Johnny America


The Clash


“Dad, it’s him again,” says Jaden Smith in­to his cell phone. “Ralph Mac­chio is hang­ing around out­side the school.”

“What’s your name?”


“Say your name.”

“Jaden Smith.”

“That’s right. Jaden Smith. You’re a Smith, and what does that mean?”

“It means I take care of my busi­ness so my busi­ness takes care of me.”

Will Smith’s laugh leaps from the phone. Jaden pic­tures his dad’s head tilt­ed back, his eyes twin­kling. “That’s right,” says Will. “Go talk to him. Tell him you’re the new Karate Kid and he needs to get over it.”

Ralph looks like a gang­ster in his sil­ver suit. A cig­a­rette slants from his lips. Tufts of three-day fa­cial stub­ble sprout spot­ti­ly across his face and neck. His fin­gers curl round the chain link fence like claws.

Jaden saun­ters to­wards him, head down and hands tucked in­side the pock­ets of his red track­suit. He kicks a rock and it skips along, bil­low­ing up clouds of dirt be­fore clink­ing off the fence near Ralph Macchio’s snake­skin shoes. “You can’t keep hang­ing around here,” says Jaden. “It’s creepy. What are you like thirty?”

“Forty-eight. Good genes on both sides of the fam­i­ly.” Ralph sucks at his cig­a­rette and flicks it aside, a burst of or­ange against the side­walk. “Heard you don’t even do karate in your rip-off flick. What kind of ass­hole fea­tures kung fu in a movie called The Karate Kid? It’s cul­tur­al­ly in­sen­si­tive if you ask me.”

“My mom and dad were pro­duc­ers. I just starred in it.” Jaden shrugs and twirls at one of his braids. “Look Mac­chio, this is a done deal. The movie al­ready came out. Num­ber one at the box of­fice in its open­ing week­end. What do you want from me?”

“I want the world to know you’re a pos­er. I want to rip that sil­ver spoon from your cute lit­tle mouth.” Ralph thrash­es about, shak­ing the fence. “I want a shot at you punk!”

“Like a fight?” Jaden’s hands hov­er shoul­der lev­el, equal scales of jus­tice. “I’ve been train­ing. Hang­ing with Jack­ie Chan and do­ing re­al train­ing. And you’re like a hun­dred. I was be­ing charm­ing with that whole thir­ty thing. I’d de­stroy you old man.”

“Then it’s set­tled.” Ralph front kicks the air, chops an in­vis­i­ble foe. “I’ll see you on the foot­ball field af­ter school.”

A‑list tal­ent bus­tles about the bleach­ers. Jack Nichol­son puffs at a Cuban. Justin Bieber’s head twitch­es as he slings his bangs from his eyes. Sur­gi­cal­ly en­hanced blonds coo and co­coon around Hef. Hun­dred-dol­lar bills fan in Ja­da Pin­kett Smith’s hands as she and Will take bets on the action.

Mac­chio ar­rives first. As he walks, the knot of his lo­tus flower head­band flut­ters on the base of his skull like a gi­ant white moth. His karate gi flops open, ex­pos­ing his doughy skin­ny-fat physique. The word Kid flash­es from a gold neck­lace around his neck.

A bald man, wear­ing a fad­ed black Co­bra Kai uni­form, clumps along be­hind Ralph. He lugs a green plas­tic buck­et in each hand while chant­i­ng words of en­cour­age­ment, “Wax on. Wax off. You’ve got this, Ralph. Let’s sand the floor with this chump!”

The crowd erupts when Jaden jogs out on­to the field. His head glints like a sparkler as light jumps from the sil­ver beads at­tached to his braids. He’s shed his top, flaunt­ing sev­en­ty-five pounds of mus­cle stri­a­tions and charis­ma. He does two front hand­springs and a flip be­fore land­ing in a fight stance.

Mac­chio plunges his fists in­to one of the buck­ets. He re­moves his now resin-coat­ed fists and dips them in­to the oth­er buck­et. Shards of glass stick to his knuck­les. “They call this the an­cient way,” says Ralph. He tests it out with a one-two shad­ow­box­ing com­bi­na­tion. “Saw it in a Van Damme movie.”

Jaden skit­ters back two steps. His woozy eyes find his par­ents in the bleach­ers. Will Smith smiles wide and gives him a thumbs up. Ja­da shoos him for­ward with a flash of red fin­ger­nails. Jaden reads her lips: Make Ma­ma proud. Take care of your business.

Jaden breads his fists with glass and march­es to­wards Ralph, lips pursed with determination.

Ralph rais­es his hands above his head and bal­ances on one wob­bly leg. “Crane tech­nique,” he ex­plains. “It ain’t just an awk­ward po­si­tion in the Ka­ma Sutra.”

Jaden rush­es him and Ralph leaps in a hor­ri­bly mist­imed crane kick, on­ly strik­ing air. Ralph tum­bles to the ground, slic­ing his left leg on his hand as he braces his fall.

As red blooms on Macchio’s gi, Jaden’s foot thwacks him twice in his bud­ding potbelly.

“Who’s The Karate Kid?” asks Jaden, the glass on his raised fist mir­ror­ing vengeance.

“You are,” moans Ralph Macchio.

“Say my name, old man!”


“Jaden who?”

“Jaden Smith. Jaden Smith is The Karate Kid,” says Mac­chio, his eyes plead­ing the heav­ens for di­vine Miya­gi intervention.

Filed under Fiction on July 5th, 2010

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