[Editor's Note: Jack Grisham is an author, hypnotherapist, T.S.O.L. front man and all-around troublemaker. This column, True Story, may or may not be factual, with characters who may or may not be real.]
The great park was as beautiful as he'd ever seen it, and for the past 20 years, he'd lived within view of its majesty. He put on his coat and walked across the street. Above his head, a canopy of browns and yellows and reds danced in the light; the leaves had turned but not yet fallen. He walked without purpose toward the lake.
"May I have your autograph, Mr. Johns?"
A child stood next to him, her face golden, lit by the fall's diffused sunlight. She reminded him of an angel–a post-card-perfect vision of what eager youth should resemble. He smiled as he took the pen and notebook that she offered. Her mother stood as her protective encouragement from behind.
"Yes, my dear," he said as he scribbled his name. "And for your mother, what would she like?"
The woman blushed as she moved toward him. "I'm sorry, Mr. Johns; we don't mean to disturb you, but I . . . I mean we, we love your work, and I was so excited to see you."
He approached the woman and held out his arms. She stepped within, and he pulled her close. She smelled of lavender and coffee and hope.
"It's good to be seen," he said as he released her. She slowly moved away. "And thank you for remembering me."
As he walked away, their pleased voices danced like nightingales falling through the leaves. He had never felt more at peace, and as he strolled through the park, the scene with mother and daughter was replayed many times: fathers and sons, husbands and wives, lover and lover–so many lives he had touched, and he graciously, albeit a touch uncomfortably, accepted their acknowledgment. It was still a bit strange, though, their love and adoration. He wasn't always treated so; he used to be met with anger and disdain, a direct reflection of what he preached. But as he aged, his view of the world had changed, and his hate for man grew into acceptance, and his acceptance blossomed into love, and his world came to love him in return.
"Are you Lane Johns?"
A young man approached. He was a dark cloud hovering beneath the trees, his winter eyes gray, his lips trembling as he spoke. Lane reached toward him, and the young man reached back, a lightning flash exploding from his hip. Lane fell to the ground, sitting on the path like a child in the sand. The young man stood over him. Another flash lit the air, and Lane's coat lifted and tore in the breeze. Twice more, the young man came, and then he turned, dropped something in the dirt, and walked away.
Lane struggled for breath. Screams ran like angry gusts of wind across the fields. He looked up as the world retreated, and there, dropped on the path, was a copy of his first book, its title now partly obscured with blood: Kill Me.