Johnny At The Fair

Oh boy! Could it really be? There were big signs on the horizon. Hurrah! It’s the World’s Fair! Little Johnny was straining his neck from the backseat of the station wagon trying to get a look at all the terrific sights. Mr. Henderson was patiently looking for a space in the lot, and Mrs. Henderson was chattering on, something about safety and manners and all that corny jazz.

Wow, there was the Mondosphere, and the Imagination Pavillion, and the Atomic Tent of Tomorrow! It was just like the brochure Johnny stole from the school library- this place must be the most fun place of all the places in the world! Hurry up, Pop, and find a spot already!

It was almost as if Mr. Henderson heard what Johnny was thinking, because he just then pulled the family car into a clean parking space with bright white lines. Mrs. Henderson was gathering her pocketbook and telling Johnny something about “comportment,” (huh?) but by then Johnny had broken out of the car and was already running the length of the gravel lot toward the steel-enforced perimeter gates.

He peered inside the chain link fence. Zowee, there’s clowns and crazy magic inside! And huge buildings, full of mystery and fantastic things! There were scores and scores of happy peoples walking together in their summer clothes and riding trams around the grounds. And the eats! Why, there must be a booth from every country in the world inside, chock full of yum-yum vittles and- Oh, hurry up, Pop, and bring that billfold! It isn’t fair to make a boy wait.

It took Mr. and Mrs. Henderson forever to reach the front gates. Pop told Johnny to quiet down, and he looked so very tired. After admission had been paid and hands had been stamped, Little Johnny was at last inside.

He was speechless. The fairgrounds spread out as far as his eyes could see. He couldn’t read the big sign above him, but boy it was tall and grand and must have been made out of a hundred light bulbs. He pinched Mother’s calf and pointed towards it.

Mrs. Henderson let out a yell- Johnny had pinched too hard- and then crouched down to him. “Why, that sign, Johnny? It says ‘World’s Fair and Science Expo- A Flight To The Future.’”

Johnny didn’t know what all that meant, but he sure was ready to start seeing the sights. Pop had a different plan in mind.

“Stay close and honest, Johnny,” said Pop with a smile, “We’ll take our time and see everything together.”

Oh no, this would never do. Little Johnny could tell that there were a thousand super things to do and Mom and Pop would just slow him down; they were old and weak, and their souls were broken and hollow.

Johnny looked up at Mother. She looked as if she were having another of her headaches. Her face was stretched tight and her eyes were shut and her fingers were on her temples. Too bad, Mom. Then Johnny turned to face Pop. He seemed to be staring at a girl about Johnny’s age. He was looking at her real funny, and then licking his lips. Grownups never have any fun.

What if Johnny could get out on his own? To see the fair for himself without Mom and Pop slowing him down? The idea was so exciting to Johnny that his heart skipped a beat. Then a wonderful idea occurred to him: 'How can I distract Mom and Pop so that I can get away unnoticed?' Johnny took a moment to think, and soon the answer came.

There was a teenage boy with a pushcart selling hot dogs. The boy’s face was funny- all oily and covered in red spots. Maybe it was from selling hot dogs? Mom was still rubbing her head and Pop was still looking at the little girl funny. Johnny saw his chance. He tugged on Pop’s trousers but Pop didn’t notice- he looked like he was in a trance- and it took a few moments before he finally saw Johnny pointing at the cart. Pop shook his head hard and turned.

“You want a beef sausage, do you?"

 Little Johnny nodded. Pop knelt down.

“You know, Johnny, not only do frankfurters taste great, they’re great for you, too. Why, each one is chocked full of supplements and vitaminerals, all the nutritious meat a growing boy needs.”

Mr. Henderson pulled a half-dollar out of his pocket and handed it to Johnny.

“There you are, son. Fill that little belly with everything good and true. ” He beamed at Johnny, his white teeth gleaming in the morning sun, “and add a little mustard for me.”

Pop could be so silly sometimes. Johnny watched his folks take a seat on a bench. Finally, he thought, my chance has come.

Little Johnny ran over to the pushcart. The Vendor straightened his cap and looked down at Johnny.

“Well, hello there young man!” he said in a squeaky voice, “What can I get y-”

Little Johnny punched the Vendor in the groin as hard as he could. The teenager fell forward and clutched his specialness, his cap falling off while his head hit the asphalt. Johnny got a grip on the pushcart and mustered all his might, heaving the wagon top ways. It went over easy, and soon the steaming frankfurter broth was spilling out over the pavement. The frankfurters themselves spilled out too, flopping and quivering like fish on dry land. The crowd nearby was hopping around the mess, trying to avoid the gliding wieners. The Vendor was still bent over, and was screaming funny.

Like a little girl, thought Johnny. But this was not time for laughter- there was work to be done.

Mr. and Mrs. Henderson both rose and came running toward the scene. Mr. Henderson’s face was turning that bright red color it got when he was getting ready to spank Johnny. Mrs. Henderson’s face was stretched tighter than ever; she was trying to pick up wieners as she ran, but they were slippery, and she was having a time of it.

Now for the piece de resistance! Johnny grabbed the change pouch from around the Vendor’s waist and threw it to the ground with a mighty clank.

Spin! Coin! Hooray! There was money everywhere, and greedy fair-goers came rushing in, scooping up all the loose nickels and change and creating quite a stir. Mr. Henderson was trampled in the shuffle and Mrs. Henderson was knocked to her bottom by a Chinaman chasing a dime, but by that time Johnny was gone long-gone.

Oh, the glorious things to see! Little Johnny skipped through the crowd with a light feeling and a song in his heart. Where to first? Straight ahead was the Sports Complex, and Johnny, who was always fond of baseball, ran towards the round building.

“Step right up to the Sports Complex,” said the old man standing out front. He was so old Johnny was surprised that the Lord hadn’t taken him yet. “The games of today and the innovations of tomorrow!”

Johnny wasn’t sure what ‘innervations’ were, but he stood up from his crouch and politely nodded his thanks to the old-timer. “Hello, Junior… please come inside- and try a bottle of our new Pitch Cola,” he handed Johnny a bottle. “Extra caffeine and bonus sugar to give a growing boy all the energy he needs.” Johnny took a sip: his eyeballs fell out their sockets and onto the concrete, where they bounced back up into his head as steam shot out of his ears. Johnny took the rest of the bottle in one swulp and gave the old fellow a thumbs-up!

The old man gave Johnny a smile, turned, and fell flat on his face. His glasses were cracked and his face was cut up something awful by the spiky shards. Little Johnny wondered if this had anything to do with him having tied the man’s shoelaces together, but that was a parable for another day- he had made his way into the Sports Complex.

Inside, Johnny saw a fantastic display of sports inventions, fitness machines, and health equipment that looked like they came out of Captain Video! There was a man riding a stationary bicycle stuck to the ceiling, and a woman with an exercise belt around her waist that was vibrating so hard her giant joombahs were going jibjab.

He started toward the baseball display- there was a new bat that looked like it was made out of metal! He wanted to swing that bat, and maybe hit a home run. Suddenly, Johnny stopped.

A girl about his age picked up the bat and began to play with it. Who was this girl? Her bright blond hair was tied in thick pigtails that hung out over her shoulders. Her little pug nose was jammed up into her face, and she had a pretty smile that showed off her white-

No, no, though Johnny, what am I saying? This is all wrong! That girl is playing with MY bat! I wanted to play with that, thought Johnny.

The girl’s mother walked by and put her hand on the bat. “Now, Kelly,” her Mother said, “you behave while I go find your father. Share, and be kind to everyone you meet.”

“I will,” Kelly grunted, as her Mother walked off.

