Johnny America


The Copen­hagen Interpretation


De­pend­ing on whether there is an ob­serv­er to mea­sure it, a sub-atom­ic par­ti­cle will be­have ei­ther as a wave func­tion, or col­lapse in­to a val­ue de­fined by the mea­sure­ment of the observer.


My chi­ro­prac­tor didn’t hes­i­tate when I com­plained about a per­sis­tent knot in my neck.

“Get a mas­sage,” he said. “Call Max.”

He nod­ded to­ward a se­lec­tion of busi­ness cards laid out on a ta­ble next to the door. I found a white card that had a phone num­ber, the name “Max!” and a pic­ture of two hands, palms up, that looked more like sup­pli­cant hands than mas­sag­ing hands.

The next day, I called the num­ber on the card. I got a record­ing with new-age mu­sic and Max’s non-new-age voice:

“This is Max. Please you should leave your name and num­ber, and I will most def­i­nite­ly call you back. Oh…within fifty-five min­utes. Yes I will.”

I left my name and num­ber, and not­ed the time. Ex­act­ly fifty-two min­utes lat­er the phone rang. I an­swered and said, “Hel­lo?”

“Are you the one in need?” said the caller, “Can I please help you to feel better?”

“Is this Max?” I said.

“Of course,” he said, “Are you in need? You want to feel better?”

“Well, Dr. Lawrence gave me your num­ber. He rec­om­mend­ed you as a masseuse.”

“Ah yes, Dr. Lawrence is a fine man. Good for him. Good for you. So, you are in need?”

“Well, I want a mas­sage, but I wouldn’t say that I’m ‘in need.’ At least I wouldn’t put it that way.”

“Well, what­ev­er way you want to put it is fine. You may not want to call it a need, but you do want to feel bet­ter, and you do want a mas­sage, yes?”

I had an im­pulse to make up some kind of an ex­cuse and been done with it then and there, but I was grotesque­ly in­trigued and cu­ri­ous about this char­ac­ter, so I said, “Yes.”

“When would you like me to come?”


I as­sumed I would be mak­ing an ap­point­ment to go to some kind of mas­sage fa­cil­i­ty or maybe a spa.

“Most of my clients pre­fer for me to come to their homes. Some­times peo­ple come to my apart­ment, but I usu­al­ly do house-calls. Yes, I do house-calls, but I’m not a whore!” Then he start­ed laugh­ing. Re­al­ly laughing.

“Well, a house-call sounds okay,” I said. He said he was avail­able “im­me­di­ate­ly,” so I made an ap­point­ment for lat­er that af­ter­noon, and I gave him directions.

I was tak­ing a nap when Max showed up. He was about an hour ear­ly, and I awoke to my two dogs bark­ing fu­ri­ous­ly at the front door. I looked out to the dri­ve­way, and saw a big, mid­dle-aged man, dressed all in white, pulling what looked like a huge black suit­case out of the back of a beat-up, old Ford Econo­line van. There was a fad­ed, air­brushed pic­ture on the side of a cow­boy swing­ing a las­so over his head. I went out and asked if he need­ed help.

“Oh yes, that would be love­ly, uh-huh…” he said, and put the strap of the huge case on my shoul­der. It was awk­ward to car­ry, and a bit heavy. He then reached in­to the win­dow on the pas­sen­ger side of the front of the van and lift­ed out a small or­ange tote bag with the word “Fun!” writ­ten on it. I led the way to the front door of my house and put the case down. It seemed odd to me that he would have me car­ry the big, bulky case while he just car­ried a tote bag.

“Are you okay with dogs? They won’t bite you, they’re just excited.”

Max looked worried.

“Re­al­ly, they’ll calm down once they smell you and see that I’m let­ting you in,” I said.

Max nod­ded, and I care­ful­ly opened the door to keep the dogs from com­ing out. The dogs were bark­ing like I’ve rarely seen be­fore, and I held on­to them as Max brought his stuff in­side. When I let the dogs loose they lunged at Max, barked wild­ly a cou­ple of times, then they set­tled in­to al­ter­nat­ing pat­terns of ap­proach­ing him, tak­ing cau­tious sniffs, then back­ing away. Max just stood there, and I could see he was sweat­ing heav­i­ly. There were big wet stains un­der his arms and on the front of his shirt. I pulled the dogs away from him, and got them both out the back door. They con­tin­ued to bark and scratch at the door as I tried to make small talk with Max. He sat down on the couch and closed his eyes. He looked as if he was pray­ing. Out back, I heard the dogs mum­bling to each oth­er, fi­nal­ly set­tling down.

“Can I get you some­thing to drink?” I said.

“Hm­mm, some­thing to drink…”

I went to the kitchen and got my­self a glass of wa­ter. When I got back to the liv­ing room, Max was snoring.

“Max?” I said.

He was asleep.

“Max?” I said again, “Hey Max?”

For a few min­utes I let him sleep. Then I let the dogs in. They went over to Max and he woke up to them sniff­ing him. They had calmed down, but they kept Max in sight. Good dogs.

