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Hot Johnny (And the Women Who Loved Him)

Hot Johnny (And the Women Who Loved Him)

3.4 5
by Sandra Jackson-Opoku
Like a sunbeam that can warm your skin for a moment but can never be held, Hot Johnny has touched the lives of many women—heart, body and soul. Now, we hear from the women who gave Hot Johnny his heat.

Each woman shares a distinct voice and point of view. There's Peaches, the prostitute who gives Johnny his name; tree, the college soulmate; Etta, the older


Like a sunbeam that can warm your skin for a moment but can never be held, Hot Johnny has touched the lives of many women—heart, body and soul. Now, we hear from the women who gave Hot Johnny his heat.

Each woman shares a distinct voice and point of view. There's Peaches, the prostitute who gives Johnny his name; tree, the college soulmate; Etta, the older woman who teaches him the truth of love; Cinnamon, the sex freak; Destiny, the young wife who'll never be good enough; Lola Belle, the white lesbian; Johnsetta, the daughter Johnny never knew he fathered; and Gracita, the grandmother who holds the key to Johnny's salvation. Each woman provides a piece of the puzzle that is Hot Johnny until at last he is brought into dazzling focus—in this powerful novel of destiny and redemption.

About the Author:
Sandra Jackson-Opoku is an award-winning poet, journalist and screenwriter.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Women love charismatic, faithless John Wright, and in this ambitious novel by award-winning author, poet and journalist Jackson-Opoku (The River Where Blood Is Born), they tell his story in a crazy quilt of interconnected episodes. From the hapless Destiny--who becomes his wife and bears a daughter plagued with sickle-cell anemia--through siblings, numerous lovers and an ancestor who holds the key to his past, Hot Johnny is portrayed in the various stages of his difficult life. From the time he was a little boy, abandoned by a mother who preferred life on the streets to raising a child, Johnny has had a knack for getting people to take care of him. Jackson-Opoku captures the different voices and attitudes of the women who cross paths with the unforgettable Johnny: his half-sister, Sister Baby Ruth; Miz Jones, a 38-year-old woman who has an affair with him when he is 19; Tree, the athlete who competes with him both on and off the college basketball court; and Gracita Reinu, his pioneering great-grandmother, who gave him his strong spirit and will to survive. Although the author adeptly juggles numerous personalities, she too often sends them off on crude, meaningless tangents or reduces them to speaking in awkward clich s. And the puzzling decision to throw in a possibly incestuous relationship and a contrived subplot in which Johnny is forced to search for a blood relative to aid his ailing daughter adds further distraction to an already intricate plot. Still, Jackson-Opoku's ability to craft memorable characters with distinct temperaments and sensibilities marks her as a writer to be reckoned with. Agent, Susan Bergholz. 5-city author tour. (Feb. 2) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.37(w) x 9.45(h) x 0.95(d)

Read an Excerpt

Stone Soup

He knew just how to feed them

You see all our hungry faces in the photo album of his life. And you wonder. Who is he and what is he to you? You would never understand unless you know our story. So I'm going to tell you a fairy tale. Maybe you haven't heard this version.

Once upon hard times Little Grandma Gracita planned a potluck picnic. We reached into cupboards and took out what we had. Every woman thought the other might bring something better to the table. Oh, it was sad. No fried chicken, no potato salad, no watermelon. Nothing but scrap bones, carrot tops; a pitiful spread. The mushy potatoes could hardly believe their eyes. I was the last to arrive, the one who brought pearl onions.

Into this all steps a man named John, too good-looking to be good. Or so they say. If you didn't know different, you would cast him as the snake. Don Juan, con man, rogue. He said he knew just how to feed them.

He brought out a pot and made a big fire. Into it went all their offerings, along with something special: a stone from his pocket, glowing with his own warmth. Bubbling in the broth of magic, stone soup was made. It was a miracle, and it was good! Each one ate until she was full. And they all lived happily ever after?

Hardly. Real stories never end like the fairy tales do. Hot Johnny would stay so long as the soup simmered, dishing miracles into everyone's bowl. When the pot boiled over or turned cold, he would leave with his soup stone. Have you ever wondered where he went? He with all his hidden fires. We with all our hungers.

Yes, we have our hungers. Don't be tempted to cast us as the victims. We take him in, hoping to touchhis magic, and we ourselves are remade.

