It had been a few hours now, and her dad still hadn’t picked her up from her mom’s house. Her mom had left for the weekend for a yoga retreat because it was Ivy’s weekend to be with her dad. Ivy stomped around the house because nothing was going her way. She thought it would be awesome to be by herself and have unlimited screen time, but technology seemed to have gone on strike. Her fingerprint I.D. wouldn’t work and her password didn’t work either. She tried the password again: DaddysG1rl!. She had to laugh. Her dad had created the password, and she secretly liked it, although she’d never admit that to him. Then she noticed that the Wi-Fi network didn’t show up. Next, her computer said it was out of hard drive space, and she couldn’t get a signal on her cell phone.
She looked out the window and let the setting sun shine on her face. She loved that days were so long in the northern hemisphere at the end of May. It was almost 9:00 p.m., and it was still light! It was a nice evening, and it would’ve been nice to walk around Grand Avenue and get pizza and ice cream like they were supposed to tonight. Or go for a motorcycle ride. Now she was feeling bad about thinking she didn’t want to see her dad. She really did. She knew she was Daddy’s girl. She always would be. She and her dad had the same sense of humor and the same drive and determination. Although she shared many things with her mom, their relationship was just… different. Her mom was content and calm. Ivy made things happen, just like her dad. She had an adventurous spirit and wasn’t afraid to take risks.
She looked around the house at the battlefield of uncooperative electronic devices and decided that it seemed like the universe was giving her some sort of signal to use less energy or something. She made herself a sandwich and followed it with an indulgent pint of ice cream. Then she read a paperback book and went to bed.
In the morning, Ivy woke up to a quiet house, so she flipped on the TV for some company. At least that still works, she thought.
A special report interrupted her program to announce that police stations were being flooded with missing persons reports. As she processed the information, her eyes widened and her jaw dropped involuntarily. Could it be that her dad was one of these people who had mysteriously disappeared? Her gut told her yes, because her dad was never late. Plus, her dad would never not call to tell her what was keeping him if he was late. He was Mr. Dependable.
Ivy called her dad’s phone for the millionth time. He still didn’t pick up, just got his stupid voicemail. Her thoughts were interrupted by a tapping sound on her window that sounded like hail hitting it. It was a beautiful morning, so it couldn’t be hail. As she went over to the second story window to examine, she witnessed pebbles hitting the window, over and over. Where were they coming from? Ivy looked around to see if it was windy, but the tree branches weren’t swaying. “Why are these rocks hitting my window?” she asked herself aloud.
Over and over, the same rhythm. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Slight pause. Tap, tap. Again. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Pause. Tap, tap. A third time. Ivy walked away and popped some bread in the toaster. The rhythm echoed in her head. Why did that pattern seem so familiar?
And then she recognized it. That’s how her dad knocked on her bedroom door every morning to wake her up. He said it was Morse code. He had learned Morse code as a kid and thought she should, too. Could it be that Dad is trying to communicate with me? She searched ‘Morse code’ online. Yay! The internet is working! She found a YouTube video titled “How to Learn Morse Code Alphabet in 3 Steps.”
She played the video and stopped it at the display of a Morse code chart. She learned four taps was “H.” Pauses were between letters, and the second “tap, tap” was “I.” H-I. She knocked “Hi” back on the window. Then she knocked long, short, short. Pause. Short, long. Pause. Long, short, short, spelling “dad,” and raised her shoulders as though she were asking a question. He tapped “yes” back.
“Where are you?” tapped Ivy.
No reply. Keith was at a loss to explain where he was with a few taps.
“Are you OK?” she tapped.
“Yes,” he answered.
Still in her pajamas, Ivy ran outside to find her dad. She called for him frantically, but there was no answer. She began to cry. This was really freaking her out and she wondered if she was imagining the whole thing.
Suddenly knocking came from the picnic table. She searched for him but saw nothing. She ran over to the table and started grasping at the air to see if she could touch him. But she couldn’t. She jumped up onto the table and occupied as much space as she could to see if she could find him, crying all the while. She heard more tapping but then realized she didn’t have her Morse code cheat sheet with her, so she announced that she was grabbing it as she ran in. She returned with paper and a pen and her tablet. She said, “I’m ready, Dad.” She hoped that he hadn’t disappeared—again.
“Can you hear me?” she called out. She was relieved to hear a series of knocks that spelled yes. Then she then started firing off questions, like Why can’t I hear or see you? His response was an unsatisfying ‘I don’t know.’ She listened to the taps and transcribed his messages for the rest of the morning, until the sun came around the house and made it too hot to be outside at the table.
Ivy learned that people have about ten years to cut carbon emissions in half and that he couldn’t return to Earth until greenhouse gas levels were brought down to 2010 levels. Ivy wanted to ask him what he thought she and her mom—and Greta Thunberg—had been saying for the last several years, but she decided that wouldn’t be helpful, and it wouldn’t bring him back any sooner. She mostly just wanted to know how she could help secure his return.
Ivy’s dad explained that he wanted her to use her social media influence to make adopting a sustainable lifestyle mainstream. She never dreamed her fourteen-year-old voice could influence anything, but now that she thought about it, thanks to a silly but socially relevant video of hers going viral, she now had a wildly popular YouTube channel with millions of subscribers. She’d made most of the videos rather spontaneously without a script or a lot of editing. Somehow her quirky style and messages resonated with a broad base of people. Ivy agreed to help do this, but she argued that her efforts would never be enough.
Her dad recognized this fact and communicated that he had other plans too, and that there were thousands of what he called ‘Ejected’ people working to meet this goal as well. He assured her that the weight of the world and his return did not rest solely on her shoulders. He just wanted her to do her best. She again agreed to do whatever she could.
Tears stinging her eyes, Ivy said, “I want to hug you, but there’s nothing to hug.”
She felt a warmth on her cheek that she knew must have been his kiss.
Keith tapped, ‘Bye 4 now I luv u.’
Ivy sat at the picnic table, stunned for a couple of minutes as she tried to process what was happening. But she quickly decided that time was of the essence, so she ran inside to get to work.