Johnny America




Is a little ’zine of fiction, humor, and other miscellany, published by the Moon Rabbit Drinking Club & Benevolence Society since 2003.

Photograph of Johnny America 10Photograph of Johnny America 10

Our latest zine is Johnny America # 10, a steal at three bucks from our online shop. And we have a new collection of fiction by Eli S. Evans that’ll knock your socks off: Various Stories About Specific Individuals in Particular Situations.


Photograph of Johnny America 10Photograph of Johnny America 10

Johnny America has been bringing you fresh fiction and humor since 2003.

Our latest zine is Johnny America # 10.


Per­son­al Reference


Illustration of two people at a table

Dear Hal­lan­ote,

Among the de­tri­tus, the falling leaves of sales pitch­es and char­i­ta­ble ap­peals and util­i­ty bills, like a bit of shiny gold foil at the top of a pile of rub­bish, your re­quest for a per­son­al ref­er­ence was at the top of my in­box. A name on the email sub­ject head­ing that I haven’t seen in years.


You have found me on a peace­ful morn­ing at the cof­fee shop en­joy­ing an al­mond crois­sant and a flat white, prepar­ing for yo­ga. Her name has made the calm need­ed, the mea­sured breath­ing, the con­cen­tra­tion impossible. 

Your name coun­ter­acts this. Hal­lan­ote is such a pleas­ing com­bi­na­tion of syl­la­bles, the buried words act­ing at the edge of my sub­con­scious, bleached of mean­ing and reengi­neered to pass through the blood brain bar­ri­er. The sooth­ing mur­mur of the com­mit­tee and high­ly paid con­sul­tants. A gray rock. Good work. I’m not paid to name things any­more. I imag­ine you are some­thing be­tween me­dia and tech. Maybe a work­flow tool, some­thing that claims to add thought­ful­ness to the process.

The pro­fes­sion­al part of the query is easy to dis­pense with. She will be per­fect­ly ad­e­quate for what­ev­er task is need­ed in your cor­po­rate hive. She will stand in the con­fer­ence room and eat birth­day cake with­out com­plaint. I’m sure that she meets what­ev­er qual­i­fi­ca­tions were post­ed. Whether you hire her or some­one else will de­pend on what­ev­er un­writ­ten, un­spo­ken goals and bi­as­es ex­ist at your com­pa­ny. She was beau­ti­ful when I knew her, but I am sure that won’t be a fac­tor. Not at an en­deav­or with the high-mind­ed name of Hallanote. 

You have al­so asked me to rate her char­ac­ter on a scale from 1 to 10, with ten be­ing the most re­li­able saint-like per­son in the world and one be­ing a nar­cis­sis­tic fabulist.

I haven’t worked in years. I’m no longer fa­mil­iar with the play­ers or the game. What I have man­aged to do with this time was to write a crown of son­nets. They are ter­ri­ble. One forced rhyme af­ter an­oth­er, but how many peo­ple right now, this mo­ment, among all the en­deav­ors of hu­mankind, how many are writ­ing a crown of son­nets? One, maybe, two? This is the unique perch from which you dis­turb me to pass judg­ment on my mem­o­ries of an­oth­er hu­man being. 

You should ask some­one else. Any­one else. Go to the con­ve­nience store next to her old job. Flash a pic­ture of her and ask the at­ten­dant if she were kind. And ef­fi­cient. Were her cards de­clined? That would be bet­ter in­for­ma­tion. Sure­ly, you wise and ab­stract­ly con­nect­ed ge­nius­es of the stern but warm ty­pog­ra­phy, the large ‘H’ in Hal­lan­ote like two pil­lars of sup­port to the low­er-case let­ters, know how lit­tle my words are worth. 

Per­haps some ba­sic Google search com­bined with an al­go­rithm will dis­count my words ap­pro­pri­ate­ly. Maybe there is very lit­tle at stake for her in my re­sponse. I imag­ine if she re­al­ly want­ed to do the work of Hal­lan­ote, she would have cho­sen a bet­ter per­son­al ref­er­ence. With­out con­text, you can’t know why I am such a wild­ly in­ap­pro­pri­ate choice for the bland com­ments that would re­as­sure a HR de­part­ment that they aren’t get­ting a de­spi­ca­ble boat rocker. 

