Jacob is a series of flash fiction that takes place in 2005, when we were still trying to figure out if Jack and Meg White were siblings or exes.
It was weeks before they heard anything. Reporters waited outside John’s house morning and evening, hoping to get a soundbite from John or his mom. But they knew as much as everyone else: only that Dennis Parker had gone missing from the Bridgeport County Correctional Facility on a Tuesday night, and no one knew where he was.
John was extra quiet now, speaking up only when he had to. He stopped his visitations with the other prisoners, and seemed to be in his own world. When the band practiced, he didn’t do any solo stuff on the guitar, just the bare minimum. Jacob wondered if this is what depression looked like. Or maybe John was just processing.
You would think with all the cameras in a place like Bridgeport, they would be able to tell whether or not he tried to escape. But it was as though he had vanished. The inmates weren’t talking, and the police seemed more curious than concerned. Jacob remembered, wistfully, the days when the worst trial they had to deal with was boredom.
“Jacob, phone,” his mom yelled from the kitchen. He ran downstairs and grabbed the landline, running it back up to his room.
“Hello?” Jacob said, out of breath.
“Hey. Uhm. It’s me. Erin.”
“What...what’s up?” Jacob asked, hands shaking.
“I just wondered how you were doing, with the John stuff and everything. Is he okay?”
Jacob smiled. She had called him. Him. “He’s doing alright,” he said, and they continued to talk for the next ten minutes, until Jacob panicked about running out of things to say, and abruptly ended the conversation.
“I, uh, have to hang up, but thanks. Thanks for calling.”
“Sure. Talk soon?”
Jacob fell backwards into his bed, holding the phone to his chest.
Before John’s dad went missing, Jacob spent hours helping John turn the softball games and ballet recitals into a newsletter with a ridiculous amount of adjectives, some jokes, and a few inspirational sayings. They had created four issues so far, and the prisoners had begun to look forward to getting them. They passed them around, proudly stating, “That’s about my kid.” If anything, it helped to assuage some of Jacob’s disappointment over not making it onto the school paper.
But these newsletters eventually made their way into the hands of local law enforcement and they, in turn, called Jacob and John in for questioning.
“We understand that you have been providing a service for your dad’s fellow inmates in the form of these...uh...reports.”
“Yeah,” John said, unintimidated, “I go to the events they can’t be at and tell them about it. That their kid scored a goal or did a good job at their piano recital.”
“I see. And what is it that you do?” the officer asked, turning to Jacob.
“Oh, I. I’m a writer, and I’ve just been...helping. You know. Adding some flourish.”
“Yeah, you know, descriptions and stuff. And I created that border, right there, on my computer.”
“I see,” the officer said again, looking over the stack of newsletters. “And how did the prisoners respond to these reports?”
“They really like them,” John said.
“A lot,” Jacob added.
And that’s how they eventually discovered what had happened to Denis Parker.
This is how most of their phone conversations began. Jacob and Erin had been making a regular habit of “checking in” on one another. Jacob’s phone-panic had begun to subside, as he realized how comfortable he felt talking to Erin.
“So they really broke him out?” she asked.
“Yeah, that’s what they’re saying.”
“Just so he could be at John’s graduation? I mean, won’t he get caught?”
“Oh, definitely. They are going to surround the place.”
“I don’t get it. Why would the other prisoners do that for him?”
“I don’t think they did it for Dennis.” Jacob said. “They did it for John.”
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