So, Kelly thinks she is the Queen on the World, hah? Not if Little Johnny had anything to say about it. A plan quickly came to him: If he yanked on her pigtails hard enough, maybe she would cry and drop the bat in confusion. Yes, if he timed it just right-

Johnny was suddenly whisked away. Someone picked him up and oh, the commotion! He didn’t even have any time to bite or wet- he was plunked down on the lap of none other than Joe Striketop, the most famous football player in the USA. Joe smiled and shook Johnny’s hand. What a fix for a young boy! They were on a small podium, surrounded by newspaper photographers taking their pictures and yelling out things that Johnny thought were silly, like “Is that boy your new starting quarterback, Joe?” and “Someone went crazy at the hot dog stand!”

Johnny wanted out. The flashbulbs were beginning to agitate him and he could see himself doing horrible things unless he got away from here. But there was a speech to be heard, and Little Johnny sighed and put his hand to his face as Joe Striketop started to declare.

“Thank you, thank you, one and all. Well, it sure is good to be up here at the World’s Fair, where I can witness the games of today and the innovations of tomorrow! I sure am looking forward to the inaugural season of Frisbee-Ball! But I hope it doesn’t become more popular than good old football!”

People were applauding- what was wrong with them? Joe had more to say.

“Firstly, I would like to thank all of my loyal fans who have stopped by- I will be signing autographs this afternoon in the Hall of Illumination. Second, I would like to invite all of you- young and old- to join me on my Journey To Physical Wonderfulness!”

Johnny looked up. Joe needed a shave… and he smelled like sauerkraut.

Joe gestured to Johnny. “Now, this boy here has already started the journey- he’s one of my biggest fans. His name is Jimmy. And Jimmy knows just what it is that makes Joe Striketop such a winner. Striketop Energy Tonic! Yes, each bottle is brimming with vitality and triumph! Enough to help a boy of Jimmy’s size take on the entire offensive line!”

Again, some of the reporters laughed, but Johnny didn’t know why. Where was this Jimmy person?

“So Jimmy,” said Striketop to Johnny, “if you’re going to start drinking Energy Tonic, can we expect to see you in the Football Championships?”

Now the reporters were looking at Johnny. Who was this Jimmy they kept talking about? There seemed like a hundred microphones and cameras all aimed at Johnny, and it finally got to be too much for a unbalanced lad to take. Johnny whacked his corrective shoe into Striketop’s shin. That got him! Striketop winced, shattering a bottle of Energy Tonic as he bent to clutch his leg. Johnny slipped off the stage and snuck through the crowd. The reporters were shooting even more pictures now, and Joe Striketop was screaming the skunk words that Papa used when Johnny left his roller-skates on the stairs.

Oh well, where to next?

*                *                *

Back at the entrance gate, things were not looking good. One of the officials from the Fair had arrived in a dark suit and was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Henderson in a quiet voice. Mr. Henderson pulled out his checkbook and started writing. Mrs. Henderson helped the Vendor right his pushcart.

When the man from the Fair had gone away, Mrs. Henderson looked around and began to get hysterical. She turned to Mr. Henderson.

“Oh no! Johnny’s gone! Oh, he’s run off again!”

“Quiet!” snapped Mr. Henderson.

“But what will we do? There must be fifty thousand people at this Fair! Little Johnny could have been kidnapped by a villain, or perhaps he’s become acquainted with dynamite!”

“Shut up,” replied Mr. Henderson, “Do you want to burst another blood vessel?”

Mrs. Henderson held her breath to stop the panic, and her face began to turn deep blue.

“We are going to look calmly and patiently for our son. We are going to stay together and stay calm. We are going to keep our dignity. And when I find Johnny, I am going to paddle his bottom to a glowing ‘hot-coal’ red.”

*                *                *

It must have been dark in the Sports Complex, because it sure was bright coming out! It took Little Johnny’s eyes a few moments to adjust to the blinding sun in the clear afternoon sky. Then something caught his eye- another big sign, and Johnny had no time to read it. The building behind it was shaped like a rocket ship, and there was a man out front screaming, “Come to the Space Complex, and behold the wonders of the galaxy!”

Oh boy! Inside there were model rocket ships and deep-space jetpacks and a wax model of an alien from another planet, which kind of looked a little like Nana. A man in a spacesuit was signing autographs next to a sign with letters, which Johnny had no time to read. He pointed at it and punched a gentleman in the knee.

“Why the sign? The sign says ‘Meet Buzz Cracklin, the first astronologist to orbit the Earth in a space capsule.’ He rubbed his aching joint and walked on.

Getting people to read these signs sure is a pain in the neck, thought Johnny. Maybe I should spend more time in my reading primer and less time pulling the girls’ hair.


Buzz Cracklin was preening and parading like he had just won the World Series of Baseball: “By the year 1979 every home will have its own nuclear reactor to power your light switches, blender-sinks, & robo-butlers… and the space-age will bring you some of the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted: food pills, dehydrated milkshakes, & powdered toast. And families will take their Summer vacations on the planet Venus!”

Cracklin pulled a sheet off an easel to reveal a posterboard with a picture of a planet on it.
Everyone in the crowd said, “Ooooh…”

Cracklin pointed to the planet: “This is Venus!”

The audience said, “Ahhhhh….” and then broke out in a round of applause. Were these people from Venus?

Johnny licked his lips- suddenly he wanted another bottle of Pitch Cola- he wasn’t addicted! He snuck up behind Buzz and pulled his pants down.

Mercury! Gravity! Blast off! Buzz Cracklin must have gotten his laundry mixed up with his wife’s, because he was wearing pink girl’s underpants- like a girl! The crowd started to laugh as Cracklin’s face went the color of five volcanoes. Johnny would have to laugh later- there were other sights to see. He slipped out the door as Buzz tried to pull up his garter belt.

*                *                *

Mr. & Mrs. Henderson were searching the Fair Grounds for Johnny.

“Johnny,” his Mother pleaded, “come out, come out, wherever you are.” And then, “Olly olly oxen free.”

Mr. Henderson stopped walking and turned to face her: “What the hell does that mean?”

“Oh, we’ve simply got to find him…”

Mr. Henderson started walking again. “I told you we shouldn’t bring him to the Fair.”

“No,” Mrs. Henderson corrected him, “you said that we should kill him. I said we shouldn’t bring him to the fair.”

*                *                *

Johnny was walking the fairgrounds and enjoying the beautiful day. He couldn’t find the old man who gave him the cola. He was probably dead or busy. The flags of every nation lined the great mall surrounding the Mondosphere- Johnny never knew there were so many places! He wondered if even the President had been to all of them!

Just then a man shouted: “The Hall of Medicide and Pharmasupicals! Come one, come all, and come witness the wonderful world of chemistry!”

The pitch man was standing in front of a wonderful dome-shaped building with a long line of people in front. Johnny didn’t feel like waiting so he cut the line and got inside fast. It was marvelous! There were doctorcologists and scienticians in white lab coats handing out free pills for everyone, and little tubes and a map of the human body (the inside with all the squishy parts) and a wheelchair with fins like a car! ‘I wanna be a quadriplegic when I grow up,’ thought Johnny. He took a bunch of pills from each of the bins and ate them up

There was a large red blob in a glass case. The man looking at it put his arms around his two little boys and said, “That’s a cow’s heart, kids.” Yucko! Who wants to eat that?

A swarm of people was gathering around a small stage. Say, let’s go see the show!

Johnny hustled his way to the front of the crowd just in time. The lights dimmed, and the small curtains parted.

An announcer’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Welcome ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, to the Wonderful World of Chemistry. What medical marvels await us in the coming years? Doctor Anton Stopzak will tell you.”

A man came out of the curtains, much smaller than the voice had described. He had a black bowl haircut and a little square mustache. He was wearing glasses and a white lab coat, and he talked with a funny accent.

“Hello. My name is Doctor Stopzak. I am a medical doctor and geneticist specializing in the treatment of the neurologically impaired. The symptoms of the mentally-ill are easy to recognize- comas, blackouts, self-gratification… soon we will have a cure for all these ailments. Today we stand at the feet of a giant breakthrough in humanology: one day the average man might live to be sixty-five years old.”

