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  • Saina Udeshi

The Disappearance of Joe Miller

It has been 4 days since Joe Miller has gone missing. As I turn around the corner of Pillsbury Street, I see the mailman putting up posters of the thin-faced, pale, blue-eyed, 11-year-old Joe. I see nosy neighbours give pitiful yet inquisitive glances in that direction. A wave of anger overcomes me as I look at them. What if it was one of their sons who had disappeared? Would they appreciate or even tolerate other people's inquiries?

Joe and I have been best friends since the very beginning - at this point, I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in my life. Aunt Rachel, his mother and my mother have been best friends since high school. Their bond had been passed down to us too and we were inseparable. I felt like a part of me was missing since Joe vanished. Everyone at school looked at me in a different way which annoys me. What was going to come out of staring at me with pity? Why couldn’t they spend their time helping instead? My teachers excused me from homework and kept asking me how I felt. I appreciate their concern but it made me feel suffocated. The police have been searching for days. They are doing everything they could to find Joe and get Aunt Rachel out of her disturbed state of mind. After all, he is just eleven years old.

I kept wondering who would want to cause such pain to his family and friends. Why would they do such a thing? Why did such cold-hearted people exist? I missed Joe and his presence each day and hoped that he would suddenly knock on my door, beckoning me to come to play with him. I woke up the next day to find out that the police had found a lead which was his blue and black bicycle. It was lying on the edge of the Cherry Woods. They now turned the woods into a hotspot and went on deeper to search in it. What could have possibly happened to Joe? Was he abducted or was he simply playing a serious prank on everyone? Since this was Joe we were talking about, a prank was definitely a probability. The possibilities were endless but it was best for it to be left in the hands of the police. Another three days passed and my mom was doing everything she could to help Aunt Rachel stay calm and composed but she knew where to draw the line and leave her alone.

Despite myself, I was preparing to get used to not having Joe around and so was everyone else. I felt miserable and disappointed with myself for letting it be that way but I couldn’t bear everyone’s pitying glances. I made it look like I was moving on, but deep down my heart was still crying at the thought of never being able to see him again. I could hear his voice everywhere. I could see him everywhere. I wanted him back. I kept asking myself, “He would return, wouldn’t he? He won’t leave me like this.” And then I’d answer myself by saying, “Of course he would return...he is our Joe after all.” We all prayed to God each day, asking him to send our kind-hearted and sweet, yet naughty Joe back.

It seemed that I was right and the Almighty had finally answered our prayers. One sunny afternoon, Joe came running back home acting as if nothing had happened. I gasped at the sight of him, a part of me believing that it was a hallucination. His clothes were torn at certain places, he looked starved, he had dirt all over his face and clothes, he had scratches on his body and was bleeding from a few places. Despite all this, he was still our Joe. "So did any of you miss me?" were his words. His mother broke down at the sight of him, pulled him into her arms, and started sobbing. I, on the other hand, still couldn't believe how unbothered he was. How immature, I thought to myself.

Turns out, he had been secretly building a treehouse a little into the woods for us and our other friends to play in but had taken a wrong turn while coming out. Typical Joe. He hadn't been able to eat much during his undesired stay in the woods but had survived on some water from a nearby river - which he claims to have discovered - and some apples from a tree in the woods. He had finally been able to find his way out somehow and had run straight back home. I could see everyone was relieved that Joe was back with us, even though we spent hours lecturing him for his carelessness. Joe looked ashamed and kept apologizing until we couldn’t stay mad at him. A familiar smirk came onto his face, as he said, “At least we have a really cool story to tell people now!”

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