Finding Johnny by Peter Donald - Read Online
Finding Johnny
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Summary

To know your true potential you must first find and understand yourself. A once shy and reticent Johnny found himself with the help of a boy from his nightly dreams with whom he shared many dream adventures. Initially Johnny did not suspect his dream buddy was himself or his alter ego as he aspired to be. After he found himself and his true potential, his real life had significant meaning punctuated with dangerous adventures most kids only dream about.
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ISBN: 9781483510149
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Finding Johnny - Peter Donald

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9781483510149

Chapter One

It didn’t take much imagination to realize Mr. Khan, the physics teacher for students in their high school senior year dressed to appear casual. But it didn’t work. Today he was wearing loose fitting khaki pants with a distinct crisp crease, a nondescript brown shirt intended for a larger frame, freshly ironed, although the label stated ironing after washing was not necessary, and brown loafers not meant to be polished, but polished never the less. One of his students, Johnny Mackay had been bothered by his teacher’s intended casual appearance being inconsistent with the result. The sleeves of the teacher’s shirt had many chalk marks on them, no doubt from leaning against the chalkboard. Johnny sat in the back row of the class. He always did. When he squinted with one eye and looked at his teacher’s chalk marked shirt, he imagined looking up at the Milky Way on a clear night, even though there were few clear nights where he lived and the chalk marks only vaguely resembled the night sky. This was one of the many ways Johnny attempted to rid himself of boredom during class. Notwithstanding the boredom, physics was his favorite subject and Mr. Khan his favorite teacher. It seemed strange and a little bizarre to Johnny that at the end of every class, with a yellow cloth neatly folded and kept in the top drawer of his desk, Mr. Khan would diligently attempt to brush off all the chalk from his shirtsleeves, although he would have known he would be teaching another class in a few minutes and would have the same problem. Johnny wondered why his teacher didn’t simply avoid brushing against the chalkboard. Maybe all science teachers are a little eccentric, or strange, or obsessed. Just before the end of the class, Mr. Khan put down the piece of chalk Johnny often imagined growing out of his teacher’s right hand, vigorously attempted to brush the chalk marks from his shirtsleeves with little success, picked up the physics textbook from the top of his desk and held it in both hands against his chest. Now what? thought Johnny?

I’ve been teaching this class, I use the word teaching somewhat reluctantly, for eight months and can’t help thinking little is being learned about the subject so dear to me. I do hope I’m mistaken. This is the last day of school before summer holidays, so a good time to talk about some basic things. No, I don’t want to know what you think of me or any other teacher, whether you consider me or any other teacher a good or bad teacher. I honestly don’t care about that. We all do what we can and that is the best you can ask for. Here’s a really basic question for all of you. Who can tell me the difference between physics and chemistry? He looked around the room for a hand to hopefully wave at him. After ten seconds and seeing no waiving hand, he continued, What about you Mary Ellen? You’re a good student. What’s the difference between physics and chemistry? Mary Ellen tried to answer what she thought was a simple question. Well, you know, Physics is like the study of solid things and maybe mechanical things and chemistry is like the study of, you know, liquids.

I suppose that is an answer I would expect. What do you say Johnny, sitting back there seemingly in another world, but knowing much about many things, I suspect?

Some of his fellow students, as well as his teacher knew Johnny disliked answering questions orally, although he had a well earned reputation as being very clever as his grades had proven. Johnny thought everyone was looking at him waiting for his answer. He was uncomfortable. If he could escape into his dream world, he surely would. In a voice barely audible he started to say something only to be interrupted by Mr. Khan. Please try to speak up, like right up so we can hear you. Johnny started again in a slightly louder voice, I should probably only interpret what others have said but I don’t think there is a clear border line between physics and chemistry. However, fundamental chemistry is really physics, quantum mechanics to be exact. I believe this because chemistry mainly studies things on a molecular level, like atoms and elements. Physics does this as well but it also studies things that are very large, like stars and planets. To me there is only one real science and that’s physics. Mr. Khan was quick to respond, Bravo for you, Johnny. Oh, how I like that answer.

