Johnny America


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.

Filed under Fiction on March 11th, 2016

Care to Share?

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Previous Post


Next Post


Join our Irregular Mailing List

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