I remember Hot Johnny like a ray of sun that touches your skin. It warms you for a moment, but you can't keep it with you. I remember him in tomorrow's dream, the bright one that dashes across your eyes right before you awaken. I remember him like John the Baptist. A chanted blessing and a splash of water, and those he touches are forever changed.

But God's gift to women is not easy to be. He has never been sure of his power, you see. He doubts our intentions, questions our devotion. Those closest to him have even seen his scars.

Cooks don't always get to enjoy what they create. What's the use of having cake unless you eat it, too? What's the sense in making stone soup unless you have a taste? Dishing up miracles for everyone else, what happens to Hot Johnny's own hungers?

The beginning of the story starts at the end.


I could almost be what he saw in me

I didn't inherit much from my natural mother. Not a memory, not a snapshot; not even a surname. Just a sickle-cell blood trait that would blow up like a bomb one day. Just a lacy, tattered pillow with Who art thou, my daughter? Ruth 3:16 stitched in faded thread. A question on a pillow is all she left me. That and a prediction: Destiny. My mother knew I was an accident waiting to happen, destined to wind up with a broken heart.

Mrs. Malveaux was a little coupon-clipping white lady, the last foster mother in a succession of six. What little I learned about men in my life, she's the one who taught me. When she found out I had a crush on the cutest boy at school, Mrs. Malveaux told me to lower my expectations.

"If you're going to love a man that other women want," she warned, "get ready for a broken heart. Better a butt-ugly man who is faithful than a handsome heart-stopper sharing his loving all over town."

Maybe she thought marrying that hairy gorilla of hers would guarantee her a lifetime of fidelity. But it didn't go down like that. I know for a fact that butt-ugly Franklin was not faithful to Vivian Malveaux. A fine man cheated because he could, an ugly one because he had something to prove. What possible hope did that hold out?

I knew I was doomed the moment I laid eyes on him. No, I'm lying. I couldn't have known that, because I never thought a man like Johnny Wright would give me the time of day. Maybe I'm lucky winding up like Mrs. Malveaux predicted—my big nose wide open, my stupid heart broken. At least it was Johnny who broke my heart, which is more than dozens of more attractive women can say.

Any girl on Pope Air Force Base would have given her last dime to get with Hot Johnny. I'm the one he chose over any number with longer hair, lighter skin, slimmer hips. I may be nursing a broken heart now, but at least I had his love to myself for four whole years. At least I'm the one who got to have his baby.

I remember the first time he spoke to me. I was on KP, slinging hash in the NCO mess hall. I would chat with airmen on the chow line: the older white enlisted officers, the women, one or two of the brothers who seemed safe for conversation. But Johnny Wright was one I refused to recognize. I was frightened of him, plain and simple. Afraid he might see the panic in my eyes.

It was hard for me to look a handsome man full in the face. It would be like trying to stare at the sun. The glare of his beauty would almost blind me. My eyes would smart with tears and I'd have to turn away. So I focused on the hands pushing along a military-issue green plastic tray. Knuckles with sparse strands of sandy hair; long fingers with bitten nails. Those chewed-off nails were much easier to look at than the golden perfection of his flawless face.

I would thrust Johnny's plate toward him without looking up at him. If he tried to make small talk, I would mumble a response and turn to the next in line. One day he didn't take the plate from me so quickly. I held it out to the empty air, my face shiny with sweat and shame.

"You got a kind word for everybody but me, airman. How come? Is it because I'm black?"

I didn't answer.

"I'm going to make you look at me tonight, you luscious little chocolate drop." I couldn't see his face because I was looking down. But I could hear the chuckle in his voice. It had to be his idea of a joke, calling attention to my color. Pretending to like my looks, when everyone within earshot could see just how plain I was.

"Look me in the eye when I address you, airman. And that's an order."

"Yes, sir," I muttered, staring down at the steaming pan of hash. I tried to hand him his plate of food once again. "No excuse for my behavior, sir."

"I'm not going to take that slop until you look at me."

"Look at the fool, for Christ's sake," someone down the line muttered. "We're getting hungry down here."

I was so humiliated. He was holding up the chow line and the others were enjoying a joke at my expense. I stole a glance at him, catching gold sparks glinting in olive green eyes.

"Take your food, Sergeant Wright," I whispered. "Please, sir."

He noticed the tears I was blinking back and grabbed the plate, brushing my hand as he did.

"Aw, baby girl." He leaned forward, murmuring in a voice meant for my ears only. "I didn't mean to make you cry."