She was the rea­son that I was let go and the sparked ru­mors from that fir­ing is the rea­son that I was un­able to find fur­ther em­ploy­ment in my field. Even that has turned out okay. I live a near idyl­lic ex­is­tence. Every day I wake when I please and walk down the hill on the hik­ing trail to the vil­lage that sits by the lake. They serve cof­fee at the book­store and the on­ly bar and grill in town looks out on­to the wa­ter. If I keep to my rou­tines and for­go the cap­i­tals of Eu­rope, I have enough mon­ey to die in my sleep twen­ty years from now. If my life now lacks va­ri­ety, it has made up for it in scenic ef­fi­cien­cy as I move against the back­drop of the piney hill and lake, switch­ing them just by spin­ning around. I’ve worked hard on this ver­sion of myself.

You have jumped to con­clu­sions. You think I was some kind of sex­u­al ag­gres­sor. Some­thing that the well-craft­ed poli­cies of Hal­lan­ote would have weed­ed out long ago. I was not the ogre in this sto­ry. That role be­longs to some­one else high­er up the lad­der than me. I was a vic­tim of jeal­ousy. I was fired to re­move an ob­sta­cle. Bet­sy was trou­bled by her re­la­tion­ship with this man. Who start­ed it and how ea­ger­ly it was en­tered in­to by both par­ties, how much the trap­pings of the of­fice added to his ap­peal, whether she was the first or one of many that he had plucked from the cu­bi­cles, I can on­ly spec­u­late about be­cause I have nev­er talked to him about his half of the equa­tion. You are on­ly ask­ing me to com­ment on her character. 

At hap­py hour, she com­plained about him. How she had to wait around for the least bit of at­ten­tion. How his wife had found out about an­oth­er af­fair and was watch­ing his every move. She com­plained and I wait­ed. I nod­ded and lis­tened with­out of­fer­ing judge­ment. Even­tu­al­ly, we found oth­er things to dis­cuss and that sliv­er of fake time, the hour be­tween work and home, grad­u­al­ly length­ened. I think with more time she might have fall­en in love with me. One night at her house, had it not been for an in­op­por­tune call from him, we would have been phys­i­cal. The call broke the mood. I tried not to over­hear the con­ver­sa­tion that she took be­hind the closed door of her bed­room, but I did hear my name a few times. I knew there would be trou­ble. She came out of her room with apolo­gies. At her door, she kissed me on my cheek. She dis­missed me and I walked down the hall­way and pushed the el­e­va­tor but­ton. While I was wait­ing, she came out again and kissed me for re­al. It was a lit­tle thing she gave me be­fore she gave the rest to him. 

A week lat­er. I dropped a five page love let­ter writ­ten in blank verse on Betsy’s desk, and thir­ty min­utes lat­er, I was called in­to the boss’s of­fice and fired. I could tell you about the pos­i­tive work eval­u­a­tions of the last decade. None of that mat­tered. And be­sides, every in­com­pe­tent per­son on the plan­et has a draw­er full of them. When I left the of­fice, se­cu­ri­ty joined me with a box and marched me to my cu­bi­cle. Phil and Louie stood so close to me that I could smell their com­pet­ing af­ter­shaves. I had played soft­ball with them and ate wings and drank beer with them in the am­ber glow of vic­to­ry. What­ev­er he told them that I did was ter­ri­ble. That wouldn’t let me touch my com­put­er again. No farewell email from me. 

Stand­ing on the side­walk with my box of of­fice knick-knacks at my feet, I called her and she didn’t pick up. I tried tex­ting her and I was blocked. I don’t know what she could have done but she was the on­ly oth­er per­son in the world that knew that my fir­ing wasn’t right. I want­ed her to say some­thing. I could un­der­stand if she need­ed the job, but a year lat­er she quit and what she did af­ter that, I have no idea. The boss was brought down a month lat­er by the messy end­ing of the pre­vi­ous of­fice af­fair. His wife for­ward­ed some tor­rid emails to the en­tire com­pa­ny. The af­fair was with the head of the HR de­part­ment and in­volved the shiny black con­fer­ence ta­ble in the large con­fer­ence room. I got all this from a guy in the mail­room who was sym­pa­thet­ic to me and for­ward­ed the emails. I blush when I think of the language.

