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Joanna Jelen


<p style=”text-align: center;”>Little Johnny from Bubbleville</p>

“This decree starts a golden chapter in the age of children welfare. One Mustn’t Spank the Kids movement voted today—” The bus door cuts off the rest of the public announcement.

“Does it mean the decrees issued during my school days were written in silver?” I smirk at the elderly lady sitting next to me, but she quickly hides behind her wrinkled eyelids.

I chew on my gum, debating if I should inform the OMSK authorities, she wears earplugs. I palm my reporting device, tenderly called Rat by my generation, but then let it go. I can’t remember the code number forbidding the usage of personal sound protection in public places. But she should know better—every adult shall always be ready to respond to a child’s demands.

Anyway, I’m already more interested in the two new passengers looking for seats, a mother with a preschool age son.

The mother’s face seems familiar. My mom used to have the same terrified look; her eyes would jump from place to place afraid to focus on something. Or on me. To be specific, it was just Mom’s left eye, as OMSK removed her other eye after I reported she scowled at me.

Which reminds me, I missed my visit at the madhouse again. Oh well, the last time Mom saw me, her condition worsened. Whatever.

“Johnny, let me buy you ice-cream after lunch, all right?” the mother says passing my row.

The bus jerks to a stop at a red light before the new passengers take their seats and the mother, already weighted down with her son, struggles to balance. Perhaps she’d be able to manage, even with Little Johnny’s well-fed tonnage, if he wasn’t trying to wiggle out of her arms.

She let him go the moment he screams, “Child abuse” and the sudden move screws up her balance completely.

Before she drops to her knees, all Rats on the bus beep the distress signal. When the vehicle keeps moving, the woman stands up, thanking every kid around for pressing the false alarm button. Lucky or smart she’s using public transportation.

If my grandma was so clever, she’d still have both of her hands. I still feel sorry for my mistake. Instead of lying she spanked me, I should have told OMSK that she kicked me or something. Damn it, all those years wasted without her great cooking.

I don’t need to turn my head to see that Johnny and his mother take the bench behind me. The seat to my right vibrates from the boy’s hefty kicks so much, mine echoes with the aftershocks. The elderly lady doesn’t dare to admonish him. I unwrap another piece of gum and add it to the old one. Chewing lowers my stress level.

“Johnny, sweetheart, do you want to watch a cartoon or play a game?” the mother asks.

Judging by the next series of kicks, Johnny isn’t interested in her offer.

“Look at the new book, Johnny. It’s about the rabbit you love.”


I doubt he loves anything. Maybe soccer. I unwrap another piece of gum.

“Hey, sweetheart, I found a candy. All yours.”


“Okay, but this one is raspberry, your favorite flavor.”


“Let’s call Daddy and ask if he got that new firetruck for you.”


The redirection technique is fucking useless. The elderly lady is going through her rosary beads faster than I can unwrap my next fix.

“Do you want me to sing you a song? Recite a poem? Dance hula?”

“Shut up, bitch.” Kick.

Yeah. Shut up, bitch, and give the kid some chillax instead. OMSK lowered the age for prescription drugs last year. Little Johnny surely can qualify. Jesus.

I reach to my pocket and find it empty. Shit, my stash of chewing gum is gone. The wad in my mouth is the size of the Moon but it’s not the volume that helps. It’s about satisfying the trained cognition that if I want it, I want it now.

My jaw muscles bulge.

Little Johnny switches the seats a minute before my stop. In fact, I pull at the bus bell the same moment, he kicks my chair. I count to three, but I can’t help myself. I take the wad from my mouth and stick it to Little Johnny’s hair.

“I got the stress-free upbringing, too,” I explained to his astonished mother while spreading the gum all over her son’s curly coiffure.

Despite his bawling, every Rat is quiet. I still have two months to my twenty fifth birthday, the new legal adulthood age, curtesy of OMSK.

I leave the bus with a spring in my step and go straight to my appointment. The bed at the outpatient clinic is ready for me when I come.

Before the doctor sedate me for the vasectomy, I grab his hand with all my strength. “Make sure, it can’t be reversed.”

“All right, Little Johnny.”

Little Johnny? My eyes can’t pop open, too weak to fight the first effects of anesthesia. I inhale. Perhaps he’s right. We’re all Little Johnnies, the kids one mustn’t spank. I exhale. But sometimes, one really should.



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