BRANDY AND JOHNNY By Steven Gulvezan
In the rear-view mirror Brandy carefully fixed her face and adjusted her wig. Brandy touched her chin and examined the dark stubble. Christ, she’d forgotten to shave. Electrolysis was such a nuisance. She examined herself critically—from the point of view of a woman eyeing another woman. She was barely acceptable. She felt her breasts. They had matured—somewhat. When would the hormones fully kick in? Still, she felt like a woman, she was a woman, and she had a woman’s needs. There was only one way she knew of to become fulfilled as a woman. She would proceed on her mission, no matter what. Brandy steeled herself, examined the passenger side of her car to make sure everything was in order, and resolutely opened the car door.
The sun was going down and there was the hint of autumn in the air. A panhandler approached as she neared the entrance of the tiny, forlorn old mall. Before he could speak, she pulled a dollar out of her jacket pocket – she always kept several singles available – and handed it to him. “Bless you, sister,” he said. Brandy smiled at him.
Swinging open the heavy glass door, Brandy surveyed the interior of the half-vacant mall: grocery store, tattoo parlor, vacant store, dollar store, vacant store, pet supplies store. Outside the pet supplies store several people had encircled a child, a little boy. Clutching her phony grocery list like a stage prop Brandy homed in on the little boy and paused just outside the circle.
A young woman wearing a smock which identified her as a Little Buddies Pet Stuff employee was squatting by the boy, speaking to him.
He was a delicate-looking child about eight years old. He seemed very much afraid, hugging himself and rocking slightly back and forward as the young woman questioned him: “What’s your name? Where’s your mother? Why won’t you talk? Who are you?”
“Who are you?” the boy said, jerking his head.
“He’s talking!” a young male bystander said.
The young woman put her hand on the boy’s shoulder and he shook it off.
“I guess we’ll have to call the police,” the young woman said.
Brandy suppressed her mounting excitement and pushed her way into the center of the circle. “What’s going on here?” she said fiercely. “Johnny, what are these people doing to you?”
“Who are you?” The boy said, rocking back and forward.
“Johnny,” Brandy said, “where’s your mother?” Brandy stooped and grabbed the boy under the armpits and forced him to his feet. “What’s the matter, Johnny?” Brandy peered into the boy’s face.
“Johnny,” the boy said. “Johnny, Johnny…”
Brandy swiveled the boy around and put her strong arm, almost in a choke hold, firmly around his neck.
Brandy read the name tag on the young woman’s smock: Kathy.
“Kathy,” Brandy looked Kathy straight in the eyes, “what do you think you’re doing?”
“Well, this boy…” Kathy said.
The boy, taken entirely by surprise, was fighting to get free, but Brandy, with experienced skill, held him firmly to her.
“What are you doing to my nephew?” Brandy said to Kathy.
“Johnny,” the boy said. “Who are you?”
“Where’s your supervisor?”
“Johnny, Johnny, who are you?” the boy said.
“Actually, I’m the one in charge…”
“Do they not provide staff training in this establishment?” Brandy indicated the store. “Are you not instructed in the proper procedure for dealing with special needs children?”
“Never mind,” Brandy waved her hand in an all-encompassing gesture. “I understand completely. You’re very young, aren’t you? A trainee? Everyone makes mistakes. I will not report you to management…this time.”
“Come, Johnny,” Brandy said to the boy. “I must get you home to your mother. She is probably beside herself with worry. Let us leave this place.”
“Who are…” the boy said, but Brandy tightened her grip and cut off his words.
Brandy pulled the boy to the nearest door and exited.
She dragged him to her car and shoved him inside and, despite his frantic struggling, physically lifted him and sat him in the special car seat she’d constructed in her basement workshop. She tightened the straps around his chest, arms and legs. She forced his mouth open and tried to force a rubber ball with an elastic band attached inside his mouth. The boy, twitching his head from side to side, fought to resist the ball, but Brandy, with strong practiced hands, would not be denied. “There!” Brandy said when she popped the ball fully inside the boy’s mouth. He gurgled around it, and bucked his whole body against his bonds.
So excited her hands were shaking, Brandy walked to the driver’s side, slid behind the wheel and turned the ignition. She even forgot to adjust her wig, which had slipped, revealing the balding skull beneath it.
Brandy stepped on the gas. The car lurched forward. She glanced at her prize. He was so beautiful! She reached over and stroked his delicate face and flaxen hair when she paused at the traffic light at the mall exit.
“Don’t struggle, little one,” Brandy said. “The restraint is only for a short time. Your parents have neglected you. I will provide you with the love and understanding you so desperately need. You are mine now. I love you.” Brandy sighed as her fingers lingered on the boy’s soft cheek. She reluctantly withdrew them and, gripping the steering wheel, turned out onto the highway.
“Who are you?” The little boy managed to utter around the rubber ball, his eyes so very wide, as Brandy stepped down on the accelerator.