“White Girls with Cornrows,” a Side A short story by Brent Joseph Johnson

White Girls with Cornrows

I first came across Amber and Ashley while I was working at Ego’s maybe six or seven years ago. Both as the doorguy and the barback. At the time I wasn’t at a good place in my life and I eventually had to quit because of how shitty it all got for me. I also had to listen to karaoke nonstop at full volume and my ears were starting to go.

Another reason I quit the job was because I was having a lot of problems with some of the regulars—namely this one girl who’d bike in every night from the Section 8 apartments just south of Gardner Betts. Some of the time she was nice and personable and all, usually right after she’d sing, but other times, once her drinks kicked in, I’d find her screaming at the KJs and the bartenders and the other karaoke-goers who’d shift away from her in unison like a school of brightly colored fish. I was the one who had to kick her out of the bar though and the last time I did it she picked up a traffic cone and chunked it at me. “Eat shit, bro,” she railed. Then she grabbed another one and sent that over too.

She was about my size and build and she had the same style of black dirtbag clothes I had on but she had long snow-white dreads and arms like fucking murder and I’m pretty sure she could’ve taken me in a fistfight if it would’ve ever come to that. I’m not gonna lie. My arms are shit. Also she just had a lot more fire than me which goes a long way as a wildcard.

“Here you go, shit-arms,” the bartender said while the last of the cop cars pulled out of the parking garage. Then she handed me a flyer. “You didn’t do a very good job tonight.”

I turned it over in my hands. Across the front there was a color photo of a big blown-up mouth with some gold upper teeth and a long thrushy tongue flattened against its chin. On the tongue it read, “We beat up girls.” Each letter was set on a little white square like a blotter of acid. Then below the phone number along the middle of the tongue it read in more little white squares, “We fuck shit up.”

When I looked up at Kiki again she nodded towards the small open poolroom at the back of the bar where a pair of scraggy-looking white girls loused noisily about one of the pool tables. They both wore inky blue trackpants and fresh black beaters and long gold chains and their hair was pulled back tight into cornrows. Even their bodies and faces were virtually identical. 

“It is what it is,” Kiki offered.

So with that I crammed the flyer into my back pocket.

Several weeks later I was with Michael Flippo at MugShots on 7th Street when I came across the two of them again. Flippo had built his entire reputation out of doing weird shit at random times just to get a laugh out of people. He’d pull out his dick and make a wristwatch out of it or set his pubes on fire. He’d break bottles over his head and eat cash he found on the street. He was like a carnival geek without a carnival, peacocking about in lime and apricot slacks, muscle shirts and bloody mouths. And people either loved or hated him for it. Usually switching off from year to year.

That year I liked him a lot but it was probably one of the last.

“Cheers,” I said hoisting my pint. From the corner of my eye, across the small fenced-in beergarden, I caught sight of Amber and Ashley breaking free from the roaring sundrunk crowd that’d clagged itself between the bank of utility meters and the bracken of inner-city ferns. Then they grabbed hold of one of the Marlboro fairies—pale and frazzled and so bloated from her alcoholism that she looked as if her insides were about eighty-percent liver and her casing was about to pop—and proceeded to beat the shit out of her. In the meantime I stepped up onto the bench of a picnic table to get a better look.

“Old times,” Flippo crowed. Pumping his fists. “Old times. Old times.”

That following Sunday night I was posted up at Ego’s again, drinking a large can of beer that I’d snuck inside a sixty-four ounce Styrofoam cup, the straw going down through the plastic lid and through the tab-hole of the can, when I caught sight of them again.

To the south of the tiny sublevel parking garage, out in the open air, the girl with the dreads was leaning back rakishly against one of the dumpsters, smoking a cigarette and chatting with a wasted bachelorette party, when sprung Amber and Ashley from between the hedgerows that separated the lot of the squat brown office building where Ego’s was mouseholed from the shitty overpriced apartments next door. One of them, either Amber or Ashley, grabbed her by the limbs of her snow-white hair and twisted her yowling and swearing down to the rancid pavement, and the other one, either Amber or Ashley, lifted her foot and started to mung down brutally and deliberately onto her belly. There were moths circling above them, about the streetlights, and there were several dozen bats swinging in and out of the lights, and as I crossed out of the orange glow of the parking garage towards them and into the night, it suddenly occurred to me that despite the millions and millions of bats that lived beneath the big Congress Street bridge, the moths and the other bugs never seemed to thin out.

