Lost Children Archive Part I: Missing–Removals Summary
by Valeria Luiselli

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Part I: Missing–Removals Summary

Part I: Family Soundscape

Missing

Manuela finally calls the narrator and tells her their petition for asylum was denied, which means the girls will be shipped off to another detention center in Arizona. From there, they will be deported back home. However, Manuela reveals that the day before the girls were transferred, they disappeared. Border Patrol says the girls are probably at the detention center, but Manuela thinks they ran away. The narrator asks what she can do to help, and Manuela says to look for the girls if the family makes it to New Mexico or Arizona.

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The family reaches Arkansas and travels to a small motel on the edge of the state to stop for the night. After a brief fight with her husband, the narrator leaves the motel room while everyone sleeps. She grabs a book and seeks out a local bar. She orders a drink and finds herself entranced by a lone man writing in a notebook. They discuss the depth of their lives and make out during a cigarette break. The narrator thinks about her sexual feelings for this man but chooses to return to her own motel room.

The family continues on to a town called Geronimo to see the eponymous Apache leader’s grave and take soundscapes of the land. As they approach the border, questions are asked and passports are shown. The narrator becomes uncomfortable because she was not born in the United States, and the strangers around her notice this difference.

After entering a small town, the family is questioned by a liquor store owner. Frantic to keep the peace, they lie and say they are going to direct a spaghetti Western, after which the man changes his tone from rude to welcoming. The narrator remembers the title of one spaghetti Western and wins the man over, but he wants the family to stay and watch the film together. Thankfully, the boy is stung by a bee, which offers them a quick way out of the hellish reality they’ve created. They race off and drive until it’s dark, stopping at a motel that revives some love between the narrator and her husband.

The following day, the family arrives at Fort Sill, and the husband is giddy at the prospect of seeing the Apache graves. When they get back on the road, the narrator seems to finally understand what her husband is trying to capture. It’s not that he’s chasing the ghosts of the Apaches; he’s capturing the sounds of the present moment in the landscapes that once held the Apaches’ greatness.

The narrator realizes her job is not to tell the stories of the survivors. Her job is to tell the stories of the lost children, the stories with no ending. She equates this unknowing to that of her husband and decides she needs to start looking elsewhere for answers.

Box IV

Box IV is her husband’s final box, and it contains the majority of his items. Inside are notebooks, eight books, one brochure for National Parks, four maps, one tape, one CD, and a folder with copied papers.

Removals

The narrator hears a rumor about the government deporting “alien kids” at an airport nearby. She begs her husband to go, and the boy supports this choice because the airport is, ironically, near the UFO museum in Roswell.

They stop a desolate motel, one that reminds them of the Bates Motel in the movie Psycho. The kids have their own room this time around, but they are afraid to be alone. The husband, immediately falling asleep, leaves the narrator to fend for herself. As she reads Lord of the Flies to the kids, the girl falls asleep, but the boy is kept awake by even more fears, adult fears that mirror the narrator’s. The narrator, also struck with existential woes, comforts the boy and begins to read from Elegies for Lost Children , a book she is using for her research. Leaning into the fear gives them both...

(The entire section is 1,002 words.)