kindle Leaving Time (English Edition)Author Jodi Picoult –

JennaSome people used to believe that there was an elephant graveyard a place that sick and old elephants would travel to to die Theyd slip away from their herds and would lumber across the dusty landscape, like the titans we read about in seventh grade in Greek Mythology Legend said the spot was in Saudi Arabia that it was the source of a supernatural force that it contained a book of spells to bring about world peaceExplorers who went in search of the graveyard would follow dying elephants for weeks, only to realize theyd been led in circles Some of these voyagers disappeared completely Some could not remember what they had seen, and not a single explorer who claimed to have found the graveyard could ever locate it againHeres why The elephant graveyard is a mythTrue, researchers have found groups of elephants that died in the same vicinity, many over a short period of time My mother, Alice, would have said theres a perfectly logical reason for a mass burial site a group of elephants who died all at once due to lack of food or water a slaughter by ivory hunters Its even possible that the strong winds in Africa could blow a scattering of bones into a concentrated pile Jenna, she would have told me, theres an explanation for everything you seeThere is plenty of information about elephants and death that is not fable but instead cold, hard science My mother would have been able to tell me that, too We would have sat, shoulder to shoulder, beneath the massive oak where Maura liked to shade herself, watching the elephant pick up acorns with her trunk and pitch them My mother would rate each toss like an Olympic judge Ooh A perfect Maybe I would have listened But maybe, too, I would have just closed my eyes Maybe I would have tried to memorize the smell of bug spray on my mothers skin, or the way she absentmindedly braided my hair, tying it off on the end with a stalk of green grassMaybe the whole time I would have been wishing there really was an elephant graveyard, except not just for elephants Because then Id be able to find herAliceWhen I was nine before I grew up and became a scientist I thought I knew everything, or at least I wanted to know everything, and in my mind there was no difference between the two At that age, I was obsessed with animals I knew that a group of tigers was called a streak I knew that dolphins were carnivores I knew that giraffes had four stomachs and that the leg muscles of a locust were a thousand timespowerful than the same weight of human muscle I knew that white polar bears had black skin beneath their fur, and that jellyfish had no brains I knew all these facts from the Time Life monthly animal fact cards that I had received as a birthday gift from my pseudo stepfather, who had moved out a year ago and now lived in San Francisco with his best friend, Frank, who my mother called the other woman when she thought I wasnt listeningEvery month new cards arrived in the mail, and then one day, in October , the best card of all arrived the one about elephants I cannot tell you why they were my favorite animals Maybe it was my bedroom, with its green shag jungle carpet and the wallpaper border of cartoon pachyderms dancing across the walls Maybe it was the fact that the first movie Id ever seen, as a toddler, was Dumbo Maybe it was because the silk lining inside my mothers fur coat, the one she had inherited from her own mother, was made from an Indian sari and printed with elephantsFrom that Time Life card, I learned the basics about elephants They were the largest land animals on the planet, sometimes weighingthan six tons They ate three to four hundred pounds of food each day They had the longest pregnancy of any land mammal twenty two months They lived in breeding herds, led by a female matriarch, often the oldest member of the group She was the one who decided where the group went every day, when they took a rest, where they ate, and where they drank Babies were raised and protected by all the female relatives in the herd, and traveled with them, but when males were about thirteen years old, they left sometimes preferring to wander on their own and sometimes gathering with other males in a bull groupBut those were facts that everyone knew I, on the other hand, became obsessed and dug a little deeper, trying to find out everything I could at the school library and from my teachers and books So I also could tell you that elephants got sunburned, which is why they would toss dirt on their backs and roll in the mud Their closest living relative was the rock hyrax, a tiny, furry thing that looked like a guinea pig I knew that just like a human baby sucks its thumb to calm itself down, an elephant calf might sometimes suck its trunk I knew that in , in Erwin, Tennessee, an elephant named Mary was tried and hanged for murderIn retrospect I am sure my mother got tired of hearing about elephants Maybe that is why, one Saturday morning, she woke me before the sun came up and told me we were going on an adventure There were no zoos near where we lived in Connecticut, but the Forest Park Zoo in Springfield, Massachusetts, had a real, live elephant and we were going to see herTo say I was excited would be an understatement I peppered my mother with elephant jokes for hours Whats beautiful, gray, and wears glass slippers CinderelephantWhy are elephants wrinkled They dont fit on the ironing boardHow do you get down from an elephant You dont You get down from a gooseWhy do elephants have trunks Because theyd look funny with glove compartmentsWhen we got to the zoo, I raced along the paths until I found myself standing in front of Morganetta the elephantWho looked nothing like what I had imaginedThis was not the majestic animal featured on my Time Life card, or in the books I had studied For one thing, she was chained to a giant concrete block in the center of her enclosure, so that she couldnt walk very far in any direction There were sores on her hind legs from the shackles She was missing one eye, and she wouldnt look at me with the other I was just another person who had come to stare at her, in her prisonMy mother was stunned by her condition, too She flagged down a zookeeper, who said that Morganetta had once been in local parades, and had done stunts like competing against undergrads in a tug o war at a nearby school, but that she had gotten unpredictable and violent in her old age Shed lashed out at visitors with her trunk if they came too close to her cage She had broken a caregivers wristI started to cryMy mother bundled me back to the car for the four hour drive home, although we had only been at the zoo for ten minutesCant we help her I askedThis is how, at age nine, I became an elephant advocate After a trip to the library, I sat down at my kitchen table, and I wrote to the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, asking him to give Morganettaspace, andfreedomHe didnt just write me back He sent his response to The Boston Globe, which published it, and then a reporter called to do a story on the nine year old who had convinced the mayor to move Morganetta into the much larger buffalo enclosure at the zoo I was given a special Concerned Citizen award at my elementary school assembly I was invited back to the zoo for the grand opening to cut the red ribbon with the mayor Flashbulbs went off in my face, blinding me, as Morganetta roamed behind us This time, she looked at me with her good eye And I knew, I just knew, she was still miserable The things that had happened to her the chains and the shackles, the cage and the beatings, maybe even the memory of the moment she was taken out of Africa all that was still with her in that buffalo enclosure, and it took up all the extra spaceFor the record, Mayor Dimauro did continue to try to make life better for Morganetta In , after the demise