Stay the fuck out the bar, bitch, I thought I heard somebody say. But the words were so tinny and remote they seemed to come from inside my ear instead. Stay the fuck out the bar. Then one of the girls, either Amber or Ashley, took a fistful of my bully’s coarse white hair, cocked back her head and squelched her face gruesomely against the concrete wheelstop that kept the cars and trucks from rolling creekward into the gulch. And together they ran off back towards the apartments, their cackles and screams exploding flatly against the underside of the pitch.

After seven years or so I’d pretty much forgotten about the two of them til I found myself at the crosshairs of somebody else’s ire. I was now working at the Howson Branch Library in Tarrytown on the extreme edge of Hill Country. Right up there on the faultline. Old-timey people would call them the mountains. But they were really just hills. “Hey, look at the mountains, bro,” William Radam would say, pointing up from the clipper prow of a little wooden ferry. It was 1888 at the time. Midriver. And the nurseryman had long been mired in copyright lawsuits over his bunk Microbe Killer that he concocted mostly out of water, powdered sulphur and a tint of red wine. Now it was 2021 and the FDA had driven most of those old snake-oil salesmen out of business and Radam himself was long dead from consumption and heart trouble lol but I was still alive and I was futilely shelving books in the small teen section of the little neighborhood library that none of the local teens ever really seemed to use now anyways when from behind me, someone took hold of my shoulders and shoved me down the aisle and from out of the Rs and the Ss and the Ts, towards my stunned and spectral face, materialized the tattooed fist of either Amber or Ashley.

They’d tail me in their purple Chevrolet El Camino. They’d sideswipe me in my Nissan Sentra. One of them would lean out the passenger-side window and wave her little snubnosed revolver at me. Her gold teeth glistening in the terrible Texas sun. They’d slash my tires. They’d mug me on the street, in parking lots, in the drive-thru lines at Whataburger. They’d push me off my barstool. They’d spit on me in front of my friends and coworkers, once in front of my mom while she was down visiting from Mississippi. They’d steal my satchel and my phone. They’d post pictures of my driver’s license and debit card onto places like 4chan and Reddit and dozens upon dozens of Discord servers.

I remember once at the 04 Lounge about halfway through a game of cutthroat, Amber and Ashley trapped me inside the grimy piss-smelling toilet covered from floor to ceiling with punk and metal stickers and beat the living shit out of me. And then two days later while I was at the circ desk at Howson, helping somebody renew their TexShare card, the fat knot in my forehead suddenly drained into my face and a black eye appeared in place of the old one.

“Damn, bro,” said one of our regulars. She was in her early eighties and she wore loose stonewashed overalls and her gray hair was slobbed up into a bun with a chopstick skewered through it. Also she didn’t call me bro. “Damn, dog,” she told me instead.

They broke the windows to my apartment. They kicked me down small flights of stairs, always cackling and screaming. They upperdecked my toilet. I’m pretty sure it was them. They tracked down copies of my first and second novels and all my old weird zines from my teenage years and sent me videos of their bonfires. The flames were so bright on their Android phones that their night sky looked as if its vagrant sun were exploding somewhere below their earth. There weren’t a lot of copies of my stories to begin with. So it kind of hurt to see them all destroyed like that. All those tiny little worlds I’d created for myself. Even the ones in my apartment went missing at some point but I have so many books and zines already that it took me a while to notice. They poured piss on me in post-COVID crowds at Hotel Vegas, at Empire and Mohawk and whatever was left of Red River by then. MugShots was gone. So was Beerland. And Barracuda. And just about every ratty little bar and venue I’d spent so much of my life in. And so was Michael Flippo who when the last time I saw him a thousand miles away in Iowa City looked like a ghost, a ghost of a ghost. Also that set off a year where I really didn’t like him anymore.

“Old times,” he crowed. My balls radiating with pain and confusion. “Old times. Old times.”

You can never really get the smell of burning pubes out of your mind.

The same goes for finding your cat dead.

That’ll never leave you.

Or an L-39 crashing at an airshow.

Then what was it: several months after the last thing I wrote, it was early February. It was 2022. And their assaults had stopped altogether. And I was starting to think that maybe whoever was behind all of this had finally gotten out of it whatever they wanted to get. Or at least maybe they’d run out of money. It’s not cheap to have somebody stalked and fucked with and beaten up like that.

