Missing Jack Diderot

AUGUST 26. 7:35 a.m. 2012

A figure stood alone in the morning heat, silent among the crickets, dim and insubstantial in the oscillating heat of a slow-cooking day. In the strangeness of the light his outline, though hazy and nebulous, soon become quick with clarity.

I watched mutely and regarded the wanderer with skepticism. The figure represented an unsettling transit from myth to actuality; he who was an idea, was now a living being. A thing of mass, with an apple-red heart thudding wetly in a fleshy body.

As he raised his face, I cupped my eyes, heart hammering, hand resting on the doorframe.

 

THIRTY YEARS EARLIER: AUGUST 26. 7:35 a.m. 1982

In the closing days of summer, 1982, the skies were luminous and clear. At dawn, on the grass and budding fronds of the apple tree, beaded dew would glow amber in the morning sun like tiny balls of molten iron.

Summers were geological eras, their epochs marked with entire campaigns, rises and falls, complete with its own great loves and great tragedies. Seasons were divided into their own measures of years. I expected our final year of high school to last decades.

Jack was a new student in the senior class, with hair the color of walnut meat, smooth skin and eyes denim blue. He was new, and everything new belonged to us. In a world of greens and golds, we believed that, unlike the Frost poem, everything gold could stay.

Jack Diderot smiled with a fair measure of sadness, as though his smile meant something very profound. Like he was sitting on a gurgling well of secrets. Of course, I feel pulled into saying that now, into crouching by his image in supplication. You always lace people’s words with gravity once they are gone.

I first saw him sitting alone in homeroom. Sweeping cropped bangs from my eyes, I instantly forgot why I’d spent the morning deliberating which thick necklace and sagging black sweater combo would be best to kick off the school year.

No one knew much about him. Like any new arrival in a town unconvinced of its own significance, it only took a handful of conversations for rumors to begin: of his being the smartest, the shyest, the most aloof; that he was cool, or that he was not. Those who ventured to know him reported that he was orphaned at an early age; that he lived with his aunt and uncle on a property just outside of town.

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David Halliday

David Halliday

David Halliday is the Melbourne-based author of the non-fiction history The Bloody History of the Croissant. His short stories have appeared in Australia and the UK. In addition to receiving awards for screenwriting, his novella, “Heaven Opens,” was shortlisted for the Busybird Great Novella Search. His feature articles have appeared in GQ, Huffington Post, and Foundr Magazine.
David Halliday

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