The sleepy town doesn’t see Johnny yet, so he waits for sunrise. The sun is barely peeking through the glass buildings across the river, illuminating with orange light the shops and bricks of Town Square. The obelisk here is usually the highest point in the city, but with one foot planted on the apex of the column, his other on the gentle slope behind, Johnny has become the highest point.
Town Square slowly wakes, morning jogs and briefcases swinging. Johnny is patient. He wants the morning rush to witness his new ability; he’s sure to become a legend. His hands ache from the climb. To reach his perch, he wrapped a silken red scarf around the monument and used it to shimmy up the rough granite. He would’ve flown up here, but who would tell the story of his first flight? It had to be magnificent. It had to be perfect.
A woman walking a Labrador pauses below on the damp cobblestones, and she points at Johnny, squinting through the morning glare. She cries accolades skyward, her dog barks, and Johnny waves. A man cutting diagonally across the Square slows his sprint to a jog, then he stops to remove his earbuds. It doesn’t take long for the rest to take notice. The crowd multiplies, and it shouts praise and well-wishes.
The sun is full now, a spotlight aimed at Johnny. The entire town is cheering him on, so he stands with his chin up, hands on his waist. The red fabric around his neck is a streamer in the breeze. He nods at the ovation with a knowing smile, like a politician interrupted by applause during a speech.
Johnny understands that this delay is a necessary component in the fabrication of a legend. What these people will remember most is Johnny standing above everything and everyone before the real spectacle occurs. They’ll decorate the obelisk with a statue of gold—a statue of Johnny—to immortalize this very moment. He closes his eyes to envision this dedication, and the smile on his face dissolves into a grim line. He raises his arms slowly into a V, palms facing the sky, his eyes closed. This is more like it. This is a statue worth sculpting. He holds the pose for several moments to give the artists enough time to sketch his majestic stance.
A loud horn tears him from his thoughts, and he opens his eyes. It appears neighboring towns are now present for the event, and they even brought a pair of fire engines to transform the spectacle into a proper ceremony. Johnny understands why the confetti and bunting aren’t accenting the occasion. These things take time to prepare, and he’s caught the town by surprise. When will bagpipes and drums echo their hums and taps across the Square? Will they play something traditional, or will they invent something new, just for him? He waits for it but hears only the squawk of a megaphone. The voice is too difficult to make out from up here, but it silences his audience. All faces are on Johnny with expectation, but words are not necessary to dazzle them. No speech will be as powerful as what they’re about to see.
Johnny steps up, so his feet are together. The scarf flutters behind him now, like a narrow cape. He tugs it away from his neck and raises it above his head like a great torch. The scarf slips through his fingers, and it whips away, a plume of scarlet. The crowd breaks their silence and the bravos and hurrahs are louder than before.
It’s like they know it’s time.
A grin spreads across Johnny’s face and he lowers his arms to his sides. With a dip of the knees, he presses off. Their anxious roar swells a crescendo as he waits for the rushing air to lift him higher than ever.
About the Author: Mark Jednaszewski grew up in Tampa and studied marine engineering at Kings Point. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and three cats and works in shipbuilding as a testing and commissioning engineer. He is currently a Dennis Lehane Fiction Fellow at the Solstice MFA Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College. When he’s not ensuring seaworthiness or staring at a blank page, Mark can be found wandering the streets being indecisive about where next to enjoy a delicious meal. He tweets occasionally: @ninjaneerski