The Misadventures of Johan O'Malley

The Misadventures of Johan O’Malley: Chapter 9

After my mom unpacked my stuff and set up my room for me it was time for her to leave. I appreciated her wanting to help. But now I felt she was overstaying her welcome. I was planning on getting a girlfriend down here and I felt she was just going to make me look less cool.

“Okay mom, thanks for all the help. I’ll call you in a few days. Bye!”

“Wait, sweetie, don’t you want to look around the campus a bit? We could find where all your classes are and maybe grab some lunch.” She pulled out a copy of her trusty campus map that she printed out back home. She even circled my dorm building and the closest restaurants, just in case. 

“I can do all that stuff on my own mom, thank you.”

Just as I pushed her out the door, she bumped into a girl and her father. Since my mom doesn’t know how to be respectful, to me at least, she introduced herself to them.

“Hi! I’m Jane O’Malley and this is my son Johan. What’s your daughter’s name?

The short man with the salt and pepper hair smiled at my mom before saying, “This is Haley. We just drove all the way here from Michigan.” 

“Oh wow, what a long trip. We drove down the other day from the Boston area.” 

Haley and I made eye contact, but neither of us said a word. She ran a hand through her long bright-red hair and gave me a soft smile with her full pink lips. Wow, was she pretty. The kind of pretty that left me speechless. 

“Hey,” she said. “This is so awkward, right?” She rolled her pale eyes at her father. 

I just nodded like an idiot. 

“I told my dad not to introduce himself to everyone he meets. But whatever, I’m Haley.”

“Johan,” I said. “My name is Johan.” 

“It’s nice to meet you, Johan,” she said before turning toward her dad. “Dad, come on. Let these nice people go. We have to move everything in.” 

Her dad and my mom said bye and then we were finally out of the building. Standing on a street corner with cars zipping by, my mom held back tears in her brown eyes. “You’re so grown up.” And then some other stuff about me being so independent, blah blah blah. 

“Okay mom, bye,” I finally said before she hugged me one last time. With her in a yellow cab going back to her own car at the hotel, I could explore Manhattan on my own. This city was where dreams came true and for the summer, it was all mine. 


I only had an hour to explore midtown before I had to be back for the orientation welcome seminar. Behind the lobby of the dorm building was a small auditorium just big enough to seat all the students and faculty. 

I spotted Haley’s red ponytail right away and fought my way through other students in order to take the empty seat next to her. 

“Johan,” she said, giving me a bright smile.

“Hey Haley, are you ready for this?”

“I hope so. I’m a little nervous. This program is supposed to be intense.”

“Just stick with me and you’ll be fine.” She rolled her eyes at my comment, but kept smiling. It meant my charm started to work on her. “We can even get dinner tonight if you want,” I added. I tried to sound like a big deal on day one, I would buy her a nice meal. And by nice, I meant under $20 for the two of us. 

“Um Johan, it’s a group dinner tonight. Part of our meal plan.”

I could feel my face getting warmer by the second. Of course… The second floor housed a small cafeteria and tonight was the welcome pizza and cake party. I tried to pretend like my slipup hadn’t bothered me. 

“Right, of course. Some other time.”

Haley didn’t have time to respond because Ms. Donoghue walked up to the podium in her enormes stilettos. She looked like she meant business and as the Head Mistress of the program, she could make or break your career.

She cleared her throat and grabbed the microphone. “Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to Broadway Bound dance camp. I’m Evelyn Donoghue, your Head Mistress for the summer. These eight weeks will be intense. In fact, some of you may quit before summer’s end. But successful completion of this program and a letter of recommendation from me can get you into any college program in the country. While most of you dream of Broadway, not all of you will make it.” 

I usually didn’t respond to scare tactics, but I did from her. Evelyn Donoghue danced in ten different Broadway productions, toured the world and owned the most successful dance studio in all of Manhattan. Winning over this woman gave me a first-class ticket to my own career. 

After the orientation speech, everyone ran out of the auditorium in a hurry. Haley had left the seat next to mine before I could speak to her again. I decided to look for her to ask if she would want to come back to my room and practice for jazz class tomorrow. Of course I was hoping that this practice would lead to something more, but Haley didn’t need to know that. 

But when I found her in the lobby, she was in the middle of being twirled around and dipped by another man; some stupid blonde guy who looked like a prince out of a Disney film. I couldn’t believe how good looking this guy was; let alone how good his dancing was, it was terrible! Even worse, she was laughing and smiling at him! My heart sank. The only time I’d felt more upset was when Mike refused to point out my herculean physique to Melody at Mohammed’s pool party last summer. 

I went back to my room and tried to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach. Prom night was happening all over again. I then walked over to my freezer and, after eight long months on the wagon, cracked open a nice cold pint of Ben & Jerry’s that my mom put in there when she didn’t think I’d noticed. Everyone I ended up caring about always betrayed me. I figured it wouldn’t matter if I betrayed myself. After finishing that, I ran out to the store and bought three more pints in various flavors. I ate them as soon as I got back to my dorm.

For some reason, in my ice cream induced haze, I felt like I was being watched.