At times I suspected Rebecca, my girlfriend of eight-and-a-half years.

My Austin friends.

Maybe an old ex from Iowa City.

Some right-wing dipshit I’d reverse-trolled online.

Some secret psychopath in my family. “It’s not really hogtying,” they’d niggle, “if only the wrists are bound.”

Or maybe it was all just random. Like somebody with their eyes closed had opened up a phone book and slammed a finger down onto my name. If phone books even exist anymore.

I was back at Ego’s for some reason I don’t know what, sitting at one of the red vinyl booths in the poolroom and scrolling through my phone when rose Amber and Ashley on my ex-girlfriend’s Facebook post. Her name’s Ashea Sparrow and I’d dated her off and on for about six years. Mostly off. Because we weren’t any good at dating each other. No matter how hard we tried. It was daytime in the picture and the sky was blue and clear and in the foreground Amber and Ashley were flanking her on a big brown couch and they were leaning into each other and laughing. Back when we were together Ashea had always laughed pretty easy but here in this photo there was a new quality to it that I’d never seen before. It was now just so wild and unrestrained and there was just so much—I don’t know—joy and chaos in it and when I pinch-zoomed the screen and shifted around on their faces, I almost hyperventilated. We’d just gotten high in my car, Todd and me, maybe like seven minutes ago, and just as he went out to buy a pack of smokes, I’d started to have something of a panic attack what with my rambling thoughts about my dad’s Alzheimer’s and the sagging skin on my face and how much I’ve been drinking lately and my gouty foot and how I’m probably too cocky and abrasive for normal people and how shitty my short stories have been and how everything I’ve ever published has been something of an embarrassment to my conservative family. And in the poolroom when I thumbed over to Ashea’s profile I found them once again, trolling me throughout the rest of her recent posts: with canoes on a pebbly river beach, on a red tinseled stage at a drag show, hoisting fat ugly babies for each other to laugh at: post after post after post after post. Like they’d always fucking been there. In her life. Like if I searched my memory hard enough I’d find them there too. Hiding beneath our bed. In our closets. Behind our curtains. With binoculars, from high on the belltower of the Catholic church next door to our old rental house.

“Kind of like doms or people who fuck for money,” I barked over the loudspeakers, “they just don’t come out and say it.”

Above me two sunburnt Irish tourists turned back to their microphones and cleared their throats and as the sound exploded throughout the room Todd tried to pull me from the karaoke stage.

“But they’ll do just about anything you pay them to.” I got one of my arms free but Todd grabbed it again and pinned it behind my back. Then he started to frogmarch me towards the door.

“Brandy,” sang the tourists.

“It is what it is,” I yelled over my shoulder.

“Brandy,” they kept singing. They glanced warily at each other, jiving their hips. “Brandy. Brandy Brandy.”

And then it was like two weeks later and the same thing happened again and I was at the circ desk scrolling through Facebook on my phone when they now appeared in Des Moines with another ex of mine, Rachel Mummey, and her new husband. And the degree of joy across Rachel’s face, the laughter, was far more ecstatic and surreal and unhinged than anything I ever remember before. Rachel being the sole reason why I’d fled to Southeast Asia to begin with. Why I’d been cracking up at the time. And why I had to leave the country to do it. Then it was other girls and women throughout my life, ones I’d dated for shorter periods of time, or just slept with, including Sarah, Sarah something, who’d taken my virginity in high school while I was strung out on acid. It’d felt like our bodies were merging together like something out of a Cronenberg movie and I could feel my own penis sliding in and out of me. There they were on my phone, all three of them, at an Applebee’s, with their party dresses on, drowning in bright and garish cocktails. I hadn’t thought about her for decades. And it all came flooding back.

And then it was the video that my dad’s second wife, Carol, had shown me.

That March we’d all gotten together in Moore, Oklahoma, the home of Toby Keith. Toby Keith wrote songs like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” and “Beer for My Horses” and I think I read somewhere that the CIA had paid him several million dollars to booster the second war in Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was called. His fans were patriots. They waved American flags, I remember. And they wore flag-printed shirts and line-danced and told you they were thankful for your service. I hadn’t seen any of my family since the beforetimes and even though I’d talk to Dad every once in a while on the phone, things were a lot different in person and I wasn’t expecting how much his mind had deteriorated. Almost like he’d reverted back into his teenage self.

