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Cabin Friends

A story of a missing child

By Matt SpazianiPublished 3 years ago 11 min read

“All right,” Dad said, tying his bathing suit. “Hopefully I won’t be long.”

Logan looked up from his puzzle. Even at the age of seven, he could see the frustration in his father’s face. The tone of their vacation had changed from joyful to grim in the space of a few minutes, and all it took was a muffled conversation between his parents and the grown-ups from the other cabin.

Mom came over to Dad with a water bottle she had just filled from the sink. Worry was etched into the lines on her face. To Logan, she seemed older than she had earlier this morning. “Be safe,” she said. “Tell me where you’re going.”

“Sanjeev is looking through the woods behind their cabin,” Dad replied, sliding the bottle into his backpack next to goggles and a snorkel. “Priva is driving into town to file a missing person report and see if she can get a search party together. I’m going to take the rowboat and start along the coast.”

He pointed. Logan allowed himself to glance that way while trying not to move his head. Their cabin was right on the lake, the water lapping directly underneath the screened-in porch where he was sitting. To the right were several other houses, spaced out with thin strips of trees between them. To the left, where his father was pointing, the land was undeveloped, just acres of forest until you reached the summer camp at the corner of the lake.

“He may have wandered over there looking for salamanders,” Dad continued. Then he shrugged, and Logan saw his frustration turn to anger. “But honestly, who knows? What kind of parent doesn’t watch their kid out here? For all we know Mohan swam under the raft and got tangled up in—”

“Dale,” Mom said warningly, and Logan saw her jerk her head in his direction.

His parents got quiet for a minute, and Logan continued to focus on his puzzle. After a moment, the tension eased as they again forgot he was there. Logan was a “smart kid,” according to his parents. Always walking around with his “head in the clouds” and “in his own little world.” It was incredibly easy to convince people that he wasn’t paying attention when he appeared to be focusing on something else. Honestly, he was surprised at how much he could overhear that way.

“Sorry,” Dad said. “But come on. We’re in the middle of the woods, we’re out of cell service. How could you be stupid enough to let your kid go off on their own?”

“Well, you’re about to go help them look for him,” Mom said. She was facing away from Logan and he couldn’t see her face, but he knew that tone. Dad was in trouble. “So keep that to yourself.”

“Yeah, duh,” Dad said, now angry for a very different reason. “Really? What, do you think I’m just gonna walk up to them and say, ‘Hey, sorry your kid might be dead, but it’s kind of on you, so—’”

Dale!” Mom said again, and Logan knew that Dad was way past the warning.

Dad sighed, regaining his composure. “Look, it’s a tough situation. I have my thoughts, but I’ll be quiet until we find him. He probably just wandered into the woods and fell asleep somewhere. We’ll find him, all right?”

Mom sighed as well, then Logan saw the back of her head slowly nod, up and down. Good; Logan hated it when his parents fought.

Dad leaned down once more and zipped up his bag, shifting it to his shoulder as he rose. “If I see something under the water, I’ll jump in and snorkel a little, but if I don’t, I should be back in an hour or two. Then I’ll join Sanjeev in the woods. You’ll keep an eye on Logan?”

“Yeah, Dad?” Logan said, still keeping his eyes on his puzzle and pretending to react to just his name. You learned so much more when you kept your head in the clouds.

Both of his parents paused for a split second. Then Mom spoke up.

“Nothing, honey,” she said. “Your dad’s gonna go out on the lake, okay?”

“Okay,” Logan said dutifully. “Bye, Dad.”

“Bye, son,” Dad answered. Then he left through the porch door. “I’ll come back if I find anything, okay?”

With that, he walked down the steps to the water’s edge, no kiss for his wife or kid. He almost never gave them one when he was stressed.

Mom stood at the porch and stared for a minute. Logan heard the sounds of metal on wood from the direction of the dock, so she was probably watching to make sure Dad got into the boat safely. When she was apparently satisfied, she turned to Logan, a strained smile on her face.

“How are the sharks coming?” she asked, referring to the puzzle.

“Good,” Logan replied, pointing. “I finished the great white shark. I can’t find the tiger shark’s mouth, though.”

“Oh, that’s a really important piece,” Mom said with false enthusiasm. “Do you want help?”

