Johnny always was an odd kid.
He got beaten at school almost as much as he did at home– and that was saying something, since he rarely left home without fresh bruises. The beatings gave him a fatalistic streak, but they never seemed to break his spirit. Even when he was spitting out teeth, he always had a middle finger up and a defiant “Fuck you!” on his lips.
We lost touch after high school. I went into the trades, and Johnny went wherever kids raised by violent single dads go. I heard he got busted for something stupid and did a stretch in Arizona. I heard he found true love, got a minimum wage job and tried to go straight. Found out he had cancer. Lost his girlfriend after he tried to kill himself. After that, I didn’t hear about Johnny anymore.
When an angular shadow shambled out of a dark alley, staggered into me, and darted away crowing with glee and waving my wallet, I hadn’t thought of Johnny in years.