idol season nine | week 34, quick fic | 453 words
The Mississippi ran mud-brown that spring, the year we lost Johnny Wells. There was talk of beatings and drunkenness at home, and did we know? Of course we knew. A thing like that happens in a little town like this, everybody knows. Doesn't mean you can do a goldurned thing about it.
Johnny was a pale, ornery sort of kid, the kind who'd get in trouble at school pretty regular and come back the next day with the bruises to show for it. His father was the mayor, so trying to talk reason to the man would get you nowhere. Besides, most of us got a beating now and then. Johnny's were just maybe worse.
Johnny liked baseball and licorice. There was a stray dog near the five-and-dime he'd stop to pet and sometimes offer a scrap or two. Johnny's parents didn't allow pets, on account of the mess. They didn't allow much, to be honest. His father seemed to think Johnny was an embarrassment to him, while Johnny thought the other way around. Both were right, I expect.
The other kids liked Johnny some. He was always good for a game of stickball, or just playing catch. But he had a temper, and you never knew when it might rise up. You’d want to be somewhere else if it did. Maybe he caught it from his daddy, who could be hotheaded too? Either way, Johnny was happy in minutes and hours, but never days. You'd have to watch him for a bit, see which way the wind was blowing.
In April, along about the time Johnny disappeared, neighbors said there was the most awful fight at his house. They could hear yelling clear across the street. It wasn't the first time.
Johnny wasn't at school after Easter, and I guess Miss Jenny spoke to the family about it. The way we heard it was, his father said Johnny had just run off. He didn't know where the boy had gone, couldn't tell you if he'd ever come back. People wondered whether Johnny's father might have had some part in it, but they couldn't prove anything. We still don't know.
Some say Johnny might have left to join the circus, but there aren't many circuses these days and I doubt they'd have much use for a boy his age. Others think the river might've taken him, but there's no way of knowing unless his body turns up after, and it never did.
There could be all sorts of reasons, and we all hope it was one of the good ones.
But I think it was probably the kind nobody talks about.
I think maybe he finally just got tired of being Johnny Wells.