Volume 20, Number 2

John Geld

Aaron Rowley

Johnny was crazy. Not that he was dangerous in any way; he was harmless. Mostly. But that didn't help Mr. Geld any. Johnny was an embarrassment. They couldn't take him anywhere. Mr. Geld's friends and business associates knew about Johnny and his condition. Mr. Geld was sure that they would talk about him whenever he wasn't around.

“Have you heard about Dick's kid?” they would say. Mr. Geld didn't need to hear it to know. He'd said the same thing about enough people to know how it goes.

Mr. Geld sighed. Johnny had seemed so nice, so cute, so normal when he was born. Mr. Geld knew it wasn't his fault. It couldn't be. But he couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't something he could've done. Mr. Geld worried that he hadn't been around enough. That he hadn't paid enough attention to Johnny when he was growing up. After all, it wasn't until Johnny was 5 or 6 (Mr. Geld wasn't sure) before he realized that there might be something wrong with him.

It was a Saturday, Mr. Geld was sure of that much; he remembered because he'd just given Johnny his allowance. Mr. Geld and his wife had worked out a rather complex system to ensure that the kids didn't sneak back and get paid twice. They had the kids sign an affidavit saying that they'd gotten their allowance for the week. This was dated and co-signed by Mr. Geld and witnessed by one of the maids. The affidavit was placed in Mr. Geld's safe behind the family portrait, where he kept all his unimportant papers (important papers were kept in his safe in the closet under Mrs. Geld's shoe tree and very important papers were kept at the bank in the safety deposit box). When one of the children asked for their allowance, Mr or Mrs. Geld would check the safe behind the family portrait for their affidavit for that week. This was easy enough because they were all filed by date.

Mr. Geld had just finished getting Johnny's signature on his affidavit and checking his signature against his photo ID (you could never be too sure). Mr. Geld went into the family room to file Johnny's affidavit with the others, Johnny ran out to play with his friends who were waiting on the front lawn (they weren't allowed in the house, the carpet was still rather new). Mr. Geld watched in horror through the front window as Johnny met up with his friends and handed each boy a bill until he'd handed out all the money Mr. Geld had just given him.

Mr. Geld became weak in the knees. He was barely able to file Johnny's affidavit and lock the safe back up (carefully hiding the combination from the maid who was dusting in the other room).

When Johnny came home that evening, Mr. Geld sat him down and had a talk with him.

“Johnny, why did you let your friends borrow your allowance?”

“I didn't.”

“Yes, you did, Johnny. Don't lie to me. I saw you do it.”

“I—I'm not lying. They're not borrowing it. I gave them the money.”

“You gave it to them?!?”



Johnny shrugged. “They wanted it.”

Mr. Geld sighed. “You can't do that, Johnny. You can't just go around giving your money to whoever wants it.”

“Why not?”

“Because if you do then you won't have any money.”

Johnny didn't say anything. He just drew his small eyebrows together and frowned.

“And you won't have any money for you,” Mr. Geld said, explaining for his son.

“That's okay.”

“'That's okay'? Johnny, don't you want to have some money?”

Johnny shook his head.

“Now, why not?” Mr. Geld said, trying very hard not to yell at the boy.

Johnny shrugged his shoulders.

“Now you're just being contrary,” Mr. Geld said.

“No, I—”

“That's it. Go to your room.”

Mr. Geld talked the whole thing over with his wife that night. They decided to cut Johnny off from his allowance for a few weeks to teach him the importance of money.

That Saturday the other children lined up for their allowance and Johnny fell in at the end of the line. When he got to Mr. Geld, Mr. Geld looked down at Johnny.

“You're not getting any allowance this week after the way you treated it last week.”

Johnny drew his eyebrows together again. “Oh ... Okay....”

Johnny started to leave. Mr. Geld called him back. “If,” he said. “If you can prove to me that you learned your lesson than I'll give you your allowance next week.”

Next Saturday, Johnny lined up again with the other children. When he got to Mr. Geld, he asked Johnny if he'd learned his lesson.

“Yes,” Johnny said.

“And what lesson was that?”

“Uh...don't give my allowance away?”

“Yes, and why shouldn't you give your allowance away?”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders. Mr. Geld let out an exasperated sigh. He sent Johnny away empty-handed.

The next week, Johnny didn't bother asking for his allowance. Mr. Geld assumed that, sooner or later, he would come asking his parents for money. He never did.

Things just got worse from there.

Mr. Geld bought Johnny a cherry-red convertible for his 16th birthday. About a week later, Johnny took the convertible out and it never came back. After about a week, Mr. Geld asked what happened to the car. Johnny shrugged.

Mr. Geld never saw the car again. Whenever Johnny went out with his friends, he would ride in their beat-up station wagons with their peeling paint.

Mr. Geld was so angry about the car that he hired a detective to find out what happened to it. The detective told him that Johnny had donated it to some sort of charity for children's kidney cancer or something. The worst part was he didn't even get a receipt for Mr. Geld to write it off on their taxes. It was like Johnny was trying to hurt him.

When Johnny graduated from high school, he tried to join the Peace Corps. A well-timed phone call from one of Mr. Geld's work associates was the only thing that saved Johnny from a year digging wells in Mali.

Now Johnny lived in a small, bare, studio apartment. Mrs. Geld had tried to decorate it once. They came back a week later and found that Johnny was back to using cinder blocks and crates. He told them that he'd given the furniture away to his friends and neighbors. Mrs. Geld was so angry she almost went to the neighbors to ask for it back. But she caught herself in time; after all, how would that look, to go begging at the neighbors' doors? Especially in this neighborhood, she thought.

Mr. Geld tried his best to keep Johnny's 'quirks' (that's what they'd taken to calling them. They were used to having eccentrics in their family. Insanity was shameful. Eccentricities were amusing.) under wraps. But things leaked out. Mr. Geld's co-workers knew. They knew that Johnny would donate perfectly good, new clothes to the Goodwill then turn around, go inside and buy the clothes back. They knew that Johnny volunteered for the dark-horse, idealistic political candidates. And when the impossible happened and the candidate was elected, Johnny wouldn't even try to get a cushy political appointment; instead, he would just go back to his job at the library.

Mr. Geld didn't know what to do with Johnny. All he could do was keep waiting for Johnny to find something he wanted enough to ask for some money or get a real job. Mr. Geld knew that he had a long wait in front of him. Johnny didn't really want anything; after all, he didn't watch TV, he didn't know about all the things there were to want to buy.