of Forest Parks resident polar bear, the facility closed and Morganetta was moved to the Los Angeles Zoo Her home there was much bigger It had a pool, and toys, and two older elephantsIf I knew back then what I know now, I could have told the mayor that just sticking elephants in proximity with others does not mean they will form friendships Elephants are as unique in their personalities as humans are, and just as you would not assume that two random humans would become close friends, you should not assume that two elephants will bond simply because they are both elephants Morganetta continued to spiral deeper into depression, losing weight and deteriorating Approximately one year after she arrived in LA she was found dead in the bottom of the enclosures poolThe moral of this story is that sometimes, you can attempt to make all the difference in the world, and it still is like trying to stem the tide with a sieveThe moral of this story is that no matter how much we try, no matter how much we want it some stories just dont have a happy endingPart IHow to explain my heroic courtesy I feel that my body was inflated by a mischievous boyOnce I was the size of a falcon, the size of a lion, once I was not the elephant I find I amMy pelt sags, and my master scolds me for a botched trick I practiced it all night in my tent, so I wassomewhat sleepy People connect me with sadness and, often, rationality Randall Jarrell compared meto Wallace Stevens, the American poet I can see it in the lumbering tercets, but in my mindI amlike Eliot, a man of Europe, a man of cultivation Anyone so ceremonious suffersbreakdowns I do not like the spectacular experiments with balance, the high wire act and conesWe elephants are images of humility, as when we undertake our melancholy migrations to dieDid you know, though, that elephants were taught to write the Greek alphabet with their hooves Worn out by suffering, we lie on our great backs, tossing grass up to heaven as a distraction, not a prayerThats not humility you see on our long final journeys its procrastination It hurts my heavy body to lie downDan Chiasson, The ElephantJennaWhen it comes to memory, Im kind of a pro I may only be thirteen, but Ive studied it the way other kids my age devour fashion magazines Theres the kind of memory you have about the world, like knowing that stoves are hot and that if you dont wear shoes outside in the winter youll get frostbite Theres the kind you get from your senses that staring at the sun makes you squint and that worms arent the best choice of meal There are the dates you can recall from history class and spew back on your final exam, because they matter or so Im told in the grand scheme of the universe And there are personal details you remember, like the high spikes on a graph of your own life, which matter to nobody but yourself Last year at school, my science teacher let me do a whole independent study on memory Most of my teachers let me do independent studies, because they know I get bored in class and, frankly, I think theyre a little scared that I knowthan they do and they dont want to have to admit itMy first memory is white at the edges, like a photo taken with too bright a flash My mother is holding spun sugar on a cone, cotton candy She raises her finger to her lips This is our secret and then tears off a tiny piece When she touches it to my lips, the sugar dissolves My tongue curls around her finger and sucks hard Iswidi, she tells me Sweet This is not my bottle its not a taste I know, but its a good one Then she leans down and kisses my forehead Uswidi, she says SweetheartI cant bethan nine months oldThis is pretty amazing, really, because most kids trace their first memories to somewhere between the ages of two and five That doesnt mean that babies are little amnesiacs they have memories long before they have language but, weirdly, cant access them once they start talking Maybe the reason I remember the cotton candy episode is because my mother was speaking Xhosa, which isnt our language but one she picked up when she was working on her doctorate in South Africa Or maybe the reason I have this random memory is as a trade off my brain made because I cant remember what I desperately wish I could details of the night my mother disappearedMy mother was a scientist, and for a span of time, she even studied memory It was part of her work on post traumatic stress and elephants You know the old adage that elephants never forget Well, its fact I could give you all my mothers data, if you want the proof Ive practically got it memorized, no pun intended Her official published findings were that memory is linked to strong emotion, and that negative moments are like scribbling with permanent marker on the wall of the brain But theres a fine line between a negative moment and a traumatic one Negative moments get remembered Traumatic ones get forgotten, or so warped that they are unrecognizable, or else they turn into the big, bleak, white nothing I get in my head when I try to focus on that nightHeres what I knowI was three My mother was found on the sanctuary property, unconscious, about a mile south of a dead body This was in the police reports She was taken to the hospital I am not mentioned in the police reports Afterward, my grandmother took me to stay at her place, because my father was frantically dealing with a dead elephant caregiver and a wife who had been knocked out cold Sometime before dawn, my mother regained consciousness and vanished from the hospital without any staff seeing her go I never saw her againSometimes I think of my life as two train cars hitched together at the moment of my moms disappearance but when I try to see how they connect theres a jarring on the track that jerks my head back around I know that I used to be a girl whose hair was strawberry blond, who ran around like a wild thing while my mother took endless notes about the elephants Now Im a kid who is too serious for her age and too smart for her own good And yet as impressive as I am with scientific statistics, I fail miserably when it comes to real life facts, like knowing that Wanelo is a website and not a hot new band If eighth grade is a microcosm of the social hierarchy of the human adolescent and to my mother, it certainly would have been , then reciting fifty named elephant herds in the Tuli Block of Botswana cannot compete with identifying all the members of One DirectionIts not like I dont fit in at school because Im the only kid without a mother There are lots of kids missing parents, or kids who dont talk about their parents, or kids whose parents are now living with new spouses and new kids Still, I dont really have friends at school I sit at the lunch table on the far end, eating whatever my grandmothers packed me, while the cool girls who, I swear to God, call themselves the Icicles chatter about how they are going to grow up and work for OPI and make up nail polish color names based on famous movies Magent lemen Prefer Blondes A Fuchsia Good Men Maybe Ive tried to join the conversation once or twice, but when I do, they usually look at me as if theyve smelled something bad coming from my direction, their little button noses wrinkled, and then go back to whatever they were talking about I cant say Im devastated by the way Im ignored I guess I haveimportant things on my mindThe memories on the other side of my mothers disappearance are just as spotty I can tell you about my new bedroom at my grandmas place, which had a big girl bed my first There was a little woven basket on the nightstand, which was inexplicably filled with pink packets of SweetN Low, although there was no coffeemaker around Every night, even before I could count, Id peek inside to make sure they were still there I still doI can tell you about visiting my father, at the beginning The halls at Hartwick House smelled like ammonia and