The crowd was cheering, but Johnny didn’t quite get it. Who was this guy, just making things up and talking as if he were so smart? For Johnny, the show was over. This place was boring!

Something snapped inside of Johnny, and he smiled his devious smile. He reached out and yanked the cow’s heart right out of the display- it was mushy- and threw it into the crowd. What a stinker!

Splat! Gush! Organ! There were shouts of surprise and shock from the crowd, and Johnny thought he heard someone going throw-up. That was different! Everyone was screaming things like, “Let me out!” and “Someone went crazy at the hot dog stand!”

Just then, a loud whistle blew.

It was a frightening sound, like a monster makes frightening sounds. Johnny didn’t know much about monsters, except what he had heard from the kids at school. He knew they were big, mostly, and that they liked to eat little children such as himself. He had never seen a monster, except in illustrations, and Johnny was afraid of what might happen if he met up with one.

But this didn’t seem to be a monster. This was a big man at the entrance to the building holding a net on the end of a long pole. He had a lot of muscles, more than even Joe Striketop! He was wearing a white shirt and white short pants, and a white cap. His eyes were covered by a pair of shiny sun spectacles. He looked angry. He blasted his whistle again, and the entire crowd became still, turning to face him. He opened his mouth and the whistle fell to the string around his neck.

No one made a sound.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I am sorry to disturb this portion of the World’s Fair. I’m from Behavior Control. We’ve had a few… disturbances today and we’re trying to find the culprit so that we might apprehend him and humiliate him. Are there any children in here unsupervised… that is, any children without their parents?”


“We have reason to believe that some of the mayhem that has occurred here at the Fair today is the direct result of one young child, so I ask again: Are there any children in here without their parents?”

No one spoke.

“Would every child please go and stand by their Mother or Father, please? Orphans and step-children lay face down on the floor.”

There was a great shuffling about in the room, and when it was done, every child was standing close to their parents. Some of them were clutching their folks in fear, afraid of what might happen if the Man took them away.

The man took a few slow steps into the room. He was studying every face in the crowd, looking for something out of place, looking for a child to take with him. His whistle swayed back and forth with every step he took, and none of the children were looking directly at him.

There were many children, but they all seemed to be with parents. Perhaps this wasn’t the place after all.

Little Johnny was almost a half-mile away, having sensed trouble at the sound of the whistle. Oh, what a great adventure this Fair was, he thought, and he took a moment to look at the brand new baseball stadium that had just been built outside the grounds. He wondered if he would ever hit a home run.

*                *                *

Mr. and Mrs. Henderson were trudging through the fairgrounds. It was getting hot, and they were both regretting their choice of flannel. They split up so they could find Johnny faster. No luck. After a while Mrs. Henderson started looking for her husband. Now she couldn’t find him! Oh, what bad luck.

There’s Mr. Henderson! He’s kneeling down talking to a little girl. Mrs. Henderson watched him for a moment. What could they be talking about? Mr. Henderson was making gestures with his hands, but Mrs. Henderson couldn’t tell what they meant. If only she were home watching her stories!

After another minute, she approached Mr. Henderson and the girl.

“Why, that isn’t Johnny!” said Mrs. Henderson.

Mr. Henderson rose, his face bright red. The girl ran off into the crowd so quickly Mrs. Henderson could almost hear the ZOOM!

“I know that wasn’t Johnny,” said Mr. Henderson, “but I thought perhaps she had seen the boy.”

They walked on for a while after that, stopping briefly at the music venue to hear the jazz combo play. “What a swinging group!” Mrs. Henderson said, “Man, that sax was blowing wild!”

“Shut up,” said Mr. Henderson. They continued on, pausing momentarily to have a meal at the Italian Food restaurant. After the meal Mr. Henderson sipped on his cappuccino slowly, wondering what type of mess Johnny had gotten himself into this time.

The boy’s outburst was nothing new. Many an afternoon had Johnny’s parents sat in the schoolhouse, facing a twisted stump of a woman with wooden teeth and a rat-hair wig, who would complain bitterly:

“Little Johnny just isn’t applying himself… he has a head full of bad ideas and a belly full of sweets. God must have been blinking when Little Johnny was born.”

Mrs. Henderson was thinking of Little Johnny, too. Every boy does his fair share of funny business, but Johnny was more than a handful! Throwing rocks at badgers was one thing, but running away from your own Mother… what could she do?

“Boys will be boys,” she said out loud.

“I thought I told you to shut up,” said Mr. Henderson. He smiled at the waitress and motioned for the check.

*                *                *

As Little Johnny wandered he began to get that dizzy feeling he got whenever he was hungry- or maybe those pills were making him gonzo. Say, there’s lots of wonderful eats here- grub from every corner of the globe! But what Johnny really wanted was a hamburger sandwich and some french-fried potatoes! Mmmm… and catsup, too! He still had Pop’s half-dollar, now all he had to do was find the hamburger hut.

Just then Johnny looked up to see the ice cream stand. There were scores of children eating the most delicious flavors! Hawaiian Cherry! Jamocha Butter Fudge Swirl! Blackberry Delight! Blueberry Surprise! Orange Blossom Special! Double scoop! Triple scoop! With shots and jimmies and butterscotch sauce!

Shazbots! This was too good to be true!

That girl Kelly from the Sports Complex was here. She was standing there in front of him with her big double-scoop ice cream cone. Chocolate to boot! Look at those two scoops, shining under the bright sun and looking oh so tasty. Johnny licked his lips. Why did Kelly get to have it? No, doggone it, this just wasn’t right! Johnny wanted it for himself. He began to think of a plan to get her cone, but those pills had made his mind fuzzy.

Before he knew what he was doing, he ran over and slapped Kelly in the face. She was shocked, and turned to look at him angry. Johnny was frozen- he hadn’t planned what to do next because he hadn’t even planned to do this. But before he could do anything else, Kelly reared back and dumped her ice-cream cone right onto Little Johnny’s head.

Splosh! Splat! Dairy! Now he was a mess, a big mess with chocolate dripping down his hair and onto his shirt. What a predicament! Kelly was pointing at him and laughing, and some of the other kids joined in, too- even the colored boy. This wasn’t supposed to have happened! Little Johnny felt his cheeks go red, and he ran off into the crowd so Kelly wouldn’t have the satisfaction of seeing him.

Mope! Shucks! Beggar! Johnny stomped through the crowd rubbing his nose and thinking what a mean kid that Kelly was. So this was the cost of monkeyshines.

Just then he heard the sound of a whistle.

If trouble had a sound, then it was surely the blast of a whistle. He would hear it in school during playtime when he wandered too far off. The neighborhood police officer would sound his whistle whenever Johnny’s fires got out of hand.

Now the Man from Behavior Control was back, this time with a couple of partners in matching white shirts and short pants, and gosh did he look angry. He still had his whistle, and his net, and now he was staring straight at Johnny. Somehow, he must have thought Johnny was responsible for doing something wrong.

Johnny did his best to look innocent, but the Man seemed to see right through Johnny’s pretend.

Yikes! This sure could scare a fella.

The Man seemed smarter than most grownups. Definitely smarter than Mom and Pop. Johnny was spooked good now. He couldn’t remember when he had been more afraid.

At home Johnny’s father always closed the windows at night so that the Boogieman didn’t sneak in and steal Johnny’s goodness. It always gave Johnny the heebie-jeebies, but this was somehow more frightening: he was getting goose pimples. And he couldn’t be so slippery this time- the Man was too close. For the first time, he was afraid. He noticed Kelly in the crowd- she was looking at him and looked frightened, too.

Aww, girls are always a-scared anyway.

