“Anything,” Jorge said, “Anything you need, of course. Of course.”
“What do you know about Thomas Hart Benton?” Maya asked.
Jorge smiled. “Well, he was a cartoonist as a young man. Did some work with the symbols.”
“Like these?” Maya asked. She drew some waves.
Jorge looked concerned. “Yes. Exactly those. You know?”
“We know,” Maya said. “We’re looking for the source.”
“Yes, well…” Jorge picked up a pencil and drew a crude boat over the waves.
Finally he said, “You’re going to have a hell of a time finding it. We had a collective of artists and ministers try to find it after the tornado and turned up nothing major.”
Lee said, “Yes, but—“
Thulani said, “Wasn’t there a stone carver symposium?”
“I hosted it right here,” Jorge said, “on this concrete. I remember the curvy figure Abe Mohler carved…”
“Did you see anything strange there?” Maya asked.
“Like what?” Jorge asked. “I would have heard.”
“Anything… powerful?” Thulani asked. “Anything stuck in the raw samples, especially local.”
“Cutting stones isn’t powerful enough?” Jorge asked. “It’s not like they were doing something secret. It’s about shapes and grinding.”
“Have you had any surge in business?” Maya asked.
Leyva listed some names. “Mostly from the pictures of this cat. Same people keep buying them up, hoarding them.”
“Sounds like it’s outside of your normal work,” Maya said. “Lot of names on that list connected to the old mining culture.”
“Huh,” Leyva said. “Yeah. Lot of money in that racket. Lot of money from the Clark Brothers Energy people. Old mining money. Healthcare. Agribusiness. I started these drawings because of Percy.”
“Percy?” Maya asked.
“Check out the museum,” Jorge said. “There’s a fourteen-year-old cat you need to see…”
“What were they mining for?” Maya asked. “The ore? The carcinogen?”
“It’s more than that,” Thulani said.
“The water beneath it?” Maya asked.
“Maybe they didn’t know,” Lee said.
Lee picked up his phone and dialed. It rang. And rang again. This is Cailin. I’m unavailable. Leave a message. Bye-yuh.
“Hey Mom,” Lee said into the phone. “Just uh… hope you’re well. Call me back, okay? I’m in Joplin. Okay bye.” He hung up the phone and turned to Maya. “Mom.”
“For gold?” Maya whispered.
“My mother?” Lee asked.
“Their digging,” she said.
“Here kitty, kitty,” Thulani said upwards from just down the stairs.
Lee said, “Uncle Monroe doesn’t want me visiting again, but I’m going to go anyways. I am going to go.”
“Stay off your phone,” Maya said, “and help me look for the source. It’s got to be on one of these old survey grids. This is bigger than your mother.”
“Who’s dying?” Lee asked.
“Because we’re not finding this fast enough,” Maya said.
Lee looked harder.
“Sorry,” she said. “I–“
“It’s fine,” Lee said.
“Sorry, Lee,” Maya said again.
“Maya, it’s fine.” Lee dialed again.
His mother answered.
“Mom? What on earth? Where—”
“Oh this new basement is lovely, honey. You’ll have to see it.”
“You know I’m in town, right?”
“No! You didn’t tell me that!”
Lee fumed. “Look, I’m coming over. Where are you?”
“Yes, yes. Fine sweetheart.”
“Mom,” Lee said, “you’re at my uncle’s?”
“See you soon?” she asked.
“Oh my show is coming on. I’ll see you soon — come right over. Love you. Okay buh bye.” She hung up.
He looked at his phone. Dialed his uncle.
He headed downstairs to join the other two.
After searching for a while, they ended up in the front foyer on the bench, listening.
“Our cat was as good as dead,” he said. “His name is Percy.”
“Percy?” Maya asked. “Like the Weasley kid?”
“No. Percy Wenrich, the pop composer.”
Maya and Thulani looked at one another.
“Found him when he was a stray and we took him in.”
“He had stage four cancer. Near the first end he was pretty pitiful to look at.”
“The tumors had grown all inside his body. Well we’d heard rumors that some pet owners lucked out taking theirs to Grand Falls. So that’s what we decided to do – take his cancer-ridden body out by the water.”
“That’s awful,” Maya said.
The janitor said, “What, you think we planned on leaving him there? No, no. We laid Percy by the water. Quickly, his health grew better and better and eventually he jumped in the water. Have you ever seen a cat do that? I haven’t. But I swear this one… he was swimming like an otter.”
“How can that be?” Thulani asked.
“What?” Lee asked.
“We need to see the falls,” she said.
“First,” Thulani said, “I need a drink.”
“I know a cool place,” Lee said.
“Drinks later, boys,” Maya said. “Let’s go to the Grand Falls and see the place where Percy was healed.”
brought to you by the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau
written & directed by Lance Schaubert
produced by Carrie Puffinbarger