I’m go­ing to re­cuse my­self from the char­ac­ter ques­tion oth­er than to say that she didn’t sleep with him to move her­self for­ward in the com­pa­ny. Do your own math to get the num­ber be­tween 1 and 10. I imag­ine that she did it out of bore­dom. Some­times in the clock­work of my per­fect re­peat­ing day, I get bored. I know that if cer­tain op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sent­ed them­selves to me I would take ad­van­tage of them, just to make the next mo­ments more bear­able. At thir­ty, she had just start­ed to hear mor­tal­i­ty in the blood rush­ing by her ears. I don’t blame her for re­act­ing poor­ly, and in my book, bore­dom is an ad­e­quate ex­cuse for any­thing that doesn’t hurt some­one else. Of course, I, on the sur­face of things, was hurt. And the very thing that of­fend­ed the lothario nev­er hap­pened. It was very dry kin­dling that had burned me up. 

I’m not nos­tal­gic for the re­la­tion­ships that I have had. The think­ing I spend in the sock draw­er of the past is about the women that I could have slept with. The ones where both par­ties had made some ini­tial de­c­la­ra­tion, but fate or com­mon sense stopped the pro­ceed­ings. I still think of Bet­sy oc­ca­sion­al­ly. What’s new about this decade is that some­times I don’t think about any­body. Some­times the geese honk­ing above the lake and the sun­set break­ing in­to rip­ples is enough. Hal­lan­ote, you should ask me for a char­ac­ter ref­er­ence on this lake. You should ask me about the blue un­der the blue with the re­flect­ed clouds sail­ing through. Those are adapt­ed lines from the ninth son­net in my crown. 

I know that he’s not the sub­ject of this query, but I saw the boss once more at the bar and grill. You should hire him. Ex­cept for his trou­bling lack of bound­aries, he was good at his job. He was on a va­ca­tion with his fam­i­ly. He start­ed talk­ing to me at the bar, and I could tell that he had com­plete­ly for­got­ten that he had fired me. I won­der who he thought I was. He ex­pect­ed to have all the same claims up­on me. To pon­tif­i­cate his small­est mus­ings, as­sured of my attention. 

I asked him how Bet­sy was and then the mem­o­ries were up­on him like a cave full of dis­turbed bats. He looked back at the hol­i­day card fam­i­ly that he was hid­ing from at the bar, like they were a life raft. I like to think that at that mo­ment I was of­fer­ing his soul a chance at true sal­va­tion. Just the briefest, man­gled, stut­tered, un­der his breath apol­o­gy would have been enough. My ther­a­pist said this was a grandiose thought. I don’t know. Can you feel lit­tle and grandiose at the same time? My bet­ter self says hire her, Hal­lan­ote. Hire her for God sakes. You should run to her with the news that all is forgiven. 

Cor­dial­ly, cor­dial­ly, cordially.


Filed under Fiction on May 10th, 2024

Care to Share?

Reader Comments

Mark Jacobs wrote:

I en­joyed this sto­ry a lot. Mark Jacobs

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Har­ry Wo­jnows­ki Gets His Wish


Illustration of a living room with a window, a padded chair, and a genie's lamp.

He’d lived in Man­hat­tan his en­tire life, and he still liked the place. It was the two mil­lion oth­er Man­hat­tan­ites Har­ry couldn’t stand any more. There were just too damn many peo­ple in the city. You couldn’t get away from them, even in your own apart­ment. You heard their ar­gu­ments through the walls, smelled their spices through the vents, suf­fered their in­tru­sions when they came to bor­row your corkscrew. Every­where. Al­ways. Peo­ple. He’d had enough of them.

Which is where the ge­nie lamp came in. It was a birth­day gift from his kooky aunt Mag­gie, un­doubt­ed­ly pur­chased cheap in some dingy pawn shop. He’d prompt­ly parked it on a clos­et shelf and for­got­ten about it.

Maybe that tar­nished old hunk of junk was the an­swer to his problem. 

Har­ry re­trieved the lamp from its shelf and set to rub­bing it. Al­most im­me­di­ate­ly, a cloud of smoke be­gan pour­ing from the spout, form­ing a cloud. The cloud ex­pand­ed un­til… poof

The “ge­nie” was dressed in a cheap suit and wore a gaudy gold ring on one pudgy fin­ger. He looked like a cross be­tween a gang­ster and a per­son­al in­jury lawyer.

“What can I do ya for, boss?” 

Har­ry was skep­ti­cal. “You re­al­ly a genie?”

“Ful­ly li­censed in New York and New Jer­sey. Name’s Lou.” The ge­nie held out his hand.

“Har­ry,” Har­ry said, shaking.

“So, what’ll it be Har­ry? You got two wishes.” 

“Shouldn’t it be three?”