The bell ending the class rang. As all the students were quickly gathering their books and noisily leaving the classroom, Mr. Khan walked over to Johnny’s desk and said, Johnny we should get together sometime to talk about your plans for what university you want to attend next year. Your senior year is almost over. Given your marks, I assume you have plans to attend university. I do hope you intend to study physics. Have you thought about applying for a scholarship? You really should, you know.

Johnny remained seated at his desk with his eyes focused on his clasped hands resting on top of his desk as he answered the questions in a barely audible voice, Yes, that would be a good idea. Yes, it is almost over. Yes, I do have those plans. Yes, that is my intention. Yes, I had thought about applying, but that may not be necessary since three universities offering scholarships have approached me. I have to go now or I’ll be late for something. Johnny stood up and walked out of the classroom. Mr. Khan shook his head, turned around and walked back to his desk where he carefully placed the textbook in the middle of the top of his empty desk. The edges of the book were parallel with the edges of the top of the desk.

The something that Johnny would be late for was a promise made to his step-mother to try to entertain his step-uncle after he got home from school while his step-mother and father were shopping. It was not something Johnny would enjoy. Within fifty minutes after leaving Mr. Khan, Johnny was sitting in his living room with his step-uncle. As long as Johnny could remember he had called his step-uncle Uncle Bo. His proper name was Boris. Although the man was Johnny’s step-uncle, since the age of reason, Johnny did not consider them in way related. He thought he sort of liked Boris, but as far as Johnny was concerned, his Uncle Bo was just too strange to be related, even distantly, or through marriage. Johnny had known for sometime that Boris was opinionated and bigoted. He was a born again fundamentalist Christian, and very proud of it. The pride went so far as believing, and expressing his belief whenever there was an opportunity, obvious or not, that anyone who was not of this ilk was doomed to the everlasting fires of hell. In recent years, Johnny paid little heed to almost anything Boris advocated knowing what was being said was probably far from accurate. When Boris was visiting, which was once a year for three days, he would sit in the same comfortable chair in the living room, often with his eyes closed in an almost comatose state, every few minutes shouting, Whoever believes in Him shall not perish. For years Johnny thought there was no relevance to what Uncle Bo was shouting, just words from a man close to senility, until his step-mother told him that her brother, in his own way was trying to preach his belief in God. Johnny had looked at his stepmother with an expression of disbelief, to which the woman had become accustomed over the years. She went on to explain, if Johnny wanted to understand the significance of what her brother was shouting, he should look in the family bible and read Chapter three, verse sixteen. After finding the bible tucked away in the bottom drawer of the desk in the dining room, he looked up the reference and read: For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. At least Johnny now knew what Uncle Bo was shouting about. Boris’s personal beliefs, even his shouting didn’t really bother Johnny. They were just things Johnny quietly accepted. On the last day of this visit, Boris decided Johnny, as a fifteen year old was now old enough to be indoctrinated with the truth, Boris’s truth. Johnny instinctively knew Boris wanted to say something to him. Ever since he arrived this time, Boris had not been his usual but strange self. He would stare at Johnny while wearing a nondescript incipient expression. Johnny had the impression Boris was waiting for the appropriate opportunity to speak his mind. No doubt when the two of them were alone. Johnny was not looking forward to the conversation, but knew it would happen. It did.

It was about to start. Boris was in his favorite chair, eyes closed, shouting his mantra from time to time, while Johnny sat at the other end of the room reading a book on quantum mechanics, a subject generally regarded as one of little interest to young teenage boys. It was the first time since Boris had arrived that the two of them were alone in the house.

Johnny looked up when he heard Boris, who had quickly stood up, start talking, Since your father is a heathen and my sister will probably join him in hell, I’m taking it upon myself to bring Jesus Christ into your heart so you can have eternal life. It’s my duty to try to save you. And I do mean try, because I suspect you may be a helpless case. What I’m about to tell you is the most important thing you will ever hear. Pay attention, for fear of burning forever in the fires of hell.

