Charlie’s drive back from Rune’s home (nested within a well-manicured subdivision on the other side of town) left him alone with his thoughts. He knew the questions he was now asking himself were absurd, but he also knew he had no choice but to find answers for them. And to get those answers, he knew what he needed to do next, or more exactly, where he needed to go. He drove through the lonesome streets of Bark Bay, the streets paved with wet leaves, with dread determination.
He pulled into his parent’s driveway, and cursed when he saw Maggie’s Subaru parked outside the trailer. She was watching television, greeted him with a smile and a wave when he walked in, her face illuminated by the screen’s glow remaining focused in front of her.
“What is obsession?” There was a tone of impatient urgency to Maggie’s question, seeming to Charlie like she had been waiting all day to ask him. He had removed one arm from his jacket, and stopped, began to respond before being cut off.
“No, not you!” Maggie waved a hand above her head in dismissal. “This contestant!” She leaned forward, listening to the television. “No, not addiction! I can’t believe he got that wrong!” Charlie glanced at the television screen, saw two men and a woman standing behind short booths, small screens in front of each booth showing electronic numbers.
He resumed taking off his coat, began thinking of the excuse he would give Maggie. He heard applause from the television, then a sudden silence.
“How’d your meeting with that boy go?”
Charlie glanced down at the notebook he had placed on the makeshift dining table. He muttered that it went well.
“When you want to leave?” Charlie froze a moment, then remembered that Rick’s party was this evening. He could go, probably should, and leave his mission for another night. But then heard himself asking Maggie if he could skip.
Maggie had turned the television’s sound back on, but swiftly lifted the remote again and turned off the power when she heard Charlie’s request.