I don’t have kids of my own, so I can only imagine how terrifying this must be for my neighbor Amy Galligan. I didn’t know her well, but we’ve chatted a few times in the apartment mailroom — her about the difficulties of being a single mother, me playing up my shipping job at Amazon to make it sound like I’m a big shot. It’s a monster of a city though, and there are so many people with so many problems that I was hardly even phased when I saw the missing poster of her four-year-old daughter hanging around the building.
Taken from a public playground at Fairbanks Park.
Any information, please call 818-***-****
“Maybe she tossed it,” I remarked casually to my buddy Dave when he commented.
“Tossed what. The kid?”
“Yeah, or flushed it or something, I don’t know. She bitches all the time about how she has no life of her own anymore. Seemed to me like she would have been happier without it.”
“It’s not an IT, man, she’s a baby girl. And you can’t flush a four-year-old — what the fuck?” Dave and I knew each other since grade school, so it amazed me that I could still get a rise out of him with dark jokes like that. “Anyway, why would she put up missing posters if she didn’t want the kid?”
“Duh, it’s so she won’t look suspicious.” That was Sammy, Dave’s girlfriend. Slim, beautiful dark hair, and snarky as a goth at a Christmas party — I don’t know how my goodie goodie friend got so lucky. I pointed at her, then tapped my nose in what I hoped to be the universal signal for ‘she knows.’ Dave just looked bewildered and flustered.
“No one would do that to their own kid. The moment they’re born, they take a part of your soul with them. It’s not just like you’re split in half either — they’ve taken all the best parts of you. All your innocence and hope and wonder at the world that eroded from you over the years — it’s all right there in your arms, promising a better life than you could ever live for yourself. And when you’re looking at them, all those holes in your soul that you didn’t even know where there are filled back in. For the first time in your life, you know for that you truly matter.”
“Dude, you don’t even have a kid,” I said.
“So what? I’m human, aren’t I? I know what’s what.”
Meanwhile, I swear Sammy was humming the tune to Family Guy’s ‘Prom night dumpster babies’ song. I think my heart just did a backflip.
“Screw you both.” Dave bounced off the couch in agitation. “I’m going to go check on her and see if there’s anything I can do to help.”
“Seriously? You don’t even know the lady,” I protested, feeling a little flustered myself.
“Yeah, what gives?” Sammy chimed in. “I thought we were going to play paintball today.”
I could handle Dave’s anger. I even found it funny. If I’m being honest, maybe I was even a little jealous and wanted to torment him. That sad, pitying look he gave us though? That cut deeper than I’d care to admit. I guess Sammy felt the same way because a few moments later all three of us were standing outside of Amy’s apartment.
Dave knocked first.
“Excuse me, Ms. Galligan? It’s your neighbors.”
“Are you sure she’s home?” Sammy whispered.
“Yeah, I heard her toilet like five minutes ago. Thin walls.” I matched her hushed tone.
“Oh, I didn’t know she had twins,” Sammy said. I almost burst a lung trying not to laugh.
Dave had pressed his ear against the door. I expected another death glare from him, but he just turned around and grinned.
“It’s okay. They must have found her. I hear the kid talking,” he said.
We were about to go when the door opened behind us. Amy was standing in the doorway — bird’s nest hair, loose bathrobe, face puffy with fresh tears and anxious stress — even Sammy didn’t have anything to say about that. A little girl giggled from somewhere inside her apartment.
“Is your daughter…?” Dave began.
Amy shook her head and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She turned around and walked into her apartment, leaving the door open. Dave followed without question. I didn’t move until a few seconds later when Sammy entered.
“There are lots of boxes, mommy.” The slightly tiny voice was coming from an Amazon Echo Dot sitting on a coffee table. Beside it was scattered a halo of used tissues. “It’s too dark though. Mommy, where are you?”
“It’s okay, Lilly,” Amy said, her voice cracking. “I’m going to be there soon, just hold on.”
Amy looked at us pleadingly, and we stared back in stunned silence.
“How long has she —” Dave began.
“About an hour,” Amy cut him off. “She said someone took her from the park, and she doesn’t know where she is.”
“Was it an Amazon van?” I asked. Dave gave me another disapproving glare, but it melted as Amy nodded. “I think so. Lilly said it was black and orange.”
Sammy was on her phone, typing furiously.
“Police?” Dave asked.
She shook her head, showing us her screen a moment later: a picture of Lilly with a plain white background.
“This is her, right?”
“Where did you find that?” Amy asked urgently.
Sammy hit the back arrow, returning the screen to an Amazon product page. I would have laughed if I hadn’t seen Amy’s face.
Lilly Galligan. $1,495. Used. In stock.
4.2 / 5 stars. 10 Reviews.
“4.2 stars though,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “At least she’s got —”
Glares all around. I didn’t finish that thought.
“Baby, can you hear me? What else do you see?” Amy demanded.
It wasn’t Lilly who answered though. It was just Alexa’s generic, robotic voice. “Would you like to place an order for Lilly Galligan now?”
“Come on, isn’t anyone curious to read the reviews?” I asked. “Like, what are they going to say? 3 stars, can’t color within the lines?”
“Shit, dude,” Dave said.
“Yeah, seriously. Not the time.” Even Sammy agreed.
“None of you are any fun,” I said. “I put a lot of work into this. The least you could do is play along —”
I was ready when Dave took a swing at me, and I managed to back-peddle out of the way. There was a lot of yelling — some hysterical sobs from Amy — then Dave chasing me halfway around the room before they gave me a chance to explain.
“She’s at a warehouse, okay? God, what babies. Can’t anyone take a joke?”
That time I did get punched. It’s okay though — I took it like a man. They all insisted I drive them there right away, which is what I was intending to do all along anyway. This will be the first time I’ve ever tried to sell adults, so I wonder how much I’ll get for these three.