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2005-08-12 10:25 AM
His name was Johnnie Richards. Well, I guess that's inaccurate. His name is Johnnie Richards, or John Manis Richards to be more precise.
But to the kids on my block; to me and Mike and Robby Virden, to Jerry Stump and Mo Olivas and all the other kids of Grantsville, West Virginia, population 1000 or so, the name Johnnie Richards invoked terror. His name was whispered like that of some long-dead evil god, lest he hear you and bring forth his vengence from the dread nether-region in which he lived. When he showed up, you played his games, by his rules. He'd usually win at sports, but that had something to do with him being a solid eight inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than any of us. But we still held back, just in case. You didn't want to piss off Johnnie Richards.
When you pissed off Johnnie Richards, he'd hit you in the back of your head when you weren't looking and laugh at you while you blacked out and fell to the ground. When you pissed off Johnnie Richards, he'd pick you up and shove you into the girl's bathroom and then try to get you in trouble for it. When you pissed off Johnnie Richards, your head usually ended up meeting the steel of your locker.
It wasn't good enough for him to be simply the biggest, or the toughest, or the best player on the team. (I'm still not sure how he got to participate in grade-level athletics, seeing as he was three years older than any of us and had been held back at least two grades.)
One of my finest moments as a kid came on the basketball court. It was a pee-wee league, and the ball came to me with two seconds to play and we were down by a point. I didn't have time to think. I threw up the shot from ten feet out and watched it as it caught nothing but net as the buzzer rang. I'd made the winning shot, and my team-mates mobbed me.
Except for Johnnie Richards.
Within the hour, Johnnie had told everyone on the team that he had thought I was passing the ball to him, and he leapt for it and tipped it, causing it to go into the basket. So it was really him that won the game.
Nobody argued with him. No one came to my defense. Can't say I blame them, but like the old saying goes, nine hundred and ninety-nine repetitions equals one truth. The grown-ups knew better, but among the kids, Johnnie won the game.
You know, I thought I'd gotten over that guy. I stood up to him later on down the road, and he backed down. Could have had something to do with the martial arts training I'd had in the interim, but at least I thought I'd had closure.
But now I do.
He was arrested in Calhoun County for charges relating to methamphetamine production this last year. I saw his picture, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how I was so afraid of that.
It's amazing how we give the most unworthy recepticles power in our lives. Why do we let someone so unworthy influence the way we live? My whole life was somehow tainted by Johnnie Richards, and the fact that I never got payback for all the crap he pulled.
Well, I don't need it anymore. He earned his own payback.
And it's now been four days without a smoke.
Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss.
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