I came of age in a time of no heroes. I grew up hearing the stories of heroes who lived long ago, but none existed now.
My brother and I used to sit and talk about all those stories we had heard when we were children. John used to believe that he could be a hero. That was before the accident. Well, it was supposedly an accident. Nobody really believed that, though.
Either way, nothing could be done about it. My brother was gone.
I was walking down the street, not looking up at anybody. Nobody ever looked at each other. That might force people to admit just how horrible this world really was. Nobody wanted to do that because then they might feel the need to do something about it. My brother thought that he could do something about it. Look how that turned out.
I could almost hear him now. “Andy, we could change the world, you and I. We could make this place like it used to be.”
John didn’t believe in minding his own business. He always looked around when he was walking, pointing out the things that needed to be changed. One time, a man and a woman were arguing, and he hit her. John went over and confronted the man. The man punched him, and the woman just stared at him and walked away. I told John that he shouldn’t have gotten involved.
“We have to get involved, Andy,” he would say. “If we don’t do something, who will?”
“Isn’t that the job of the police?” I would answer, even though I knew better.
“You know they won’t do anything. The people in charge are too corrupt. That’s why you and I need to change things.”
That sort of talk could get someone killed, if the wrong people heard it. He really believed that he could make a difference and that I could even help him. There was a time when I was starting to believe him. That time was long past.
I had almost reached the store when something stopped me. It was a boy crying in pain. I wanted to walk past, but I could hear my brother’s voice in my head, telling me that we could help people.
But, he was gone. Still, I found myself walking toward the sound of the crying. The little boy looked to be about 4 or 5. He was on the ground, both of his knees and elbows bleeding.
I leaned down. “Did you fall?”
He shook his head. “No, those boys pushed me,” he said, pointing at a gang of teenagers down the street.
I wasn’t about to do anything about the gang. That would just be stupid. Still, I asked the boy where he lived, and I helped him up off the pavement.
“Thank you,” the boy said after I dropped him off at his house. He smiled. “I’m Joey.”
For the first time in a long time, I smiled, too. “You’re welcome. I’m Andy. ”
It wasn’t much, but I suppose my brother would be proud of me anyway. This time, I looked up as I walked down the street.