"Hush up!" Lucille barked, so loudly she seemed to surprise herself. "I won't sit here and listen to you talk that way."
"Talk what way?"
"It wouldn't be our boy," she said, her words slowing as the seriousness of things came drifting back to her, like the memory of a lost son, perhaps. "Jacob's gone on to God," she said. Her hands had become thin, white fists in her lap.
A silence came.
Then it passed.
"Where is it?" Harold asked.
"In the Bible, where is it?"
"Where does it say 'the dead will walk the earth'?"
"Revelations!" Lucille opened her arms as she said the word, as if the question could not be any more addle-brained, as if she'd been asked about the flight patterns of pine trees. "It's right there in Revelations! 'The dead shall walk the earth'!" She was glad to see that her hands were still fists. She waved them at no one, the way people in movies sometimes did.
Harold laughed. "What part of Revelations? What chapter? What verse?"
"You hush up," she said. "That it's in there is all that matters. Now hush!"
"Yes, ma'am," Harold said. "Wouldn't want to be flippant."
But when the devil actually showed up at the front doortheir own particular devilsmall and wondrous as he had been all those years ago, his brown eyes slick with tears, joy and the sudden relief of a child who has been too long away from his parents, too long of a time spent in the company of strangers well Lucille, after she recovered from her fainting episode, melted like candle wax right there in front of the clean-cut, well-suited man from the Bureau. For his part, the Bureau man took it well enough. He smiled a practiced smile, no doubt having witnessed this exact scene more than a few times in recent weeks.
"There are support groups," the Bureau man said. "Support groups for the Returned. And support groups for the families of the Returned." He smiled.
"He was found," the man continuedhe'd given them his name but both Harold and Lucille were already terrible at remembering people's names and having been reunited with their dead son didn't do much to help now, so they thought of him simply as the Man from the Bureau "in a small fishing village outside Beijing, China. He was kneeling at the edge of a river, trying to catch fish or some such from what I've been told. The local people, none of whom spoke English well enough for him to understand, asked him his name in Mandarin, how he'd gotten there, where he was from, all those questions you ask when coming upon a lost child.
"When it was clear that language was something of a barrier, a group of women were able to calm him. He'd started cryingand why wouldn't he?" The man smiled again. "After all, he wasn't in Kansas anymore. But they settled him down. Then they found an English-speaking official and, well " He shrugged his shoulders beneath his dark suit, indicating the insignificance of the rest of the story. Then he added, "It's happening like this all over."
He paused again. He watched with a smile that was not disingenuous as Lucille fawned over the son who was suddenly no longer dead. She clutched him to her chest and kissed the crown of his head, then cupped his face in her hands and showered it with kisses and laughter and tears.
Jacob replied in kind, giggling and laughing, but not wiping away his mother's kisses even though he was at that particular point in youth when wiping away a mother's kisses was what seemed most appropriate to him.
"It's a unique time for everyone," the man from the Bureau said.
Excerpted from The Returned by Jason Mott. Copyright © 2013 by Jason Mott. Excerpted by permission of Mira. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Angel of Losses
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