pee, and even when my grandma urged me to talk to him and I climbed up on the bed, shivering at the thought of being so close to someone I recognized and didnt know at all, he didnt speak or move I can describe how tears leaked out of his eyes as if it were a natural and expected phenomenon, the way a cold can of soda sweats on a summer dayI remember the nightmares I had, which werent really nightmares, but just me being awakened from a dead sleep by Mauras loud trumpeting Even after my grandma came running into my room and explained to me that the matriarch elephant lived hundreds of miles away now, in a new sanctuary in Tennessee, I had this nagging sense that Maura was trying to tell me something, and that if I only spoke her language as well as my mother had, Id understandAll I have left of my mother is her research I pore over her journals, because I know one day the words will rearrange themselves on a page and point me toward her She taught me, even in absentia, that all good science starts with a hypothesis, which is just a hunch dressed up in fancy vocabulary And my hunch is this She would never have left me behind, not willinglyIf its the last thing I do, Im going to prove itWhen I wake up, Gertie is draped over my feet, a giant dog rug She twitches, running after something she can only see in her dreamsI know what that feels likeI try to get out of bed without waking her, but she jumps up and barks at the closed door of my bedroomRelax, I say, sinking my fingers into the thick fur at the ruff of her neck She licks my cheek but doesnt relax at all She keeps her eyes fixed on the bedroom door, as if she can see whats on the other sideWhich, given what I have planned for the day, is pretty ironicGertie leaps off the bed, her wagging tail pounding the wall I open the door and let her scramble downstairs, where my grandmother will let her out and feed her and start to cook breakfast for meGertie came to my grandmothers house a year after I did Before that, she had lived at the sanctuary and she was best friends with an elephant named Syrah Shed spend every day at Syrahs side and when Gertie got sick Syrah even stood guard over her, gently rubbing her with her trunk It was not the first story of a dog and an elephant bonding, but it was a legendary one, written up in childrens books and featured on the news A famous photographer even shot a calendar of unlikely animal friendships and made Gertie Ms July So when Syrah was sent away after the sanctuary closed, Gertie was just as abandoned as I was For months, no one knew what had happened to her And then one day, when my grandmother answered the doorbell, there was an animal rescue officer asking if we knew this dog, which had been found in our neighborhood She still had her collar, with her name embroidered on it Gertie was skinny and flea bitten, but she started licking my face My grandmother let Gertie stay, probably because she thought it would help me adjustIf were going to be honest here I have to tell you it didnt work Ive always been a loner, and Ive never really felt like I belong here Im like one of those women who read Jane Austen obsessively and still hope that Mr Darcy might show up at the door Or the Civil War reenactors, who growl at each other on battlefields now spotted with baseball fields and park benches Im the princess in an ivory tower, except every brick is made of history, and I built this prison myselfI did have one friend at school, once, who sort of understood Chatham Clarke was the only person I ever told about my mother and how I was going to find her Chatham lived with her aunt, because her mother was a drug addict and in jail and she had never met her father Its noble, Chatham told me How much you want to see your mother When I asked her what that meant, she told me about how once her aunt had taken her to the prison where her mom was serving her term how shed dressed up in a frilly skirt and those shoes that look like black mirrors But her mother was gray and lifeless, her eyes dead and her teeth rotted out from the meth, and Chatham said that even though her mother said she wished she could give her a hug, she had never been so happy for something as she was for that wall of plastic between them in the visiting booth Shed never gone back againChatham was useful in a lot of ways she took me to buy my first bra, because my grandmother hadnt thought to cover up a nonexistent bosom and as Chatham said no one over the age of ten who has to change in a school locker room should let the girls go free She passed me notes in English class, crude stick figure drawings of our teacher, who used too much self tanner and smelled like cats She linked arms with me as we walked down the hall, and every wildlife researcher will tell you that when it comes to survival in a hostile environment, a pack of two is infinitely safer than a pack of oneOne morning Chatham stopped coming to school When I called her house no one answered I biked over there to find a For Sale sign I didnt believe that shed leave without any word, especially since she knew that was what had freaked me out so much about my moms disappearance, but it got harder and harder to defend her to myself as a week went by, and then two When I started skipping homework assignments and failing tests, which wasnt my style at all, I was summoned to the school counselors office Ms Sugarman was a thousand years old and had puppets in her office, so that kids who were too traumatized to say the word vagina could, I guess, put on a Punch and Judy show about where theyd been inappropriately touched Anyway, I didnt think Ms Sugarman could guide me out of a paper bag, much less through a broken friendship When she asked me what I thought had happened to Chatham, I said I assumed she had been raptured That I was Left BehindWouldnt be the first timeMs Sugarman didnt call me back into her office again, and if I was considered the oddball in school before, I was completely off the charts weird nowMy grandmother was puzzled by Chathams vanishing act Without telling you she said at dinner Thats not how you treat a friend I didnt know how to explain to her that the whole time Chatham was my partner in crime, I was anticipating this When someone leaves you once, you expect it to happen again Eventually you stop getting close enough to people to let them become important to you, because then you dont notice when they drop out of your world I know that sounds incredibly depressing for a thirteen year old, but it beats being forced to accept that the common denominator must be youI may not be able to change my future, but Im sure as hell going to try to figure out my pastSo I have a morning ritual Some people have coffee and read the paper some people check Facebook others straight iron their hairor do a hundred sit ups Me, I pull on my clothes and then go tomy computer I spend a lot of time on the Internet, mostly atNamUs, the official Department of Justice website for missing and unidentified persons I check the Unidentified Persons database quickly, to make sure that no medical examiners have entered new information about a deceased woman Jane Doe Then I check the Unclaimed Persons database, running through any additions to the list of people who have died but have no next of kin Finally, I log in to the Missing Persons database and go right to my moms entryStatus MissingFirst name AliceMiddle name KingstonLast name MetcalfNickname Alias NoneDate LKA July pmAge LKA Age now Race WhiteSex FemaleHeightinchesWeight City BooneState NHCircumstances Alice Metcalf was a naturalist and researcher at the New England Elephant Sanctuary She was found unconscious the evening of July at approximately pm one mile south of the body of a female sanctuary employee who had been trampled by an elephant After being admitted to Mercy United Hospital in Boone Heights, NH, Alice regained