#92 Crapometer

Genre: Fiction

Johnny Says

At the age of three, Sophia Applegate has her first experience with the University. She hides her mother's shoes, her brother's shoes, she hides all the shoes in the house including her own.


When Sophie is five, her mother buys a shiny, golden padlock down at the hardware store in Come-By-Chance, Newfoundland. Sophie knows that her mother has one in her room and it's locked onto a box where all her mother's important papers and jewellery are kept. Sophie is an important, safe person the night her mother nails the new padlock outside her bedroom door.

Sophie wakes the morning after a University night. She watches outside her window; the birds feeding their babies, the seeds she has planted in the garden sprouting their little leaves toward the sun and the mud sewers she made. The tiny walls become saturated, and the tiny tadpoles swim out of the walls.


Sophie realizes she has a problem and looks around her room for a carton. In her closet she finds a box of old clothes, empties it onto the floor and heads to her bookshelf. Sophie doesn't like books, her mother gives the University money and it gives her books. With her wee fingers, Sophie shreds the words and puts them into the cardboard box, in the same way she does every week for the family cats. Sophie, straddles the box and urinates. And to Sophie, it feels good because maybe her mother won't be mad at her for not wetting the bed or for making any messes on the floor.

Sophie hears her father and her brother's voices outside her door. She knows by the way they talk that they don't think much of the University, either. That morning she learns her father and her brother pick cotton for a living, because her mother tells them to keep, ‘their cotton-pickin' hands off of Sophie.'

When Sophie is fourteen, she spends many days in the swamp and one day she meets Johnny. She looks deeply into his eyes and sees they're like milk chocolate with flecks of black licorice and green peppermint; gifts from her father. Sophie thinks they're the sweetest eyes she's ever seen. And for Sophie, it's not often she looks up. She mostly notices the distortion of the world as it lays (lies) flat beneath her feet and cannot trust the air around her alive with jitters and chattering and who knows what else lurks in those forces she cannot see. The world of illiteracy.

It's Johnny who teaches Sophie to look up.

Johnny says that Sophie can't ever have freedom. When Sophie questions why, Johnny seduces her and tells her he's laid his seed inside of her.

While Sophie's womb swells, she participates in a grade nine field trip. Sophie's science teacher takes the class on a exploration to the local swamp and wildlife reservation to catch various species of frogs. For dissection. The leopards, the peepers and the toads.

Johnny, according to Sophie, escorts her, his hair the colour of bark on an oak tree simmering under the gaze of the persimmon-coloured sun, Sophie learns that it's the horizon that always makes Johnny jump. That moment between the sun's last spit into the air and where the moon sighs and takes over the spirit of the natures living around them.

Sophie and Johnny become separated from the school group.

Johnny's in the water. Sophie's jacket gets caught on thorns from a wild rose bush. It isn't long when Johnny's head goes under the swirling murky water. The diamond Johnny has given Sophie digs into his throat while she tries to save him. Bubbles froth up from below. Johnny is a dead weight and Sophie can't move him. He sputters. But that's all. She lifts him to her breast, cradles him until that last dream, that lost thought, that last glimpse of life, leaves him.

When the moon rises above the tree line, Sophie awakens and realizes that her hands, her clothes are full of blood. The diamond has scored herself around her own throat and her blood has congealed on her body. Frogs continue singing around her, and crickets sting their aching reminders of heat to come. Sophie falls into a deep sleep, only to wake to the sound of what she believes-- a corpse streaming putrid gas from open, gaping wounds. At this point, Sophie doesn't care if anyone finds her. She is just glad to be away from home.

When Sophie is found in the swamp, her swollen stomach has erupted and she is embracing the entrails of an inhuman being in her arms along with the excrements of her own bowels. She incoherently babbles about what Johnny says.

There is a ‘John' at her school, and he is Sophie's lab partner. John is questioned by guidance counsellors and then the police, they subsequently confront Sophie's mother. Afraid that her daughter is carrying her husband's child, she protects Sophie and tells the police about the rape of her daughter by a young man in school called, ‘Johnnie.'

John, a minister's son is appalled and denounces (denies) knowing Sophie. Although, he cannot help his curiosity and follows her to the swamp where Sophie talks to nature. (sentence fragment) It is here that John learns that there is no such person as Johnny. He is a figment of Sophie's imagination. All the wisdom leaving Sophie's mouth, via the way ‘Johnny Says', is indeed Sophie. The side of Sophie that cannot speak, that is, the uneducated.

John befriends Sophie and teaches her how to read by leaving cue cards written by him in various areas in the swamp where he knows Sophie seeks refuge. She begins to understand the meaning of "leopard frogs" and "peepers" and "tadpoles", through the written word. Eventually, these metaphors give Sophie voice and she begins to read. Albeit, she croaks at first, but she does succeed, and realizes what ‘Johnny Says'.

Qeustion: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Answer: Lobster

Question: Does the fact that this synopsis remind me of that joke bode well?
Answer: no

You’ve fallen into the enticing trap of trying to make your synopsis sound like your novel. Don’t. Let your novel speak for itself. Let us get a sense of what happens and who the characters are here - not by channelling them, but by describing them. If I’d gotten this in the query pile I’d have stopped reading after the first “huh?”.If you’re doing something original with the narrative voice, just tell us.


emeraldcite said...

Qeustion: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Answer: Lobster

lol. i love surrealism. i'm a teacher. it's my life.

might have to do with the hormone levels in high school. they create a field of unreality.

Anonymous said...

Confused and also somewhat grossed out here.

Sonarbabe said...

I'm afraid I have to agree with anonymous. I didn't get it at all. What exactly is the "University"? My first thought was that it was a psychiatric hospital, but that can't be right. Can anyone shed some light for me?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Miss Snark, What?????

Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer but being the manager of an independent bookstore I read a lot! I have to admit although I did find myself saying "hunh?" at first by the end I wanted to read more. I would definitely read an ARC of this and potentially recommend it to my customers.