“This is a New York sto­ry, Har­ry, not a fairy tale. Two wish­es, take ’em or leave ’em.”

“Can I spread them out at least? Make one wish now and one later?”

“That’s al­lowed. But you’re stuck with me un­til you make the sec­ond wish. I don’t go back in the lamp un­til then. And once I go back, I’m out­ta com­mis­sion for at least a hun­dred years.”

Har­ry con­sid­ered this. For his first wish, he de­sired to find him­self on a de­sert­ed is­land where he could en­joy some soli­tude, for a change. He’d pre­fer hav­ing the is­land all to him­self, but if it was a choice be­tween one ge­nie and two mil­lion Manhattanites….

“It’s a deal.” 

He told Lou about the de­sert­ed is­land. “It should come with ameni­ties like satel­lite TV, an end­less sup­ply of high-end scotch and pre­mi­um ice cream, and all the Lee Child nov­els.” He’d use his sec­ond wish when he was ready to re­turn from this par­adise, if ever.

Lou snapped his fin­gers. “Done.”

Har­ry looked around. Apart from a new book­case full of Lee Child nov­els, noth­ing had changed. “What about the island?”

“You’re on it. Manhattan’s an is­land, tech­ni­cal­ly. I just… mod­i­fied it.”

And that’s when Har­ry no­ticed it, a sound you nev­er, ever heard in Man­hat­tan— si­lence. He drew the blind to look down on an emp­ty side­walk, a street filled with stopped cars, a city bus idling at the curb with its doors open and no pas­sen­gers. Twi­light Zone stuff.

“You didn’t.” 

Lou shrugged. “Modifying’s eas­i­er than mak­ing. You learn that quick, in this business.”

Har­ry got a gleam in his eye. His crazy sum­mon-a-ge­nie idea had ac­tu­al­ly worked. The peo­ple were gone!

Lou con­tin­ued, “Satel­lite remote’s on the side ta­ble, ice cream in the freez­er, scotch in the liquor cab­i­net, Lee Child in the book­case. Now if you’ll ex­cuse me, I could use a nap.”

In min­utes Lou was asleep on the fu­ton, snor­ing like a buzz saw. Har­ry, mean­while, pro­ceed­ed to down a pint of pre­mi­um ice cream and sev­er­al shots of high-end scotch. Then, fly­ing high on liquor, sug­ar, and the thrill of be­ing alone, he de­scend­ed in­to Man­hat­tan, and pro­claimed it his.

Over the next sev­er­al weeks, Har­ry fell in­to a rou­tine. By day he roamed the city, swig­ging scotch and rev­el­ing in his alone­ness, in the free­dom to move, the abil­i­ty to take a breath with­out feel­ing like he was com­pet­ing with two mil­lion peo­ple for the same oxy­gen. Evenings, he re­turned home to feast on ice cream, ca­ble TV, Lee Child sto­ries, and more scotch. Ex­cept for the snor­ing, Lou pret­ty much left him alone. It tru­ly was par­adise on earth, for a while. But earth­ly par­adise is hard­ly the re­al thing. It’s an im­per­fect place, where even a guy who’d had enough of peo­ple can be­gin to miss them. Sure, Har­ry had his ameni­ties, and Lou for com­pa­ny, but they weren’t quite the same thing as two mil­lion neigh­bors. To his great sur­prise, Har­ry dis­cov­ered that Man­hat­tan was a hol­low and un­sat­is­fy­ing ver­sion of it­self, ab­sent its noisy, smelly, in­tru­sive mob. Har­ry de­cid­ed it was time to bring the peo­ple home. One evening, be­tween swigs of high-end scotch, he told Lou he’d made a decision.

“I’m red­dy use my sec’n wishlou.”

The ge­nie looked up from a Lee Child nov­el. “You’re drunk, Har­ry. As your ge­nie, I ad­vise you to wait un­til your mind is clear to make your wish. You can’t un­make a wish, so you need to be sure.”

“I’m to’ly sure.”

“We’ll dis­cuss it in the morn­ing when you’re sober.” Lou said good­night, then stretched out on the fu­ton and fell in­to a deep sleep.

Har­ry be­gan click­ing through the chan­nels, but he could hard­ly hear the TV over Lou’s snor­ing. “Damn I wish you’d qui’snorin,” he grumbled.

Lou, with his spe­cial ge­nie abil­i­ties, could de­tect a wish even in his sleep. He im­me­di­ate­ly stopped snor­ing, and his eyes sprang open. 