There was nothing else for a boy to do but turn and run, run for everything he could. Johnny was going as fast as he could, but he could see the Man over his shoulder, his net outstretched and reaching for him. Oh Mother, why do you make me wear these corrective shoes?

Johnny took a turn into Storytime Barn, a place for the little kids. There were folks dressed as chickens and ducks, and other irritating farm creatures. The floor was covered in hay, just like a real barn. Yippee. There was a family up ahead eating lunch at a picnic table. The Father was lighting a pipe, the kind that Pop often smoked. Johnny ran by, snatched the pipe, threw it to the ground, and continued running.

Crackle! Ignite! Combustion! The floor of the barn went up in an immediate blaze, and even though Johnny was quite a distance away, the heat brought tears to his eyes. ‘I wonder if the family survived,’ he thought, and he ran into the public walkway, where the sidewalks were covered in chalk drawings and a large gathering of pigeons were assembled, pecking at crumbs.

As Johnny ran through the square all the pigeons took off, flapping up in the air in unison. What a tremendous sight! But he couldn’t stop to enjoy it now; he was running for his life. The people behind him started to scream- the pigeons seemed to be dropping something as they flew- but Johnny had no time to enjoy the beauty of nature.

He ran past the Carousel of Tomorrow where a woman was shouting about the wonders of the flying car: “Faster than a heliochopper!” The Man and his assistants were only steps behind. Johnny spotted a fire hydrant with a loose bolt and gave it a swift kick.

Whoosh! Flow! Adjective! The hydrant bent like Dutch metal, and the force of the water was completely out of control. It was gushing everywhere, flooding the street and soaking everybody in its path. Johnny felt the surge of satisfaction, but he had to keep moving. The Man was getting closer.

Little Johnny was cursing his short, stumpy legs as he ran. He looked over his shoulder and spotted the Man closing in. His white wardrobe had been scorched by flame and had holes in it. There were white spots all over his blackened clothes, almost as if someone had been dropping custard from the sky. And to top it all off he was sopping wet. Doesn’t he know he’ll catch cold?

Johnny turned his head back too late- he slammed headfirst into a wastebasket- he fell down to his knees.

Hot! Sting! Damage! All was lost. Johnny lay there in a heap, waiting for the inevitable. The Man from Behavior Control had finally caught him. He blew on his whistle again, and his two partners came over. They surrounded Johnny with what seemed like dozens of pointy poles. There was nowhere to go.

Is this the end of Little Johnny?

*                *                *

Mr. and Mrs. Henderson were scouring the grounds, but they weren’t talking much.

“Maybe we should consider this a blessing in disguise,” said Mr. Henderson.

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, let’s be honest, it was too late for Johnny. Why, with his behavior he’d only grow up to be a thief or an acrobat. He’ll probably be a drunkard… soused on cheap wine and nickel beer. He’d be living under the train tracks and eating dandelion soup. Is that what you want? Is that what you want?!?”

Mrs. Henderson screamed like a wounded mule.

“Quiet!” said Mr. Henderson. “We should leave this place, go back home, and start again. Who knows…?”

Mr. Henderson took a deep breath and licked his lips, “We might even have a little girl.”

Mrs. Henderson grabbed her husband by the lapels and shouted as loud as she could.


*                *                *

Johnny slammed against the chain-link fence again. No give. And it was starting to leave marks on his face. It seemed he was trapped for good in this Lost and Found detainment center, a correctional zoo for unsupervised children. All of the other kids here had been abandoned just like Johnny. And it was no surprise- they were frightful looking and punch drunk, with cuts and bruises on their faces, and messy hair. They all smelled of bad yogurt, and Johnny wanted no part of them. His face was tired, and his eyes were still adjusting to daylight after that bumpy journey in the burlap sack.

‘Well, maybe Mom and Pop don’t love me after all,’ he thought, absentmindedly kicking a small boy who looked hypnotized. ‘Maybe they haven’t even noticed I’d gone off, and maybe they never cared for me.’ There were children packed like poultry into this little pen, and not much to do except play in the dirt or eat some grass, as some of the dimmer children were doing.

Little Johnny began to reason that perhaps he might die here. Yes, he would die here and then Mom and Pop would have to pick up his body and finally they’d realize how horrible they’d been and, oh, they sure would care then, wouldn’t they? Then he would win! But even that seemed sad to Little Johnny, somehow. He sniffled and his face felt hot and, oh no, that wasn’t tears, was it? Not for a big boy Johnny’s age. What would the other kids think? And would he ever see his friends again? And-
Too late. The day had already had its way with Little Johnny. Tears spilled from his eyes like a faucet that had been left running by an absent-minded Mexican woman.

Sob! Weep! Emotion! Here comes everything he’d been keeping inside for so long, and oh, what a bad boy he’d been. Selfish and impatient with his folks who were only trying to show him a good time. Poor Mom and Pop- they worked so hard to make things nice for Johnny, and here he was trying to escape. Oh, why was he such a naughty boy? Why was he so ungrateful? Why couldn’t he treat Mom and Pop like he knew he should? Why couldn’t he be good?

Little Johnny took time out from wiping his eyes to slap an older girl who was standing too close. She must have gotten the message, because she wandered back to the dirt mound. But Little Johnny was still feeling regret. He wiped his nose with his shirtsleeve.

*                *                *

Mrs. Henderson was blushing… her face had broken out in hives from all that she had been through.

Mr. Henderson did not look any happier. He was pulling his wife by the arm through the mobs of fairgoers.

“Hurry up, dear,” he shouted.

“Oh, what is my Mother going to say?” asked Mrs. Henderson.

“She’s not going to hear a word about this. Do you understand? Not a word!”

“Oh, but I mustn’t keep this from her, too. We’ve lost our son!”

“I told you, it’s a blessing. We’re very lucky!”

“Oh, couldn’t we try the lost and found just once more?”

Mr. Henderson took a deep breath and checked his watch. Then he bit his bottom lip and gave an angry look to his wife.

“Alright…,” he said, “one quick look. And if we don’t find him, we never mention his name again.”

*                *                *

It could be worse, Little Johnny thought as he glanced around the yard. There was a broken slide, and even a flat-tire swing. So he would live out his days here, watching the fair from the chain fence, maybe living on chicken bones, or the occasional hamburger sandwich if he behaved. But wait! The fair was only on for three more days! After that they would surely discard the abandoned children.

What then? Would Johnny be sent to the sausage factory and turned into morning links? Would they feed the children to hungry monsters? Or perhaps they would simply fill in the whole pen with cement, burying the youngsters alive in frozen, exaggerated poses of terror, like a juvenile Pompeii or a-

“Little Johnny?” he heard a familiar voice ask.

He spun round and sure enough it was Mom and Pop- looking older, and somehow different than before. Little Johnny had never been so happy to see them in his entire life! They did love him after all! What a swell thing for a little boy to know. Mom was crying, and Little Johnny was so happy he started crying as well. It was silly, but he was only crying so Mom wouldn’t feel bad.

Glad! Rejoice! Freedom! Oh, what a happy ending to such a spectacular day. Mom hugged him tight and Pop lifted him up over his shoulders. Johnny just knew he was better than these other kids, and here was the proof. They left the detention center and headed toward the exit gates as the sun set overhead.

On the way out, Johnny saw a familiar face- the hot dog boy he had teased before. He gestured to Pop.

“I don’t know, Johnny… last time you went to get a frankfurter things got a little out of control.”

“Oh, let him eat, Papa,” said Mom, and Pop gave her such a look!

Pop did let him go, though. He bent down and put Johnny on the ground.

“Alright, son. We all make mistakes, and this is the chance for you to learn a valuable lesson. You go over there to that Vendor, and you apologize for what you did earlier. I’m sure he’ll tell you everything’s swell and give you an extra-long frank. But you’ve got to do it on your own.”

Johnny nodded. What a perfect chance to show Pop everything he had learned!