consciousness at approximately pm She was last seen by a nurse checking her vitals at pmNothings changed on the profile I know, because I am the one who wrote itTheres another page about my mothers hair color red and eye color green about whether she had any scars or deformities or tattoos or artificial limbs that could be used to identify her no Theres a page that lists the clothing she was wearing when she disappeared, but I had to leave that blank, because I dont know Theres an empty page about possible transportation methods and another about dental records and one for her DNA sample Theres a picture of her, too, that I scanned from the only photo in the house my grandma hasnt squirreled away in the attic a close up of my mother holding me in her arms, in front of Maura the elephantThen theres a page for the police contacts One of them, Donny Boylan, retired and moved to Florida and has Alzheimers youd be amazed at what you can learn from Google The other, Virgil Stanhope, was last listed in a police newsletter for being promoted to detective at a ceremony on October ,I know, from my digital sleuthing, that he is no longer employed by the Boone Police Department Aside from that, it appears he has disappeared off the face of the earthIts not nearly as uncommon as you thinkThere are entire families whose homes were abandoned with television sets blaring, kettles boiling, toys strewn across the floor families whose vans were found in empty parking lots or sunk in local ponds, and yet no bodies were ever located There are college girls who went missing after they wrote their numbers down on napkins for men at bars There are grandfathers who wandered into the woods and were never heard from again There are babies who were kissed good night in their cribs, and gone before the light of morning There are mothers who wrote out grocery lists, got in their cars, but never came home from the Stop ShopJenna My grandmothers voice interrupts me Im not running a restaurant I shut down my computer and head out of my bedroom On second thought, I reach into my lingerie drawer and pull a delicate blue scarf out of its recesses It doesnt work at all with my jean shorts and tank top, but I loop it around my neck, hurry downstairs, and climb onto one of the counter stoolsIts not like I have nothing better to do than wait on you hand and foot, my grandmother says, her back to me as she flips a pancake in the skilletMy grandmother is not the TV grandmother, a cuddly, white haired cherub She works as a meter maid for the local parking enforcement office, and I can count on one hand the number of times Ive seen her smileI wish I could talk to her about my mom I mean, she has all the memories I dont because she lived with my mother for eighteen years, while I, on the other hand, had a measly three I wish I had the kind of grandmother who showed me pictures of my missing mom when I was little, or baked a cake on her birthday, instead of just encouraging me to seal my feelings inside a little boxDont get me wrong I love my grandmother She comes to hear me sing in school chorus concerts, and she cooks vegetarian for me even though she likes meat she lets me watch R rated movies because as she says theres nothing in them I wont see in the halls between classes I love my grandmother She just isnt my momThe lie Ive told my grandma today is that Im babysitting for the son of one of my favorite teachers Mr Allen, who taught me seventh grade math The kids name is Carter, but I call him Birth Control, because hes the best argument ever against procreation Hes the least attractive infant Ive ever met His head is enormous, and when he looks at me, Im pretty sure he can read my mindMy grandmother pivots, pancakes balanced on a spatula, and freezes when she sees the scarf around my neck True, it doesnt match, but thats not why her mouth pinches tight She shakes her head in silent judgment and smacks the spatula against my plate as she sets down the foodI felt like accessorizing, I lieMy grandmother doesnt talk about my mother If Im empty inside because she vanished, then Grandmas full to bursting with anger She cant forgive my mother for leaving if thats what happened and she cant accept the alternative that my mother cant come back, because shes deadCarter, my grandmother says, smoothly peeling back the conversation one layer Is that the baby who looks like an eggplant Not all of him Just his forehead, I clarify Last time I sat for him, he screamed for three hours straightBring earplugs, my grandmother suggests Will you be home for dinner Im not sure But Ill see you laterI tell her that every time she leaves I tell her, because its what we both need to hear My grandmother puts the frying pan in the sink and picks up her purse Make sure you let Gertie out before you go, she instructs, and shes careful not to look at me or my mothers scarf as she passesI started actively searching for my mother when I was eleven Before that, I missed her, but I didnt know what to do about it My grandmother didnt want to go there, and my father as far as I knew had never reported my mother missing, because he was catatonic in a psychiatric hospital when it happened I bugged him about it a few times, but since that usually triggered new meltdowns, I stopped bringingit upThen, one day at the dentists office, I read an article in People magazine about a kid who was sixteen who got his mothers unsolved murder case reopened, and how the killer was brought to justice I started to think that what I lacked in money and resources I could make up for in sheer determination, and that very afternoon, I decided to try True, it could be a dead end, but no one else had succeeded in finding my mom Then again, no one had looked as hard as I planned to look, eitherMostly, I was dismissed or pitied by the people I approached The Boone Police Department refused to help me, because a I was a minor working without my guardians consent b my mothers trail was stone cold ten years later and c as far as they were convinced, the related murder case had been solved it had been ruled an accidental death The New England Elephant Sanctuary, of course, was completely disbanded, and the one person who could tell meabout what had happened to that caregiver who died namely, my dad wasnt even able to accurately give his own name or the day of the week, much less details about the incident that caused his psychotic breakSo I decided that I would take matters into my own hands I tried to hire a private detective but learned quickly they dont do work pro bono, like some lawyers That was when I started babysitting teachers kids, with a plan to have enough money saved by the end of this summer to at least get someone interested Then I started the process of becoming my own best investigatorAlmost every online search engine to find missing people costs money and requires a credit card, neither of which I had But I did manage to find a how to book, So You Want to Be a PI , at a church rummage sale, and I spent several days memorizing the information in one chapter Finding Those Who Are LostAccording to the book, there are three types of Missing PeoplePeople who are not really missing but have lives and friends that dont include you Old boyfriends and the college roommate you lost touch with theyre in this category People who are not really missing but dont want to be found Deadbeat dads and mob witnesses, for example Everyone else Like runaways and the kids on milk cartons who are stolen away by psychos in white vans with no windowsThe whole reason PIs can find someone is that lots of people know exactly where the Missing Person is You just arent one of them You need to find someone who isPeople who disappear have their reasons They might have committed insurance fraud or be hiding from the cops They might have decided to start over They might be up to their eyeballs