I was nobody's baby girl, had never really been. It just made me want to cry all the more. I held it in until my duty ended, the steam table cleared and the chow pans scrubbed. I went out behind the mess hall, sat on the steps, and bawled into my hands.

I was like a hot-water bag somebody filled up, put away, and forgot about. People might have called them curves, but I knew it was years of unspilled water that swelled the contours of my skin. Six different foster homes, no family to visit on leave, empty spaces in a photo album where a father and a mother should have been. Not even a safe place to cry. Saltwater tears leaked out, punctured by the random pinprick of a man too blindingly beautiful to behold.

Then there he was. I don't know where he came from or how he got there.

"What did I say to make you cry?" he whispered, sitting down beside me. He reached over, mopping up tears and snot with his clean white handkerchief, chanting some kind of gibberish beneath his breath.

Sana, sana

colita de rana

Si no sanas hoy,

sanarás mañana.

"Huh?" My tears dissolved in sheer surprise. "What did you just say?"

"Just a little something my great grandmother used to sing when life had put a hurting on me. I don't even know what it meant, but it always made me smile. I see it still works, that grin struggling beneath all those tears. Don't you know that brown sugar should always be kept dry? You don't want nothing melting marks into that pretty face."

"I . . . am . . . not . . . pretty," I hiccuped. "You're just messing with me, sir."

He had the nerve to look surprised. He tucked a hand under my chin, tilting my head back in consideration. He seemed to reassess my broad, tearstained features.

"Girl, where were you in the seventies?"

"Not even born."

"You're probably, what? Eighteen years old?"

"Nineteen last Tuesday," I told him.

"Almost young enough to be my daughter."

I shook my head.

"You're not old enough to have any grown kids."

"Thirty-seven years old? Hell, it ain't impossible. I did get started awfully young. I cut my teeth on morsels like you. My first true love was a dark little something I called Black Pearl. Churchgoing girl, all straitlaced and buttoned down. But hot as hell and sweet as honey under those high collars and long skirts. She used to sell candy bars for the church. World's finest chocolate. Lord knows, the girl wasn't lying."

I felt a sharp stab of jealousy. My reaction shocked even me.

"Church girls usually are loose like that, sir."

He smiled at my outburst.

"Loose and juicy. Nobody had to tell me—the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. I wish you'd been around to hear it," he whispered into my ear. "Black is beautiful."

I kissed my teeth, suddenly irritated. Who was this golden boy to be preaching me the gospel of blackness?

"By your leave, sir. I've been in this body nineteen years and I know better. Nobody thinks girls who look like me are beautiful."

"Then they ain't got eyes," he said solemnly. "Because you are one fine figure of a woman. Your mama should have named you Midnight."

He pulled me up so quickly I hardly had time to react.

"What are you doing, sir?"

"Nobody here but us chickens, airman. You don't have to keep calling me sir."

He took my hands and danced with me, swaying to a slow song he murmured in my ear. My heartbeat underscored the off-key melody, one of those ballads that comes on the oldies station late Sunday nights. A song about a pretty little girl named Black Pearl, worthy to be rescued from the background and placed upon a pedestal.

"Don't even know how fine you are," he scolded. "Come here, girl. Let me lift you up where you belong."

With me giggling like an idiot, he lowered me down into a dip, then hoisted me up toward the moon. The kiss I was foolish enough to antici- pate was a lazy salute he threw my way before disappearing through the lighted doorway. It even hurt to look at him in silhouette. I figured he and his buddies would have something new to laugh about.

But later that week on my narrow cot, tucked under the Who art thou, my daughter? pillow was an envelope and an unwrapped white jewelry box. In it I found a simple gold chain, a glowing black teardrop-shaped opal dangling from its end. The birthday card in- side wasn't even signed; I opened it and read the eight-word saying scrawled there.

The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.

"I couldn't find a black pearl, although I know they exist," he admitted one night, unfastening the top two buttons of my uniform shirt. "But why do I have to look anymore? I've got my pearl."

"But Sergeant Wright," I whispered as he positioned the opal in the cleft of my cleavage, "my name is Destiny."

It was a series of mixed signals, an endless pluck of a daisy petals: He wants me, he wants me not.

"Whoa—down, boy." He pulled away in the middle of our first kiss, addressing himself below the belt. "Who told you to raise your ugly head? Don't mind me, baby girl. This licking stick needs a strong dose of military discipline."

