Prologue: Sunrise in the homeland

“So this is it,” Majar’jän Olêstadro said to himself as he lay in his straw bed next to the cows. “This is the day I finally move to America.” The sunrise shone bright through the window.

He had spent years enamored with American culture, taking English lessons, trying to lose his accent, learning about American pastimes like football, and even thinking of American-sounding names to give himself. It was all so much more interesting than the culture here in this country. “Perhaps when I move to America I could be called Bill, or Tim, or… Johnny!” He smiled at the sound of that name. But what would be his last name? Perhaps he should decide later.

He got out of bed and looked at himself in the mirror. “So this is what it’s like to be twenty-five!” He admired his skin, so young and smooth looking. His father had warned him many times that wrinkly, leathery skin ran in the family, and that one day Johnny’s would dry out as well, but that seemed an improbable future, one he need never actually face.

“I will go lift some weights before I get breakfast, ha ha ha” he announced as he walked over to the pile of rocks in the corner. He grunted as he lifted the largest one. “Have to work hard if I want to look like my favorite celebrity Fabio!” He caught another glimpse of himself in the mirror. He looked good.

While lifting weights, he passed the time by thinking of all the wonderful things that might await him in the land of opportunity. “Maybe I get great job at bank,” he said. “Maybe I marry beautiful wife, and buy beautiful house. Maybe I have kids with her, or at least adopt college student. And maybe everybody there love me, the stores call me favorite customer, my mother-in-law think of me as her son, the adopted kid think of me as real father, and maybe I have all the friends in the world.” Johnny wiped off his sweat and headed downstairs for breakfast. He was feeling unusually hungry.

“Yeah, can I have a plate of pancakes,” he said to his parents. “Four pancakes, half with blueberries and maple syrup, half with strawberries and regular syrup, light on the whipped cream, and can I have it served with a medium cappuccino, extra foam, and with a bendy straw, please.” His mother gave him a smile and a nod as she went to the stove.

“So our son is really going to America,” his father said as he put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder. His father’s skin felt rough and course to Johnny, like a stiff old leather couch. “Son, I want you to remember a few things before you get there. One, man is breadwinner. King of castle. Two, always be good to queen of castle. Treat her like princess. Buy her lots of nice things, and never let her leave the house. She then required to love you. If she doesn’t, she is bitch and sociopath. But she will love you, so don’t worry about it.”

“Ha ha ha,” said Johnny. “You always know right thing to say.”

His mother interrupted them to bring Johnny three pancakes with water and no syrup. “Raaaaagghhh!!!” raged Johnny as he hurled the plate across the room. “How could you do this to me???”

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Chapter 1: The plane ride

Johnny reclined his seat and reached for the airline blanket. “Hey up there!” said the person behind him. “Can you put your seat back up? It’s crushing my legs.”

“Don’t worry about it” said Johnny as he put in his headphones. The plane was showing Rebel Without A Cause. “Wow, what a wonderful American film!” Johnny announced to the person next to him. It had just started — James Dean’s character was in the police station, being lectured by his parents. You’re tearing me apart! the character yelled. Johnny stared at the screen slack-jawed, in awe. “Is this a celebrity as good as Fabio?” he wondered aloud.

“Is everything alright?” asked a stewardess.

“Yeah, can I have something to eat, like an American hamburger, medium-rare, half extra pickles and onions, half with radish and mushrooms, light on the ketchup, and served with a small ginger ale, please?”

The person next to him ordered food as well. “I’ll have a large peanut butter cup with extra whipped cream.”

Then the person across the aisle ordered food. “I’ll take some cheesecake and a coffee.”

The stewardess smiled. “Yeah, that sounds good, we’ll have it right out for you.”

Johnny took out his diary and scribbled down what these people had ordered. Their orders were very interesting and worth paying attention to. Worth lingering on. He nudged the person sitting next to him. “That stewardess is so beautiful.” He put his earphones back in and watched more of the movie. James Dean’s schoolmates were teasing him by calling him a chicken. Johnny frowned deeply. “If anybody did that to me I would be furious,” he said. “Like great American character Incredible Hulk.”

*             *             *

Johnny woke up as the plane begun descending into San Francisco. “Wow,” he said, “the Golden Gate Bridge is so beautiful!” He looked at the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Wow, is that Alcatraz? Wow, over there is Golden Gate Park! Wow, look at the cable cars!” He looked at these things for a very long time.

