Being the Saint of Missing Things is no easy job. The requests come in constantly, some in the form of letters and notes that drop through the old brass mail slot in the door and pile up in a huge mountain on the floor. The mail slot is necessary because there are still people who prefer to write down their thoughts, even in the Digital Age. Other requests come in through email and then there are the texts. There are even the requests that come in as people think about things they’re missing and want back. These thoughts flap around in the air like pesky moths.
Anthony works six days a week taking a break on Sunday. Monday through Saturday he aims to get up at 6:30 AM despite not being an early riser. He sets his alarm for 6:15 AM so he can hit the snooze bar and get 15 more minutes of sleep. Lately, however, his cat Gertrude, a stray he tried to send back to her home but who refused to leave, has learned to hit the button on the clock radio making the alarm go off at 6:00 AM. Anthony tries to ignore Gertrude but between the alarm and her persistent meowing for breakfast, he gets up and begins his day. As he walks to the bathroom, each step lands on a “request for a missing thing” that has come in overnight. The papers crumple beneath his feet. He feeds Gertrude to stop her meowing and then makes a big pot of coffee. He recently switched to half decaf, half regular so he wouldn’t get jittery after his third cup.
Anthony sits down in his study, sips his first cup of coffee, and looks at the ever-growing pile of requests. It’s going to be another long day. He scans his desk and realizes his favorite pen isn’t in its usual spot. He uses it to log requests in his ledger. He’s been writing the requests longhand for 800 years so even though it would be easier to enter them into the computer he’s not going to change his ways at this point.
“Where did I put my pen?” he asks himself out loud.
The answer comes, as it always does, as a stage direction. He’d invented that part and thought it was very clever. It was his way of getting even a non-believer if only for a second, to believe. He stands up and walks to the closet, pulls down a box of stationery from the top shelf, and opens it. There, resting on top of envelopes is his favorite pen. Anthony chuckles. He loves how this works. It feels like a miracle, but it isn’t really, he’s just responding to a request.
Still not ready to work, he decides to fix breakfast. He makes his usual, berries and yogurt. Ever since that nasty infection from rye he’s avoided bread which is a bummer because his favorite breakfast as a young man was rye toast with soft cheese and black currant jam. As he eats, he watches Gertrude hunker down, her hind quarters high in the air, her tail swishing from side to side, waiting to pounce on the next letter that will inevitably fly through the mailbox at any moment. As soon as it does, she leaps and performs a double twist in the air, smacks the letter against the wall, and lands, all four paws on the floor on top of the mail.
He wishes he had Gertrude’s focus. He’s particularly distracted today because he didn’t sleep well. The one “misplaced thing request” that has had him stumped for years resurfaced in a dream. He couldn’t remember the details but felt disappointed in himself for not doing his job well. Maybe he is getting too old for this line of work. Retirement isn’t an option, but maybe he could put in for a transfer. He shrugged off the thought and sat down at his desk to work. He began with the “thought requests” which were usually the easiest.
“Where did I put my keys?” They are in the lock in the front door. “Eyeglasses?” He directed that one to the kitchen counter near the toaster two feet away from where the request came in. The glasses were in plain sight, but the man couldn’t see where he’d left them. “Where is the missing sock?” It’s stuck to the top of the inside of the dryer. “Lost earring back?” In the carpet. The woman will find it by stepping on the earring back right before plugging in the vacuum. “Child’s lost tooth?” In a dinner roll. That request came just in time for the lower incisor to be found and promptly placed underneath the pillow before the child was put to bed. It would have been a disaster for the Tooth Fairy if the request hadn’t come in. “Teddy bear?” That was a plea that always tugged at Anthony’s heart. What a terrible thing for a child to lose – a beloved stuffed animal that comforts the most difficult moments of each day. He thinks about his own childhood teddy bear that is tucked safely in the cedar chest. He smiles knowing that missing bears have the fastest reporting rate and the fastest rate of return. He answers the child’s request, sending him into the laundry room to look under the stack of folded towels.
“Metro card?” In the back pocket of the jeans worn yesterday that are crumpled in the corner. “Lost change?” He’s not able to answer that request as money is considered tithing. A lotto ticket, on the other hand, he might be able to help with, especially if it’s not a winner. Those who don’t ask to find the money they’ve lost often get it back by finding a few dollar bills in the street or unclaimed change in a vending machine. And, if they find money and then give it away to someone in need, it’ll come back to them twofold. There was one lady, he’d heard about from St. Vincent de Paul, who found a sandwich bag filled with large bills on the beach in Oahu and turned it in to the police. That evening she won the lottery.
