The Tragic Story of John Ryan

There once was a man named John Ryan. He was an idealist who wanted to live out the adventure stories of old. He believed society had lost the edge of old, that it was not as fun as exciting as it could and should be. He loved stories about the Old West, but he didn’t think he could ever use a gun – it was too impersonal, too mechanical, too inhuman. On the other hand, he also loved the stories of swashbuckling heroes like the Four Musketeers and Zorro. He loved watching movies with swordplay in it, movies like The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Princess Bride, and even Conan the Barbarian. Watching these movies made him think he, too, could get a sword, learn how to use it, and carry it with him all the time. He thought about it for over a year. When he slept, he dreamed about becoming a great hero with a sword.

He knew he could do it.  So John decided he would. He went to a Gun and Knife show and picked up a sword. It was well crafted, and had all kinds of neat markings on it. It was made to look as if it had come out of Middle Earth. John felt empowered by it. Even though he knew the runic symbols on the sword meant nothing, he liked to imagine them as some kind of enchantment, making the sword more powerful and easier to use.

When he returned to his home, two muggers seemingly came out of nowhere and assaulted John. Even though he had not training with the sword, he started swinging it, scaring the would-be attackers. They thought he was crazy. They ran off.

John believed that he had proven himself with what happened.  He was meant to be a swordsman! Even though he had scared off two would-be muggers, he knew he wasn’t good with the sword and so he would need practice with it. And practice he did. But it wasn’t all he did. He took the sword with him wherever he went. He would playfully swing it, to show off to himself his improving swordsmanship. John did this for well over a year. People sometimes watched him, enjoying the show he put on, while others laughed at him behind his back, thinking he was more than a little crazy. Nonetheless, it had to be admitted, he was getting proficient with the sword. While not an expert, he had some natural talent which allowed him to be able to get far with its use without proper training. This, of course, went to his head.

One day, John was walking through some backstreets, and saw a small man assaulting a woman: it looked like the man was trying to rape her. Sword in his hand, John ran to the woman’s defense. This time, the man turned around and confronted John.

“What are you going to do, swing that at me?” the rapist mocked.

John responded by swinging the sword and hitting the man on his arm. John swung again before the man could respond, hitting the rapist in the chest. The rapist fell down in pain. The woman thanked John for his help, calling him a hero.

The police came to the scene of the crime and arrested the rapist, but they also warned John that he was being reckless. He had been lucky, but one day, he might not be. He should not think of himself as a good swordsman just because he took on and overcame an unarmed rapist. But the thanks and praise of the woman got to John. He didn’t heed the police’s warning.

After that incident, John continued to carry his sword with him. His mission had been validated. He had saved someone from harm. But he would continue to show off with the sword, making a spectacle of himself. He no longer was humble about his skills. He thought he was as good as one of the Musketeers. He would swing it around in front of a crowd, showing them why he believed himself to be an expert swordsman. Though people knew he was good, he wasn’t close to being as good as he thought he was. Indeed, he was getting sloppy. He no longer believed in caution. He started swinging it recklessly in the middle of crowds, and in doing so, he would accidentally hit a spectator or two at a time. Most of the time, those who were hurt by John were gracious and said nothing to him. They had come for the entertainment, and they got it; this was the price they had to pay.

But then, one day, this all changed.

One day, one person who had gone to watch John’s exhibition was cut by the sword, being hit on his left arm, causing enough harm so as to leave a scar. This man, named Patrick, told John off. “What do you think you are doing? Watch where you swing that thing. One day, someone might die with you swinging it around like that. It might even be you.”

John was upset with this and responding by saying how he had saved one woman from being raped, so he knew what he was doing and he should be praised, not admonished, for his behavior. John swung his sword once again to prove his point – hitting Patrick once again. Patrick was angry, and swore at John, telling him that he should just sell off the sword and find something better to do in life. John said he was sorry, he didn’t mean any harm, but he would keep the sword, practice with it more, and make sure he didn’t make the same mistake again.

John made the mistake again and again afterwards, often receiving no comments from his fans, while every so often hearing one person or another warning him about the dangerous path he had taken in life.

Patrick, on the other hand, had been told by many that he had been wrong in engaging John, that he should have forgiven John and left it alone. Patrick was told he should have accepted John’s apology. But Patrick said he couldn’t: John hadn’t shown any real sense of sorrow for what he had done. He had not corrected himself. How could he accept John’s apology when it was clearly false? He would be approving of John’s ways if he would accept such a useless apology. His warning, as with the warning of several others, would likely prove to be true unless John changed his ways. His words, he hoped, would help make John reconsider his ways and possibly stop before someone died. Patrick wasn’t happy about having to justify himself, because he knew many thought he was the one in the wrong, people who he thought would and should have agreed with him. Patrick just didn’t get why people coddled John when John was clearly following a path of destruction.

For the next several months, John actually saved a few more people from harm, while continuing to hurt innocents while he showed off his so-called swordsmanship. Because of the good he had done, he was finding himself surrounded by a larger and larger band of supporters, people who defended him and his actions, even when he accidentally hurt people. They egged John on, making him prideful and too sure of himself. Then, one day, John was out in the street, swinging his sword, putting on a display to his fans. But not everyone knew what he was doing. A policeman saw John’s actions from a distance, and it looked as if a man using his sword to attack the people around him. Without thinking, without knowing what was happening, the policeman took out his gun and shot John; though he didn’t mean to do so, he hit John right in the heart. John, sword still in hand, fell down; he had been innocently taken out by a man with a gun.

The policeman had to face the consequences of his actions: he was charged with manslaughter. Though he knew he had accidentally killed John, he thought that he was doing his duty as a lawman to defend the innocent. He thought he was a hero, following the example of his idol, Wyatt Earp. When John’s family asked him for an apology, he declined: Why should apologize to anyone when he was patrolling the city with a gun, taking out criminals wherever they were to be found?