Eventually the plane landed and he couldn’t see them anymore. He got his two suitcases out of the overhead, left the plane, and made his way to the baggage claim for his other suitcases.

He saw many interesting American things on the walk over. People throwing footballs and saying hi to each other. Husbands giving flowers to their beautiful wives. Storefronts carrying beautiful red dresses. All around him, people drinking from bottles of water. “I cannot wait to completely assimilate myself into this wonderful culture,” he excitedly said.

He stood by the baggage claim and waited for the rest of his suitcases to arrive. What would he do first after moving into his apartment? Find a girlfriend? Find a job? Make a best friend? Learn more about American culture? He nervously looked at his watch and then back at the baggage claim. His suitcases were taking a long time!

Outside it was raining very hard, even though it had been very sunny only moments ago. Then it became very sunny again, with no trace of water on the ground at all. “So this is what American weather is like” he observed.

The lights went off and everybody left the baggage area. His bags were never coming. Once more he began to rage: “The airline betrayed me! They didn’t keep their promise! They stole my luggage and I don’t care anymore!” He stormed off, with only his two carry-on suitcases in tow.

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Chapter 2: YMCA

Johnny rode a cable car to the San Francisco YMCA. There was the certain matter of a $2,000 check he needed to cash. He also hoped to make some new friends: he didn’t have a friend in the world. He sat in the doorway of the car, letting the wind blow through his hair. It felt wonderful. “I could do this for the rest of my life,” he said.

When he arrived, he plopped his two suitcases on the floor, reached into his pocket, and pulled out the check. He showed it to the nearest teller.

“Hi,” the teller said. “How can I help you?”

“Oh, hai,” Johnny said. It was the first time he used those words — a tingling sensation surged through his body as he did. “I have a $2,000 check I would like to cash. Here you go, keep the change.”

The teller inspected the check carefully. “I’m sorry, sir, this is an out-of-state check.”

“RAAAAGGGHHHH,” Johnny howled. He picked up the YMCA’s television and heaved it through the window. “Why, YMCA, why, why, why???” He knocked over their framed pictures and started to hump a dress that was lying on the floor.

Johnny tore up the check, threw the pieces in the air, and left the YMCA. Everybody looked over to the teller. “Why didn’t you just cash his check?” somebody said.

“We accept out-of-state checks,” another added.

The teller finally replied through a blush: “I was gonna cash it — I didn’t think he would take my joke so seriously.”

*             *             *

Johnny made his way to the San Francisco bank. “Oh hai manager,” he said to the manager, “can I have a job at the bank please?”

The manager looked at him apologetically. “I’m sorry, sir; you just don’t have enough experience. Maybe you can get in a few years’ experience across the street as a busboy and then give us a call?”

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Chapter 3: Lisa the princess

Lisa blew out the candles of her birthday cake. Ten of them! The cake was three layers high, iced a beautiful pink with an ornate design of roses. White icing read For our little princess Lisa.

Claudette smiled at Lisa and then at her fourth husband. Little did Lisa realize that Claudette hadn’t even wanted to marry him. Marriage has nothing to do with love, thought Claudette. I only married him for financial security. Still, the financial security was worth the irritation. Claudette gazed dotingly around the living room, replete with designer furniture and curtains. It filled her with warmth. “What did you wish for, Lisa?” she asked.

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” said Lisa, who grabbed her still-wrapped gifts from the table and ran up to her room.

She slammed the door behind her and excitedly tore the packages open. “Yay!” she yelled. “Gifts!” New dolls to play with! New jewelry to show off! New princess dresses to wear! She took her dolls out of their boxes to play with them. Until she realized, there was just one thing left to take care of first. She opened up the drawer to her old doll collection.

“Ken,” said the Barbie doll in her left hand. “You’re too boring. You don’t make enough money, and I don’t love you, and I’m going to do what I want to do.” She tossed her old Ken doll behind the dresser and replaced him with one of her new dolls. “Yay, this new doll is much more fun!”

“Oh, Leonardo” said Barbie as he kissed her on the face and neck.

Downstairs, Claudette and her fourth husband were arguing again. “I don’t care if you did cosign the lease! That jerk Harold gave the rights to the house to me!