Johnny tried hard not to laugh, although he couldn’t help a slight grin, not so much at what he had just heard, but who said it. To Johnny, Boris looked more like a Golden Retriever dog than an uncle, mainly because of his long flat nose and a golden reddish complexion, probably as a result of working outside on his farm somewhere in upper state New York for the past forty years. Since when did dogs talk about eternal life? Boris had known since Johnny was very young that the boy was highly intelligent. He also knew that Johnny had some very wrong ideas about fundamental facts concerning Boris’s worldview, which of course was the absolute truth. Boris did not know for sure where Johnny got his bizarre ideas, but suspected they were as a result of Johnny reading far too many books that Boris simply knew should never be read by anyone, especially young people with undeveloped concepts on such matters as creation of life, and life in general. Someone had to help the boy find the truth. His parents were not so inclined. In fact, they themselves were ignorant of the truth.

Boris continued, You must immediately repent of your sins. I know your soul is black as soot. When I was your age, my soul was also very soiled, until I heard the voice of God and repented. The devil is in you, as he was in me at your age. It is better to cast your seed in the body of a whore than to spill it on the ground. I know you spill your seed. You’re too young for whores, but not too young to stop that dirty thing you do. Repent now, find Jesus Christ, eternal life will be yours, as it will be mine.

Johnny just looked at Boris, still with the slight grin on his face, understanding what Boris was talking about, but with little interest or tolerance.

Wipe that smirk off your face and listen to me. It’s time you understood some of the roots of what you must live by, Christianity. Abraham fathered three religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. He should not have fathered Judaism or Islam for they are false religions responsible for many burning in the eternal fires of hell. Only Christianity is the true religion. Remember that you are on the train of life, but if it is the wrong train, you will burn in the eternal fires of hell. Get off any wrong train, and get on the right train that goes straight to Jesus Christ, out savior, our God.

Johnny was content just to sit, pretend to listen, say nothing, and hope the sermonizing would be short. Boris had a different idea as he glared at Johnny and shouted, Don’t just sit there like the fool you are. Say something.

What should I say?

For starters, you could say you’ll listen and agree with me.

There was a long pause. Finally in a soft voice Johnny said, But I really don’t lie. At least not very often.

What does that supposed to mean?

I would have difficulty agreeing with some of your beliefs.

For you to say that to one of your elders and a man who is practically your uncle, not by choice as God knows, is, well it’s, I don’t know, it’s, well it’s…. sacrilegious. Yes, it’s sacrilegious.

Sorry, Uncle Bo.

Don’t sorry me. You should be sorry for yourself. I saw you reading that sinful book the last time I was here. Books like that should be burned with all the heathens in this world. Don’t look at me as if you don’t know what book I’m talking about. I saw you reading that book on something which never existed. You were reading a book and not even trying to hide the title from me. Yes, you know the book, Why Evolution is True. You’re considered a smart boy, how could there have been any evolution? You must know evolution needs time. Much time. Since the earth is only a few thousand years old, there was no time for any of that evolution stuff. Aren’t I right, smart guy?

There was no pause. No Uncy. You are not right. Not even close.

Boris took a deep breath; he was about to shout something when Johnny’s parents walked through the front door, returning from shopping. Boris went back to his chair while still looking at Johnny and saying, We will continue this conversation later. I have just begun. He who believes in Him shall not perish.

O

Later that night, Fifteen-year-old Johnny finished reading his library book by Henry Stapp, Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics, placed it on his night table, looked at his radio alarm to make sure it was turned on and set, turned off his reading light, and closed his eyes. His nightly ritual of thinking and talking to himself before falling asleep began:

