Not a tragedy of international proportions, I know, but she was fairly frustrated over her inability to remember where she left them or find them when she retraced her steps. Meanwhile, I was sort of concerned about the hassles and expense associated with the replacement of the key itself, along with the electronic pushbutton gadget that locks and unlocks the car door. And I was even a little worried over the thought of driving and camping our way to North Carolina without a handy backup in case our one remaining key was eaten by a bear. Also MIA were a few of those little swipe cards that some stores and organizations issue to their patrons, including ones from supermarkets in both Galva and North Carolina, the pharmacy her brother uses when he joins us out east, and, oh yeah, the Onslow County Library.
The latter was one of the first things we obtained when we embarked on the Carolina end of our back-and-forth living experiment. We're both big fans of libraries, and soon discovered the ladies in our tiny beach branch of the countywide system to be nearly as nice as the folks back home in Galva.
The keys went missing just a couple of days before we were scheduled to head back to the southeast shore, so there wasn't really much we could do about the situation, tied up as we were with the kind of pre-trip packing and preparations that often seem to rival the proceedings leading up to a space launch or a climbing expedition to Mount Everest.
But there was time for the one thing we almost always do when something mysteriously disappears.
We prayed. To Saint Anthony.
Saint Anthony of Padua was a 13th-century Franciscan monk who is, for many Catholics, the patron saint associated with the return of lost items. Those "items" can even include lost souls, but the good saint has often proved helpful with the recovery of more mundane things, too. Like car keys.
There's even a simple little prayer that believers can recite as part of the lost-and-found process that goes like this:
"Tony, Tony turn around, something's lost that must be found."
I'm not sure it's a Vatican-approved process, nor am I always entirely positive I'm supposed to be addressing a venerable saint as "Tony," but it always seems to work, so we do it. It is, of course, a little easier for him to work his miracles when the thing that needs to be located is nearby, like under a couch cushion or at the bottom of a heretofore bottomless handbag. So I guess we complicated things a bit by saying the prayer, then jumping in a car and driving over a thousand miles from the scene.
But it just took a little more time.
A few days later, we were heading back to our place after some errands in the nearby mainland fishing village where we usually shop, when her cell phone began ringing. Now, in my opinion, one of the very best things about living on a semi-remote beachfront island is the fact that cell phones don't hardly work at all. I'm sure not everyone would agree, but I consider the words "I can't hear you, I'm at the beach" to be more of a joyous anthem than something to be sorry for. But I'm funny that way, I know.
We were on the beach road when her phone rang, an area where reception is especially bad and somewhat akin to the two-cans-and-a-string system we all tried when we were kids. I am often just as likely to let the darned thing ring rather than deal with a hard-to-hear call. She is both more responsive and more responsible than me, though, so she answered the call, believing, as many do, that repeated shouts of "CAN YOU HEAR ME?" will somehow overcome and circumvent the in-and-out cracklings of a weak cell phone signal.
The rest of my end of the conversation sounded kind of like this:
"NO, I'M IN NORTH CAROLINA."
"A FARM STORE?"
"Who was that?" I asked after she finally finished the call.
"The Onslow County Library," she said wonderingly.
Turns out, she had left her keys at the Farm King store on the edge of Kewanee, one of the places she stopped while running last-minute errands for her brother. If the CIA, FBI or even the Kewanee Police Department is looking for a few dogged, determined investigators, they may well want to turn to those friendly folks who sell farm stuff on the edge of town, as they went way beyond the call of duty by contacting both a North Carolina library and the IGA store in Galva, figuring, rightly enough, that they'd then be able to match the numbers on the swipe cards to a name. Sure enough, later that day, I found a voicemail on my own cell phone from the Galva store that also let me know where our keys could be found.
It made us happy.
Not just because we had avoided the inconvenience of a set of lost keys, though it was surely good news. But really because it served to remind us that we live in places where good people live, too. Where people will go a little out of their way and spend a little extra time to help somebody out.
So thank you to the folks at Farm King, the Onslow County Library and the Galva IGA, because, thanks to you, the lost is found.
And thank you, too, Saint Anthony.
Because you work in wonderful ways.