You see them curled like question marks, on the sidewalk after it rains. The soil floods and they come to the surface to breathe. The sun comes out, there’s nothing to wash them away. When we were kids, we called them “Heidi food”, because of Heidi Cofax.

Where’s Heidi. It was a game we used to play. You pointed to one of your friends and they had to say where Heidi was. Then that person picked someone else, and the game was over when the most terrible thing our eight and nine year-old minds could imagine had happened to Heidi.

Heidi’s eating worms. Or Heidi went down the disposal. Heidi’s under the cornfield or on the end of a meat hook.

It was a game we played to make sense of the world, born of a mounting suspicion that life was a caprice. It was a game we played because, like everyone else, we were sure Heidi Cofax was dead.

But Heidi Cofax was very much alive in the home of Timothy Hollowell.

Tim Hollowell was thirty-six. He lived in a house with a dark green door. He had been in the navy once, but received a dishonorable discharge for sexual assault of a minor.

The walls of Timothy Hollowell’s home were covered in hand-printed slogans:


Discipline breeds obedience


My way or the highway


Suffer in silence


He found her one day at the library. She had that look. Her shoes were scuffed. Her bangs came down past her eyes.

Hollowell approached her. I work with your dad, he said. There’s been an accident. He’s in the emergency room. C’mon, I’ll take you to him. 

Heidi was twelve years old at the time. She walked with him out to the parking lot. Will my dad be okay, she asked, and Hollowell fastened her seatbelt.

For the next three years, Heidi lived in a bunker-like room in Timothy Hollowell’s basement. He gave her a bucket to use for a toilet and chained her foot to the floor.

Every night, at six o’clock, he removed the cuff from her ankle. He took off all his clothes and sat in a brown leather chair. He held a bible in one hand. Read Scripture aloud while she knelt between his legs. With the other hand, he held her hair and moved her head up and down.

She was fifteen now. A bit long in the tooth for Timothy Hollowell’s tastes. He put her on a bus, with forty dollars and some change. Heidi Cofax was never more than a mile away from her home.

That night her mom made pork chops with dressing, green bean casserole, blueberry pie for dessert. While her mother put the finishing touches on the homecoming meal, Heidi drew a bath. For three years she had dreamed of a tub of warm water with bubbles.

She turned the water on and off. The room was so white it hurt her eyes. She stood by the tub. The floor was cold. She dipped a washcloth into the water.

In the morning Heidi and her father went to the police station downtown. An officer took her to a room that was softly lit and had Naugahyde chairs.

What was his name, the officer asked.

Heidi could not say.

Where does he live, what kind of car does he drive.

Heidi could not say.

The soil floods; they wriggle and squirm. They poke their heads through the cool, black earth. You see them curled like question marks, on the sidewalk after it rains.

Every now and then, Tim Hollowell brought Heidi upstairs and they watched a movie together. Sometimes they listened to music. They listened to “Shambala” by Three Dog Night, over and over again.


Wash away my troubles

wash away my pain

with the rain of Shambala

wash away my sorrow

wash away my shame

with the rain of Shambala


It was Heidi’s favorite song. They pretended they had microphones and sang it together sometimes.

Sometimes he brought her upstairs and touched her where it was warm.

Now her father stared at her across the dinner table. Her mother kept asking when she was going back to school.

Maybe I won’t…I don’t know…I’m going out for a walk.

You need your education, her mother said. Now more than ever.

Heidi wondered what that meant or if her mother even knew.

It was 5:45. The sun was out. It had rained and they came up to breathe. It was only a mile to the dark green door and the sidewalk was covered with them.

An`ne*lid (#), An*nel"i*dan (#), a. [F. ann'elide, fr. anneler to arrange in rings, OF. anel a ring, fr. L. anellus a ring, dim. of annulus a ring.] Zool.

Of or pertaining to the Annelida.

-- n.

One of the Annelida.


© Webster 1913.

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