We were lounging about one of our hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn Express, eating Domino’s and drinking water out of plastic bottles when Carol pulled up a brief pixelated video on her phone that she’d taken several months earlier on Christmas Day. In it Dad’s sitting on the right side of a stainless-steel couch upholstered with dull orange tweed. He’s smiling happily, AWOL in his own mind, and a white-hot light burns down on him from beyond the upper left corner of the frame. Like the heavens are on fire. And on the opposite end of the couch, in her inky blue trackpants and black wife beater and long gold chain, practically sitting on the middle of her spine, thumbing around on her own phone, sprawls either Amber or Ashley.

I was with Mikey and Plail in Plail’s busted-ass Camry. The car was about ninety years old in people years and it’d change color from blue to silver to gold depending on the quality and the source of the light. Mikey had made it into a short story of mine called “Ad Horrendum” where I stuck him in a time-loop that he can never escape and over tens of thousands of accumulating years, he gradually sloughs his humanity, his hopes and fears and dreams and desires, til he “[becomes] no better than a lizard or a toad.” And Plail had made it into a graphic novel of mine called Bloody Mouth where he’s a giant floating syringe and I’m a giant shit-talking cat. We don’t do much in that book. We just get drunk and drive around basically. And we go to a party with giant switchblades and breakdancing beer cans.

“I’m hungry, motherfuckers,” I belted from the backseat. We were about five miles south of Bastrop near a little rundown BBQ joint called The Gas Station where part of the first Texas Chain Saw Massacre had been filmed. The sky was overcast that day and it’d spit against the windshield from time to time and when Plail hit the wipers, the wipers would drag the dead bugs and the birdshit through the raindrops. “I could eat an entire fucking hog. Hooves and all.”

“Pigs don’t have hooves,” Plail said. He glanced back at me through the rearview mirror. His eyes were hard and baggy and he hadn’t shaved for several days. “That’s just a myth.”

From the oncoming lane an eighteen-wheeler passed us slowly but when I arm-pumped the driver so she’d pull on the horn, the driver just flipped me off.

“What an asshole,” I said, her thick black exhaust turning above the road. “What a fucking prick.”

Plail ignored me. “That’s just a myth,” he repeated. “They have tiny little feet instead.”

I threw out my beer can and watched it bounce off the blacktop and into the ditch.

“It’s a common mistake. Most people don’t realize it.”

I turned back to the car. “Plail, goddamn it. What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Pigs have little weird-shaped feet. They don’t have hooves.”

Out back of the BBQ joint a fat garden spider had posted up near the door. It was black with strange yellow markings on its abdomen and legs and it sat on a janky ladderlike structure woven into its web. It was also about the size of my face so we gave it a wide berth while we fanned out, unnoticed, onto the yard, beer bottles in hand, but as several other customers took up their trays and reentered the shack, it shook so violently at them that it disappeared fractiously into a black and yellow blur. From our picnic table beneath the canopy tent I thought about throwing my driver’s license into the web just to see what’d happen but I was paranoid that my friends already thought I was weird enough as it is. So I put it away.

“What the hell are you doing?” Mikey asked me.

I was back at the door, kneeling in front of the spiderweb. “Nothing,” I lied. Also I still had my license in my hand so I lied fucking twice.

“Get your shit together, bro. People are looking at you.”

I glanced around the backyard only I didn’t see anyone else but Plail. I saw a mangy-looking chihuahua tied to a stake in the ground with a massive hemp rope almost as thick as its ribby torso. I saw some grackles chorused by dregs beyond the picnic tables, their beaks agape and their dead creepy eyes fixed on nothing. I saw the hunchbacked moon westering in the bright spring sky, the overcast having cleared up at some point though I couldn’t remember when. And I saw the wind sink through the catalpas, their trunks and branches crept over with vines, and I saw a thousand million leaves wink at me.

My hand was reaching towards the web again.

“Brent, fucking seriously.”

When the cashier dropped off our food I ate with suspicion. I ate my combo plate with brisket and jalapeño sausages. Beans and potato salad. White bread, pickle slices, white onion. Hot sauces. Et al. And a couple more Lone Star beers. Along the back of the property stood four or five small prefabricated cabins where guests could spend the night. One of their blinds was partly drawn and somebody’s face was smooshed against the screen, watching us.