I thought our relationship was a secret until people started sniggering behind my back, whispering, "Saltpeter." The hottest brother on base was dating the homeliest virgin, or so they thought. Every weekend of his leave was spent taking classes at a monastery of wandering Taoists in Chapel Hill. He was going for holy, practicing celibacy, and seeing me on the sly. A lot of people figured it for a ruse, an evasive maneuver.

Johnny used to manage the fitness center at the base but had been busted down to staff sergeant and given desk duty while under in- vestigation for sexual harassment. The brass claimed to be conduct- ing a confidential inquiry, but everyone had their own version of the story.

Some called it racism, a put-up job. It was an unwritten courtesy in basketball to throw the game to a senior officer. Johnny pulled rank in one-on-one, wiping the floor with his stationmaster. Now the command chief was pulling strings to get him drummed out of the force.

Others said he was guilty as sin. That at one time or another he'd slept with all three of the white women under his command. It was even rumored in some quarters that a gay man had been his accuser.

Damned liars, that's what I said. Whichever one of them blew the whistle, and all those doing the whispering. Hell has no fury like a lover scorned, be it male or female. All four of them had dropped the ball in his court at one time or another, but Johnny swears he never picked it up. Not a once.

"I've been twenty years poking around the candy box," he insisted. "Why fool around with vanilla creams and hard candies when you know what you like is dark chocolate?"

Look at me. Chocolate can't hardly get darker than this. Anyway, why would a man as fine as Johnny have to force his attention on a woman, or even a man for that matter? Everybody out there was trying to give him some.

Cashiers at the Fort Bragg PX would slip their phone numbers into his grocery bags. High school girls would follow him in town, giggling and asking to feel his muscles. Transvestite hookers would call to him from darkened doorways. Every woman from airman basic to staff officer would make their way over to his table for ladies' choice at the NCO club.

This would go on right in front of my face, with me sitting next to him or across the table. We were playing pretend, we're just friends. But I was really practicing invisibility. I had become so dark I almost disappeared. No one seemed to notice me there in the glare of Johnny's sunshine. If you don't say boo, people will step all over you to get what they want. If nothing else, that's one lesson I learned in the force.

His male buddies baptized him "Hot Dick Johnson." They would watch him shag some girl across the floor, a dance step I was never able to master. Slapping five in a mixture of envy and admiration. Commenting on his every move and posture. He was like the alpha male, the only one in the pack who got to mate. The other wolves got excited just yapping around him.

"Look at that," one would call out. "Watch him bend her clean over backwards. Hah! Johnny calls that 'dipping the cherry.' "

"Celibate, my balls. Hot Dick Johnson ain't fooling nobody." Lazing at the bar, guzzling beers. "That boy get so much pussy thrown at him, he got to go out with a helmet on."

An explosion of sniggling and back-slapping, beer suds flying. Helmet must have had more than one meaning.

"That's right," someone else would testify. "I seen that nigga on the basketball court, sure do know how to duck and dodge. Now me, I wouldn't be dodging no pussy."

"You ain't got to. Don't see none raining down on your head."

Johnny seemed bored with all the attention. Maybe that's what led him to me in the end. A woman who wasn't bold about wanting him. Who didn't chase him, never threw herself at him. Who barely spoke unless prompted. Not because I didn't want to.

I was so nervous and insecure, whenever he turned his eyes my way I would quickly look in the other direction. He could have helped himself to whatever he wanted. What was I going to do, just say no?

My quiet desperation must have looked like innocence. In fact, everyone assumed I was either a virgin or a lesbian. Johnny seemed to take my inarticulate silences for modesty and reserve. He made me out as the good girl on base. An untouched flower in a garden of sin, one he could sniff but wouldn't pick. He must have been mixing me up with that sanctified girl from his high school days. Maybe he felt guilty about taking her virginity and was trying to make it right by preserv- ing mine.

Fat lot of good it did. We were seen out together on many a we're-just-friends occasion, and Johnny was hit with a fraternization charge. People who hadn't even been there reported that he had sexually harassed me that evening on the chow line at the NCO mess hall. Insult added to injury.

I just knew a jealous female was behind it. Probably Nelda, that weasel-faced wigger from Florida. She acted like talking black and sleeping black would make her into something she wasn't. Wanna-bes like Nelda were the worst kind of white folk. Acting like they're down with the homies, when all they want is to take something from you. It was Nelda, I'm convinced, who took those pictures of the ugliest African-looking faces from the Benetton ads and stuck them to my locker for everyone to laugh at.

