Angela Harrington paces through her home in a state of anxiety she doesn't fully understand.

This morning, for instance, she locked up all the knives in their blocks in the basement along with the alcohol save for necessary wine, but she questions these actions as she's not sure if they mean she's afraid of her son, or the strangers lurking outside all morning, or possibly all of the above plus the future itself. Ethan certainly doesn't look dangerous—lounging on his bed in pajamas and giant headphones, despondently playing video games. His mop of dark hair is curly and unwashed, reminiscent of his toddler self. Standing in the doorway of a bedroom filled with mementos and miscellany from a sports-filled childhood, Angela is appalled to watch her son's video game avatar move through an old industrial space and indiscriminately shoot faceless enemies until they explode in a gust of pixelated blood.

“I think you'd better come downstairs and eat something.”

“I don't feel good.”

“I'll make you waffles.”

“Alright, lemme beat this level.”

They eat buttery waffles in the television room and flip through channels: a couple argues over countertops; preschoolers compete in a beauty pageant; bombs drop somewhere in the Middle East. “Well at least she's not in the news anymore!” Angela announces brightly.

A cartoon lectures about car insurance; proper ladies sip tea; a puppy tests toilet paper.

Replies Ethan, “Does that mean we can leave the house soon?”

A refrigerator shutting cues the laugh track; jewelry is on sale; a football sails across a field. “No, we cannot.”

Ethan flips off the TV. “But look outside; nobody cares about me anymore. They're all watching that clip of Mae hugging her mom.”

He's whining. He's not threatening or menacing; he's just her son, whining for something he wants. Perhaps she gave in too often when he was younger. Angela eyes the still-drawn curtains nervously. “You know Wilson told us to stay put.” Their lawyer had advised them to not speak to anybody, and to stop all social media activity immediately, and to only cooperate with authorities.

“Can I at least have my phone?”

“Absolutely not.”

“It's just so boring!” Ethan melts into the couch and sighs loudly—a sigh Angela knows well, because it made an appearance toward the end of every summer and winter break since second grade. Tiny Ethan, begging to play in the snow. Tiny Ethan, refusing to clean his room. Tiny Ethan was simple, demanding in that funny, strict little voice. “Mom. Did you even hear what I said?”


“I said, don't you hear the phone? It's ringing.”


chapter twenty-four