Johnny America
Picture of Issue Nine
Johnny America is a little print ’zine of fiction, humor, and other miscellany. It’s a web site too, freshened every-other Friday.
Our ninth issue is thirty-six pages of very short shorts, illustrations, and a truly strange comic strip which confuses and delights us. As with previous issues, it sports a silkscreen cover, hand-stitched thread binding, and smells vaguely of citrus. It’s available now for four bucks.

Little Known Incidents that Changed All of Human History Forever: “How Jonny Dino Changed The World”

Eleven-year-old Jonny Dino swung his bat a few times, looked up at the scoreboard, then walked towards the batters’ box to face the best pitcher in all of Memphis. The bases were loaded in the bottom of the ninth of the championship game. His team was down three runs, there were two outs, and the count was full.

Jonny stepped out of the batter’s box, tapped the bat on his cleats, and turned around to see Betty Jones watching him intently. Betty was the most popular girl in school. She was dating mean Billy Smith, the catcher, whose father was part of the town’s White Citizens’ Council that was headed towards a second successful year of preventing local schools from opening. Billy said the Council was “passively resisting” the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision and was angry because none of the kids seemed to understand how important it all was. None of the kids knew anything about Brown this or Education that — they were just glad there were such things as White Citizens’ Councils around to stop school from starting up again and hoped whatever was going on would go on forever so they’d never have to go back.

Jonny had used the time off from school to perfect his swing. He’d been unstoppable all season until the night before, when strangers in trench coats jumped him on his way to the Malt Shop, threw him in the back of a black sedan, then drove him to a motel where they beat on his arm for six hours straight under the mistaken notion that he was his team’s star pitcher and not its leftfielder and home run leader. But no matter — it still affected his swing. They’d drugged him too, and he still felt the lingering effects: sudden, hallucinatory waves washed over him on an average of about one per inning.

He’d been striking out all night, wincing in agony with each swing and leaving the whole stadium gasping. In the sixth inning Jonny struck out but stayed at the plate and kept swinging the bat because he saw the ball hovering just in front of him, appearing to him like a giant fly wearing wayfarer style sunglasses and smoking a cigar.

Feeling the return of his mental faculties by the ninth inning, Jonny turned and smiled to Betty before stepping in the batter’s box. He took from her returned smile the sudden flush of strength and inspiration he would need to pound that baseball to kingdom come. Betty Jones may have been the prettiest and most popular girl in the school none of them had gone to for over a year, but Jonny said he didn’t care about any of that superficial stuff and liked her just because “she was so swell.” She looked on hopefully, the only one in the whole stadium of people who still seemed to remember his past plate accomplishments. Her boyfriend Billy stood arms folded just outside the dugout, not joining his teammates in saying that if anyone could do it Jonny could, but that it sure didn’t look like he was in any shape to do it and that that was a darn shame… and a little weird too since he’d been hitting three home runs a game all season and throughout the playoffs he’d upped it to four. Billy’s parents were ready at a moment’s notice to rise angrily and storm up the steps to the exits if Jonny perchance did anything remotely heroic and worthy of wild cheers.

The pitch came in toward the center of the plate, seeming to Johnny to move in slow motion. He could read the trademark on it. He thought it said, “Fuck You Jonny!” and wondered if the motel room pummeling and whatever drugs they’d given him would ever wear off. He closed his eyes to correct his suddenly blurring vision, said a little prayer, and swung the bat. He heard the crack that ushered the ball flying out of the park. The shocked crowd roared to life.

Jonny rounded the bases grabbing the arm that the mysterious thugs had beaten so savagely the night before. From second base on he started wincing and muttering “Ow shit!” with each step. He got to home plate, where he was cheered by awaiting teammates who all refrained from actually touching him because they’d finally realized that Jonny had been injured the whole game but had kept it secret so they wouldn’t give up. They surrounded him in concentric circles of jumps and woots, with the inner circle keeping a distance of about two yards. The mass of players moved as a whole, bouncing and jumping their way to the dugout, where they celebrated some more.

The ball had rocketed far, far over the high wall, towards the street behind the stadium, where it flew into a convertible Buick being driven by Martin Luther King Jr.’s then-27-year-old future-assassin, James Earl Ray. It struck him right on the head with considerable force and gave him a severe concussion, though he was able to keep on driving. Specialists agree that such a blow can cause lasting damage to the brain and lead to some pretty errant thinking, and they also agree that it is highly plausible that the ball knocked some kind of a screw loose in James Earl Ray that day, who until that point had shown no signs of being anything other than a fairly normal person — a little weird, maybe, but certainly not on a course to try his hand directing pornographic movies in Puerto Vallarta before moving to Los Angeles and taking dance lessons.

We can thus conclude that were it not for Jonny Dino, James Earl Ray might never have assassinated Martin Luther King Jr., and the great civil rights leader would have gone on to be killed by someone else instead.

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