11 | paul albano

the tumultuous life and the tumultuous times of johnny ammonia’s tumultuous life and tumultuous times


Johnny Ammonia saunters into the local watering hole on his tiptoes like a cartoon cat burglar, sauntering with the spacious, elongated gait of someone who is sad and also making a point to walk in big strides. Johnny Ammonia is sad. He has lived fifty sad years. A sad ashen beard covers his sad face. He orders whisky, sadly, from the barkeep. “Make it a double, a sad double,” he says sadly. “For the world is absent joy and saturated with sadness, and I, a nameless citizen of this world, nameless expect for my name, Johnny Ammonia, am sad.”

The barkeep, a joyous man with a thick mustache and hair darker than black marker scribbled on a sheet of black construction paper and viewed in a windowless room with the lights off, grabs a bottle labeled “Whisky” and pours it into the glass. During the pour, Johnny Ammonia hears the quiet, steady, sing-song of the drink slipping into the glass, the level rising like the Red Sea after the crossing and the parting water once again merge and Johnny Ammonia reflects sadly on his sadness. He is sad because his girlfriend, Antoinette, is dead. The world was too sad for her. And so, one night after sweet, loving fornication inside a yellow inflatable rowboat that woke everyone in their apartment complex due to the loud screaming that sounded like a wounded primordial animal perforating with painful ulcers, a screaming neither participant heard, as both Johnny Ammonia and Antoinette are deaf, Antoinette got up from the inflatable rowboat, whispered a fair goodbye to Johnny Ammonia, their Remington Steele DVD collection, especially season one, and their dog, Scalawag, and then Antoinette walked into the bathroom and kicked her own bucket by folding Scalawag’s Frisbee and swallowing it, suffocating after the Frisbee unfolded.

The funeral was brief but attended by ten thousand peasants. Most of the peasants spat at Antoinette’s casket because she was an exiled South American dictator who instituted a “cultural renewal” program that was always spoken in air-quotes and consisted entirely of cutting off the thumbs of every Subway Sandwich Artist in the country then stringing the thumbs together with a string and displaying them at a gallery, calling it a treatise on the struggles to create marginalized art while firmly entrenched within the institutions of control.

Johnny Ammonia drank his sad double whisky and reflected sadly on these events that would have made him sad, had he not been sad already. He looked up sadly to sadly order another drink. “I’ll take another drink,” he said sadly.

The barkeep nodded and removed a double-barreled shotgun from beneath the counter and shot Johnny Ammonia fifteen times in the face. This killed Johnny Ammonia.

The barkeep then drank the double whisky he had just poured for Johnny Ammonia, but sinisterly had thought about drinking the entire time, for he’d planned to kill Johnny Ammonia even as he was pouring the drink. “Antoinette was my wife,” he said, addressing Johnny Ammonia, even though he had just shot him. “She was also my best friend. And co-owner of this bar. This bar that we are currently in. Sometimes, usually on weekends, she worked as a bar back, making sure there was always enough ice and that counter was clean. We made a great team, she and I. I poured drinks, she collected empty glasses. It was symbiosis in its most perfect form, like a crippled remora riding atop a shark that suffers from a very pronounced astigmatism that makes seeing things difficult but can’t treat it with glasses or contacts for reasons that I assume are obvious. But you Johnny Ammonia, you shattered that dream like broken glass after it’s dropped from a high place. You took her from me by saying ‘hey Antoinette, you should come with me.’ And now there is no ice at the bar and so all of the consequences of the bar being without ice are presently happening.”

The barkeep wept in a physical manifestation of the sadness that he felt at that moment. He asked why misfortune removes from its quiver arrows only intended for him.


paul albano is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s currently a PhD candidate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His work has appeared in Word Riot, The Blotter, Opium Magazine, After Hours, and Cream City Review.