"I hear you and Wright got a thing going on." She gave me the once-over in the showers one day, checking out my hair, my face, my figure. "You know he don't want nothing but your body. You know he going to drop you the minute you give it up, just like he did that little white girl year before last. You got any sense, you'll hold out for as long as you can."

Holding out was never a strategy, at least not on my part. I would have been glad to give it up. He just never asked for it, not once during all the time we were courting. Although sometimes I could see him struggling.

I slowly came to understand that I must have had a nice body, or so some men seemed to think. Even though I saw myself two sizes too big, with flaring hips and breasts so abundant they were a constant source of embarrassment.

Those breasts had gotten me in trouble the moment they made their appearance. They bulged out as bodacious as two street-corner whores. I wasn't quite twelve, and I felt like cutting them off. Maybe it would have kept the boys and men from staring. Would have kept foster fa- ther number six from sticking his hairy hands under my sweater and squeezing them every time we were alone together in the house.

If it hadn't been for those breasts, maybe I wouldn't have been in the United States Air Force, looking for a father whose name I never knew. Maybe the Willises would have adopted me and I'd be gone off to college.

They had been the happiest two years of my life. Elegance Willis was dark like me, but his wife was cream-colored with long, pretty hair. Lorraine could have had her pick of brown-skinned children or even a biracial baby. She didn't have to settle for someone as black as dirt, way past the cute-and-cuddly stage. But she said I was just what she wanted, a girl child who looked "just like my husband's people."

Lorraine Willis could have almost passed for white if it wasn't for all that African jewelry and clothes she draped herself in.

"Oh, no, you are not drawing pictures of little pink people," she'd scold, grabbing away my crayon box. "Where's that purple? Here. I want you to make me a beautiful eggplant-colored girl, just like you."

I had never seen an eggplant before, but I looked it up in the World Book encyclopedia. I learned it wasn't a plant at all, but a squash with purple-black skin. A pretty color, though I never imagined myself quite so dark and shiny.

Mrs. Willis called them my "womanly curves." She was tall and flat-chested, just like a model. When I started developing womanly curves by the age of twelve, she snapped the strap of my new brassiere.

"You're getting too big too quick. Don't let your boobies write checks that your butt can't cash. You know what I mean, Destiny darling?"

I knew but didn't worry. Nothing could hurt me now. I had my very own room, a frilly bed where I could leave my Who art thou, my daughter? pillow out without worrying about it being taken. I was in a good home with nice parents and an older brother who promised to "kick ass and take numbers" if anyone ever messed with me. Jamal Willis called me "sister-girl." I never thought I'd have a family, never even imagined I'd have a big brother to call me "sister-girl."

Both the Willises were high school teachers. Elegance taught gym and coached the track team most days after school. Lorraine was a painter and an art teacher, always taking evening classes—herb gardening, calligraphy, tai chi. The family owned the apartment building where we lived, reminding their tenants in writing each fall that "we keep your rent low by keeping the furnace turned down during the day."

I always got home first, walking from the middle school two blocks away. Jamal, three years older and in high school, only had an hour to wait before one parent or another arrived to turn up the thermostat. Until then, we'd just be cold. On days when we could see our breath in the air, my foster brother would crab and complain about those "penny-pinching misers" who were his parents.

I didn't mind. I'd been through much worse hardship than that. The cold apartment was kind of companionable. We wore thick sweaters, hobo gloves with the fingers cut out. We drank endless mugs of hot chocolate.

I would put on my hobo gloves and tuck my cold feet underneath me, doing my homework under a mound of blankets on the living room sofa. Jamal would let himself into the apartment, blowing to see if he could see his breath.

"Sister-girl, I'm freezing," he'd groan, diving for the sofa. "You better share those covers."

We would cuddle together, keeping warm. We'd sit up and talk, or lean back and watch TV. This was the life. Having a sibling to cuddle with and watch TV on the living room sofa.

Jamal challenged me to a tickle fight one afternoon. He won, of course, straddling me and tickling until I cried uncle. Tickle fights became a regular game. One day he didn't let up even after uncle. When tickling turned into touching, I didn't try to stop him. It was only a game.

"Ooh, sister-girl. You're soft under there." He lay on top, fully dressed at first, clutching at bulges under clothes, rubbing his body between my legs. I knew it wasn't right, but it didn't seem so very wrong. "Sister-girl got some big titties."

