I was just getting off my knees after looking under another garbage-strewn bench, when the flashlight beam fell on me.
“Can I help you, sir.” It wasn’t a question.
“Um, hi, sorry,” I said, shielding my eyes. “Just looking for Koimee.”
“Is that your dog?”
“No, he’s a frog.”
I sighed. “It’s my nephew Keiran’s stuffed animal. We named him Kermit, but he couldn’t say that when he was a toddler so he called him Koimee, even now. He was out here with his mom today and it fell out of her bag. He’s frantic to get it back.”
I couldn’t see the police officer’s face, but the flashlight beam dropped a few inches. “Good luck,” he said finally. “You be careful out here.”
I kept walking, swinging the flashlight back and forth, trying not to think of muggers who might be out in the park this late. I had gone a few hundred feet when I heard a voice behind me.
“Sir.” I turned to see the officer jogging up to me. “I asked over the radio. Someone saw your frog. Check the bench over by the west entrance.”
I thanked him and hurried that way. Ten minutes later, I reached the west entrance to Bruowski Park and there was Koimee, sitting on the bench, arms stretched out through the slats in a comfortable pose as if he was just taking a breather after a late-night run.
I picked him up, sniffed him to make sure a dog hadn’t peed on him, then carried him to my car. I texted my sister, Koimee safe, be over soon.
I washed him at home and toweled and blow-dryed him all over until he was mostly dry and smelled mostly okay. Then I drove across the city to my sister’s house.
When I walked in, Keiran was sitting on the stairs opposite the front door. I caught him mid-yawn as I came in, but he ran across to hug me.
“Heeeeere’s Koimee!” I pulled out Koimee and Keiran grabbed him and hugged him tightly.
My sister came in from the kitchen and I smiled at her. “All good now?” I asked him.
“This isn’t Koimee,” Keiran said quietly. My skin went cold. No, I had seen Koimee a million times. It was him.
“His birthmark is gone.” I looked closer. He was right. Keiran had been born with a birthmark along his forearm, so to make him feel better, we had given Koimee a similar mark on his leg with a permanent marker. How had I missed that?
I was mentally preparing myself to go back out and search the park all night when Keiran turned and ran upstairs.
“I found the wrong Koimee,” I told my sister.
We found Keiran in his room. He was positioning the stuffed frog on his shelf among his other animals. “This is the new Koimee,” he was saying. “Be nice to him.”
“I can go find the real Koimee,” I told him, not sure that I actually could.
“I think there was another kid and they lost this Koimee in the park,” Keiran said. I agreed this was very possible. “Well, hopefully they found my Koimee and took him home. Then we both have one.”
I hugged him. “Hopefully,” I said.
Photos courtesy of Susannah Bianchi