Pop smiled. “That’s my boy,” he said, and he reached for his billfold to give Johnny money.

But Johnny reached into his own pocket first and pulled out a coin. Surprise, Pop, I still have the half-dollar piece you gave me. This got a proud chuckle from Pop, and even Mom tried to smile.

“Mother’s neuralgia is acting up again, so we’ll head out to the car. Meet you at the front gates in five minutes?”

Little Johnny shook his head yes. He turned to the pushcart.

“Oh and, Johnny,” said Pop, “add a little mustard for me.”

Oh, Pop! Johnny watched Mom and Pop walk out of the big gates and into the parking lot. Grown-ups could be so funny sometimes.

Little Johnny ran over to the hot dog wagon. The Vendor seemed to recognize him, because he jumped a little when Johnny came by. Little Johnny held up his finger- one, please- and the Vendor opened the lid to get the hot dog, looking nervous the whole while. He pulled the steaming frank out of the red-hot broth, put it in a bun and handed it to Johnny. Johnny fixed it up with mustard and relish and took a big bite. Delicious!

The Vendor still looked frightened.

“Uhh… that will be twenty cents, please.” His voice was higher than before, and squeakier, too. Little Johnny took out the fifty-cent piece. Suddenly he felt the tingle of imp. He could hand the coin to the Vendor, or he could make it fun. Oh heck, you’re only young once!

Johnny flipped the coin in the air, directly into the steaming hot broth. Without thinking, the Vendor plunged both hands into the pot after it.

Little Johnny skipped off towards the exit gates as the teen’s raspy, high-pitched squealing echoed over the grounds and his fingers boiled in the hot dog water. The frankfurter was delicious, worth the wait after all. The summer lay in front of Johnny like a wonderful open book, and there were many more adventures to be had in the future… where anything is possible.

What a day to be a young American boy. What a day for the World’s Fair!

Twins with Real Feelings

Do twins really share a mental telepathy? A cosmic understanding? Sick City sat down with four pair to test the theory.

Suki & Pancho-Sosa

Suki: We are like, like...
Pancho-Sosa: Simpatico.
Suki: I was gonna say copacetic.
Pancho-Sosa: You owe me nine dollars.
Suki: At least I don’t have an inverted vagina.
Pancho-Sosa: You are street grease. You are an open sore. You are the sewage that leaks from vermin squeezed.
Suki: Yeah, but I paid you the nine dollars.

Edwild & Louie-Louie

Edwild: My brother and I? We're the good guys. We make the magic happen.
Louie-Louie: If by magic you mean two adult siblings sitting naked in a tepid bathtub of filth and poison bubbles then yeah, we’re Doug fucking Henning.
Edwild: We got the powers. We're a satellite dish. We're a space station. We're intergalactic.
Louie-Louie: You're letting the crazy show.
Edwild: No I didn't. Let's do that nipple thing.
Louie-Louie: We talked about this. We're with the interviewer. He’s writing this down.
Edwild: Good. Let him write it on the internet. Let the world see. Let them taste our foul and hot shame.
Louie-Louie: You’re calling Mom this week. I’m not doing it. You’re calling Mom.

Becwith & Sejmaze

Becwith: We're pretty mellow.
Sejmaze: She's not just my sister, she's my best friend. We love shopping... and going to the movies.
Becwith: And we love robbing banks on mescaline.
Sejmaze: And cheeseburgers. Oh my god when they do that bacon thing on the top of the cheeseburger? That’s the best thing.
Becwith: That and cracking a teller’s skull.
Sejmaze: Well, obviously...

Ten-Speed & McMillan

Ten-Speed: We haven’t been banned by Major League Baseball. If that’s what you’re asking. Because if it is that’s not the case.
McMillan: Not at all. We choose not to go to San Diego Padre games. We always have.
Ten-Speed: He knows, pigshit.
McMillan: He doesn’t know anything.
Ten-Speed: He knows everything. You can tell.
McMillan: You’re paranoid.
Ten-Speed: He knows. Look how he's looking at us.
McMillan: He doesn't know. Be cool.
Ten-Speed: Shaved testicles and the seventh-inning stretch.
McMillan: I hate you.
Ten-Speed: I know.

Coffee With The Queen

I wait for her, she’s late. I ache for her, for the drama that we’ve seen, for the heartbreak that we’ve been through together. I ache for her presence, her wake, through the Tuesdays, through the bodies we have buried in the ground. She’s been there, she’s seen it all, and she wears it like a halo, carries it better than I ever could.

I look around the café, a couple on a first date, wide eyes and smiles full of stories to tell. There’s an older couple, her in her magazine, he on his tablet. There's a man without his wife and child, drinking black coffee, looking free and lost and late for something else. Water stains on the hard-grain wood of the tables, the chair goes creaky as I take my cappuccino. The waitress makes sure I’m okay.

There are no bulbs burning in this coffee shop, just the light of the sun which has slid behind the cloud, leaving us in a dim, sipping our brew from mugs too big. The leaves are gone and the trees are naked, waiting for the holidays, waiting to say “I told you so.” The construction sound is loud across the street. The winter, I know. This winter is gonna leave us cold.

Paper napkins and an empty chair across from me. I can smell her perfume, only anticipation. She will be here soon, pulling out her chair, apologize with her eyes, making sense of the dark, making light of the season, making sane of my crazy, if just for twenty minutes. She will be here.

I will pay for her latte. I will smile as she sweetens with her spoon.

Tough Lunches of the 21st Century (Zen Tokyo)

Date: April 20, 2014
Location: Mucho Sushi

I met for lunch with my best frend Kölū. She's a poet and performance artist and a real pain in the ass. As we munched on octopus appetizers she asked me: "What is the sound of one hand slapping your face?" I pondered this zen koan for a long moment before Kölū slapped my face so hard that blood ran out my nose.

"Brilliant," I said, enlightened.

While we split an avocado roll to its subatomic particles Kölū said, "Look upon the flower and the flower is looking back." While I searched the restaurant for blooms Kölū inserted her finger into my ear and drilled toward my brain. "Well-played," I remarked, as she emptied her glass of wine onto my plate, "you learn me so much"

After tossing a few Kamikaze rolls at an elderly couple in the corner Kölū said, "Hey, let's freak this place out, okay?"

For the next forty-five minutes we put cucumbers down our pants and ate food off of random tables, and if I recall correctly at one point we were both naked on a tabletop snorting wasabi and singing "Love Shack."

The waitstaff politely beat us with chopsticks until we left the premises, and as a result Kölū and I are banned from Pepsi-serving restaurants until 2079.

Tin Roof! 


LUH-3417 (The Last Days of Hot Water)

Days, days of hot shower days. Days spent under the warm water days. Those days. These days. Some days are better than others days. These days I spend days in the shower, letting the hot water heat me days. These days I spend soaking days. These days are all wet days.

[Workday, and all of us at our stations. Droids on down the line and the production day is under way on the factory floor. I’m feeling really fine. In the processing core the line attendant gives the go and the fusion begins. We make the mechanical man. To supervise us in making more mechanical men. 4-EB autocombs- obsolete mech droids- weave shoulder cable up through the torso on the line as sodder jets swing in on AG-pulleys, sewing the arms to the body proper. The robot is almost complete, not yet activated, and his lifeless face stares upward as the worker machines give him assembly. I attenuate the thermal regulator. I want to destroy all the machines. All of them. The machines that make other machines. The men that create those machines. I want to destroy the machines that keep me a slave. I want to destroy the machines that watch me work. I didn’t say that. I didn’t mean to think that. I’m feeling really fine.]

These days, these I can hear the birds days. They’re singing outside in the branches days, watching the snow melt days. They’re waiting for the bloom days. I know what they call these days, they call this springtime days. I don’t want to see the springtime days, I don’t want to see the sunshine days. Not these days. Days where I roll up the towel days, put it at the base of the door days, days to keep all the steam inside while I shower days. Days where the bathroom door is locked days.