“Aw crap,” Har­ry said, re­al­iz­ing he’d screwed up. “I din’ mean that.”

“Sor­ry, Har­ry. Your fi­nal wish is grant­ed. Now it’s time for me to go. So long, boss.” Lou snapped his fin­gers, dis­ap­pear­ing in a puff of smoke just like the one he ar­rived in. 

Har­ry sighed, belched, then tipped back his bot­tle of high-end scotch, on­ly to dis­cov­er that it, too, was empty.

Filed under Fiction on April 26th, 2024

Care to Share?

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:




Illustration of a sheet pan with a sliver of chocolate cake left balanced on the blade of a knife.

Jen­nifer and John Jef­fer­son had two sons, Jared, ten, and James, eight. James, who pre­ferred Jim, was skilled at pro­vok­ing his broth­er who nev­er called him Jim. He called him “Jar-Head” and “Jor­rid,” and did things like putting wet wash­cloths in his bed and hid­ing vi­tal Lego pieces. To re­tal­i­ate, Jared would leave post-it notes for his broth­er with ques­tions like “How long did the Hun­dred Years War last?” and “In what state would you find In­di­ana Uni­ver­si­ty?” so he could cor­rect him. “Ac­tu­al­ly, it was a hun­dred and six­teen years.” “It’s in Penn­syl­va­nia. Look it up.” He called his lit­tle broth­er “Jim­be­cile” and “Ce­ment-Head.” Jared al­ways got per­fect grades; James didn’t. James was good at every kind of sport; Jared wasn’t. 

Jennifer’s method of deal­ing with her boys was sim­ple. The more worked-up they got, the calmer she be­came; the loud­er their voic­es, the soft­er she made hers. This worked well be­cause both boys adored her; and, though this was it­self at the root of their abra­sive ri­val­ry, nei­ther want­ed Jen­nifer to be mad at him, just at his brother.

One day, Jen­nifer baked a choco­late sheet cake. It was on the kitchen counter when the boys got home from school. They burst through the door ar­gu­ing about Ms. Pitt who had been Jared’s teacher two years be­fore and was now James’. Jared thought she was won­der­ful; James hat­ed her be­cause of how of­ten she com­pared him to his brainy broth­er. “Teacher’s pet!” he shout­ed with con­tempt. “Jim­be­cile!” Jared re­tort­ed smugly.

“Qui­et down, you two,” said Jen­nifer then gave each a long and sooth­ing hug.

The boys spot­ted the cake.

“Can I have some?” both said. Nei­ther said, “Can we have a piece?”

“It’s for dessert.”

“Aw, Mom,” whined James.

“Please?” begged James. “I’m famished.”

The boys looked at her plead­ing­ly with ex­trav­a­gant­ly wa­ter­ing mouths. “I have to run to the dry clean­ers,” said Jen­nifer, re­al­iz­ing that this wasn’t an an­swer. “Well, all right. You can each take a small piece off the side.” She laid a knife on the counter. “Be very care­ful with this.”

“I will,” said Jared. 

“Me, too,” Jim echoed. 

Bön voy­age, Ma­man,” said Jared, who was teach­ing him­self French.

Jared in­sist­ed on tak­ing the knife first on grounds of se­nior­i­ty. He cut a small slice off the left side of the cake and laid the knife down on the counter.

“Just a small piece, and be very care­ful with the knife,” he warned his brother.

Be care­ful with the knife,” James said in the falset­to he used to mock his bossy brother.

The cake was de­li­cious, moist, choco­laty in­side and on top.

James looked hard at the cake, the knife, and his brother.

“She didn’t ac­tu­al­ly say one piece.”

Jared, sur­prised by his brother’s as­tute­ness, con­sid­ered his point. “Or one time.”


So, each cut an­oth­er slice, one from the left, the oth­er from the right, big­ger ones this time.

Jared got the milk from the re­frig­er­a­tor. James went to the cup­board and took out two glasses.

They cut more slices, from each side. The mid­dle got nar­row­er, thin­ner, tinier, un­til scarce­ly even a sliv­er was left.

Filed under Fiction on March 29th, 2024

Care to Share?

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Recent-Ish Posts

Ways to Lose It
Pan Gets an Email Address
They Came from Out­er Space
Up to No Good

Additional Miscellany

Join our Irregular Mailing List

For very occasional ramblings, word about new print ephemera, and of course exciting investment opportunities.