in debt They might have a secret they want no one to find out According to So You Want to Be a PI , the first question you need to ask yourself is Does this person want to be found I have to admit, I dont know if I want to hear the answer to that If my mother walked away willingly, then maybe all it would take is knowing Im still searching knowing that, after a decade, I havent forgotten her to make her come back to me I sometimes think it would be easier for me to learn that my mother died ten years ago than to hear that she lived and chose not to returnThe book said that finding those who are lost is like doing a word jumble You have all the clues, and youre trying to unscramble them to make an address Data collection is the weapon of the private investigator, and facts are your friends Name, birth date, social security number Schools attended Military service dates, employment history, known friends and relatives The farther you cast your net, thelikely you are to catch someone who has had a conversation with the Missing Person about where he wished they could go on vacation, or what his dream job might beWhat do you do with these facts Well, you start by using them to rule things out The very first Web search I did, at age eleven, was to go to the Social Security Death Index database and search its index for my mothers nameShe was not listed as deceased, but that doesnt tell me enough She could be alive, or she could be living under a different identity She could be dead and unidentified, a Jane DoeShe was not on Facebook or Twitter, or Classmates, or the alumni network of Vassar, her college Then again, my mother was always so absorbed in her work and her elephants, I dont imagine she would have had much time for those distractionsThere wereAlice Metcalfs in online phone directories I called two or three a week, so my grandmother wouldnt freak out when she saw the long distance charges on the phone bill I left a lot of messages There was one very sweet old lady in Montana who wanted to pray for my mom, and another woman who worked as a producer at an LA news station who promised to bring the story to her boss as a human interest piece, but none of the people I called were my motherThe book had other suggestions, too searching prison databases, trademark applications, even the genealogy records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints When I tried those, I didnt get any results When I Googled Alice Metcalf, I got too manythanmillion So I narrowed it down by searching for Alice Kingston Metcalf Elephant Grief, and got a listing of all her scholarly research, most of it done prior to On the sixteenth page of the Google search, however, was an article in an online psychology blog about the grieving process of animals Three paragraphs into it, Alice Metcalf was quoted as saying, Its egotistical to think that humans have a monopoly on grief There is considerable evidence that elephants mourn the loss of those they love This was a tiny sound bite, unremarkable in many ways, something shed said a hundred times before in other journals and scholarly papersBut this blog entry was dated Two years after she disappearedAlthough Ive searched the Internet for a year, I have not found any other proof of my mothers existence I dont know if the date on the online article was a typo, if they were quoting my mother from years earlier, or if my mother apparently alive and well inis still alive and wellI just know I found it, and thats a startIn the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, I havent limited my search to the suggestions in So You Want to Be a PI I posted on missing persons Listservs I once volunteered at a carnival to be a hypnotists subject in front of a crowd of people eating corn dogs and blooming onions, hoping hed release the memories jammed inside me, but all he told me was that, in a past life, I was a scullery maid at a dukes palace I went to a free seminar on dream lucidity at the library, figuring I could transfer some of those skills to my stubborn locked mind, yet it turned out to be all about journaling and not much elseToday, for the first time, Im going to a psychicThere are a few reasons I havent been before First, I didnt have enough money Second, I didnt have any idea where to find a reputable one Third, it wasnt very scientific, and if my mother, in absentia, had taught me anything, it was to believe cold, hard facts and data But then two days ago, when I was restacking my mothers notebooks, a bookmark fell out of oneIt wasnt a bookmark, really It was a dollar, origami folded in the shape of an elephantAll of a sudden, I could remember my mother with her hands flying over a bill, creasing and folding, flipping and reversing, until I stopped my toddler crying and stared, riveted, by the tiny toy she had made meI had touched the little elephant as if I expected it to disappear in a puff of smoke And then my eye fell on the open page of the journal, a paragraph that suddenly stuck out like it was written in neon I always get the funniest expressions from colleagues when I tell them that the best scientists understand that percent of whatever it is they are studying is simply not quantifiable it may be magic or aliens or random variance, none of which can be truly ruled out If we are to be honest as scientists we must admit there may be a few things that we are not supposed to knowI took that as a signEveryone else on the planet would rather look at a folded masterpiece than the original flat piece of paper, but not me Me, I had to start from the beginning So I spent hours gingerly unfolding my mothers handiwork, pretending I could still feel the heat of her fingertips on the bill I went step by step, as if I were performing surgery, until I could refold the dollar the way she had until I had a small herd of six new tiny green elephants marching across my desk I kept testing myself all day, too, to make sure I had not forgotten, and every time I succeeded I flushed with pride I fell asleep that night picturing a dramatic, movie of the week moment when I finally found my missing mother and she didnt know it was me, until I fashioned a dollar bill into an elephant in front of her eyes And then she hugged me And did not let goYoud be surprised at how many psychics are listed in the local yellow pages New Age Spirit Guides, Psychic Advice from Laurel, Pagan Priestess Tarot Readings, Readings by Kate Kimmel, The Phoenix Rising Advice on Love, Wealth, ProsperitySecond Sight by Serenity, Cumberland Street, BooneSerenity didnt have a big ad or a number or a last name, but she was within biking distance of my house, and she was the only one who promised to do a reading for the bargain price of ten dollarsCumberland Street is in a part of town that my grandmother always tells me to stay away from Its basically an alley with a bankrupt convenience store thats been boarded up, and a hole in the wall bar Two wooden placards sit on the sidewalk, one advertising two dollar shots before pm and another, which reads tarot rWhat is R An age requirement A bra size Im nervous about leaving my bike on the street, since I dont have a lock for it I never have to lock it up at school or on Main Street or anywhere else I normally go so I haul it into the corridor to the left of the bar entrance and drag it up the stairs, which smell like beer and sweat At the top is a small foyer One door is labeled R and has a sign on the front readings by serenityThe foyer walls are covered with peeling velveteen wallpaper Yellow stains bloom on the ceiling, and it smells like too much potpourri Theres a rickety side table propped up on a phone book for balance On it is a china dish filled with business cards serenity jones, psychicTheres not much room for me and a bike in the little foyer I jostle it in a stilted half circle, trying to lean it against the wallI can hear