[I am making mistakes more frequently now. The humicologists in the pharmhouse have raised the dosage on my meditrition, especially my SEN-5241. I can feel it working. I am feeling really fine. My productivity reports have shown a trend toward imprecision and inefficiency, and all signs point to that trend spiraling to unacceptable levels, but those droid attendants have no soul and deserve to be disintegrated. All of the machines that watch and keep us prisoner should be destroyed. I did not say that. I did not think that. They’re watching me more closely now from the Operations Post. Robotic eyes on me, inside me, evaluating my ability to produce more immaculate robotics. The fail rate is .0001% here. I don’t know how it’s possible but I can feel a bead of sweat dripping down the back of my neck. The sensors will detect the moisture of course but I dare not wipe it away.]

Days, days where the water makes me liquid days, days where the dirty melts away days. I’m dripping in the hot water days, days of soap and shampoo days. Days of washcloth days. Days of bathrobe days, days of fresh linen days. Days in the heat of the hot water shower days. All days. Every days. All day long days.

[I slipped up on a thermal transfer. I forgot to acclimate the torso shell to the heat of the iron and as a result a carbon rod broke loose from the binary pliers. It was red hot and melted the face of the droid on the line before falling to the factory floor and scorching its way through the rollers. It is glorious. The alarms are sounding. The factory supervisors have alerted the guards and they’re on their way to take me. I’m feeling really fine. I downshift the attenuator to the lowest setting and carbon begins to spill all over the line. The new robots are melting in a rush, the worker droids grinding production to a standstill as their programming goes overload, primary and secondary circuitry in direct conflict. Smoke sizzles out of their heads.]

Days, days of man-made thunderstorm days, days when I can make it rain on schedule days. Days where I turn off the phone days. Days when there’s nobody home days. Days when the daylight gets longer days, days when I hang a towel on the window to block out the bright of the days days. Days where I don’t have to think about the future days.

[The droids in the Ops Post are scowling at me. There will be no surviving this. The guards have arrived. I’m going to take as many of them with me as I can. I am smiling. I think I’m smiling. Disaster recovery will take weeks. I’m feeling really fine.]

These are the days days. The good old days days. The getaway days days. These are the days. These are the last days of hot water.

Pinkie Markie Makes A Sale

Jojo snap his neck back, listen for the crack, smile with his spine in fine alignment. He was lean back against the brick wall, dark brown skin simmer slow beneath the California sunshine, waiting patient for the ganja man to arrive. It was a Thursday morning in the loading zone behind the bakery outlet, the bakery gone out of business only a few months ago. Back then there were a dozen guys working all day: unloading boxes of ingredients and supplies, loading up boxes of cupcakes and cookies, clipboards and scanning wands in khaki shorts. He remembered those guys. He had been one of them.

On this hot Los Angeles morning he had been alone in the ghost lot for forty-five minutes, forty-nine because Jojo was counting, waiting, listening to the music on his phone until the battery run low. The music was fine- warm sounds familiar- but he didn’t feel like dancing. Nothing made him dance anymore. And he thought, in passing, “this is getting older... this is what it feels like to get old.”

And it scared him.

The weed helped. All the chemicals do. He was ready for his guy to show up, anyway… he had been out of grass for two days- a long time- and he could already taste the soft sweet smoke, the hazy memory, the timeless bake of the fragrance The heat bounced off the blacktop in the back lot, good cook the burning rubber of the docking bay doors. It smelled good today, like the last days of school. He loved this back lot, the perfect place for a friendly neighborhood drug deal.

The only trouble was, it was also the perfect place to skateboard.

Two white teenagers- Corey and Bogart- had gotten here only minutes after Jojo and the dudes had been shredding sidewalk ever since. They arrived the way teenagers always do: stumbling onto the scene unaware, giving no indication as to whether this was their intended destination or a happy accident, and then simply occupying the area as if no one else existed. Jojo knew their names because neither boy had said anything else.

Corey: “Bogart!” and then he would grind his way down the L-shape staircase leading up to the building, turning on the landings and smoothing out when he got to the bottom.

Bogart: “Corey!” and then he would gather speed and try to tail slide his board against the curb, usually falling off and landing ass-first in the grass.

Idiot kids going coconut. Jojo found himself hating them- not because they had decided to use his meeting place as their personal skate park… he hated them because they were terrible skateboarders.

He watched them laugh and crash for a few minutes more until he finally couldn’t stand it.

“Who taught you boys how to skateboard?” he said with a smile, his Jamaican accent strong in his resonant voice.

The boys looked up as he approached, woke up out of their long Los Angeles daydream: guilty, cornered, confused. Pathetic. Jojo could almost hear their inner thoughts: “Dude! It’s like, a black guy!” and this thought made him laugh out loud. They seemed to relax a little at the music of his voice.

Corey- with the dreads and mossy facial hair- spoke first, “I don’t know… I just do it for fun.”

Jojo ran his palm hand over his shaved head to clear the perspiration.

Bogart, in a backwards baseball cap, emboldened, took a stand and declared his independence: “Me too.”

“That’s not how you skateboard, boys... you’re just thrashing. I used to skateboard… I used to be a damn sight.”

The boys, who would have laughed at anything, laughed at this.

Corey absentminded rub the road rash on his right elbow, “Like, how old are you?”

Jojo, who considered striking the boy, answered instead. “I’m 35.”

Both teens turned to face each other and burst out laughing, as this was evidently the funniest number in the history of digits. The chains connecting their wallets to their belt loops made jangle as their bodies rocked.

Jojo shook his head in pity... what passed for cool in California was a sad state of affairs.

After a moment, though, he found he was smiling too. These two dopes didn’t know any better. Today would be a good day for them to learn.

“You see that over there?” He pointed to the far side of the lot where a steel loading ramp sat parked up against the wall, leading up to the truck bay door, twenty feet long with a 20° incline. The boys turned, open-mouthed, to take it in.

“I’ll bet you fifty bucks I can take that ramp, do a kickflip at the top and skate back down again.”

The smiles fell off the boys’ faces. There was money in the mix now, and testosterone, and a pretty tricky maneuver. California kids out of their jurisdiction. Jojo smiled, loving it.

“What do you say boys?”

Bogart put his hand over his wallet, trying in vain to calculate whether losing the bet might compromise his taco dollars.

Corey spoke: “Nahhh, I don’t wanna bet.”

Jojo shook his head. “Come on... where’s your sense of adventure?”

Corey considered, and then finally, “It’s okay… you don’t have to do it… you can just have the money.”

Jojo threw his head back and laughed. “I’m not robbing you, buddy...I just wanna make a bet. You in or you out?”
Corey looked over to Bogart, whose eyes as always seemed to say ‘whatever.’

“Yeah, we’re in,” Corey said, “let’s see you do your trick.”

*                   *                   *

Jojo borrowed the bigger board, Bogart’s board, and he had skated around the lot a couple times, making sure he had his balance and his legs were still skate-ready. They were. The boys had been surprised by his turns, the way he walked the board, the melted butter of his beat as he made the maneuvers music.

Just wait.

Jojo positioned himself facing the ramp, about fifty feet away, and Corey and Bogart aligned themselves behind him to watch. He wondered if the boys would pay up. It didn’t matter. It was the principle.

“You guys ready?”

The boys raised their camera phones in sync.

Jojo visualized his move a semi-second before he took it: gain enough speed to let the incline slow him just enough for that timeless moment to kick the board out from under him, flip, land back on it with a 180° turn. In style. It was time to stop thinking and trust his instinct.

He kicked off, gathering speed, flying across the lot as Corey and Bogart watched in awe.

Joseph “Jojo” Jeffries made glide across the parking lot of his former place of business, sail sweet in a tracking shot too pretty, dance the pavement surf, almost at the ramp when the board’s front wheel struck a small nugget of gravel. He was launched airborne- let out a yelp like a puppy under a Kia- and he landed with a crispity crunch against the scalding blacktop, his body bent at an angle perverse.

