon Lumbie into her field of vision. After three hours, she gave up. Darcie found an old box TV, and sat down, hanging her head low. The sun set, and she was alone, in the dump, in the dark.

“Hey!” A loud voice startled her. Darcie looked up to see a blinding white light in her eyes. She put up her hands for shade. “Hey! You can't be here, this is trespassing!”

As the light got closer, Darcie could see that it was the flash light of a sanitation worker. He wore a white hard hat and a fluorescent orange vest.

“Ma'am, you need to leave, or I'm calling the police.”

Darcie stood up, but lost her footing on something slimy as she stepped, and toppled over. The worker, still rightly annoyed, lowered his flashlight from her face and offered her a hand.

“You alright?”

“Yeah,” Darcie responded breathlessly, “Yeah, sorry I– I'll leave. I know I shouldn't be here. It's– well it's been a weird day.” In the dark, Darcie could see the man's face soften.

“You got a car here?”

“Yeah, in the back.”

“Alright,” He said, adjusting the flashlight so it was a bit dimmer, “I gotta walk you out.”


Darcie hadn't realized quite how far she had wandered from the parking lot. The two of them walked along in silence for ten minutes until the sanitation worker seemed to get bored.

“The name's Adam.”


“Whatcha doing in a dump on a Saturday night?” Adam laughed, “young kid like you, I'd think you'd be partying.”

“My daughter lost her stuffed animal.” This shut down pretty much every part of what Adam had previously said.

“Oh,” was his surprised response.

“I couldn't bear to tell her what happened, so I said he was in town and went to go look for him.”

“Where did you say you were from?” Adam asked.

“Little Field.”

“Never heard of it,” Adam replied, “It's in state?”


“Well there's your problem,” Adam explained as they rounded the corner to the parking lot, “this is all from Delaware. In-state stuff goes to the incinerator in the city.”

“What?!” Darcie gasped.

“Yeah, some bullshit about how it's cheaper to ship the stuff west than it is to open a new facility,” he sighed as he approached Marco's truck, “This you?”

“That's me.”

As Darcie climbed into the cab, Adam gave her the standard lecture, explaining how he's letting her go this time but if she came back she'd be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Darcie lathered her arms in hand sanitizer, the whole truck smelled like rubbing alcohol, but it was better than smelling rancid. As she drove, following the signs for Tappanville, the finality of the situation finally sunk in. Lumbie was gone, either burnt to a crisp, or on his way to it. In the silence of the truck, Darcie began to grieve. She remembered so clearly the moment when Douglas Lumber– a generic teddy purchased with Darcie's last few bucks– became Lumbie, as little Dove struggled to pronounce the long name. They still sold the toys in the local grocery store, though they rarely moved stock. Each time Darcie went to shop, she would notice the little bears, and laugh to herself about how different Lumbie looked from them now: how unique Dove's love had made him.

A mix of exhaustion and emotion blurred Darcie's vision. When she saw the blinking street lights of Tappanville, Darcie knew she needed to stop. She pulled into the lot of a Walgreens, the bright red sign looming overhead. Inside she squinted as her eyes adjusted to the fluorescent white of the store. She made a beeline for the candy aisle, hoping to find a pick-me-up. As she turned into the row of shelves, Darcie froze at the sight of an older couple, standing together among the Kit-Kats and Ferrero-Rocher. It was her mom and dad. Still together after all this time. Darcie hadn't seen them since the day she left. The wrinkles on their faces were more pronounced now, and her dad wore sneakers instead of the leather shoes he took so much pride in.

Darcie wanted more than anything to run up to them, just to say hi. To ask how they were doing, and how her siblings were holding up. But she couldn't. She moved quickly into the next aisle, breathing heavily. It had been too long to turn back now. No matter how much Darcie wished she could. Her parents didn't know about Dove. Running away felt easier, or it had at the time anyway. Darcie cut around the long way, leaving the store as inconspicuously as possible. She got into the truck and sped away, not daring to stop until she was back in Little Feild.

When she finally returned to the shop, she found Marco waiting for her on the front steps. Despite his naysaying, he looked at Darcie hopefully. “Well?”

Darcie shook her head solemnly, “he probably went to the incinerator.”

“Oh,” Marco blinked, “Shit.”

“What?” Darcie forced a laugh, trying and failing to make light of her horrible day, “no I-told-you-so?”

Marco wrapped Darcie in a tight hug, “you get a twenty-four hour amnesty period.”

“I can live with that.”

When Darcie finally made it home, she was careful to remove her boots on the porch before stepping inside. It was well past ten o'clock, so the sight of Dove, upright and alert at the dining table came as a surprise.

“Darcie!” Dove leapt out of her chair and raced for her mom, “Where's Lumbie? Do you have him?”

“Hey Lovey-Dove,” she sighed, brushing her thumb against her daughter's cheek, “let's go sit down ok?”

Dove's lower lip immediately began to shake, “What?! What does that mean? Did Mr. Harold give him back?”

Leading by example, Darcie sat down. Dove hesitantly followed suit.

“Lumbie's gone, Dove,” Darcie winced as Dove's reaction was immediate. Her eyes welled up with her tears. Her voice became high and strained.

“WHAT?!” She yelled, beginning to cry, “where is he, didn't you look for him?”

“He got thrown away,” Darcie choked out the words, “Mr. Yorklind made a mistake, and put him in the trash.”

“We have to go to the dump!” Dove stood up, her breathing becoming shallow and shuddering, “I need him.”

“Honey I already went,” Darcie frowned, “he's not there.”

“You're really really sure? You looked everywhere?”

“I'm really really really sure.”

Dove sat quietly for a moment, before jumping out of her chair and climbing into Darcie's lap. She cried into her mom's chest. Darcie, at a loss for what to do, simpy rubbed her back and held her close as she cried.

“This isn't fair!” Dove gasped between sobs, “He needs to come back.”

“I wish he would,” Darcie admitted, “I miss him.”

“If you missed him, you would have looked harder for him!”

Darcie took a breath, shelving her frustration for another time, “I'm sorry Dove.”

It took a few days, but Dove managed to get out of the house again. She and Kaelynn reconnected, and eventually beat the video game they played together. Once in a while, Dove would get sad, sighing and listless. When that happened, Darcie would make the two of them tea.

“Do you think Lumbie's exploring the world?” Dove asked, kicking her feet.

As an apology present, Kaelynn had bought her a copy of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a story about a porcelain doll who went on many adventures after being separated from his owner. Darcie hadn't told Dove the part about the incinerator, it seemed too cruel.

“Y'know,” Darcie smiled softly, “I'll bet he is.”

“Do you think maybe I'll find him again?” Dove asked, a reference to the end of the book.

“Maybe you will,” Darcie wasn't lying as she spoke, “anything's possible.”

“Even if I don't though, I'm glad I got to have him for a little bit.” Darcie put her mug down and smiled at the young girl, surprised by her maturity. “He was really awesome.”

“Yeah, he was.”

The Joneses didn't know it, but somewhere in the city sat Lumbie, having fallen out of the garbage truck on the way to the incinerator, some kind hearted soul had put him up high, in case his owner ever came looking.