Logan looked up at her. Dad was always the one who wanted to play with him, especially when it was an indoor toy like a puzzle. Mom was usually focused on too many things. This was weird, and Logan didn’t like it.

“Okay,” he said, looking down at the table.

Mom took a seat next to him and began idly going through puzzle pieces. To Logan, it looked like she wasn’t even trying; she kept lining up pieces that didn’t look like they fit at all. Or maybe she was just bad at puzzles. Either way, Logan wanted to do this by himself, and he thought Mom wanted something else.

“Do you understand what’s happening with Mohan right now, Logan?”

Logan paused for a moment. “Kind of,” he said. It was true, to be fair. He mostly understood what was going on, and he knew his parents were worried, but besides the conversation they just had, he had no idea how they planned on finding Mohan. And he wanted to. Logan was worried as well.

“Well, his parents can’t find him right now,” Mom began. “And they’re really scared. They love him so much, just like we love you, and they’re just so sad that they don’t know where he is.”

Logan nodded. They had been coming to these cabins for a few years now, and it was rare that a kid his own age was there at the same time. It was nice to have someone to play with, even if it was just for a couple of days. He thought about them trying to find him, and the idea made him nervous again.

“We know you were playing with him yesterday before you went to bed,” Mom continued. “Did he say anything about doing something this morning? Or last night?”

Logan thought back to the last time he saw Mohan. “No. He didn’t say anything,” he answered, telling the truth.

“Okay,” Mom said. “Well, let me know if you remember something.”

With that, she rose, leaving Logan to continue doing the puzzle. It was hard to focus, though. Now that Mom wasn’t confined to a chair, she started pacing back and forth nervously, alternating between staring out at the lake and looking back towards her son. Even Logan could guess what she was thinking: what if it were my kid?

Time passed. Logan found a few more pieces—including the tiger shark’s mouth—but the tension distracted him and made him slow down. There was no sign of Dad returning, or of any triumphant calls from Mr. Dhari from the woods near the other cabin. Mom continued to pace restlessly, and Logan silently wished she would stop. Yes, Mohan was missing, but it was consuming her mind, and Logan didn’t like when she obsessed over something.

After a few minutes, Mom stopped and clapped her hands once, the telltale sign that she had made a decision.

“All right, Logan,” she said in a commanding tone. “I think that’s enough indoors time for right now. Why don’t you get your ball and we can go outside?”

“But Mom, I almost finished the hammerhead,” Logan protested. He didn’t think it would do any good, and he was right.

“Nope. It’s a beautiful day, and we’re going to enjoy it,” she said. She picked up Logan’s sneakers and dropped them next to the table, a few inches from his feet. “Come on, we’re going outside. We can keep working on this tonight when it gets colder.”

Logan wanted to argue, but he knew it was pointless. Even Dad didn’t fight when Mom started talking like this, so Logan knew he wouldn't stand a chance. He didn’t want to get in trouble.

He turned and stepped into his sneakers, following Mom to the end of the porch. Now that he was standing, he could see over the rail and look out at the lake. In fairness to Mom, it was a beautiful day. Only a few wispy clouds hung in the sky. Sunlight glittered off of the barely moving water, the breeze blowing across it light and cool. Logan could see the brilliant green of the trees across the lake, as if they were standing up to catch the rays.

Still, that didn’t mean Logan wanted to spend it outside. They had only been here four days, and already he missed his Xbox.

He trailed behind Mom as she walked to the left, down the porch’s ramp and to the clearing in front of the cabin. In the center of it was a small metal firepit where Dad had built them a bonfire the other night. Across the grass he could see the Dharis’ cabin. It was red while the one his family had rented was brown, but other than that it was virtually the same building. They were about the same size and had the same screened porch. Even the posts beneath the cabin that held it off the ground were almost identical.

He stopped to grab his ball near the bottom of the ramp and held it up, preparing to throw it to Mom. In turn, she walked across the clearing and held her hands out to catch it. The two of them threw it back and forth a few times, and Logan didn’t need to look for Mom’s boredom to know how much she didn’t want to be doing this. Still, he had to give her credit; she kept it up a lot longer than he expected.

