After the breaks had mended, it was months of therapy to get his body working again. For a time in the healing process, Johnny had used his grandfather’s old squeaky wheelchair. It had squeaked more than ever, but Johnny didn’t allow anyone to oil it, because out of so much he had forgotten, the squeak reminded Johnny of that dear old, comical man, a root in who Johnny was, while it seemed a lot of the plant was missing. A plate had been placed in his head where the skull had collapsed. Johnny knew something was different. He could count his ten toes and fingers … and they were all there … but he had struggled so hard for that number after nine.
“Ten … ten,” he repeated to himself, trying to encourage his memory to not forget it again … but it would.
Johnny’s father, who had known of Johnny’s dismissal from the academy even before the accident, had never been upset at him. The accident didn’t have to wipe anything away in that regard. It didn’t have to teach him a lesson, refocusing on what was really important. Johnny’s father knew … so what was the reason? Johnny’s father couldn’t blame himself and say God intervened on his behalf because he’d been stupid and his son was sacrificed to learn him something. He couldn’t. He could only blame a drunk driver and that wasn’t good enough. The driver was numb and thoughtless and incoherent. Where is reason in that? Where is motive?!
Johnny had lost something, and he couldn’t understand what he’d lost as much as he couldn’t understand what his father was going through. Life was simpler … he didn’t know why, only that he was less filled with things, but Johnny wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be all right … simpler. He wore a plastic badge on his chest, and it made him happy. It was the only thing that seemed to call to him as he rummaged through what his parents had said was his closet. He was sitting at his desk in his room … which he’d also been told was his … looking at the four sides of a box, there was nothing more meaningful of that room than that, when his foot stepped upon something below. Out of all he’d forgotten, without knowing what any of it was, he bent over, and reached into the darkness, and picked up an old crayon covered in dust, ages forgotten. There was no tip to it, and it was rounded at its end like a ball, and the torn wrapping in the middle suggested it had once been longer. Johnny sat up and examined it, and cradled the crippled piece between his fingers … and just knew he’d held this before … but then wondered if he should care … and began to cry, because he didn’t know.
(To Be Continued)