The Misadventures of Johan O'Malley

The Misadventures of Johan O’Malley: A Very Merry Johan

“Tis the season to be Johan,” I sang loudly while walking into the local mall. It felt like Christmas was finally here. The candle store displayed scents of pine and fresh baked cookies, a big tree lit with multi-colored lights stood proudly and a red and gold chair took over the center of the mall. One lucky person would get to play Santa this holiday season and it had to be me. After my disaster of a Thanksgiving play, this was coming from The Boston Globe, not me, I had to do something to improve my reputation. Hence my first job ever. 

I wore my best holiday sweater, which included reindeer all over it, a nice pair of dress pants and Arthur’s oxfords. I dressed to impress the Christmas committee at the mall, the ones who made all the decisions. Not only would I be Santa, I wanted to perform at the holiday talent show the week before Christmas. The only thing missing was a band, but I had that covered. Today the job interview, tomorrow I held auditions for my band in my garage. My loser friends Mike and Mohammed didn’t want to be in a band with me…something about control issues. When they brought that up, I got so mad that I kicked the two of them out of Mike’s house.

I sat down with a bunch of other guys my age and older, all wanting to get the best holiday job of all. Finally, a large man with salt and pepper hair called my name to go back into the office with him and the rest of the panel. I practically squealed when he said “Johan O’Malley?”

“I’m here, sir!’

“Great,” said the man, this man actually sounded exactly how I imagined Santa to sound.

“Your uncle has told me some great things about you. And that I should ignore all the stuff in The Boston Globe. And don’t worry about all the other Santa’s who didn’t get the job. I’m sure nothing will happen like last year.”

I had forgotten about that. Last year, the man in charge gave his son the job instead of one of the many other, much more eligible, applicants. The guys who didn’t get it got so mad that they showed up to the mall and told every kid in line that the reason Santa didn’t have elves with him was because he locked them all in an igloo up at the North Pole! Then every kid who approached him told him that for Christmas they wanted him thrown in jail.

I was also a bit surprised that my uncle told him to ignore what was written in The Globe considering he wrote the article. But I guess he was just doing my mom a favor. The rest of the interview went really well, thankfully, so I figured that I had it in the bag. 

Afterwards, I met up with two other guys I chatted with on Facebook who said they were also hoping to perform with a band in the talent show. While I planned official auditions tomorrow in my garage, I sent out a message on a local Facebook group. These two guys couldn’t meet tomorrow, so they begged for me to squeeze them in today. 

We met at a Dunkin Donuts that one of them said was the furthest away from his house that he was allowed to walk. I was a little worried because that sounded like some sort of house arrest and I really didn’t want to get involved with any more criminals at this point. But when I got to the Dunkin Donuts, I saw that he was a nine-year-old kid

And what was even worse was that the other guy must have been in his fifties! I guess nobody thought it looked suspicious because they assumed the two of them were related. I asked the kid if his parents knew he was here and he just nodded and mischievously giggled, which prevented me from asking any further questions that weren’t related to the band.

We introduced ourselves, but I knew this conversation wasn’t going anywhere. So, I thanked them for their time, but said I was looking for someone between the ages of 15 and 18. The older man left first and then I assumed the kid would, when I recognized him from the Thanksgiving play! It was Little Timmy, the first kid to throw a REAL punch on stage.

He took his chocolate donut and met my green eyes with his brown ones, before saying “You’re going to be sorry.”


“We wish you a merry Johan,” I sang as I got dressed for auditions. I expected for there to be a HUGE line down the street. So, I showered, put product in my dark hair and stole Liam’s leather jacket to make me look like a rockstar.

Auditions started in ten minutes, so I rushed downstairs, grabbed a cup of coffee (which I put cream and ten sugars in) and set up the garage for my guests. We had a keyboard, Arthur’s old acoustic guitar and Liam’s old drum set, which he stopped playing at twelve, but my mom wouldn’t get rid of it because her perfect child was oh so talented. 

At this moment, I expected to open the door and find a bunch of guys eagerly waiting to perform for me. But when I did, I found only two. The first guy held a pair of drumsticks…the ones not made of chicken. The other had the strap of a red electric guitar hanging from his shoulder. 

I mustered up all the enthusiasm that I could “Welcome, welcome, one and all.”

I learned that the drummer’s name was Sebastian Swain and the other’s name was Craig Bach. I knew exactly what we should name our band. I was thankful that the two of them at least knew how to play instruments, which was more than I could say for Mike and Mohammed. Sebastian said he was the lead drummer in a band last year and Craig told me he had been taking guitar lessons since he was four. 

I volunteered to be the lead singer because, although I’ve never taken lessons, I knew how to project my voice well and my mom always smiled when I sang happy birthday to her, so I must be pretty damn good.

So after a quick discussion, we agreed to meet tomorrow for our first practice. We only had a week to get ready for the talent show.


After driving to Sebastian’s house and meeting up with the guys in the driveway, we walked down into the basement and set up all the equipment. I then realized we should probably know each other’s musical talents before getting started so I asked them what songs they could play. It turned out that Sebastian’s band only played covers of songs that came out between 1960 and 1980 and Craig thought that anything made before 1980 was outdated and stupid. 

This almost resulted in a physical altercation between the two. I was about to step in when I remembered my dad telling me a story about seeing The Who in concert a lot during the 70s and said that they fought each other onstage all the time. I then remembered some of the rock documentaries Liam would tie me down and force me to watch as a kid (which is a story for another time) and it seemed that all the best rock bands fought. This was when I got a great idea.