“Okay, Logan, I just need to run inside for a minute,” she said after a few minutes, throwing the ball back to him once more. “I need to use the bathroom. Stay right here, okay? And watch out for the tools by the firepit.”

Logan didn’t say a word, but Mom was already heading back into the cabin. She probably needed to use the bathroom, but it was obvious that her main goal was to check on her husband.

Logan sighed deeply, feeling much older than seven. He didn’t understand why his parents spent so much time trying to hide things from him. They weren’t very good at it.

He threw the ball in the air a few times. That got boring quickly, so he started bouncing it off the side of the cabin. He started to get tired of this as well, but on the fourth throw he missed, which was something different, at least. The ball bounced onto the grass next to the ramp, and a few moments later, it had rolled between two of the support posts and underneath his family's cabin.

Logan sighed again, but he was actually a little excited. He liked the space beneath the cabin, where there was plenty of room to play and crawl around. He and Mohan had played in there a few times since Sunday, and digging around down there was way more exciting than playing ball by himself. He just needed to make sure he was out before Mom came back; he wasn’t supposed to be down there, and he didn’t want to get in trouble.

He stooped down to his hands and knees and crawled through the gap between two of the posts. Dad had explained it to him the other day, how the water rose and fell throughout the year, and how building the cabin off of the ground helped prevent flooding. It was kind of interesting, but all Logan really cared was that he and Mohan could play under it, and that had been fun. They had been pretending it was an old western fort.

He moved farther beneath the cabin. It was still morning, so sunlight filtered in from the side, dimly illuminating the ground. Cobwebs tightly wound their way between the rows of posts. Some of them obscured his view, but Logan was still able to see his ball. It had rolled about ten feet and had settled in the dirt next to Mohan.

Logan crawled forward to retrieve it. After he grabbed it, he glanced at the other boy. Mohan was a little smaller than him when standing, but laying spreadeagle like this, he looked a lot taller. His shirt was no longer wet, like it had been this morning. Instead, the blood had congealed and stained the original white fabric a muddy reddish-brown. The thick slash in his neck didn’t look any less wet, though. It remained a sticky maroon.

Logan did feel a little sad about what had happened. It had been Mohan’s idea to play Sheriffs and Bandits this morning, but Logan came up with the idea of using Dad’s wood tools as weapons. He thought it would be fun to actually fight. He just expected Mohan to be better at it. Now Mom and Dad were worried, and maybe Mrs. Dhari would be coming back with people to look for him, and they might find him, and then Logan would get in trouble, and that wasn’t fair! They were both playing. It was Mohan’s fault just as much as it was Logan’s.

His eyes drifted to the right, where he had dropped the hatchet to the ground after striking his new friend. Mohan was still limply holding the bowsaw, but Logan wasn’t worried about that. The hatchet was covered in blood, and if Mohan was found, it wouldn’t take long for them to figure out what happened. Maybe he should get rid of it.

He reached forward and grabbed it when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching through the dirt.

“Logan? Where are you?”

Mom’s voice was more panicked than it should have been, but Logan couldn’t say anything. Not until he was out from under the cabin and away from Mohan. He needed to move quickly before Mom caught him here.

He began to back out, but it was too late. He saw Mom crouch at the entrance to the space.

“Logan, what are you doing under there!” she yelled. It wasn’t a question. “Come out right now! It’s not…”

She trailed off, noticing something on the ground near the entrance. Logan didn’t know what it was, but it couldn’t be good. He kept moving backwards, dragging the hatchet with him. He needed to get rid of it.

“Logan, is this blood? Did you cut yourself?”

Well. It was over.

Logan reached the entrance and Mom backed away, giving her son room to stand. He was careful to keep the hatchet behind his back as he did so.

“Mommy,” he said. “I dropped my ball under there. Can you get it for me?”

She looked at her son with concern, and then realization dawned in her eyes.

“Oh, honey, did you cut yourself trying to get it?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “Yes, of course I’ll get it for you. Then we’ll look at your cut.”

She bent down and began to crawl between the posts. Behind her, Logan raised the hatchet.

He didn’t want to get in trouble.


About the Creator

Matt Spaziani

Robotics engineer by day and writer, musician, and gamer by night.

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    Matt SpazianiWritten by Matt Spaziani

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