“Lost heart necklace with “forever” engraved on the inside?” That item isn’t lost. It’s at the bottom of the river buried among the rocks. The request came in from a man who submitted it on behalf of the woman he’s dating. He didn’t know she’d tossed it away when she saw him with her best friend at a fancy restaurant holding hands across a table.
Some things aren’t lost, they’re just forgotten. Anthony is responsible for the forgetfulness of the elderly, but more often than not, he forwards the “forgotten things requests” to Dymphna because stress has made people distracted. Dymphna has a lot on her plate because not only does she deal with stress-related requests, but she also gets invocations for anxiety and mental health issues. He was glad he didn’t get that assignment which seems like purgatory. He immediately felt bad for thinking such a thing and said a Hail Mary.
Anthony is responsible for lost things, and he is also responsible for lost loves. The “lost love requests” feel like his own purgatory. He feels bad for those who lose engagement rings before they’re sized, which usually happens within a week after the proposal. Wedding bands, however, aren’t often lost but loosened from fingers and tucked away for the night. Anthony doesn’t get into the requests for retrieving lost rings of the unfaithful, he lets Isabella handle them.
The request that was keeping him up late had to do with a “lost love request” from a woman named Sarah. She’s made the same request daily for the past twenty years and he hasn’t been able to figure it out. It goes, “Saint Anthony, please help me find Anthony, the love of my life.” Not only does Anthony share the same name as this fellow, but Sarah was the name of the love from his youth. Yes, it was 800 years ago. And yes, he became a priest, but something about this persistent request made him nostalgic for his first love. While his love was long gone, he’s become attached to Sarah’s request and feels bad for her and is still hoping he can help.
The only way that St. Anthony can find Anthony is if he’s truly lost. He’s Googled him, and nothing’s come up. He wasn’t in the marriage registry or listed as a missing person. His name isn’t in the Book of the Dead. He even inquired with the Council of Saints, and no one had encountered him. He fears that Sarah’s beloved isn’t lost, but that his love just faded. He’s decided that if he gets her request again today, he’ll finally forward it to Dymphna because Sarah is going to drive herself crazy if she doesn’t move on. Anthony feels a twinge of disappointment because he was rooting for them to be reunited.
Anthony finishes the “thought requests” and begins opening the letters stacked on his desk when he hears chewing. He suspects that someone had taped the seal of the envelope containing their request and Gertrude found it and is munching away on it. Tape is one of her favorite things. He gets up from his desk and walks swiftly towards the front door. Gertrude, sensing that her antics have been discovered, runs into the bedroom disrupting a new pile of requests which fly into the air sending paper under the refrigerator.
“Dadgummit Gertrude!” Anthony hollers after her as she disappears under the bed. He takes a long-handled wooden spoon from the utensil jar and bends down onto his hands and knees in front of the refrigerator. He sticks the spoon handle underneath and flicks the letters out. There were loads of them, along with some dried macaroni and a few Greenies. Some of the letters are yellowing, he realizes they’ve been down there for years. He never knew they were missing otherwise he’d have found them. He recognizes the handwriting on one of the notes as Sarah’s, it was a more careful, youthful penmanship than Sarah’s is now, but it’s undoubtedly hers.
It reads, as it always has, “Saint Anthony, please help me find Anthony, the love of my life.” He realizes that since he’d never seen the original note, he was never able to fulfill the myriad requests that followed. Gertrude scampers back through the room chasing a “thought request” that had been buzzing around in the bedroom.
He knows immediately, seeing the original request, that Anthony was never lost at all. He was still deeply in love with Sarah but because so much time had passed, and he hadn’t heard from her, he had to move on with his life. As soon as St. Anthony knew it, Sarah suddenly knew it too. What had felt like a hole in her chest all those years, was now filled with a sad but true love. She had the closure she needed and could finally move on. Anthony’s work on this request was done. They both feel a tremendous sense of relief.
Anthony turns back to his desk where Gertrude is stretched out on his keyboard deleting emails that had come in that morning. Thankfully he knows how to retrieve them. He decides that this as a sign that he needs to take a break. He pats Gertrude on the head and goes into the kitchen to make lunch. He’s feeling good about his job again and delights in the feeling that he’ll always be needed. After all, there will never be an end to requests to find missing things.