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Here's to Us(3)
Elin Hilderbrand

Deacon nods in agreement, although he suspects that if Jack had stayed and lived the life on Nantucket, then he, Deacon, might not exist. This unsettling thought evaporates once Deacon sees the beach. It is a long stretch of golden sand. The ocean is bottle green, with rolling, white-crested waves. Jack and Deacon set out their towels. Jack goes charging into the water, and Deacon follows.

They bodysurf in the waves for well over an hour, then they collapse on their towels and nap in the sun. When they wake up, the light has mellowed, and the water sparkles.

“Here it is,” Jack says. “The golden hour.”

They sit in silence for a few minutes. Deacon has never experienced a golden hour before, but he has been to church once, with his friend Emilio’s family, and this feels sort of the same, peaceful and holy. In his life in the city, he watches too much TV, and he and Emilio and Hector set off bottle rockets in the alleys behind Stuy Town. Jack walks off down the beach, and Deacon senses that he wants to be alone, so Deacon goes to the water’s edge and finds a perfectly formed clamshell with a swirl of marbleized blue on the inside. He’ll take it home, he decides. He will keep it forever.

He throws rocks into the ocean until Jack returns with a dreamy, faraway look on his face. Deacon wonders if he is thinking about his French girlfriend, Claire.

“What do you say we start heading back?” Jack says. “I have to return the jeep by six.”

Deacon nods, but his heart is heavy. He doesn’t want to leave. The remainder of the day is shadowed by melancholy. They drive back into town, roll the jeep over the cobblestone streets, return it to the rental place. It has cost Jack forty dollars, which seems like a fortune.

On the wharf, Jack buys an order of fried clams, two lobster rolls, and two chocolate milk shakes. Deacon and his father eat their feast on the top deck of the ferry as the sun sets, dappling the water pink and gold. Jack hums some amalgam of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “Afternoon Delight.”

“Now, that was a perfect day with my son,” Jack says. “What do you say we go downstairs so you can get some rest?”

Deacon nearly protests. He wants to stay outside and watch the lights of Nantucket fade until they disappear, but the breeze picks up, and Deacon shivers. He follows his father downstairs, where they secure a section of bench. Jack rolls up the two striped towels—there was never a doubt in Deacon’s mind that Jack would keep them; he’s thrifty that way—and places them on one end of the bench for Deacon as a pillow.

“Thank you,” Deacon whispers.

He tries with all his might to stay awake, but the gentle rocking of the boat is like that of a cradle, and he feels himself succumbing. His eyelids grow heavy and eventually drop like anchors. Deacon knows somehow that more than just one perfect day with his father is ending. It’s as though he can see the future: a week later, Jack will leave his family for good, taking the last scraps of Deacon’s childhood with him. There is nothing either of them can do to stop it.


John Buckley had performed some astonishing feats in his thirty years as an agent, but nothing compared to the miracle of assembling Deacon Thorpe’s entire family at the house on Nantucket so that they could spread Deacon’s ashes and discuss the troubling state of his affairs.

Buck realized he should be parsimonious with his self-congratulation. He hadn’t gathered the entire family. Scarlett had stubbornly chosen to remain in Savannah, where she would stay, Buck supposed, until she realized the money was all gone. At some point in the near future, Buck assumed, she would look down, like Wile E. Coyote in the old cartoons, believing himself to be standing on solid ground but seeing nothing below him but thin air. They were sure to hear from her then.

Six weeks had passed, but John Buckley still couldn’t believe that his first-ever client and his best friend, Deacon Thorpe—the most famous chef in America—was dead.

On May 6, a call had come to Buck’s cell phone from an unfamiliar number, and, since Deacon had been incommunicado for nearly forty-eight hours, John Buckley took the call, thinking it might be his friend. He was in a chair at the Colonel’s, the last old-time barbershop in New York City, where cell phones were expressly not allowed.

Buck knew he would never be granted an appointment with Sal Sciosia (the colonel, Battle of Khe Sanh, Vietnam) again if he took the call, but he had no choice.

An unfamiliar number could have meant anything. Most likely: Deacon had gone on another bender, even though he had promised, he had sworn, he had practically pricked his index finger and matched it with Buck’s own in a solemn vow, that he would never again have an episode like the one two weeks earlier. That rager had most likely cost Deacon his marriage. Scarlett had withdrawn Ellery from La Petit Ecole, one of the most prestigious private schools in New York City, and taken her down to Savannah, leaving Deacon contrite and chastened, a new passenger on the wagon.

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