The Missing Person Story

There’s always an attraction in the missing person story – the one who got lost, the one who got away, the one who vanished without a trace, the mystery guest, the B. Traven, the unknown unknown. It opens up a whole field of possibility, imagining what has happened, who that person had become. I wouldn’t go anywhere near a missing child story (or harm or frighten a child in any significant way in any story. I don’t really understand those who can do that), because the anguish to their family is all too real and nothing I would want any part of, but a grown-up who has deliberately disappeared – that is intriguing to me.

A side note, since I just remembered. This morning I heard on the news that somewhere on the order of ten million people have been displaced by the Syrian civil war. That this is true and happening right now makes me somehow really angry with the current American fad for Dystopias featuring pretty young things. People are truly suffering over there and it’s not glamorous or exciting or full of eye candy or costume changes.

Anyway …,

Some of those people have gone missing too. Missing from their towns and cities, missing from their friends and neighbors, and who knows what will become of them and their country.

My own trivial missing person story notion came from my new job. I am sitting where someone recently sat, doing the work that person only recently abandoned. He or she had done a good job, from what I can tell from their checked-in code, but I know nothing about the person, except that until a month ago, when anyone looked at this desk, they saw that person, not me. When the boss handed out these assignments, they went to that person, not me. And now there I sit. And now the assignments have my name on them. I have no idea where this person went, or why they left. I could ask around (in fact I did, and now I do know), but I kind of like the mystery. It’s a kernel of an idea that could be transplanted to a quite different situation. The ghost of the person who left, influencing the person there now. A Haunted Desk sort of thing.

Another side note. When I lived in Colombia I was struck by this routine on the very crowded city buses. When someone got up from their seat, and another person moved in to take it, they would wait some time for the seat to cool off, in order not to catch any diseases from the seat’s previous occupant. Seriously. If you just sat right down like a regular gringo you would get the strangest looks from the other passengers!

 

 

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