Hal walks uphill. My son is mad, he thinks, and turns a corner, passing a coffeehouse where three women in sweatshirts sit at an outdoor table. Its cool, gray, and damp: summer in San Francisco."Hey, Hal," says one, a client. Hal waves."Yeah, hes great," she says to a friend as he walks on. "He got me back a thousand dollars last year."My son is mad, thinks Hal. I am dying. He almost stops to call Nan and say that - I am dying, I am dying - but he knows that she will reply, calmly, "You are not dying, Hal. Did you talk to the police today?"Sometimes he just cant handle her - her persistence, her smooth face, the way she occupies any chair as if she has just built it herself out of a tree she felled with her little saw. I am lost, he thinks, I am sure that Im dying, my son is mad, and his mother wont admit that she cant carry him by herself.Hal walks on. No one has found Christopher yet, no one has called to say that theyve seen him, no one - not even Nan - has come in from the desert or the mountains carrying him. Hal looks up at the sky, as if Christopher might appear there, but the sky is blankly bluish gray. Back in Christophers room in Hals house, Christophers saltwater sh tank is burbling to itself. Expensive sh circle through the carefully tended water: a lionsh, a snowake eel, three temperamental tangs, and a bamboo cat shark who spends most of its time lying on the bottom of the tank, looking malevolent and morose. Since Christopher has been gone, it has fallen to Hal to take care of Christophers sh. This morning, Hal noticed that the tank seemed warm and the sh sluggish, that they were swimming slowly, like a carousel winding down. Hal felt a panicky rush. He believes in omens and portents and signs of all kinds. He immediately set out for the aquarium store, the good one in Noe Valley where he had opened an account for Christopher. He thought he might see an omen or sign on the way, but so far there has been nothing, nothing at all, but that random, friendly hello and miles of sky without a break.Hal looks down again, at the street. A not uninteresting man with a squashy nose looks Hals way, but Hal doesnt look back. Hal, walking uphill, is equally certain that Christopher is alive and that he is dead. Either way, he is certain that it will fall to him to carry Christopher - who, at sixteen, is much too heavy and tall now to be carried even by Hal - in the end.Nan works in her garden. It is a long, narrow plot of land containing four square beds of owers outlined by planks of silvered wood; around the beds is grass. Around the garden is a fence, also silvered. Trumpet vines tumble wantonly over the fence toward earth. Midway down the garden is a slender, deep purple, owering plum that has never owered or plummed but maintains a hopeful, leafy look. A few feet away from the plum tree, nestled in some tall grasses and a few wayward daisies, is the stone head of Sor Juana. Nan pulls a few weeds from
Excerpted from A Seahorse Year: A Novel
by Stacey D'Erasmo
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