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Chapter 4: The beautiful girl

Johnny had been working at the hotel as a busboy for many years now. His name tag may have read only “assistant busboy,” but the responsibilities were much the same.

One day he pulled his manager aside. “I’ve given this company seven years of my life,” Johnny explained. “I’ve had a lot of great ideas, and you’ve already put them into practice.”

“It’s only been five y—”

“I think I should have a promotion. You save bundles because of me. I have been assistant busboy long enough. I want to be full busboy now.”

The manager considered Johnny’s words. Before he could reply, something caught the corner of Johnny’s eye. It was a girl with bright blonde hair. She was sitting, drinking her coffee, and she was so beautiful. Johnny knew he had to meet her. It was destiny. One day, he would marry her and have kids with her — that was the idea. He couldn’t get his mind off of how beautiful she was. She was beautiful. He excused himself and walked eagerly towards her.

But what could he say? How could he introduce himself? How could he sweep her off her feet from the moment she laid eyes on him?

His mind ranged far. So many options. Finally he arrived at an answer, the best possible opening line: he sat down beside her and said, “Oh hai.”

She smiled. “Hi! My name’s Aléàrose Håmajistån. What’s yours?”

Johnny turned pale as a sheet. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve made a mistake. I can only make friends with people who have really American-sounding names.” He abruptly stood up and walked away.

*             *             *

More years went by, and Johnny was finally promoted to full busboy. “Wow,” he said, “full busboy at only 37 years old!” He had been beginning to think he would never get it. The promotion put him in a good mood, which stayed with him even after work when he went to play football at his favorite spot in the Golden Gate Park.

He met up with his usual group of friends. “I’m so happy I have these guys as my friends, and I love football so much.” He counted. “I have seven friends in the world.”

“Okay, guys, you know the rules,” said one of them. “Everyone stands in a close circle, and we toss the ball around at random until we get bored.” Everybody stood in a close circle and began to toss the ball around.

Johnny was standing next to one of his new friends, who had a very nice beard. “Oh hai,” said Johnny. “My name is Johnny, what is your name?”

“It’s Mark,” said Mark. “My last name is—”

“Wait! Think fast!” yelled Johnny as he tossed the football to Mark.

“Nice throw, Johnny,” said Mark, who then tossed the ball to somebody else.

Johnny found himself feeling very comfortable around this friend. “We should be best friends,” said Johnny. Mark agreed.

*             *             *

The sun began to set so they broke up the game to go home. “That was one great game of football, huh Johnny?”

Johnny agreed: “Yeah, ha ha ha.”

“Why don’t we hang out at my apartment? I just got this sweet new room in a very nice building. In fact, there’s a vacant apartment downstairs from me. Maybe you should move in there.”

“Ah, you must be crazy, I can’t move in there. I only make busboy wages. I could never afford it.” Johnny looked at his watch and realized he had to go somewhere, even though the conversation had only started ten seconds earlier. “I will talk to you later, and Mark, listen, if you need anything, call me, anytime, alright?” He and Mark shared a smile before parting ways. It felt wonderful to have a best friend.

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Chapter 5: Mark

Mark reflected on the year that had passed since becoming best friends with Johnny that day in the Golden Gate Park. They really got along well. They had so many common interests: football, jogging, coffee shops… his train of thought was interrupted when the phone rang. “Hi, who’s this? I can’t talk right now, I’m very busy.” He sat down on his couch and changed the channel a few times.

“It’s your girlfriend, Susan! I was just thinking about you.”

“What? What are you talking about?” Mark was so confused.

“I want you to come over here. I want your lips all over my body. I want your hot dick in my pussy.”

Mark scratched his head. “Why do you say these things??”

*             *             *

Mark showed up at his girlfriend’s apartment. He imagined music and candles filling the room, although neither was actually present. “Look, I’m very busy right now,” he insisted as Susan entered from the kitchen. “So, why are you dressed like that?”

She was naked. “All you should worry about… is having sexual intercourse… with me.” She sauntered across the room, wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him deeply, passionately.

“I mean, I don’t understand,” he said with a furrowed brow. She took off his pants for him and worked him to arousal.

The two of them had a sex scene together. Very romantic music begin playing, and they breathed very deep moans while being too close to the microphones, so everything came out sounding all staticky.

“Do we have to have sex on the stairs?” Susan said.

