Johnny had entered the academy as a civilian, very much like a caterpillar that enters the cocoon to metamorphose into something else more charismatic. But Johnny knew he had the right stuff. He knew it. There was no question of that. The only change there would be, would be that others would now know this too. He’d wear the uniform and the badge like his father, and his father’s grandfather. He’d uphold the law, which he’d sworn he’d do back in kindergarten with his hand on a lump of Play-do. He’d leave behind his crayon and wanted posters he’d used and made years ago and that yearning they signified that had stayed and grown with him in exchange for a pistol and cuffs … and he’d do this all … when he graduated … but that was if he graduated.
“What was the right stuff?” Johnny asked himself. “It comes from the heart. Right? It doesn’t matter if you can’t hit the target at target practice, even though the target’s a ringer for the instructor and because of that and nothing else you really wanted to blow its head off. Blow it to bloody pieces!”Relax, there is a note (Note: He said “its” and not “his”). “It’s a mindset,” Johnny went on. “It doesn’t matter if my asthma prevents me from finishing any of the obstacle courses … or … even the monkey bars in the kiddie park,” he muttered. “It’s a loyalty to justice … and it doesn’t really matter if I’m … that I am … afraid.” But yes, it did … and Johnny, with his head bowed, knew this, and wished that he were more fearful of failing in his dad’s eyes, something to deter him from giving up … but being cursed … his father was far too understanding and gentle a soul for that. He would take his son for who he was and love him … cop or no cop.
It was a turmoil he put up with for a month or so, and then, finally, Johnny was saved from the disgrace of having to quit when the academy kicked him out instead. At least he could say he’d been a tough enough man to have not folded … and being the optimist, thanked his lucky stars for the boot and his ability to say this. But what would he do now, Johnny thought, when he’d lost everything he’d strived to be … what about the tradition?
It would be hard and insensitive to say this made it any easier, or gave Johnny another excuse he could hide behind, or see his loss of so much as a cure, but fate as it so often leaves us with questions, did so for Johnny’s family. The man was drunk, and the tangents leading up to it, a loss of a job, or a broken heart, were of no concern. The man had been drunk and that was all there was to it, and because he was drunk, he’d failed to see where the road had gone … failed to see where he was going … and failed to see Johnny as he stepped from the last step of the police academy with a small cardboard box containing his belongings from a shattered dream.
(To Be Continued)