the muffled voices of two women on the other side of the interior door Im not sure if Im supposed to knock, to tell Serenity Im here Then I realize that if she is any good at her job, she must already knowJust in case, though, I cough LoudlyWith the bike frame balanced against my hip, I press my ear against the doorYoure troubled by a very big decisionThere is a gasp, a second voice How did you know You have serious doubts that what you decide is going to be the right pathThe other voice, again Its been so hard, without BertHes here now And he wants you to know that you can trust your heartThere is a pause That doesnt sound like BertOf course not That was someone else whos watching over youAuntie Louise Yes She says you were always her favoriteI cant help it I snort Way to recover, Serenity, I thinkMaybe shes heard me laugh, because theres noconversation coming from the other side of the door I lean closer to listencarefully, and knock the bike off balance Stumbling to keep my footing, I trip over my mothers scarf, which has unraveled The bicycle and I crash into the little table, and the bowl falls off and shattersThe door is yanked open, and I look up from where Im crouched in the pretzel of bike frame, trying to gather the pieces Whats going on out here Serenity Jones is tall, with a swirl of pink cotton candy hair piled high on her head Her lipstick matches her coiffure I have this weird feeling that Ive met her before Are you Serenity Whos asking Shouldnt you know Im prescient, not omniscient If I were omniscient this would be Park Avenue and Id be squirreling my dividends away in the Caymans Her voice sounds overused, like a couch with its springs busted Then she notices the broken bits of china in my hand Are you kidding me That was my grandmothers scrying bowl I have no idea what a scrying bowl is I just know Im in deep trouble Im sorry It was an accidentDo you have any idea how old this is Its a family heirloom Thank Baby Jesus my mother isnt alive to see this She grabs for the pieces, fitting the edges together as if they might magically stickI could try to fix it Unless youre a magician, I dont see that happening My mother and my granny are both rolling in their graves, all because you dont have the sense God gave a weaselIf it was so precious, why did you just leave it sitting around in your entryway Why did you bring a bicycle into a room the size of a closet I thought it would get stolen if I left it in the hall, I say, getting to my feet Look, Ill pay for your bowlSugar, your Girl Scout cookie money cant cover the cost of an antique from Im not selling Girl Scout cookies, I tell her Im here for a readingThat stops her in her tracks I dont do kidsDont or wont Im older than I look This is a fact Everyone assumes Im still in fifth grade, instead of eighthThe woman who was inside having a reading suddenly is framed in the doorway, too Serenity Are you all right Serenity stumbles, tripping over the frame of my bike Im fine She smiles tightly at me I cant help youI beg your pardon the client saysNot you, Mrs Langham, Serenity answers, and then she mutters to me If you dont leave right now, Ill call the cops and press chargesMaybe Mrs Langham doesnt want a psychic whos mean to kids maybe she just doesnt want to be around when the police come For whatever reason, she looks at Serenity as if she is about to say something, but then edges past us both and bolts down the flight of stairsOh great, Serenity mutters Now you owe me for a priceless heirloom and the ten bucks I just lostIll pay double, I blurt out I have sixty eight dollars Its every penny Ive made this year from babysitting, and Im saving it for a private eye Im not convinced Serenity is the real deal But Id be willing to part with twenty dollars to find outHer eyes glint when she hears that For you, she says, Ill make an age exception She opens the door wider, revealing a normal living room, with a couch and a coffee table and a television set It looks like my grandmothers house, which is a little disappointing Nothing about this screams psychic You got a problem she asksI guess I was kind of expecting a crystal ball and a beaded curtainYou have to pay extra for thoseI look at her, because Im not sure if shes kidding She sits down heavily on the couch and gestures at a chair Whats your name Jenna MetcalfAll right, Jenna, she says and sighs Lets get this over with She hands me a ledger and asks me to put down my name, address, and phone numberHow come Just in case I need to communicate with you afterward If a spirit has a message, or whatnotI betlikely its to send me emails advertisingpercent off my next reading, but I take the leather bound book and sign in My palms are sweating Now that the moments here, Im having second thoughts The worst case scenario is that Serenity Jones turns out to be a hack, another dead end when it comes to the mystery of my motherNo The worst case scenario is that Serenity Jones turns out to be a talented psychic, and I learn one of two things that my mother willingly abandoned me, or that my mothers deadShe takes the tarot deck and begins to shuffle it What Im about to tell you during this reading might not make sense right now But remember the information, because one day, you might hear something and realize what the spirits were trying to tell you today She says this the same way flight attendants tell you how to buckle and release the latch on your seat belt Then she hands the deck to me, to cut into three piles So what do you want to know Whos got a crush on you If youre going to get an A in English Where you should apply to college I dont care about any of that I hand the deck back, unbroken My mother disappeared ten years ago, I say, and I want you to help me find herThere is one passage in my mothers field research journals that I know by heart Sometimes, when I am bored in class, I even write it in my own notebook, trying to replicate the loops of her handwritingIts from her time in Botswana, when she was a postdoc studying elephant grief in the Tuli Block, and she recorded the death of an elephant in the wild This happened to be the calf of a fifteen year old female named Kagiso Kagiso had given birth just after dawn, and the calf was either born dead or died very shortly afterward This was not, according to my mothers notes, unusual for an elephant having her first calf What was strange was how Kagiso reactedTuesday Kagiso standing beside calf in broad sunlight, in open clearing Strokes its head and lifts its trunk No movement from calf sinceKagiso threatens Aviwe and Cokisa when the other females come to investigate body of calf Kagiso continues to stand over body Touches calf with her trunk Tries to lift itWednesday Worried about Kagiso, who has not been to watering hole Kagiso kicks brush over body of calf Breaks off branches to use ascover Brutally hot Kagiso goes to watering hole and returns to remain in vicinity of calfThursday Three lionesses approach begin to drag off calfs carcass Kagiso charges they run east Kagiso stands over body of calf, bellowing Still bellowing Kagiso remains standing over dead calf Three lions feed on calf carcass Kagiso nowhere in sightAt the bottom of the page, my mother had written this Kagiso abandons body of her calf after keeping vigil for three daysThere is much documented research about how an elephant calf under the age of two will not survive if its orphanedTheres nothing written, yet, about what happens to the mother who loses her babyMy mother did not know at the time she wrote this that she was already pregnant with meI dont do missing people, Serenity says, in a voice that doesnt allow even a sliver of butYou dont do kids, I say, ticking one of my fingers You dont do missing people What exactly do you do She narrows her eyes You want energy alignment No problem Tarot Step right up Communicating with someone whos passed Im