“Oh, I must have dozed my­self off,” he said. He looked around the room, stood up, and grunt­ed a few times as he stretched.

“Well, I have to get go­ing,” I lied.

“What about the mas­sage? You are in need!” Max looked puz­zled and hurt.

“Maybe an­oth­er time,” I said.

“We had an ap­point­ment, yes?”

“And you fell asleep,” I said, “I have to go.”

Max looked at his watch. “Our ap­point­ment was for this time, now.”

He had me.

“Yeah, I guess I still have time,” I said.

Max un­fold­ed and set his ta­ble up, and the dogs took turns sniff­ing him and retreating.

“Okay,” Max said, “strip your­self there and hop­pi­ty-hop on up.” He pat­ted the ta­ble and grinned at me. I nod­ded and took off my shirt and pants, and start­ed to climb on­to the table.

“What you think­ing with the un­der­wear?” Max said.


“Why you still wear­ing some of the underwear?”

“I’ve al­ways worn my un­der­wear when I’ve got­ten mas­sages,” I said.

“Well, that’s such ridicu­lous,” Max said, “You must take them on off.”

Re­luc­tant­ly, I did as I was told. I took off my un­der­wear and got on the table.

“Yes that is it,” said Max.

The mas­sage start­ed nor­mal­ly enough, but af­ter a few min­utes, he start­ed to mas­sage and knead my up­per and in­ner thighs. It seemed to me to be a bit much.

“That’s prob­a­bly enough there,” I said.

“No, you’ve got much of tight­ness here; I must to work it out.”

“You know, it’s ac­tu­al­ly my neck and shoul­ders that are both­er­ing me,” I said.

“You are car­ry­ing much ten­sion here that is tight­en­ing your whole­ness of body. Your neck and shoul­ders and all things are con­nect­ed to the mus­cles here,” he said push­ing on what I sup­pose we should call my glu­teus max­imus, “and this is much where you need at­ten­tion if you want to feel bet­ter. This is the source of your needs.”

He lin­gered there; he was re­al­ly work­ing on it, I’ll give him that, but when I heard him let out what sound­ed like a high-pitched lit­tle moan I slid out from un­der his hands and got off the ta­ble. I put on my clothes as fast as I could, and reached out to shake his hand.

“Okay, thanks. I have to go now,” I said.

“But we have not fin­ished it all,” Max said. He looked hurt and confused.

“That’s okay, I’m good. That’s enough. I re­al­ly have to get go­ing now.”

Max just stood there.

“Well, okay; I’ll come back to­mor­row to most­ly fin­ish,” he said as he start­ed fold­ing the ta­ble and pack­ing up.

“No, no, I’ll call you to set up an­oth­er ap­point­ment,” I said, “tomorrow’s no good for me.”

Max act­ed as if he didn’t hear me. I opened the door for him, and he said, “Okay I see you to­mor­row. Hap­py good.”

“No. I won’t be here.”

“Yes you go. I’ll be back and fin­ish up.” He grinned again. “My pro­fes­sion­al du­ty.” He turned and walked away quick­ly to his van. I called af­ter him, “I won’t be here.”

He turned to­ward me, smiled broad­ly, bowed, and waved as he got in­to the van and drove away.

The next day I went to my neighbor’s house, which had a rel­a­tive­ly clear view of the front of my house. Sure enough, Max’s van pulled up. He got out, un­loaded his stuff, and walked to the front door. I heard the dogs bark­ing. Max stayed at the door. My neigh­bor joined me at the win­dow. Max bent over, stood up, stretched, and shook his body like a wet dog.

“Man, this is some kind of sit­u­a­tion you have here,” my neigh­bor said. He smiled and shook his head. Max con­tin­ued stand­ing at the door for quite a while. The sun was go­ing down, and I could see him swat­ting at no-see-ems. Fi­nal­ly he walked to the van, put his ta­ble in­to the back, and got in. I wait­ed to see him back out of the dri­ve­way, but the van didn’t move.

“Un­be­liev­able. He’s not leaving.”

“You’re kid­ding,” said my neigh­bor. He came over to the win­dow to take a look. “Maybe the van won’t start.” The van’s win­dows were rolled down, and I could see Max. He was read­ing some­thing. His man­ner sug­gest­ed a man with ex­pe­ri­ence sit­ting in a van, waiting.

“No,” I said, “I think he’s set­tling in.”

So I hung out with my neigh­bor, watched The El­e­gant Uni­verse on TV, and looked out at Max’s van every now and then. I won­dered if Max still would have stayed there, or would he have be­haved any dif­fer­ent­ly, if he knew he was be­ing ob­served? Max seemed to have col­lapsed in­to a val­ue that was un­set­tling and un­ac­cept­able as de­fined by any of my mea­sure­ments. Fi­nal­ly, lat­er, when I re­turned to the win­dow, Max was gone. He had fi­nal­ly be­come a wave function.

Filed under Fiction on June 19th, 2015

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Lucas wrote:

ha­ha, I’m cu­ri­ous if Max just re­al­ly want­ed to do his job or if it was some­thing more.

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