“Yeah baby, every time.” He continued thrusting.

“My back hurts!”

“Then turn over, we’ll do it doggy style.”

“But then my knees will hurt!”

“It won’t matter in a second — HRRRGH!”

Mark pulled out and came on the stairs. Then he lied down on them and gently caressed each step with his fingertips. He loved stairs.

“Hey I had a good time, Mark. I enjoyed that.”

He stopped what he was doing to look at her. “What are you talking about??”

*             *             *

Mark wiped his dick on Susan’s curtains and put his pants back on. “Come on baby, let’s go for a walk out back.”

“Out back?” Susan stammered. “I, er… maybe we shouldn’t use that door….”

When Mark opened the back door he was astonished at what he saw. He silently mouthed the word what, and then said the word “what” out loud. “Just what’s going on here?? Who is this??”

Susan gasped. “He’s nobody! Uh…!”

Mark kicked open the door and rushed outside. To his surprise, there were more guys outside! Eleven of them, it looked like. Twelve, counting himself. “Susan, a dozen guys?? You have a dozen guys??”

“Mark, I didn’t want you to find out like this!”

The eleven other guys looked around sheepishly, each wondering who would be the next in line to have sex with her. “I brought you a present,” said one of them hopefully.

“A dozen guys, what’s that?” said Mark while walking towards Susan. Then he pushed her into a trashcan. She became badly injured. She needed a doctor. Mark spit on her and walked away. “Somebody get her to a hospital” he said while pushing his way through the crowd of guys. “Maybe the one on Guerrero Street.”

*             *             *

Meanwhile, Johnny was walking in front of the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts. He heard a coughing, sniffling, crying sound from below his feet. He looked down and saw a poor young boy in a stupid-looking long-sleeved polo shirt. The boy was covered in dirt, snot, and blood. He looked to be about 8 or 9 years old. “Oh hai,” said Johnny. “Who are you?”

The boy coughed a few more times, looked up feebly at Johnny, and said “My name’s Denny. My last name is—”

“Well listen, Denny, my name is Johnny. Are you hurt?”

“Yeah, things are going real bad for me. My parents abandoned me a few years ago. I was taken in by some drug dealers, and they got me addicted to coke, heroin, and speed. Every day is agony for me. They’ve even been prostituting me out lately to make up for some of the money I owe them. I don’t know how much longer I can take this.”

Johnny rubbed his chin, deep in thought. Finally, he reached a solution: “Denny, don’t worry about it!” He smiled, patted Denny on the head, and walked away.

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Chapter 6: The doctor and the psychologist

“Ooooh,” said the doctor as he eyed the body they had just brought in. “This is one of the worst cases we’ve ever seen here on Guerrero Street.” Another doctor turned around and lifted his face mask to vomit.

“Seems like a cerebral contusion and laceration with severe hemorrhaging of the pia-arachnoid membranes and subdural hematoma… get this patient 40 cc’s of Epinaphrin and start an IV fluid drip, stat!”

“Another ace diagnosis, doctor. You really are the best on our staff.”

It was true. Mike was the smartest doctor not only in the building but in the whole city, a feat made all the more impressive by his being only 11 years old. He had made quite a name for himself back in med school, and his professional record since then had only escalated his reputation. The top of his field, he was at the forefront of every major medical discovery in the past three years. Little did he realize the tragedy that soon awaited him…. He paused to reapply some gel to his spiky hair before turning his attention back to the patient. “Looks like someone was mad at her but fierce. Perhaps a jealous ex-boyfriend? No, a current one… she was cheating on him. With multiple guys, by the looks of things. Maybe you’d better get Peter’s opinion, down in the psych ward.”

“Peter… Peter…” said the doctor while eying the staff list. “I don’t see him on here. What’s his last name?”

“I actually can’t remember.”

*             *             *

Outside, Johnny looked at the Golden Gate Bridge. He noticed that it was very long and had a lot of cars on it.

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Chapter 7: The Golden Gate Bridge

The left part of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The middle part of it.

The right part of it.

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Chapter 8: An interesting story

Late one night, Johnny walked in front of a Disney store.

Later, he arrived at the hotel he worked at. He had been a full busboy for several years now, vying all the while for that coveted senior busboy spot. Then he would finally have enough experience to apply for the big job at the bank!

He caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror while he worked. The years hadn’t been kind to him. “I’m already 41,” he said. He looked at his eyes, buttressed on the sides by deep and dark crows’ feet. His cheeks were dry and starchy, even under the makeup he had started wearing. He held his hands up — they too were coarse and calloused. Sandpapery. He ran one up his arm and gave himself goosebumps from the rough grinding sound it created.

He thought about these things as he continued to bus the tables, until something caught his attention from the corner of his eye. He noticed a girl with bright blonde hair. She was sitting, drinking her coffee, and she was so beautiful. Johnny knew he had to meet her. It was destiny. One day, he would marry her and have kids with her. He couldn’t get his mind off of how beautiful she was. She was beautiful. He dropped what he was doing and walked eagerly towards her.

This time he knew what to say. He sat down beside her and said, “Oh hai.”

She smiled. “Hi! My name is Lisa. What’s your name?”

What a relief — a common, plain, ordinary American name. “My name’s Johnny,” said Johnny. “You look so beautiful.

Lisa smiled. She loved being called beautiful.

“You look like a princess!”

She smiled even wider. She knew it had been a good idea to wear a pink dress and tiara that day.

Johnny tossed his long, wavy, stringy black hair over his head and laughed. “Ha ha ha ha. Do you wanna eat something?”

“That would be great,” she said. “I’m having trouble finishing this coffee. It tastes kind of icky.” She made a face. “It’s actually the first time I’ve ever tried coffee. I’m only 20.”

Johnny laughed again. “Ha ha ha ha. You must be kidding, aren’t you! You’re much too pretty to be only 20!”

She smiled again. She had actually been lying; she was only 18. But let him think what he may… she was finding herself falling for him. He was clearly much too old for her, but there was something oddly charming about this leathery man. He reminded her of the old tattered baseball mitt her father used to leave around the house. And of that dreamy-looking muscular man on the cover of her mother’s romance novels. She was especially flattered that he hadn’t made fun of the odd protrusion in her neck like boys her own age tended to do. Lisa started to imagine wrapping herself in his arms, and she felt her heart grow warm. She decided to go wherever the evening took her. Besides, it wasn’t a school night, so she could stay out late if she wanted to.

*             *             *

Later that evening, they were already on their first date. They ordered a delicious meal from a restaurant. “Can I have a steak,” Johnny asked the waitress, “half medium rare, half well done, sour cream on the side, light on the parsley?”

“Sure thing. And for the lady?”

“Can she have a salad, half feta cheese and bacon, half bleu cheese and tomatoes, extra ranch dressing, hold the lettuce?”

“That sounds great. Be right back with it.” Then the waitress walked to the next table over and took their orders.

“Can I have a club sandwich and a bottle of water?” said the man at that table.

“I’ll have a bottle of water with a smaller bottle of water on the side,” said the woman at that table.

“Coming right up,” said the waitress. She walked back to the kitchen.

Johnny couldn’t believe his luck, that he was on a date with someone so beautiful. He imagined that one day she might even be his future wife… but for now, she was simply his future future wife. “So tell me about yourself,” Johnny finally said. “What do you do?”

“Well I’m still in school,” Lisa said. “I bartend some evenings to make extra cash. But what I’d really like to do one day is go into the computer business. You know, so I could use computers… to do computer things….”

“No wife of mine will ever work,” Johnny said with a dismissive snort.

“What? I’ll do what I want to do.” She paused, and added: “What do you think I should do?”

“I think you should drop out of school. Tomorrow.”

“I’m still in high school!”

“I do not care. Besides, the computer business is too competitive… for a woman….”

“’For a woman’?” She was getting mad.

“Woman’s place is in the home,” Johnny said. “She can clean up messes that the husband makes, and she can order him pizza when he’s feeling upset, and she can make love to him on top of rose petals. Man buy her nice things and make her feel nice. Then woman do man’s bidding.” Johnny sighed. That same old speech again. This was turning out to be a really boring, uninteresting date.

Lisa’s eyes flared in anger. “I’ll show you what women can do,” she said. She pulled out a wad of twenties from her bartending job and dropped two of them on the table. “I’m paying for dinner.”

Now that was interesting! Johnny vowed to store this whole scene away in his mind for future anecdotal purposes.

“Anyway, it’s been a while since the last sex scene.” Johnny said confidently. “Let’s go home, Lisa.”

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