Chalked: Part 4

frompartsunknownchalkedJohnny’s father stood in front of his opened dresser drawer in his room, and stared at his collection of primitive wanted posters his precious boy had given to him over the years. It amounted to a small book, but the one picture he stared especially hard at was the wrinkled drawing he’d nearly a decade ago saved from the police precinct’s trash bin. Johnny would have made an insufficient cop, but he was a very good drawer of these lousy pictures.

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The accident had reversed the wheels of growing old and caused Johnny to retreat back to that boy he used to be … the boy who drew those lousy pictures … and wanted as much as before to be a policeman. Johnny’s father knew that his retreat wasn’t temporary, that he’d gone back to stay. Johnny had already begun handing him new pictures, hoping just as before that they might be posted at the station. Johnny’s father felt uncomfortable about this … embarrassed … and felt ashamed that he felt so.

So what if Johnny was a grown man? His mind was not … or at least it no longer acted as if it was due to no fault of Johnny. Johnny’s father had come to grips with this new beginning, but this altered repeat was at the opposite end of the universe from the joys he’d experienced the first time around when he’d raised his son. That first time he’d never had to go to the garage to cry after spending time with him. That first time he could pick up Johnny to console him, but now he would have to find another means to comfort him … but he fashioned he would. He would find it. Johnny’s father sucked it up and derided himself. There was nothing to be embarrassed about. Johnny would need him, his dad, more than ever now, more than even the first time … and so he considered Johnny’s puddle pictures once more.

The doughnut-bulging chief had passed away a few years ago due to a heart attack, and his replacement was by all means approachable. He could see getting Johnny’s drawing posted if he explained the situation beforehand … and if he was told “No” … well … he’d put it up anyway for Johnny. Johnny’s happiness was all that mattered.

Not willing to chance his son’s heart getting broken, he thought it best to take one of the pictures he’d been given and ask the chief about it prior to informing Johnny. He was glad he had. Police Chief Matthews had been understanding, and moved, it seemed at first, but the ridiculousness of the picture, which to some would have made the situation even sadder, caught the chief off guard and sent him into a different stratosphere, busting with laughter, roaring like a mating hippopotamus. It was a tickle in his throat he couldn’t rid himself of, no matter how hard he tried, and excused himself to the water fountain, looking redder than ever and Johnny’s father not able to tell if it was from his being embarrassed by how he had reacted or from the exerted force of the guffaws. After a few swallows and a hiccough, the chief finally said, “Sure you can put it up.” and Johnny’s father felt a well-spring of relief flood his insides. “And I’d like to meet this Johnny of yours,” the chief added, crushing the paper cup, and tossed it into the garbage can.

“But you have, sir,” Johnny’s father replied. “You’ve met my son.”

“I have,” the chief said. “I’d like to meet him again.”

Johnny’s father was skeptical; he had to protect his son. He wasn’t sure why the chief wanted to see him. Was it his way to repent for his inappropriate behavior? The chief clearly must have noticed how he had only stood there frowning at him while he bellowed a fit.

The chief, sensing his reluctance, suddenly became very solemn. “I’d really like to meet him,” he repeated. “His drawings remind me of something. I think he’d be good for morale here at the station.”

“Morale?” Johnny’s father said. “What do you think … he’s some sort of dog?”

“No, you read me wrong,” the chief said. “I’m sorry I laughed. It’s heartbreaking what happened to your son … it is … and I’m not just saying that. Been there … not my own, but a nephew … retarded.”

“My Johnny’s not retarded!” Johnny’s father retaliated.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean …” the chief backpedaled, and paused a moment before proceeding. “It’s just that, my nephew, it would make you cry if he didn’t make you laugh. I find I discover something better in me each time I’m with him; or rather I see my faults as not all that bad in comparison, and on top of that, his problems don’t bother him. He’s uplifting in a way.”

Johnny’s father scowled at the chief. “You want to pity my son so you can feel better about yourself? Is that it?”

“No,” the chief answered, but appeared unaffected by his glowering appearance. “I don’t want to pity him,” the chief continued. “That would be counter-productive. No, I want to give him a job. You say he wants to work for the police, right? An academy man? Well then … let’s let him.”

(To Be Continued)

Roger McManus

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