Here I am again I do this every night before I sleep just talking to myself about what I know and things that bother me--nobody hears me or answers but that doesn’t matter--everybody calls me Johnny except my dad who calls me John--I think he wanted a girl and last year he got his baby girl my little sister Susan who really is my half-sister because my real mom died when I was a baby and my dad says she died when I was born so I guess I sort of caused her death but I like my baby sister because she seems to really listen to me but I don’t know that for sure since she doesn’t talk-in real life I’ve never been on an airplane or a train or a bus in fact I’ve never been more than five hundred miles from home but in my dream life I’ve visited all kinds of places and some I can’t find in the library atlas--I guess my dreams make me different and I’m also different because I’m smaller than other kids around here and my school making me skip grades two and six didn’t help because it made me two years older than the other kids in my class and now they want me to do four years of high school in three years but I said no way--like being a little geek is bad enough why be even a smaller geek--the word that describes me best is insignificant--reading books is my fun thing but I think I’d like to play some sports again like soccer or baseball but nobody ever asks me I’m probably too small anyway--when I read a new book I sometimes try to find a little insignificant character in it and imagine he somehow becomes the hero like when I was a little kid and saw the wizard of Oz my heroes were the tin guy who got a brain and the scarecrow guy who got a heart and my favorite the lion got courage those were the real heroes but the munchkins were neat but I couldn’t see how they could become heroes--I don’t talk very much to people because nobody listens and half the time they don’t understand me and that doesn’t bother me I have nothing important to say anyway and I guess that’s why I don’t play chess with real people only on the library computer that could beat me if it were programmed properly but it’s no so I always win-I like my dad even though he doesn’t talk to me very much and never helps me with my schoolwork but that’s all right I don’t need any help the teachers say I’m a good student even the word brilliant has been used to describe me but I know I’m not brilliant because I’ve got all kinds of stuff to learn--my dad keeps telling me to watch more TV and I did try but didn’t like anything--I tried watching the news and that was sad it was always about wars and fighting over religion and I can’t understand that because if there’s a god there can only be one so what are they fighting about or sometimes the war is just the strong guy attacking the weak guy for no reason or killing bad people or maybe good people in foreign countries where they have no reason being in the first place--I can understand okay if you’re being attacked but I never saw that happen and all the wrong people are dying and what did they do that was so bad--the guys who start the wars don’t die--I’m just a kid but I wonder if these guys would want their kids fighting these wars their kids could die in so I probably don’t understand these grown up things and wonder if I really want to-- I’m only a kid and sometimes I think I just want to stay a kid and in my real world life everything is wrong and that makes me sad but I’m not sad in my dream life and in the library there are no wars and I get to read the books I like and these are the books that turn into good dreams and let me be part of them--I like animals more than most people even though my dad never let me have my favorite animal a dog--they always follow me or maybe they only follow me since I’m nice to them or a cat or a fish or a turtle as a pet would be okay but I read all about animals and I know I can talk to them and they understand me and sort of talk back--some of the people I talk to in my dreams really look like dogs--how come my dreams are like real and I’m in most of them I don’t know but when I was a little kid after I finished reading a book I wanted to go to bed so I could dream about the people and places in the book and I’m often in my dream stories and sometimes I’m the hero--what was the big bang really like why did it happen--would I be here in this world if it didn’t happen--do all kids think about this stuff--I hope there is a god--does a god mean there has to be a heaven—the existence of a heaven just seems so impossible to me but all cultures believed in some kind of a heaven with names like paradise or Nirvana or Zion and my favorite name from Greek mythology Elysium--I don’t understand why there are so many different religions all of them have the same purpose trying to get to heaven that may not even exist—if Uncle Bo starts in with that fundamentalist stuff again that’s oh so wrong I think I’ll scream at him—he may mean well but he really is ignorant about important things and what’s this about getting on the right religious train? And how can a kid pay attention to a man who thinks the earth that is really about four billion years old is really only a few thousand years old and that it’s better to screw a whore than masturbate?.........……………….…....I’m tired now………………………………...…I think I can sleep..................................................................................................................

JOHNNY’S DREAM

Standing in front of the ticket wicket in an old railway station, Johnny was looking into the brown eyes of a man who had the face of a yellow Labrador retriever dog. The dog was wearing glasses with gold frames resting on his black nose. The ticket agent smiled as only dogs can smile and in a very low voice said, Just like most I suppose you want a ticket to Elysium, but how can I sell you a ticket if you don’t tell me what train you want to ride?

I’m not sure I want to go there, but even if I did, I have no money for a ticket.

"With all due respect young man, money is not needed for a ticket to Elysium. The question is what train do you want to get on and of course there is no guarantee that train will arrive but only you will know if you get there and even then you may not know for sure, but I’m sure the journey will be worth the effort and that depends how much you want to board the train and if the train is on time or even if it leaves the station, but no doubt you have heard this many times as have