The Boy Named Johnny

Moe Thet Han is a writer, editor, and translator from Myanmar. He has published the short-story collections I Think, Therefore There Is No Descartes (2010), Life Sentence (2013), The Nation of Unhappiness (2014), and The Private Territory (2018), along with the novella Killing People (2020), and the fiction book The Fake World, The Fake Sky (2011). He has translated 25 novels by internationally renowned authors. The publication of additional works has been put on hold due to Myanmar’s current political climate. Here, read his short story »The Boy Named Johnny.«

Jan 12, 2024

Akademie Schloss Solitude - The Boy Named Johnny

Fellow Mo Thet Han during his reading at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Winterfest 2023, photo: Frank Kleinbach

Johnny the boy was traveling the globe on his horse. Whatever he observed while riding the horse was weird and fascinating to him. When he had to, Johnny urinated on the ground and breathed the air. Occasionally, Johnny rode his horse quickly to explore a part of the world he had never visited.

Without knowing what he was looking for, Johnny continued moving.

Would Johnny discover Johnny? Or would he stumble into the enigmatic world?

The only thing that was certain was that Johnny was traveling.

Johnny was in the middle of his journey on the injured world’s back. History was licking its own wounds as Johnny stood on its shoulder. He was in a busy desert.

Johnny was truly Johnny.


While Johnny was in the middle of a jungle filled with dry fruits, his mobile phone began to ring. At a stream’s edge, his horse was getting a drink. Johnny was now dozing off while perched on a tree.

»Mingalarbar … Johnny. This is the world speaking.«

Johnny was taken aback and wondered why the world was calling him and why the world should continue to exist. But the globe wanted to communicate with him. So Johnny had to take the call.

“Mingalarbar … Thank you for your message. What’s the problem? What can I do to assist you?”

The phone call was disconnected before he could finish talking. Johnny was helpless. What else might he do?

He wanted to call the world back, but he was couldn’t, because his mobile phone was not showing any phone numbers. He returned to his nap.

Johnny was sleepy. Was the world to blame for Johnny’s sleepiness? Johnny had no idea, so he continued to slumber.

Johnny was now dozing off.

John was nodding off.


Johnny believed that one day the world would contact him once more. If the world needed his assistance, he would provide it.

Johnny was riding his horse around a large metropolis with great enthusiasm.

For Johnny, everything was so foreign and unfamiliar.

But Johnny wasn’t a simpleton. He was competent at everything.

Johnny was ridiculed by everyone for riding a horse through the densely populated metropolis. He was bold enough to ride through gridlock, hearing his steed’s horseshoes. He came to a stop when he noticed a red light because he was aware of his intelligence. When he noticed a green light, he continued riding his horse.

As Johnny arrived in the city more than a century late, onlookers and those in the car turned to stare at him. Johnny, though, was OK. He relaxed a bit. Johnny was the major character, wasn’t he?

Johnny didn’t care how large or powerful the city was. He was just Johnny.

Johnny tethered his horse in front of a sky-high structure. He then rode the elevator to explore the floors. Johnny was carefree in every way. He therefore didn’t give a damn whether people thought of him as an extraterrestrial.

Johnny was alone, just as Metropolitan was by itself.

The process was simple. Johnny continued to ride his horse lazily and irresponsibly while humming. You are aware that Johnny was Johnny.


Johnny the student was a slacker who often neglected to finish his homework. Johnny struggled academically. However, he had options to make sure everything was well. When the time came, he could pass his tests, even if he was a poor student.

When Johnny’s father returned from work, he discovered Johnny’s report card in the mailbox. When he learned that his son was the least intelligent person in the class, he felt guilty. He became enraged. He yelled at his son when he saw the report card.


Johnny’s father called his son in. Young Johnny did not respond. He was unable to contact his son due to a lack of a phone line or a poor internet connection.

Johnny stayed away during this time in order to avoid his father.

The night was spent by Johnny’s father drinking whiskey and watching TV while he was furious.


Johnny’s mother returned from the market with a full bucket. She also purchased for Johnny a 1-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. Johnny enjoyed Coca-Cola a lot.

Johnny’s father was working hard to fix his radio.

Johnny and his father recently signed a cease-fire agreement and were at peace at the time, just like two nations at war.

»Daddy, don’t attempt to fix your outdated radio. You’ll never hear the news you want to hear, even if it is restored.«

Johnny the boy’s remarks broke his father’s heart. Johnny’s father paused and stroked his son’s hair.

Then he poured himself a drink of whiskey and sat down in front of the television, shouting, »Johnny … you are attaboy !«


Johnny was a freshman in college. He was a grownup like Nga Ba at the same time. Sometimes he was rapping, other times he was singing heavy metal songs (Nga Ba, who is an old farmer without any basic understanding, is a character from a Burmese classic novel written by Maung Htin). He also sung well-known Burmese songs. The youngster Johnny did as he pleased.

Young Johnny had traveled to Myaunmya, Myaung Takar, and Kyauk Myaung while riding his horse to Sagaing. Johnny knew a great deal of Myaung. His name, Myaung, is Burmese for drain, and he had also traveled to South Dagon’s New Pearl City. Though Johnny had traveled to many places, he always desired to visit new ones.

Johnny thus continued his journey.

Johnny was riding a horse while seated.

Johnny was traveling.


 »Who are you, Johnny?«

»Johnny is Johnny. Do I have to give you my ID to verify that I’m Johnny?«


Thus, we could argue that Johnny was riding a horse while sailing. He was moving in a gypsy-like manner, too. He lacked a regular place to sleep. He occasionally slept underneath an overpass, occasionally at stations. For Johnny, nothing was definite.


Searching for a location free of fire

by the use of a lantern. -Htoo Eain Thin (Burmese singer)


Johnny used to say he was laid back whenever he was having problems.

The world was centered on Johnny the boy. Actually, riding his horse around wasn’t really practical. Since Johnny was Johnny, challenges were challenges.

Johnny was a terrible young man. Johnny was a foolish youngster. Johnny was a stupid kid.

Johnny rode his horse into the subway. Johnny looked like an alien. Johnny reminded me of Tarzan.

Newspaper articles mentioned Johnny. The media questioned Johnny.

Where are you from, Johnny?

»I am a global citizen. I’m traveling all over the place.« Yes, Johnny is Johnny. It was just Johnny.


The tone of Johnny’s father’s words to him was stern.

»Don’t worry, son. Everything will be alright. Breathe easily.«

Johnny didn’t hear anything from his father while he was playing his iPod.

»How did you say that? Repeat?«

Johnny rebelliously questioned his father.

His dad became irate.

»You don’t care about my words, son of a bitch? You must leave my house!«

His father gave him the boot.


Johnny had no feelings because he was laid back. Perhaps his father is now drinking whiskey. He didn’t give a damn. Easy-going.

Johnny entered the world on a horse.

Nobody knew of Johnny’s search criteria.

Johnny himself had no idea what he was looking for.

Johnny was a laid-back young man.

Take it easy, he said as he continued on his journey.

Horseshoes clopped loudly as he passed along a dusty road.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - The Boy Named Johnny

Mo Thet Han reading his short story »The Boy Named Johnny,« Akademie Schloss Solitude, Winterfest 2023, photo: Frank Keinbach

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