Chalked: Part 1

frompartsunknownchalkedTen year old, brown-haired, and freckled Johnny, ever since he could remember, wanted to be a policeman. His dad was on the force, his great grandfather had been a bobby, and his grandfather was a greeter at one of those mega grocery stores but told Johnny he was really undercover security because of his sleek moves and photogenic memory. Johnny knew the only spot in the store his grandfather could remember was where the adult diapers were, and he’d seen his gramps run over little kids’ feet and knock over clothes racks with his wheelchair, claiming the wheel was stuck while his hand kept turning it. Still his heart was in the right place when he wasn’t swearing, and Johnny could tell that the old man only yearned for that same dream that he dreamt … to be that iconic defender of good.

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At the dinner table, Johnny was a stickler for details when asking questions of his father, wanting to know everything that made up his dad’s day … not just what happened … but why it happened and what was going through his dad’s mind at every instance. It was a total deconstruction of a law enforcer’s day, knowing the tic of the time bomb, the creak in the turning gears, or whatever it took to solve a crime and apprehend a villain, and for Johnny, it was wanting to be able to see the job as not something out of his reach, but something he could understand and would be to him someday … as one of his idols would say … elementary. Always striving to be more involved, Johnny eagerly drew police sketches of the latest homicidal maniacs his father said they were searching for, and proudly displayed it for his pop, hoping that maybe his dad might find it good enough to place on the station’s bulletin board or at the post office, and have a part in apprehending one of these deemed “most wanted.”

His father, being kind, and seeing how earnest Johnny was, finally took his son to the precinct house on his day off, and placed one of Johnny’s drawings on the board, thumbtacking it right next to the “Pantyhose stalker.” Johnny beamed. The image which he had drawn was primitive, a step above a stick figure, but looking no better than the outline of an anonymous, elongated puddle. Johnny never placed a face on any of his sketches, afraid he’d portray the perp wrong and mislead the investigation. He was earnest, but not at all practical … but the first seemed to blind him from the other and he truly, and completely naively, believed his assistance in this way could be beneficial … but this wouldn’t be the time. The picture had only hung there a moment when the chief, having eaten too many doughnuts and on his way to the john to make room for another, bellowed, “Who put that crap up there? This ain’t kindergarten. Get it off.” Johnny’s dad was horrified for his son, but fortunately, the ten year old had been too distracted by the chief’s clearly coming bowel movement and the word “crap” to notice, and had missed the whole point of what had been said, snickering and stuck in a humorous image of his grandfather pointing out to the officer where the adult diapers could be found and the officer not making it in time as his pants dropped to the floor like a massive, exploding water balloon. Johnny’s dad hurried him from the building, leaving the posted picture to be vandalized by somebody else while Johnny was still enthralled in the imagery of a sullied store aisle.

It was after eighteen years of giving his father the third degree … he’d come out of the womb saying, “What do you do?” … when Johnny applied to the academy. His hopes and his dreams were nearing the point of coming true, and if his grandfather had still been alive to see this, the old geezer would have added his telescopic vision and initiation into the C.I.A. as part of his delusional repertoire of lies … in other words he would have envied Johnny … and Johnny would have taken that envy to mean nothing less than the old man’s pride in him.

(To Be Continued)

Roger McManus

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