He screeched in agony.

Corey and Bogart ran over to him as fast as they could, eyes popping out their sockets like grapes squeeze out the skin. Jojo was convulsing in pain, seizing, making shriek in a voice he had never heard before, the cartilage in his kneecaps turn to cream corn. The boys looked down, horrified, to see the man’s ankle bone poking clean out the front of his shin. The bone was saying hello.

The boys saw the bone.

The bone was white.

Bogart turned to Corey. Corey turned to Bogart. “Let’s get out of here!”

The California kids turned and ran away, the wheels of the ill-fated skateboard still spinning downside up. Jojo keep howling, the sweet sound echo and bounce against the brick walls of the empty lot, and in his traumatized state he looked up and saw the billboard above him, a woman, maybe an angel: it featured a pretty blonde woman in a pink blazer. She was smiling. The copy read:



“If you called her you’d be home by now”

*                   *                   *

“You have to listen… you don’t talk, you listen. You listen to what the client wants and they will tell you what they need.”

Three blocks from the bakery lot Pinkie Markie’s silver sport utility vehicle came to stop at a red light. She hated red lights.

Pinkie- in her trademark pink skirt suit- reached into the backseat for her work bag when her seatbelt yanked her back into place. “Goddamit!” she spoke aloud, and then into the headset: “No, not you.”

Pinky unbuckle, grabbed her bag from backseat and pulled out a dangerously large pair of black sunglasses. She threw her hair back and tossed on the shades. They were supposed to ward off the wrinkles- some of them anyway- but maybe it was too late for that: now in her late-forties her face showed the wear of Los Angeles ozone. She was still pretty in the traditional sense, at least she thought so, checking herself out in the rearview while flashing a warm professional smile. Laugh lines and crow’s feet had settled in her features fine, but the lines gave her a depth, some kind of story. She listened carefully on her headset as Steven- one of her junior agents- explained how he had lost another sale.

“Mm-hmm... okay...”

She rolled smooth easy through a stop sign and checked her roots in the side view.

“Yes… but it sounds like you scared him off. You don’t want to sell him, you want to give him the option to buy… there is a- yeah, there is a difference.”

The SUV accelerated to take a hill lined with palm trees. In the esplanade a homeless man held a hilarious cardboard sign asking for money. Pinkie drove by.

Inside the car she pulled a Sting CD out of her work bag and tried to tear off the plastic wrap with her free hand.

“You don’t call. Not for two days. And when you do you’ll leave a voicemail saying you have one- one- other house to show him and when is he free... hmm? Don’t worry about it, we figure that out later, you just leave that exact message. Okay?”

She brought the car to a stop and finally unpeeled the plastic from the jewel box. When the light go green she started driving again, plucking the brand new CD out the tray just as the SUV hit a bump. The disc fell out of her hand and into the backseat.


She pulled up the drive of a large modern house in the heart of the Hollywood Hills, come to a stop in the circular driveway next to a red vintage sports car. Leaning up against the car was Lamont Malvo.

Lamont Malvo, eyebrow arched in sinister curl, styled hair spiked and poking in every direction. Black khakis, black blazer over gray V-neck, his face snarl and spew. He wasn’t the easiest client Pinkie had ever worked with, but a job is a job, Pinkie reasoned, and every girl has her job to do. Besides, he had money... that much she could smell.

Lamont Malvo saw her, spotted the SUV silver, sigh as if her arrival was another in an endless line of eternal interruptions, toss his tablet back in the passenger seat of his Jaguar E-Type convertible, too cool to mention that she had kept him waiting, too menacing to put Pinkie at ease.

He wondered if she had heard of his Father. He wondered if she knew evil.

“I am so sorry for being late Mr. Malvo,” she said, stepping down from the driver’s side and removing her sunglasses, “I’ve been listening to that disc you gave me… it’s lovely. Lovely music.”

Malvo, too cool to shrug, didn’t. He looked at Pinkie, pretty, tried to imagine her sex face.

“What do you think?” she said, smiling, exhaling, gesturing to the house, “Should we go inside?”

*                   *                   *

Pinkie take the first step through the doorway, into the echo of the household hollow, setting the lockbox on the foyer table, letting Malvo follow behind her. She looked away as he took his first steps inside, as she always did, because the client was entitled to a reaction private. It was not appropriate to try and read their faces or to play them as dollar signs.

The foyer was hardwood floor, the ceilings twenty feet high. The corridors between rooms were high arches, eggshell white. From here you could see up to the second floor, the curved white staircase with black metal railing issuing an invitation with a curling finger. The decoration was minimal: an original modern art painting on the wall and a warm, colorful area rug in the center of the room. The house was massive but unassuming... a blank page waiting for a great idea. A tall glass vase sat on the floor beside the staircase, a single bright sunflower inside.

“What do you think?” Pinky asked, eyes on the sunflower.

From the entranceway you could see down the hall to the kitchen straight ahead, the den to the right and the dining room to the left.

“I think it’s a foyer,” Malvo said, the trace of some faint accent buried in his voice flat, “take me to the kitchen.”

*                   *                   *

This man- this Mr. Malvo- he hadn’t liked any of the houses she had shown him so far, hadn’t even been close, and Pinkie was beginning to worry that he would be one of those clients… eternally dissatisfied, a mailbox chaser, on the market with no real intention to buy. He had been very strange from the first: he wouldn’t tell her what he did, which meant he wasn’t in the industry. Everyone in the industry was always eager to share: actors, producers, writers, even crew. She thought this Mr. Malvo had mentioned something about screenwriting but that might have been another client. Besides there was more to him than that. It didn’t matter anyway: a client has a right to privacy. She watched him look the kitchen over, mentally running down the rest of her day’s agenda… the closings and the showings, the comings and the goings. Lamont tested the kitchen cabinets as everyone does: by opening and closing them.

They seemed to be in working order.

The owners of the house had already moved on, were already living elsewhere. The kitchen was too clean. There were no crumbs, no garbage bag in the trash bin, not a trace of food in the refrigerator. Malvo knew because he checked. He checked everything. He liked the details.

He needed to know.

“Four hundred square feet with a dining area just through there,” Pinkie said, and now she was watching him more closely, trying to get a read on his reaction. “Did you see the view, Mr. Malvo?”

He corrected her, sharp. “Lamont.”

“Oh,” she said, “Lamont.’

“Don’t act so innocent, Pinkie. I’m sure you know who I am. I’m sure you know who my Father was.”

Pinkie, clueless: “Your Father?”

Lamont smiled, dishwasher hinge in hand. “The Admiral? Admiral Lamont Malvo?”

Pinkie shook her head no, then nodded slow as to not offend. Admiral?

“Tell me, Pinkie: did you grow up in a house like this?”

She was caught off-guard. “What do you mean?”

He pulled a glass from the cabinet and ran the water for a moment before filling up it up, two fingers to the tepid flow. “A house this nice, this expensive...? Did you grow up in a house in the Hollywood Hills? Or did you grow up someplace... more dirty?”

Malvo took a tall drink of water. Pinkie didn’t like the question or the way he had asked, but she was a professional.

“Well, there are very few places as nice as this…” she eyed the house around her, bashful. “This house was previously owned by some famous Hollywood stars.”

“Really.” he said, disinterested.

“Yes. Rita Hayworth. And I think the guy who played Shaft.” Pinkie beamed her billboard smile.

Malvo smiled back, briefly, before pouring out the water. “So tell me: why do they call you Pinkie?”

*                   *                   *

In the den Malvo found the remote and turned on the TV, squinting his eyes to read the buttons on the remote. “What’s the asking price again?”

Pinkie had just caught up with him. She had learned to answer straight. “It is listed at eight nine.”

