Authors: Rene S Perez II
Seeing Off The Johns
. Copyright Â© 2015 Rene S. Perez II. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written consent from the publisher, except for brief quotations for reviews. For further information, write Cinco Puntos Press, 701 Texas, El Paso, TX 79901; or call 1-915-838-1625.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Perez, Rene S., 1984-
Seeing off the Johns / by Rene S. Perez II. â First edition.
Summary: For Concepcion “Chon” Gonzales, the year that high school athletic stars John Robison and John Mijias left for college and never made it was the beginning of a new life in his small town and the first time he understood about love.
ISBN 978-1-941026-13-7 (EBook)
City and town lifeâFiction. 2.
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BOOK COVER AND DESIGN BY ZEKE PEÃA
For Hammonds and Mejares, and for Natalie Rose
When word of the greatest tragedy in the history of Greenton made it back to town, the banner still floated over Main Street. “Hook 'em, Johns,” it read. It had burnt orange Texas Longhorns printed on both sides, the iconic symbol of the university the Johns were speeding towardâthe symbol they were to wear on their ball caps come spring. There had been a police escort and the shutting down of Greenton's businesses for a brief period so that its citizens could cheer on the young men all along the parade routeâdown through Main Street, under the banner, and out of town. After all, a Greentonite rarely made it to UT Austin, but for two of their own to enter its gates on baseball scholarships in one year warranted nothing less than a full-on celebration, a deep-seated compulsion to see off the Johns in style. They had graduated less than twenty-four hours before, walked across the stage set up at the Greenton High gymnasium, barely standing out from their classmates in their green caps and gowns. Now they were set to depart. By the end of the day, the Johns would be in Austin, unpacking in their new dorm, getting ready for summer classes andâmost importantâanticipating workouts the next day with their new coaches and teammates.
The fact that such a spectacle had been made of the Johns leaving town kept both the Robisons and the Mejias guarded and ill at ease in a time that should have
been marked by unchecked emotions and copious naggingâ“Are you sure you have the directions, have you checked the fluids in your car, the tire pressure?”
Arn Robison and his wife Angie left home in their Black Lincoln Town Car following Johnâtheir only childâas he made his way to John Mejia's in his 1993 Ford Explorer, all of his possessions in the world filling up half of the truck. In the Mejia's driveway, Robison got out and had a small conference with Mejia, one like the many they'd had throughout their high school careers: Mejia coming over to the mound from third base to give Robison his scouting report on a hitter from Falfurrias; Mejia behind the line of scrimmage stepping out from under center to turn and face his tailback Robison before returning to the business of calling his
. Their in-game conferences were part of the legend of the Johns.
When they had their conference that morningâthe morning of their leavingâpresumably about how to put Mejia's belongings in Robison's truckâthough it could have been about anythingâpeople took photos. On-lookers exchanged stories and memoriesâtheir favorites from the Johns' greatest hitsâas though any of them had a game or play to talk about that hadn't been witnessed by everyone else in town. The Johns broke their huddle of two quickly and set to loading the Explorer in under ten minutesâtwo large duffels, a trunk, a guitar, four plastic bags of non-perishables and four frozen meals in Tupperware that Mrs. Mejia made in the days leading up to the boys' exodus.
When the car was packed, there were perfunctory hugs and kisses. Later the Robisons and Mejias would come to remember the spectacle of that day with bitter regret. They had allowed themselves to be caught up in the hype, had condoned the hero-worship of two young men who were not yet done being boys in Greenton's frenzy and adulation. Under the prying gaze of their neighbors and peers, each boy had only
allowed his parents a half hug and kiss before they got into the Explorer. They had, after all, reputations and images to maintain.
That day, the Mejias had to share their son with Araceli, the girlfriend he was leaving behind. She was still in high school, a senior. But they were used to sharing John with her. The kiss John Mejia gave Araceli, though, was as truncated and restrained as the affection he gave his parents. He leaned in close to whisper something to her, but she didn't seem as keen as Robison to have her interactions with him play out in the form of whispers and nods. She pulled away andâvery clearly to the audience's eyes and earsâsaid, “Fine” and wiped her eyes.
The Johns got in Robison's Explorer. Their parents flanked the truck, two Mejias at the passenger door and two Robisons at the driver's. Tears were shed. Each parent leaned into the window that framed their son and, it seemed, tried to climb in to steal last minute hugs, egos be damned.
Then it was done. There was nothing more to say but goodbye. The parents stepped back from the truck in unison, like a space shuttle being shed of its rocket boosters. They stood on their respective sides of the Explorer, crying and beaming with pride and holding on to each other. Robison turned the engine.
The crowd outside the Mejia house fell silent. The police car waited expectantly at the curb. The Explorer pulled out of the drive and behind its escort. Robison stood on the brake so that he and Mejia could wave goodbye to their loved ones one more time. This having been done, the lead police car driver hit his siren. Everybody cheered, even the parents, having been pulled, half-heartedly, into the mob.
The police car took off, and the Johns followed. They got to the end of Sigrid, drove up Viggie to Main, and took that street out of town to the sounds of cheers and “The Eyes of Texas” blasted out over a P.A. system someone had set up for the forty seconds
it took for the truck and its cargo of two to pass by, never to look back. But those forty seconds were worth it. No one could ever take those forty seconds away.
The crowds dispersed, talking of the season the Longhorns would surely have. Many were bold enough to forecast a trip to Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, a place some Horn fans called Disch-Falk North. Others were talking about their plans to go up to Austin to watch the Johns play at the park they themselves were already calling Greenton North. Finally they came back down to Earth, where there was work to be done and summers of mischief and sloth to be embarked on, smiling and with as much joy in their hearts as forty seconds can ever in a million years give to a whole town full of people.