your girl She leans forward, so I understand, in no uncertain terms, that Ive hit a brick wall But I do not do missing peopleYoure a psychicDifferent psychics have different gifts, she says Precognition, aura reading, channeling spirits, telepathy Just because Ive been given a taste doesnt mean I get the whole smorgasbordShe vanished ten years ago, I continue, as if Serenity hasnt spoken I wonder if I should tell her about the trampling, or the fact that my mother was brought to the hospital, and decide not to I dont want to feed her the answers I was only threeMost missing people disappear because they want to, Serenity saysBut not all, I reply She didnt leave me I know it I hesitate, unwinding my mothers scarf and pushing it toward her This belonged to her Maybe that would help Serenity doesnt touch it I never said I couldnt find her I said I wouldntIn all the ways Ive imagined this meeting going down, this was not one of them Why I ask, stunned Why wouldnt you want to help me, if you can Because I am not Mother Freaking Teresa she snaps Her face turns tomato red I wonder if shes seen her own imminent death by high blood pressure Excuse me, she says, and she disappears down a hallway A moment later, I hear a faucet runningShes gone for five minutes Ten I get up and start wandering around the living room Arranged on the fireplace mantel are pictures of Serenity with George and Barbara Bush, with Cher, with the guy from Zoolander It makes no sense to me Why would someone who hobnobs with celebrities be hawking ten dollar tarot readings in East Nowhere, New Hampshire When I hear the toilet flush I race back to the couch and sit down again, as if Ive been there the whole time Serenity returns, composed Her pink bangs are damp, as if shes splashed water on her face Im not going to charge you for my time today, she says, and I snort Im truly sorry to hear about your mother Maybe someone else can tell you what you want to hearLike who I have no idea Its not like we all hang out at the Paranormal Caf on Wednesday nights She moves to the door, holding it wide open, my cue to leave If I hear of anyone who does that sort of thing, Ill be in touchI suspect this is a flat out lie, spoken to get me the hell out of her living room I step into the foyer and wrangle my bike upright If you wont find her for me, I say, can you at least tell me if shes dead I cant believe Ive asked that until the words are hanging between us, like curtains that keep us from seeing each other clearly For a second I think about grabbing my bike and running out the door before I have to hear the answerSerenity shudders as if Ive hit her with a Taser Shes notAs she closes the door in my face, I wonder if this is a flat out lie, tooInstead of going back home, I bike past the outskirts of Boone, three miles down a dirt road, to the entrance of the Stark Nature Preserve, named after the Revolutionary War general who coined the state motto, Live Free or Die But ten years ago, before it was the Stark Nature Preserve, it was the New England Elephant Sanctuary, which had been founded by my father, Thomas Metcalf Back then, it sprawled over two thousand acres, with a two hundred acre perimeter between the sanctuary and the nearest residential home Now,than half the acreage has become a strip mall, a Costco, and a housing development The rest is kept in conservation by the stateI park my bike and walk for twenty minutes, passing the birch forest and the lake, overgrown and weedy now, where the elephants would come daily for water Finally, I reach my favorite spot, under a massive oak with arms twisted like a witch Although most of the woodlands are blanketed with moss and ferns this time of the year, the ground under this tree has always been carpeted with bright purple mushrooms It looks like the kind of place fairies would live, if they were realTheyre called Laccaria amethystina I looked them up online It seemed like something my mother would have done, if shed seen themI sit down in the middle of the mushrooms Youd think Id crush the heads, but they give way to my weight I stroke the underside of one, with its ridged accordion pleats It feels like velvet and muscle at the same time, just like the tip of an elephants trunkThis was the spot where Maura had buried her calf, the only elephant ever born at the sanctuary I was too young to remember it, but Ive read about it in my mothers journals Maura arrived at the sanctuary already pregnant, although the zoo that had shipped her off didnt know it at the time She delivered nearly fifteen months after her arrival, and the calf was stillborn Maura carried him to the spot beneath the oak and covered him with pine needles and branches The next spring, the most beautiful violet mushrooms exploded there, where the calfs remains had eventually been formally buried by the sanctuary staffI take my cell phone out of my pocket The only good thing about selling off half the sanctuary property is that now there is a huge cellular tower not too far away, and service is probably better here than in all the rest of New Hampshire I open a browser and type Serenity Jones PsychicThe first thing I read is her Wikipedia entry Serenity Jones b November ,is an American psychic and medium She appeared multiple times on Good Morning America, and had her own television show, Serenity , where she did cold readings of the audience and also one on one readings with individuals, but specialized in missing persons casesMissing persons cases Are you kidding me She worked with various police departments and the FBI and claimed a success rate ofpercent However, her failed prediction about the kidnapped son of Senator John McCoy was widely reported in the media and led the family to press charges Jones has not been in the public eye since Is it possible that a famous medium even a disgraced one had dropped off the face of the earth and resurfaced a decade later near Boone, New Hampshire Absolutely If anyone was ever looking for a place to keep a low profile, it was in my hometown, where the most exciting thing to happen all year is the July Fourth Cow Plop Bingo tournamentI scan a list of her public predictionsIn , Jones told Thea Katanopoulis that her son Adam, who had been missing for seven years, was alive InAdam was located, working on a merchant marine ship off the coast of AfricaJones accurately predicted the acquittal of O J Simpson and the great quake of In , Jones said the next presidential election would be postponed Although the election itself inwas not delayed, the official results were not reported fordaysIn , Jones told the mother of missing college student Kerry Rashid that her daughter had been stabbed and DNA evidence would exonerate the man eventually convicted of the crime In , Orlando Ickes was freed as a result of the Innocence Project and his former roommate indicted for the crime insteadIn , Jones told police that Chandra Levys body would be found in a heavily wooded area on a slope It was located the following year in Rock Creek Park, Maryland, on a steep incline She also predicted that Thomas Quintanos IV, a NYC firefighter presumed dead after, was alive, and he was indeed pulled from the rubble five days after the attack on the World Trade CenterOn her television show in , Jones led police on camera to the Pensacola, Florida, home of mail carrier Earlen ODoule, locating a secret locked room in his basement and the presumed dead Justine Fawker, who had been abducted eight years earlier at age On her television show in November , Jones told Senator John McCoy and his wife that their abducted son was still alive and could be found at a bus terminal in Ocala, Florida The boys remains were located there, decomposingFrom there on, things had gone downhill for Serenity JonesIn December , Jones told the widow of a Navy SEAL she would give birth to a healthy boy The woman miscarried