The light went out. Sanders came up the porch and knocked on the door and tried to look through the window to see Maddie but only saw his reflection. He knocked again. The light went back on but Sanders was backing out of the driveway, looking over his shoulder with an outstretched arm across the back of the passenger seat the way some men do when they are driving backwards.
At the barbeque the next day Janine was there. “Funny,” Sanders said, “I always thought your name was spelled with a G.” They stood in the shade but there was no garlic or onions on the hamburgers. “Just regular old meat,” Niles said. “If we were in France,” Sanders said, “it would all be fondue.” Janine put grass on her burger and told everyone she was a cow. “You should do stand-up,” her grandfather said.
The light went back on. Sanders eased on the gas some more and got the car up to a hundred. The needle wavering just at the line as the car shook and his sunglasses shook. He was a few miles from the house where he grew up, driving the same car his mother and father had let him drive in high school. “There are no memories without sunglasses,” he said then turned on the radio. Charlie Parker wanted him to slow down. But Charlie you go so fast. There was a teenager up the block named Mitchell when Sanders was in grade school. This was how he died. In a wreck. “But he was on Bear Mountain, winding and blind, and there are no cops on this stretch of parkway and no one out at this time of night.”
He had enough money for the bananas. And when he found his red pen he wrote the word bananas five times across the sheet of paper he always carried with him that had telephone numbers on it. His sister cried and told him he had ruined her new notebook. “It’s not ruined,” he said. “It’s not ruined,” he said. He had torn the page from the book and now tried to tape the piece of paper back in the book and opened and closed it a few times to show her she wouldn’t lose it. Then he said, “But now of course the red bananas are ruined.”
The light went out. At the top of the stairs he knocked. “I’m not answering,” Maddie said. “Use your key,” she said. He used his key and let himself in. “You missed a great barbeque,” Sanders said. “Janine ate grass,” he said. Maddie was dressed as a waiter, serving soufflés to her stuffed animals. She had a black tie and straight legged black pants ironed to a crease. She had cut her hair to look like a boy’s. The stuffed animals did not move. They had big black marble eyes. Sanders knew it had taken her all day to make the food. Longer than all day. They were supposed to have dinner around eight and here it was well after midnight and she was just serving. No one seemed particularly upset.
His sister drew a map in her new notebook while Sanders ate a red banana. “There’s a page missing so there will be a page missing from the map,” she said. “You will have to do your best,” she said. “Was it an important page?” he asked. “They are all important pages,” she said. Sanders used the map. He walked along lines of ink and smudged thumbprints and made up roads with logs and pencils when there didn’t really seem to be any place to go, and finally found Maddie still with long hair. She sat crossed legged on the floor at the foot of her bed. All the stuffed animals in rows. Just as it had been described all along. But still. The light went back on. Sanders sat by her side. The light kept going back on. He looked at her knuckles. Her hands that had more creases than before. Her beautiful hands. Her beautiful unpainted nails. He knew he only had one moment now to say it.