I woke up the next morning from a nightmare that I had found a pimple on my otherwise perfect face. It must have been a stress dream caused by Haley liking another guy. I walked into the bathroom to get ready for the day but when I looked in the mirror, I screamed. It was even worse than my nightmares, I had THREE pimples. They had formed into an evil Bermuda triangle on my nose.

“Oh my god, are you screaming about that pimple again?” a voice said. It scared the shit out of me, because who heck was in my room?

“Who’s there?” I screamed.

“Jared,” he said with an annoyed tone. 

It was my roommate, Jared. That was why I must’ve felt like someone watched me last night. In all the craziness of moving in, we hadn’t actually met yet. But I remembered seeing his name next to mine on the door. I didn’t know what he meant by “again” though, since this is the first time I noticed pimples on my fair skin.

“What do you mean, Jared? How did you know about my pimples?”

“Oh my god, you have more. Well you only had one when I saw you last night. You came home absolutely livid, saying that some girl told you she wanted you and that you later found her kissing and dry humping another guy on a staircase. You then seemed to go into a trance. You devoured a pint of ice cream and then left the room. I started to worry that you had gone out to hurt someone, but right before I was going to call campus safety you stormed into the room carrying four pints of ice cream”

Four pints! That must mean that there’s one left.

“What?” Jared asked

“Oh nothing, sorry.” I really needed to learn to speak to myself in a quieter tone. At least I now knew that it was stress that was causing those blackouts and I didn’t have to worry anymore. I did, however, overdramatize what Haley did when recounting everything to Jared. Oh well. I had jazz in less than an hour and needed to be the best one in the class. Haley wouldn’t be able to resist. 


After a grueling day of jazz, tap and contemporary, Jared told me about the party being thrown off campus. One of the other senior’s sisters went to NYU and planned a party in her loft in the East Village. Jared scored us invites and wanted us to hangout together…as long as I was less embarrassing. According to the gossip though, the senior with the sister also happened to be Haley’s roommate, meaning I’d have a chance to spend time with her tonight. I got out my nicest clothes, spritzed on a bit of expensive cologne I stole from Arthur and covered my pimples with the concealer I took from my mom’s purse. I was ready!

The party was going great. I was still pissed about what happened yesterday. But I was talking to a group of really hot girls who seemed to be into me. I could get them to laugh even when I wasn’t trying to be funny! And I know for a fact they were laughing with me. I kept throwing back shots to impress them. Judging by their expressions, I could tell it was working. Getting Haley to notice me was going to be easier than I thought. I threw back a few more shots of Tequila to give myself some much needed confidence. But the room began to spin and the wooden floor became uneven. 

That was when I saw her standing in a corner of the loft, laughing with a hot blonde girl with hot pink streaks in her hair. This must be a new friend of hers. This was going to be much easier than I thought. I walked right over to them and didn’t say anything. I just grabbed her friend and spun her into me. Just as I expected she smiled and went along with it. We danced together for hours. Or at least I assumed we did. The shots caused me to black out a few seconds afterwards, but not before imagining Haley getting in between us and saying, “Johan’s my guy.” If only.

14 thoughts on “The Misadventures of Johan O’Malley: Chapter 9”

  1. I’ve been on the edges of Johan o’Malley’s world since chapter 7 was released or shortly after [April 2022]

    Now I get to see Johan in his professional role.

    [or putting himself out to do something about which he is passionate].

    Haley is a great character and mentor.

    Chapter Nine had me think of TINY PRETTY THINGS on Netflix [which I saw Christmas 2020 and May 2021].

    And the grandfather scenario.

    I do remember that Johan had a fairly serious injury.

    [and he was having the characters Make Much of Said Injury]

    [Dancing and drinking don’t mix; dancing and drinking don’t mix].

    Having just read [again] about Disney princes – I think of Phoebus in particular in HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME or even John Smith in POCHAHONTAS. With those proud jaws and cheekbones.

    [Emily Oster wrote a great data-driven piece about Disney Princesses in reply to a parent’s question. Look for PARENTDATA on Substack].

    [probably not Aladdin!]

    [I wonder why no first-era Princes come up – the ones from the fairytales eg Snow White and Cinderella – for me Aurora’s Prince is probably the most important – though the least consensual].

    In Australia there is a radically rewritten CINDERELLA which has a Sebastian who is the son of the Exchequer and like Johan he has a bit of damage which Cinderella sees. It is a musical and one Nicholas Hammond is in it.

    [Some people will remember Hammond as Friederich in SOUND OF MUSIC – others will know him as SPIDERMAN in the 1970s – and yet more people will know him from lots of Eighties and Nineties miniseries].

    And that title NOT EVERYONE WILL MAKE IT – I saw what was in the tags and categories…

    Nightmares and stress dreams! [that fictive pimple for one].

    I love your sensory details near the end – for example the floor was uneven and Johan became dizzy [putting it into third person so I can talk through it and NOT feel the impact along with him – a bit of distance when you’re critiquing and sharing!].






    That “hot blonde girl with hot pink streaks” – would she really be the one to Smile and Go Along to Get Along? With Johan?

    And the dancing was probably really in minutes – so terribly compressed your narrative is, Christy and Ben!

    And Johan always has to have the self-aggrandising imagination…


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