“What are you doing?” Plail asked me.

The food was radiating in my stomach.

“What do you mean?” I had my ID out again. I was standing back by the garden spider that was shaking violently in its web. Also it was spitting at me and calling me a race traitor and the r-word.

I put my card away.

No, that’s not what happened. We were back at the picnic table and we were cracking each other up. Plail had just told Mikey about our last road trip before Amber and Ashley had turned on me, before the pandemic and my last isolated incident, and before my dad, John Edgar Johnson, had informed me and my sister of his gathering dementia. We’d stopped in Iowa City to watch Aseethe and Big Business play if I remember right. There was a football game earlier that day. Iowa had played Northern Iowa. And the streets were overrun with drunks and assholes. We used to call them beer zombies. And we used to roll them with baseball bats and steal their drugs and their wallets. Once we even stole a pair of Air Jordans that we had to cut loose from the footstraps of some poor fucker’s wheelchair. But that night before the show, while we were smoking and bullshitting out front of the brick venue, Flippo ran up to me like he was gonna give me a bearhug but instead he just punched me in the dick and ran off again, crowing, “Old times. Old times.” We were both in our late thirties by then, Flippo and me, and it was the first time I ever got punched in the dick that I didn’t think was funny.

“Leatherface is just puttering around,” I was saying from the uneasy shade of the tent, “and one by one these kids start to pour into his house and into his killroom. I mean what the hell’s he supposed to do?”

Mikey and Plail were cracking up.

“This is fucking Texas and they’re fucking trespassing. I think you’re required by law to kill them.”

The chihuahua sneezed. The chihuahua had a cleft lip and the sneeze blew the folds of his mouth up and out like a bullet had hit him from behind.

“So he takes them out with a sledgehammer.”

“In D&D,” Mikey said, first to me, then to Plail, “you could do a lot of damage with that.”

“Legit, right? 1d4 at the worst.”

Beyond my shoulder I see Mikey glance towards the section of the BBQ joint where in the movie that one girl in the sleeveless blue blouse and the white bellbottoms realizes she’s caught in a trap so she snatches a long black brisket knife off of a butcher block and tries to fight her way back out towards the pumps. But the pitmaster quickly disarms her with a broom. Then he knocks her to the floor and hogties her.

Then I see Plail glance at Mikey.

And I knew what the glance was about. Betelgeuse and Rigel. Armpit and foot. I’d been waiting for it all along.

There’s a lot of bad information in this story twigged from stranger branches. I’m pretty aware of it. Some of it’s not true because my memory’s shit. Some of it’s bad because it hurts to write about or say out loud. It’s probably sexist. I probably shouldn’t have paid Amber and Ashley to beat up that one girl with the dreadlocks. That seems problematic. Also the chihuahua doesn’t have mange or a cleft lip. And it’s not even a chihuahua. There’s a little pug though. Dressed in a pink tutu. That sits bored and listless beneath another picnic table. But that’s about it.

Also at this point you might be wondering why I’ve pretty much just dropped Amber and Ashley from my story altogether or why Mikey and Plail are glancing around like cartoon spies. There’s a pretty good explanation for it. Then again you might be suspecting now that my back’s turned to the little BBQ joint, the color of bird piss, something’s about ready to happen and that I didn’t drop them at all—just like they really didn’t drop me from the focus of their violence. And I’ve just been lulling you with this anecdote about a great afternoon I’ve been spending with two of my favorite people. And then booom here they come. Their gold teeth gleaming in the horrible, horrible sun. Their cornrows frizzy in the thick swampy heat. Then again you might think that the cosmos, the universe has just been deadcatting me all along with the two of them, deadcatting all of us basically and that Amber and Ashley are only incidental to this story which I probably should’ve just called “Old Times” anyways because there’s far worse plots, far more terrifying than what’s been presented to us and maybe the universe doesn’t want us to know about them or wants to distract us away from their approximations. And you might think they’re in fact a legend, Amber and Ashley, or part of my own muzzy dementia or maybe they were dispatched by the sun itself. Prove to me it’s not a god. Prove to me it’s not in control. Weirder things are at play here. Ask the Greeks and the Sumerians. And maybe you think that while I sit here with two of my favorite people and while two of my favorite people watch it all unfold out behind me, either Amber or Ashley are stalking noiselessly across the blighted yard with a chainsaw hoisted aloft. And maybe they’ve stolen a mask from the giftshop, a mockup of the one that Leatherface wears in all those scary fucking movies, the one that he’s skinned and brain-tanned and crusted from the faces of so many bumbling tourists. Maybe that actually happens too, bro. Who’s to say? And maybe she’s now swinging that chainsaw up and around and up and around. While she herself just spins and spins and spins and spins. 1d4 at the worst. And maybe pigs really do have feet. In Plail’s defense. I mean why are we even arguing about it?