fourteen days laterIn January , Jones told Yolanda Rawls of Orem, Utah, that her missing five year old daughter, Velvet, had been brainwashed and was being raised by a Mormon family, touching off a wave of protests in Salt Lake City Six months later Yolandas boyfriend confessed to the girls murder and led police to a shallow grave near the local dumpIn February , Jones predicted that Jimmy Hoffas remains would be discovered in the cement walls of a bomb cellar built by the Rockefeller family in Woodstock, Vermont This proved incorrectIn March , Jones stated that Audrey Seiler, a University of Wisconsin Madison student who went missing, was the victim of a serial killer and that a knife would be found with evidence on it Seiler was found to have staged her own kidnapping in an attempt to get her boyfriends attentionIn May , she predicted that Madeleine McCann, who had disappeared while on vacation with her parents in Portugal, would be found by August The case remains unsolvedShe hasnt made any public psychic predictions since that From what I can see, she went missingNo wonder she doesnt do kidsOkay, she made one colossal public mistake in the McCoy case, but in her defense, she had been half right They did find the missing boy He just wasnt alive It was bad luck that, after having a string of successes, her first failure involved a superfamous politicianThere are pictures of Serenity at the Grammys with Snoop Dogg and at the White House Correspondents Dinner with George W Bush Theres another photo of her in US Weeklys Fashion Police section wearing a dress with two giant silk rosettes sewn over her boobsI click on my YouTube app and type in Serenitys name and the senators A video loads, showing Serenity on a television show set, with her ice cream swirl of hair, wearing a pink pantsuit just a few shades darker Across from her on a purple couch is Senator McCoy, a guy with a jaw that could be used to measure right angles and a perfect glint of silver at his temples His wife sits beside him, clutching his handIm not really into politics, but we studied Senator McCoy in school as an example of political failure Hed been groomed for a presidential run, hanging out with the Kennedys in Hyannisport and giving a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention But then his seven year old son was abducted from his private schools playgroundIn the clip, Serenity leans toward the politician Senator McCoy, she says, I have had a visionCut to a gospel choir on the set A vision they sing out, like musical punctuationA vision of your little boy Serenity pauses Alive and wellThe senators wife collapses into her husbands arms and sobsI wonder if she picked Senator McCoy on purpose if she really had a vision of the kid, or just wanted the media hype to surround her, tooThe video jumps to the bus terminal in Ocala There is Serenity, accompanying the McCoys into the building, heading in a zombie trance to a bunch of lockers near the mens room Theres Senator McCoys wife, crying, Henry as Serenity tells a policeman to open locker numberTheres the stained suitcase, which is hauled out by the cop, as everyone else reels backward from the stench of the body insideFor a moment, the camera tumbles and the video goes sideways Then the cameraman pulls his shit together, in time to catch Serenity throwing up, Ginny McCoy fainting dead away, and Senator McCoy, the Democratic Party golden boy, yelling at him to stop filming, and punching him when he doesntSerenity Jones hadnt just fallen from grace shed crashed and burned The McCoys sued Serenity, who eventually settled Senator McCoy was subsequently arrested twice on DUI convictions, resigned from the Senate, and went somewhere to treat his exhaustion His wife died a year later from an overdose of sleeping pills And Serenity quietly, quickly, became invisibleThe woman whod royally screwed up with the McCoys was the same woman whod also found dozens of kids who had disappeared She was also the Serenity Jones who now resided in the seediest part of town and who was starved for cash But had she lost her ability to find missing people or had she always been faking it Was she once actually psychic or just lucky For all I know, paranormal talent is like riding a bike For all I know, it comes back, if you just give it a trySo in spite of the fact that I am pretty sure Serenity Jones does not ever want to see me on her doorstep again, I also know that finding my mother is exactly the sort of training wheels she needsAliceWeve all heard the phrase before Hes got a memory like an ele phant As it turns out, this is not clich but science I once saw an Asian elephant in Thailand who had been trained to do a trick All the schoolchildren brought to meet him at the reserve where he was kept in captivity were told to sit in a line Then they were asked to take off their shoes, and these shoes were jumbled into a pile The mahout who worked with the elephant then instructed her to give the shoes back to the children The elephant did, carefully weeding through the pile with her trunk and dropping the shoes that belonged to each child in his or her lapIn Botswana, I saw a female elephant charge a helicopter three times it held a vet who was going to dart her for a study At the sanc tuary, we had to request a no fly zone, because medical helicopters passing overhead caused the elephants to bunch, pulling themselves into close proximity The only helicopters some of these elephants had ever seen were the ones from which park rangers had shot their families with scholine fifty years earlier, during the cullingThere are anecdotes of elephants that have witnessed the death of a herd member at the hands of an ivory poacher, and then charged through a village at night, seeking out the individual who had been wielding the gunIn the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya, there are two tribes thathave historically come into contact with the elephants the Masai, who dress in red garments and use spears to hunt them and the Kamba, who are farmers and have never hunted elephants One study suggested elephants showed greater fear when they detected the scent of clothes worn previously by the Masai rather than the Kamba They bunched, moved farther from the scent faster, and took longer to relax after identifying the scent of the MasaiMind you, in this study, the elephants never saw the cloth They relied solely on olfactory clues, which could be attributed to each tribes diet and pheromonal secretions the Masai consumeani mal products than the Kamba the Kamba villages are known to have a strong smell of cattle What is interesting is that elephants can ac curately and reliably figure out who is friend and who is foe Compare this to us humans, who still walk down dark alleys at night, fall for Ponzi schemes, and buy lemons from used car salesmenId think, given all those examples, the question isnt whether el ephants can remember Maybe we need to ask What wont they forgetPiercing and upliftinga smart, accessible yarn with a suspenseful puzzle at its core The Boston Globe Poignantan entertaining tale about parental love, friendship, loss The Washington PostA riveting drama Us WeeklyA moving tale PeopleA fast paced, surprise ending mystery USA Today In Jenna, Jodi Picoult has created an unforgettable character who will easily endear herself to each and every reader Leaving Time may be her finest work yet Bookreporter A captivating and emotional story BookPageWith plenty of twists and a surprising ending, Leaving Time explores the grieving process and what happens when we cannot move on Womans Day A moving and emotional story Pittsburgh Post GazetteA truly engaging readFull of the deep characters and multilayered story lines that have earned Picoult a spot in many readers hearts Library Journal Delivers a powerhouse ending Booklist Memorable and poignant Publishers Weekly