That night we ordered General Tso's Gluten for dinner and I noticed that Dad was using a fork, even though he was perfect with chopsticks. "Wait a minute!" I said, and stood up. I pointed at his fork. "Is that fork a clue?" He shrugged his shoulders, which to me meant it was a major clue. I thought: Fork, fork. I ran to my laboratory and got my metal detector out of its box in the closet. Because I'm not allowed to be in the park alone at night, Grandma went with me. I started at the Eighty-sixth Street entrance and walked in extremely precise lines, like I was one of the Mexican guys who mow the lawn, so I wouldn't miss anything. I knew the insects were loud because it was summer, but I didn't hear them because my earphones covered my ears. It was just me and the metal underground.
Every time the beeps would get close together, I'd tell Grandma to shine the flashlight on the spot. Then I'd put on my white gloves, take the hand shovel from my kit, and dig extremely gently. When I saw something, I used a paintbrush to get rid of the dirt, just like a real archeologist. Even though I only searched a small area of the park that night, I dug up a quarter, and a handful of paper clips, and what I thought was the chain from a lamp that you pull to make the light go on, and a refrigerator magnet for sushi, which I know about, but wish I didn't. I put all of the evidence in a bag and marked on a map where I found it.
When I got home, I examined the evidence in my laboratory under my microscope, one piece at a time: a bent spoon, some screws, a pair of rusty scissors, a toy car, a pen, a key ring, broken glasses for someone with incredibly bad eyes . . .
I brought them to Dad, who was reading the New York Times at the kitchen table, marking the mistakes with his red pen. "Here's what I've found," I said, pushing my pussy off the table with the tray of evidence. Dad looked at it and nodded. I asked, "So?" He shrugged his shoulders like he had no idea what I was talking about, and he went back to the paper. "Can't you even tell me if I'm on the right track?" Buckminster purred, and Dad shrugged his shoulders again. "But if you don't tell me anything, how can I ever be right?" He circled something in an article and said, "Another way of looking at it would be, how could you ever be wrong?"
He got up to get a drink of water, and I examined what he'd circled on the page, because that's how tricky he could be. It was in an article about the girl who had disappeared, and how everyone thought the congressman who was humping her had killed her. A few months later they found her body in Rock Creek Park, which is in Washington, D.C., but by then everything was different, and no one cared anymore, except for her parents.
statement, read to the hundreds of gathered press from a makeshift media center off the back of the family home, Levy's father adamantly restated his confidence that his daughter would be found. "We will not stop looking until we are given a definitive reason to stop looking, namely, Chandra's return." During the brief question and answer period that followed, a reporter from El Pais asked Mr. Levy if by "return" he meant "safe return." Overcome with emotion, Mr. Levy was unable to speak, and his lawyer took the microphone. "We continue to hope and pray for Chandra's safety, and will do everything within......
It wasn't a mistake! It was a message
I went back to the park every night for the next three nights. I dug up a hair clip, and a roll of pennies, and a thumbtack, and a coat hanger, and a 9V battery, and a Swiss Army knife, and a tiny picture frame, and a tag for a dog named Turbo, and a square of aluminum foil, and a ring, and a razor, and an extremely old pocket watch that was stopped at 5:37, although I didn't know if it was a.m. or p.m. But I still couldn't figure out what it all meant. The more I found, the less I understood.
From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, pages 1-15. Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Safran Foer. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
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