The next Sunday,I slept in until the late-morning sunlight slivered through the blinds and found its way to my face. I pulled the comforter over my head, but the air got hot and stale, so I got up to call my parents.
“Miles!” my mom said before I even said hello. “We just got caller identification.”
“Does it magically know it’s me calling from the pay phone?”
She laughed. “No, it just says *pay phone’ and the area code. So I deduced. How are you?” she asked, a warm concern in her voice.
“I’m doing okay. I kinda screwed up some of my classes for a while, but I’m back to studying now, so it should be fine,” I said, and that was mostly true.
“I know it’s been hard on you, buddy,” she said. “Oh! Guess who your dad and I saw at a party last night? Mrs. Forrester. Your fourth-grade teacher! Remember? She remembered you perfectly, and spoke very highly of you, and we just talked” — and while I was pleased to know that Mrs. Forrester held my fourth-grade self in high regard, I only half listened as I read the scribbled notes on the white-painted pine wall on either side of the phone, looking for any new ones I might be able to decode (Lacy’s — Friday, 10 were the when and where of a Weekday Warrior party, I figured)—”and we had dinner with the Johnstons last night and I’m afraid that Dad had too much wine. We played charades and he was just awful.” She laughed, and I felt so tired, but someone had dragged the bench away from the pay phone, so I sat my bony butt down on the hard concrete, pulling the silver cord of the phone taut and preparing for a serious soliloquy from my mom, and then down below all the other notes and scribbles, I saw a drawing of a flower. Twelve oblong petals around a filled-in circle against the daisy-white paint, and daisies, white daisies, and I could hear her saying, What do you see, Pudge? Look, and I could see her sitting drunk on the phone with Jake talking about nothing and What are you doing? and she says, Nothing, just doodling, just doodling. And then, Oh God.
“Yeah, sorry, Mom. Sorry. Chip’s here. We gotta go study. I gotta go.”
“Will you call us later, then? I’m sure Dad wants to talk to you.”
“Yeah, Mom; yeah, of course. I love you, okay? Okay, I gotta go.”
“I think I found something!” I shouted at the Colonel, invisible beneath his blanket, but the urgency in my voice and the promise of something, anything, found, woke the Colonel up instantly, and he jumped from his bunk to the linoleum. Before I could say anything, he grabbed yesterday’s jeans and sweatshirt from the floor, pulled them on, and followed me outside.
“Look.” I pointed, and he squatted down beside the phone and said, “Yeah. She drew that. She was always doodling those flowers.”
“And ‘just doodling,’ remember? Jake asked her what she was doing and she said ‘just doodling,’ and then she said ‘Oh God’ and freaked out. She looked at the doodle and remembered something.”
“Good memory, Pudge,” he acknowledged, and I wondered why the Colonel wouldn’t just get excited about it.
“And then she freaked out,” I repeated, “and went and got the tulips while we were getting the fireworks. She saw the doodle, remembered whatever she’d forgotten, and then freaked out.”
“Maybe,” he said, still staring at the flower, trying perhaps to see it as she had. He stood up finally and said, “It’s a solid theory, Pudge,” and reached up and patted my shoulder, like a coach complimenting a player. “But we still don’t know what she forgot.”