He would hold his upper body away, not heavy on me. Not crushing me. I would lie still as a little girl listening for Santa Claus while my body warmed, thawing like icicles. Drip, drip, drip. It's not like we were really brother and sister. Maybe this was love. Maybe someday we'd get married.

The games got more frequent, more demanding. Clothing would be shed, a little more each time. The day it came down to naked skin, where else was there to go?

I'd spent a lifetime yearning for a mother, but that was the moment when I wanted a father. I lay there quiet, not protesting. Trying hard to make my father materialize.

I could almost picture him. Tall and fine like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. Only difference, he'd be brown, but not too dark. I could almost hear him at the door. He'd walk through it with purposeful strides, splendid in full-dress military whites. He'd scoop me into his arms and carry me out through the open door, pilot of his own aircraft. I'd close my eyes and we'd go flying, soaring off into the wild blue yonder. Then the fantasy popped like an overstretched water balloon.

"Ooh. You came, too." Jamal whispered panted congratulations. His movements slowed to a grind, erasing my father's face. "Sister-girl, you sure know how to do it."

"No, I didn't." I denied the fading throb, the confusing wetness between my thighs. "No, I don't."

Jamal smiled, self-assured. Like he had been the pilot, the one who had taken me into the skies.

"Oh, yes, you did." He thrust out his open palm, then squeezed it shut. "I could feel it."

It wasn't my father who stepped through the door just then. It had been Lorraine Willis's key turning in the lock, catching us both red-handed. She flew across the room, yanked Jamal from the sofa, slapped him across his face, and sent him to his room. But I was not comforted. I was not whisked away to safety. Clothing was tossed carelessly at me. Questions were too, cold and demanding.

"Who got this started? El warned me I might get a damaged child. I should have listened to him. Is this the kind of thing you learn in foster care?"

After two court-ordered family counseling sessions I left the Willises without explanation, with no further contact. Foster father number six made Jamal's tickle fights seem like a walk in the park. I would have to leave my body to go looking for my father on a regular basis.

When I turned eighteen my birth records were unsealed. I slammed into another brick wall. I learned that my mother had been a minor: no name, no phone number, no forwarding address. The surrender of custody had been arranged by the pastor of one Pentecostal Sanctuary in Chicago. I wrote and got back a typed letter with no signature: We are sorry to say that Bishop Peter Paul Pleasant has recently passed into the Lord's care.

See? I couldn't win for losing. There went my one chance of finding my parents. The letter went on to inform me (while certain that I had "no connection to this church or anybody in it") that my father had left Chicago years ago and may have joined the Air Force. The rest of it was filled with Bible quotes and hard-sell preaching: I'm putting you on my private prayer list, child. You don't need no mother or father now. What you need is the Lord in your life.

Maybe it was that rescue fantasy, a man in a military uniform swooping in to save me. I knew it instantly. My father must be an Air Force pilot! I enlisted on a whim, convinced that even without a name, I would know my father the moment I saw him. After all, how many black pilots could there be?

I had gone through basic training and been stationed in North Caro- lina when I realized what a wild-goose chase this really was. After nearly a year in the service I still hadn't found the slightest trace of my father. But I did find someone.

Johnny was an enlisted officer, not even a pilot like in the movie. What he felt for me was no kind of father love. He was attracted to my body just like Jamal and the rest. He made that very obvious. Still, he was an officer, and a gentleman in his way.

It wasn't just about body parts. I wasn't just a distraction to draw attention from his sins. Yes, he would gaze hungrily at my breasts. But he also looked into my eyes as we sat together in a parked car on steamy summer nights, watching the view from a lookout point above the airfield.

I never told him how I had grown up. Knowing that I had been an unwanted child might give him ideas I couldn't risk. I would talk to him about safer things: the books I was reading, movies I had seen, my hopes to one day learn to fly.

He talked about his new experience with God and religion. He had grown up in the Pentecostal Church, then studied Islam in Africa several years before. Now he was reading from Chinese metaphysics, the Tao Te Ching. He seemed to be testing the ideas he spoke, trying them on for size. He posed questions, philosophical riddles that neither of us could answer. Did abstinence prepare the soul for a state of grace? What was it like to be filled with grace? Would it be with you forever, or did it need to be replenished from time to time?