On a day like this?

Because it’s so fucking beautiful outside, you know? And it’s so fucking wonderful to be here.

Mini-interview with Brent Joseph Johnson

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

BJJ: The one that really got me happened back in the 6th grade. I was living in a tiny bible-beating town just north of Wichita, and I’d just gone through a really awful, traumatic year. My homeroom teacher had assigned us to write our autobiographies, and at that time, it was the longest thing I’d ever written. And I just dumped it all in there. No holds barred. Swear words. The cancer scare. Stealing cigarettes from the gas station. Smoking weed. Feeling up my girlfriend. The tornado. The suicide. My mom’s second husband’s molestation trial. I just figured that with all the horrible shit I’d just gone through why should I have to whitewash anything? After I’d turned it in though, the piece caused a big shitshow at my middle school, and I was suspended over it. But the entire experience was pretty exhilarating all and all. It was the first time I realized the power of writing to really piss people off. Or to annoy them. Or to bum them out. Or just to scare the fuck out of them. The things I said and the stories I told had real power. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world when you don’t have control over anything.

HFR: What are you reading?

BJJ: I’ve been reading a lot more contemporary short-story writers just to get a better feel for the climate. Steven Millhauser still stands out as one of the best we got today. Tony Earley’s collection, Mr. Tall, is also pretty dope. So is Dale Bridge’s Justice, Inc. And everything that Colin Barrett has put out—especially his new book, Homesickness. And Hermione Hoby’s last story in Harper’s, “Greensleeves,” is one of the best I’ve ever read in that magazine. Otherwise, I’ve been rooting through Flannery O’Conner, Breece D’J Pancake, Thomas Ligotti, Harry Crews, Sylvia Plath, Chuck Tingle, Auden, Bukowski, Carson McCullers, and a fuck-ton of Judy Blume.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “White Girls with Cornrows”?

BJJ: Most of that story actually happened. Maybe eighty percent of it. The rest was pure fabulism. Seven years ago I actually worked at a karaoke bar in Austin called Ego’s, hidden in the basement of an office building. Even though the job sounds quirky and cool in the abstract, it was a total fucking nightmare. I had to work the door and the bar and act as security—usually by myself, which was a complete fucking joke because I’m not that big of a guy to begin with. But the whole experience was rife with shit to write about—and I just finally got around to doing it.

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

BJJ: I’m just cranking away at short stories right now. It’s hard to focus on writing another book when I have to work a day job. Most of my stories now take place in and around the South Austin area. It’s a pretty fascinating place regardless of what the haters say. Lots of parties and weirdos and trashy folks. A lot of hustlers and go-getters and lushes. Despite the gentrification. It’s what I’m comfortable around. It’s what I know—so it’s what I write about.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

BJJ: “My favorite color is black and purple. I enjoy gross horror movies. My favorite food is pizza and subs. I enjoy football and hocky and baseball. I like rap and rock n roll. And Ive smoked 32 cigaretes. I’ve drank 6 Coors. I’m in the Boy Scouts because I like to sit in the woods. I think its fun. I like to wear hats. I like to stay up late. When I grow up I wanna be a doctor. I want to marry someone with a great peronality, be nice, and good to talk too, and fun. I think I will have a good life if any kinds of drug don’t get in my way. I want to go to Notre Dame or K-state. I want to live in a tropical place. My life so far has been good. I’m glad somethings have changed and Im glad other things havent.” From My Life by Brent Johnson, age 11.

Brent Joseph Johnson was born and raised in rural Kansas. He has worked off and on as a freelance journalist, and most recently he was the English editor for Heritage Magazine in Hanoi, Vietnam. His work has appeared in various Texas journals as well as Tampa Review and storySouth. He lives in South Austin.

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