Johnson Family Fourth of July

Written by David A. Brooks

Kids, it’s bedtime and time for a bedtime story. Your parents are starting to get serious about keeping my nighttime visits to a minimum. How’d I get in past the deadbolts and downstairs Dobermans? These suburban houses are so close together that climbing a neighbor’s fence, leaping to the garage roof and then scrambling across rooftops is really pretty easy.

How about a story involving the ties that bind and traditional family values? (Hang with me on this. It’s better than it sounds. It’s also about bloody-toothed revenge, which I suppose is a form of a traditional family value.)

Tonight’s story is once again from my favorite town, Foresthill. Foresthill is such a small town that everyone knows everybody, and most people are related. If you live in Foresthill and you aren’t a Johnson or related to a Johnson, you’d certainly know all the Johnsons. This past 4th of July the Johnsons had a big clan gathering in Foresthill’s Town Square. It seemed like the time to do it. Most of the family was out of jail, which hadn’t been the case in quite some time and was a situation that was unlikely to occur again in the near future. The Johnsons are, first and foremost, recidivists. They are also well rounded. Between the family meth lab, the house burglars, and the car thieves; there is never a want for a job if you are a Johnson. Grandparents, parents, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, out-laws, and hangers-on who no one could even recall how they got into the family; each and every one had a job and was a valued member of their growing empire. Times are good right now. When a number of the Johnsons were all off serving prison terms, county crime statistics took a remarkable dip. Now that everyone happened to be out of custody, the local papers all over the county were putting the increasing crime statistics in bold headlines. The Johnsons were rolling in dough. They’d recently done so well, many of the Johnsons were even talking about closing down the family interests. However, cooler heads prevailed and it was decided that they really couldn’t just chuck generations of hard work. After all, the Johnson’s had a position in the community to maintain.

The 4th of July gathering was in the Town Square, the kind with the old white gazebo and wooden picnic tables. Everyone brought a dish to pass. Being such a large family it was quite a spread. Even Crazy Aunt Edna was there, with her special deviled eggs.

Crazy Aunt Edna doesn’t get out much. She used to live in Uncle Fred’s attic until Edna’s late night screaming became too much to bear. They tried to keep her in the cellar, but before too long she mildewed. Besides, it was almost worse to hear the screams but not understand what she was saying. Thereafter, Edna was set up in a decaying mobile home in the woods. No one heard too much from her after that. A family member dropped off groceries every month, along with a great big bag of marijuana; and Edna really seemed to calm down. The nice thing about Aunt Edna being crazy was that no one had to give her a cut of any of the family’s enterprises. That meant more ill gotten gains for everyone else to share, and certainly Crazy Aunt Edna wasn’t able to complain.

At the 4th of July picnic, Edna rolled a big fatty and kept to herself. She appeared to snooze in the sun, stoned out of her mind. At least she was being quiet and no one paid her much attention. She smelled really awful, but so long as you stayed upwind it wasn’t too bad. However, unbeknown to the Johnson family, Crazy Aunt Edna was plotting revenge. Edna was sick and tired of not getting her fair share. She was tired of having only her imaginary playmates for company. She was sick to death of being called Crazy Aunt Edna to her face (her name was ERNA. Why couldn’t they ever get that straight?) Edna’s slits for eyes and little grin wasn’t stoned complacency, it was evidence of the secret knowledge of a job well done.

It seemed that Crazy Aunt Edna’s famous deviled eggs was a very special recipe indeed. The two porta-potties on the square were swiftly and permanently occupied, and were soon rendered altogether unusable. There was a Johnson behind every tree, behind every bush, and some were just on all fours in the middle of the street, pants at their ankles. Their bodies exploded from both ends as the deviled eggs did the intended damage. These were no mere deviled eggs, they were positively satanic as they laid swift and horrible waste to the Johnson clan’s digestive systems. The local ambulance did what they could. A few of the worst cases were life flighted. Additional ambulances were called from surrounding towns (an hour away), but most of the miserably retching Johnsons were piled like livestock into pickup trucks and hauled over 45 minutes to the nearest hospital. (What else are neighbors for? Afterwards, the truck beds required substantial hosing out.) Crazy Aunt Edna just sat there propped up against a big tree, and grinned. She rolled another big fatty and lit it. Then she began to howl like a wolf.

July 4th was a Sunday. She was still howling on the following Tuesday when they brought her to court to charge her with what seemed like endless counts of assault, poisoning, and attempted murder. Some of the Johnsons aren’t getting much better, so some additional serious criminal charges are likely to be filed. She did stop howling for just a minute when the Judge called her “ERNA Johnson.” She gave the Judge a really big smile, but then it was back to howling.

Personally, I think that was a victory howl and she just had a lot to celebrate. The lab report on the deviled eggs won’t be back for a week or two. I’ll be sure to pass along the recipe. I’m betting on select toadstools and salmonella, but it could certainly contain something far worse.

On a positive note, local crime statistics for non-violent crime are already beginning to show a steep decline. On a negative note, so many people were intentionally poisoned that violent crime statistics really spiked this month.

Crazy Aunt Edna, er…Erna will most likely never be prosecuted. She’ll no doubt be found incompetent to stand trial, and she’ll be sent to a State Hospital. She’ll get medicated and counseled, and she’ll receive clean sheets and hot meals. They’ll even treat her mildew, but it’s pretty unlikely she’ll ever be well enough to return to court. At least they’ll call her Erna, (not even Crazy Erna), and she’ll probably be happier.

Kids, what goes ‘round comes ‘round. Sometimes it comes ‘round with a fury, and it can even take the form of a crazy lady’s hors d’oervres.

Good night kids. I’ve got the light.
Uncle David