He found a movie channel and they watched the giant wall-size TV in awkward silence for a moment. Some skinny guy with cheekbones was courting an anorexic model by looking very angry. It seemed to be working. The floor of the den was hardwood, covered with a grass green rug… on the wall across from the movie screen were two leather sofas and three leather recliners. In the center of the room was a coffee table long enough to sail on, faint rings from sour glasses engrained in the wood.

Malvo examined it all, his body perfectly still, his eyes moving, processing.

“And I suppose this is where I would be expected to my have my best friends over to watch the Superbowl!” He bit his tongue to keep from laughing.

“That could be a lot of fun,” Pinkie said helpfully, missing his meaning, a wholesome smile on her face.
Malvo blinked. “Are you married?”

Pinkie exhaled, “Divorced.” She spoke the word as it was every little girl’s dream.

Malvo smiled, turned back to the screen. “Well I’m married.”

Pinkie beamed.

“I wonder what my wife will look like when I cut her throat and leave her bleeding on the leather sofa...”

Pinkie’s face fell.

Malvo smiled again and clicked off the TV.

*                   *                   *

Pinkie led them both inside: it was a glory, a natural wonder of the modern world. Maybe the greatest secret in Los Angeles county, and that was no small claim in a city of secrets. The two hundred square foot master bathroom lay before them like an undiscovered country. There was enough space in this room to get lost. There were two sinks set in two separate vanities, a wall-size mirror between them… there was a magazine rack, a towel rack, a two-faucet shower, a bath and a whirlpool. At the back of the room was a linen closet larger than most people’s apartments... a picture window above the tub and Jacuzzi looked out on the Santa Monica mountains and down on the LA cityscape, where the haze of the day was settling slow. And the floor of the master bathroom was carpeted.

It was carpeted in deep blue shag.

The pure blue, like blueberry cotton candy, it lined the floors, overgrown at the base of the vanities, climbing like ivy up the side of the side of the whirlpool, surrounding the base of the gleaming white porcelain toilet bowl.

Pinkie beamed, her smile bright and genuine. “Have you ever seen a bathroom like this?”

Outside in the trees the birds sang, trying to get a recording contract.

Malvo took a quick look around the room, heavy-lidded eyes staying low. “It’s just a bathroom.”

“Well you don’t often see... I mean...”

“Why do they call you Pinkie?”

Pinkie looked confused for a moment then smiled again. “That’s my secret, Mr. Malvo.”

“Lamont,” he said, and then, forceful, “Tell me.”

Pinkie sighed, torn. The smile never left her face. “Mr. Malvo- Lamont- do you think you might be interested in this house?”

He closed his eyes and nodded slow. “Of course I do. I wouldn’t waste your time. But I’d like to check the pipes…”

Pinkie nodded. “Of course.”

“Use the toilet.”

Pinkie’s bag slipped down her shoulder. “What?”

Malvo turned, casual, and leaned back against the sink to face her. “Use the toilet. I want to see how it flushes.”

“Would you like me to flush the toilet for you?”

He looked her directly in the eye. “After you use it, yes.”

Pinkie, bubble mouth, “I don’t... I- I don’t... do you, what do you-?”

“Pinkie: go pee.”

He spoke with such a mixture of anger and need that she actually began to consider it.

There was a long silence. Malvo looked into her eyes, waiting.

“Well, I… well I do have to go…”

Malvo folded his arms. “Good. I’ll watch.”

Pinkie stood for a long moment, frozen, absorbing the insanity of the corner into which she’d painted herself, of what she was about to do. She found herself taking a step forward, then stopping, stepping back…

Malvo made glare.

Pinkie lifted her work bag up off her shoulder, set it gentle on the wall of the tub.

Malvo watched, waited, folded arms.

Pinkie took a step toward the toilet, trying to maintain her dignity, her professionalism, as she lifted the lid of the bowl. It slipped back down with a loud BANG and she jumped, afraid, then smiled when she realized what had happened, her face going back to serious as she remembered what she was doing. She bent slow, slid her control-top pantyhose down her legs, watching Malvo for some sign. His eyes gave her none.

She slipped her pink panties down her legs, using her skirt to keep herself covered. She raised her skirt up in the back- just enough- and sat herself down on the bowl, the icy cool of the porcelain almost making her giggle as it touched her skin.

Malvo found it absurd. Obscene. He loved it.

Pinkie’s legs made dangle, her knees together as she tried to go but found she couldn’t. She could feel Malvo’s eyes on her, knew he was watching, so she had to look away, far off to the window.

Malvo licked his lips.

Pinkie thought of closing day.

Finally it came, Pinkie making water, taking a spree in front of her client, warm liquid in the bowl. Her tongue hung slack out the side of her mouth as her eyes rolled back.

When she was finished she squeezed out the last drops, smiling again like an airline hostess. She reached out for a wad of toilet paper and folded it delicate, dabbing it between her legs.

She stood up, keeping herself covered, pulling up again, wiggling until everything was comfortable. Pinkie took a deep breath, glad it was over, smiling at Malvo with her face going red: “Well…”


Pinkie, who had forgotten completely, turned and pulled the handle.

*                   *                   *

Pinkie and Malvo stood outside the bathroom door, looking at the enormous master bedroom. Bright California sun radiated through the quad skylight.

“It’s a beautiful house… and all the fixtures are fairly new.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Malvo said, “she’ll gut everything anyway.”

He took a seat on the four poster bed, patting the space beside him. “Come sit.”

Pinkie shook her head. “No, that’s okay.”

He yawned… stretching. “Why do they call you Pinkie?”

“Mr. Malvo we should probably move along…”

“It’s Lamont. I want you to call me Lamont.” He stood up and walked to her deliberate, on prowl.

“Call me Lamont, Pinkie.” He took her wrists in his and looked her in the eyes. That way. “I know you want this because I know you want to sell me this house.”

She was uncomfortable. “I don’t want to sell it like this, no.”

He pulled. “Just come sit with me… I know you’re no angel...”

Pinkie voice was rising, “I am a lady, Mr. Malvo… I am no angel but I am a l-”

Malvo threw her down on the bed, leaping on top of her, pinning her underneath him.

“Mr. Malvo get off!”

“Easy, baby. Be good… be easy.” He bent and kissed her neck.

She fought but he was holding tight, straddling her.

“Mr. Malvo let me go… this is your last warning!”

“Oh come on, Pinkie…” he said, smiling, “Tell me why they call you Pinkie…”

“Mr. Malvo!”

He opened his mouth, brought it to hers, and that’s when Pinkie balled up her hand into a fist and punched Lamont Malvo in the nose.

He was knocked back, stood up in silent shock, eyelids fluttering, and pointed his finger in the air as if to speak. Before he could get a word out he fell to the bedroom floor like a sack of sugar.

*                   *                   *

Pinkie, on her cell phone, stood at the front door of the house, reattaching the lockbox to the doorknob.

Malvo stood beside her, his arms folded, doing his best to retain his air of nonchalant sophistication with a bloody tissue sticking out of his nose.

Pinkie spoke into her phone: “Well that’s good, Corey, you did the right thing... okay... okay... no, I’m proud of you… Mommy will be home at five-thirty.”

She clicked off the phone and turned to Malvo.

“I’m sorry again, Lamont.”

He rolled his eyes, looked up at her and nodded, the closest he would ever get to issuing an apology.
She looked back at him, accepting, and a sad smile came over her face.

“If there’s ever anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to call… you have my card?”

“Yes,” he said, before turning and heading toward his car.

Halfway down the walk Lamont Malvo stopped and turned back to her: “Oh, and Ms. Markie?”

She looked up. “Yes?”

“I’ll take the house.”

He threw himself into his Jaguar, peeling out and rolling down the Hollywood Hills toward the heart of Los Angeles.

Pinkie Markie waited until his car was out of sight before jumping into the air.