He spoke about his struggle with celibacy, admitting he had been a fornicator most of his life: "I abused the privilege until it lost its magic." He was now "sexually weary," but filled with the conviction it would one day be redeemed in the wedding bed. Johnny was a reformed womanizer, saving himself for marriage.

Then he would turn attention to my breasts. It may seem hypocritical, but it wasn't fornication. Johnny was no teenager; he had been around the block a time or two. For a man like that, titty squeezing wasn't real sex. Besides, what was I going to say? No? I never had before, not to other men who hadn't meant half as much.

I would take a deep breath and steel myself against the familiar intrusion of a man's hand stealing under my shirt. I would turn my body toward him but my face away, swallowing back my secret shame. It was easier if I didn't have to look.

Johnny liked to see me in bras that fastened in the front. He said unhooking them was like opening a present on Christmas morning, the contents tumbling into his waiting hands. These words were meant to reassure, but they only frightened me.

Still, it was a ritual I grew accustomed to and gradually learned to accept as the price I paid for being with him. His fondling hands, his caressing lips, his searching tongue. He could nuzzle for hours at a time, sucking and stroking like a contented baby. At first it was a sacrifice, something I did to make him happy. Then it became mildly pleasurable. I even began looking forward to it.

There came a night when something surged, a tsunami of sensation rising out of nowhere. I felt throbbing in other places. A cord connected my nipples and genitals, a chord he strummed with teeth and tongue. Teasing and tasting and tugging. I tried to push Johnny away, to quell the slippery suddenness in my groin.

To my dismay, I found myself moaning. Attempting to twist away from him, while at the same time pressing his head into the pillow of my bosom. A thing strained down there, swelling open like floodgates. It was something I had felt before, several nightmares ago. I was flooded with fluid, a disturbing déjà vu.

I burst into tears and bolted from the car, the crotch of my panties wet, naked breasts bouncing in the moonlight. I rushed into a night that smelled of pitch and pines, Johnny fast on my heels. He grabbed me and pulled me to him, laughing away my tears.

"It's all right, baby girl." Patting my back like I was a child, kissing my neck like I was a woman. "Why'd you run off like that?"

"I didn't mean for that to happen," I sobbed. "You must think I'm some kind of freak."

"If you're a freak, then you're my kind of freak. To see you get off like that, I know just how our honeymoon is going to be. Think of it as basic training. Your first climax, baby girl."

Wrong again, Johnny Wright. But how could I tell him that? Hadn't he just said "honeymoon"? That is why I didn't protest when he lowered me to the ground, laying me on a bed of pine needles that seemed placed there just for us. Touc

What People are Saying About This

Gloria Naylor
One of the freshest new voices on the scene...I hope she keeps writing forever.

Meet the Author

Sandra Jackson-Opoku is an award-winning author, poet, and journalist. The River Where Blood Is Born, her first novel, won the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award for Fiction; her work has also earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, Coordinating Council of Literary Magazine General Electric Fiction Award for Young Writers, and a Ragdale Foundation U.S.-Africa Writers Fellowship, among other honors.

She lives in Chicago with her two children, Kimathi and Adjoa.

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Hot Johnny (And the Women Who Loved Him) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the perfect example of how a woman influences a man's behavior. All these women worshiped the ground Johnny walked on all to get just a small piece of him. The ending was right on point when he said he went wandering the world sharing stone soup in many places BUT never got a taste of what he made.
Guest More than 1 year ago
PAGES READERS GROUP - Hot Johnny And The Women Who Loved Him. The book is a myriad of tales that intertwine themselves around the main character, John ¿The Baptist¿ Wright. Obviously a man who¿s ability to capture the heart and mind and soul of each woman he encounters in his life, past and present. Almost like some of those heavyweight title fights from years ago, the vote on this book was a split-decision. Those that enjoyed it found that it dug into the heart and soul of a many on a serious venture to save the life of his daughter, Beauty The other side did not find a ¿flow¿ and agreed that the lack of it made the story complex and some characters, insignificant to the story. You could really never get a true sense of why these women liked him so much, other than the short description about ¿having Smokey Robinson¿ eyes. In short, reading this book is an aerobic exercise on the mind, while others may find some pleasure in having to work to enjoy it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Jackson-Opoku has created a wonderful tale of a man and how each woman in his life molds him into the person he is. I like the book because it went backward, meaning that you began at the end of the story and went 'back in time' to understand why Johnny was where and what he was. Very entertaining and extremely well-written, I would recommend this book to everyone (and I pretty much have!).