His mother was an illustrator. In a blank notebook she drew an image of Johnny on his very first day—updating it daily on the following pages.
On his first birthday there was this amazing flip-book of him growing up.
His mother continued doing this for another seven years. She chose activities he liked and incorporated them—a ball soaring through the air across pages. She even captured when he was sick in bed for days, reading comic after comic.
He grew to appreciate the magic of these books, which emerged only for special viewings to assure they didn’t get damaged.
Around his ninth birthday turmoil arose in Johnny’s family and his mother stopped filling the books. The following year his parents divorced and he bounced between them on alternate weeks.
His father bought one of the popular new 8mm cameras and proposed to make short films from the books. Johnny would flip the pages slowly while his father captured the movements.
Eventually all the films were put together—Johnny’s first eight years blossoming in almost 3000 moving images.
The project brought reconciliation between illustrator and photographer and they all ended up moving back together again.
Years go by. Occasional drawings and movies of Johnny.
At 18 he’s drafted—sent to Vietnam. Although precautions were taken to keep such information away from active troops, he managed to read about the Fort Hood Three—three soldiers refusing to be deployed to Vietnam—stating it was “immoral, illegal and unjust”.
Johnny had shared similar thoughts but had suppressed them. It was time for him to also speak up.
Fate arrived the following day. An unexpected attack and he found himself being transported by medics to a hospital.
The next flip-book covered the time from when he was brought back home until his birthday in December.
It mostly takes place in his bed. Troubled face. Drawings of him writing—letters and articles blazing anti-war messages. Filmed: Pete Seeger visits him bedside and sings the Ballad of the Fort Hood Three.
On his nightstand—a small wooden figure of Buddha, eyes closed in peaceful contemplation—and an hourglass; sand forever flowing.
There’s a drawing of him holding a sign—a quote by Major General Smedley Butler.
“War is a racket. It always has been.”
There was one last flip-book.
Last drawing: Johnny’s eyes closed at the hospital.
His father filmed all the final drawings into one clip and added it to the end of the others.
Film fades to black. A quote by Smedly Butler scrolls down:
“Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.
1. We must take the profit out of war.
2. We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.
3. We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.”
Johnny’s film went missing from the Smithsonian around the time of the 2003 Iraq Invasion.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Read RemingtonWrite’s version here:
In August 2020, I set myself the challenge of creating a daily digital collage based on an image and a concept. The image was that of the antique Omega watch that belonged to my Mom and the concept was Time.
In September 2020, the Anomalous Duo is challenging themselves to write a short piece of fiction for each collage — the Our Hours project.
This, at last, is the final story in the project. Whewwwwww!