It was probably the most foolish thing Jan had ever said in his 19 years alive. As he trekked through the woods alongside a couple of police officers, he could not stop flagellating himself in his mind for having exclaimed it out of anger to his girlfriend’s brother, Anders. It never occurred to him that the boy would take his words literally, who, only five years younger than he, was old enough, surely, to have heard plenty of figures of speech before.
Having courted Anders’ sister, Olivia, for weeks, and then dated her for months, he was not unaware of her brother’s unique tendencies.
The trees in the part of the forest where he was last seen grew close together, and that made finding him difficult at night. In addition, the forecast called for a front that could blanket the area with snow before the sun rose again. Intolerably nervous, Jan made no effort to talk to anyone, as the officers and he followed the small hound brought along to assist. The leaves tore under their footsteps.
Anders’ peculiarity was actually why Jan and Olivia met at all. Jan had been driving one morning through her neighborhood by accident, because he was lost, and as he looked around for the street’s name, Anders dashed in front of his car. Jan swerved hard to avoid hitting him. When he asked Anders if he was alright, Anders overcame his fright and flew into a fit of rage, slamming the car’s hood with his fists. Jan pulled him away and would have struck him down had Olivia not shown up and interceded, pleading for compassion with tears in her eyes. She seemed an angel to him, his idea of her beauty utterly disarming him. After they all calmed down, he drove Olivia and Anders back home. It turned out Anders had argued with his mother, and, unable to restrain himself, ran out again.
The indomitable nature of Anders’ episodes was secret to no one, so the town would be inclined to forgive, and probably in time forget, Jan’s slip of the tongue. The local grocery store once had to close for a day to clean, because Anders had smacked every pickled item off the shelves. But whether Olivia would is an entirely different issue. The deep affection that she bore her brother was neither a secret to anyone. In the event of Anders never being found, Olivia would likely never speak to Jan again.—“Anders!” he yelled. “Anders!”
All the police officers walked past him as he stood waiting for a reply. Overwhelmed, he fell to his knees. Tears wound down his cheeks. His uncontrollable sobs persuaded one of the officers to turn around to wait for him. He had cried for a minute before he looked up towards that part of the sky which the trees failed to hide. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and would have continued weeping, had not the hound—now twenty yards in front—begun barking wildly. Jan stood up, incredulous. The mad barks left no doubt, however, that the hounds had found something key. Everyone sprinted forwards.
Beside a trickling brook sat Anders, tossing pebbles into it. He looked up to the approaching police without the least show of surprise, nor bothered to rise from the rock on which he sat. The officer next to the one calming the hound down radioed in his team’s success. Jan flew to Anders as soon as he spotted him. As Jan embraced him, he sobbed.
“How did you get all the way here!” Jan uttered.
“I don’t even know,” Anders stoically replied, “I just got lost as you suggested.”