I ran toward them and yelled “Let’s fight” before jumping on Sebastians’ back. But I should have thought this plan through because he immediately jumped up like he was a wrestler doing a finishing move and caused me to land on my back and with him and Craig’s guitar on top of me. The fall knocked the wind out of me and put me in a daze which, I came out of a few moments later to find that Sebastian and Craig had now started laughing at me. At least my fall ended the tension between them. 

“I’m telling on you!” I yelled. I realized right when I said it just how stupid it sounded and that it would just make the two of them laugh even more. But, surprisingly, it got them to stop. I thought Craig’s eyes even began to water. I later found out that he got suspended last year for starting a brawl at school and if his parents suspected bad behavior of any kind, they’d ship him off to military school. I decided from that point on that we wouldn’t discuss any personal matters, just stuff related to the band.

Before leaving practice, we decided to perform one song from the 70s and one from the 90s at the talent show. It was a 30 second conversation that could have prevented the whole argument. I started walking upstairs, hoping that tomorrow’s practice would go better than what happened today. Both Sebastian and Craig began following me up the stairs which I thought was a little strange. Before leaving I gave them each a bro hug to look cool and said “Alright, see you guys tomorrow. Thanks again for letting us use your house to practice, Sebastian. I’m really sorry about messing up your basement. I hope the vase I fell on wasn’t important to you. At least the instruments are fine.”

“Dude, this isn’t my house.” Sebastian responded, confused. “I thought Craig lived here.”

“Sebastian, man. I thought you said this was your place.” Craig said, worriedly.

Without saying a word, we all sprinted to our cars and drove off simultaneously, which definitely was not a smart move because a bunch of houses in this neighborhood were hosting early holiday gatherings, so all of the people driving and walking around on the street definitely saw us. And to make matters worse, there had been reports of break-ins in the area so we would definitely be suspected of theft.

I put on the relaxing music of my favorite composer to calm my nerves on the way home, which seemed to do the trick. But when I pulled into my driveway, I had a terrible realization. I was the one who suggested we meet at that house. I suggested it thinking it was where Sebastian lived but then I remembered that’s where Little Timmy said he lived while we were at Dunkin Donuts. That would explain all the little kid’s toys in the basement because I remembered something about him having younger siblings. I assumed Sebastian was just a collector. 

I felt terrible, but at the moment there was nothing I could do to fix it. At least not without getting in trouble. I decided to go to bed and try to forget about this whole thing. Hopefully at tomorrow’s practice we would actually get around to playing some music.


The last week had been nothing but school, band practice and my job as the mall Santa. Strangely enough, I rocked the red suit, white hair and white beard. Today, I had the Santa morning shift before going home, taking a nap and getting ready for my band to go on. Anyone could sign up for tonight, so it would be long, but the winner would get to produce a single with a real record label. I wanted that for my college resume and for ya know, fame. 

When I sat down on my special chair, I felt confident. All the kids had loved me so far. Then a woman approached me with three little girls. I had to do something big to impress this woman so I let her three daughters all sit on my lap at once which she thought was sweet. I then asked them what they wanted for Christmas and they all told me they wanted to spend the holiday with their daddy. The mother then explained to me that their father was in the military and stationed in Kuwait. I wanted to keep making a good impression on this woman, but the realist in me started to go take over.

“Oh no, no noooo, little girls. Your daddy is needed in Kuwait, not here. Why don’t I get you all a nice fun Barbie set. After all, Santa delivers gifts, not pipe dreams!”

I saw the moment everyone’s faces lit up, which must have meant they appreciated my lesson in harsh truths. But suddenly a man dressed in a full military outfit appeared behind me. I was so startled that I jumped out of the chair and all three girls tumbled to the ground. 

“Daddy,” the youngest one screamed. 

The mom didn’t even seem to care that I let her daughters fall to the floor because in a second, the whole family started hugging and crying. The entire line started to cheer as the family embraced, before leaving for a nice family lunch. But you know what they did forget? My tip! I pretty much made the entire reunion happen. But then the mom circled back and yelled something at me that was incredibly startling.

“What kind of monster are you?! First you traumatize my children and I when we’re shopping for Halloween decorations and now you ruin our Christmas reunion. You are a horrible man!”

It took me a minute to realize what she was saying, but then I remembered this was one of people shopping for a holiday costume for children. In fact, her children were part of the large group that turned me into a mummy. 

After that incident, the day started going pretty well. I assumed the rest of the shift would be nice and easy, but then a bunch of men who looked like they belonged in the NFL started flooding in all looking at me like I had wronged them. Then I remembered what the man who gave me the job had told me.

I was scared these guys were going to tell all the kids in line something that would make them hate me as well, like they did to the guy who took the Santa job last year. And now I wish they had. Because what they ended up doing was so much worse.

Last year some annoying teenagers reported the mall for age discrimination for saying only children 12 and under can sit on Santa’s lap, so this year they removed the age restriction which means anyone can. So a whole crowd of giant men formed a line and all began sitting on me and telling me all sorts of horrible things they wanted to happen to me for Christmas. I was disturbed at how specific they were. After the tenth guy, I completely lost feeling in my legs so the next few dozen weren’t quite as bad.

The worst part was they kept doing that until my shift ended. As soon as I got home, I took a long hot shower and took a nice nap. I made sure to set an alarm to get ready for tonight. 

By the time I woke up, the sun started to set. I felt ready. My dark hair looked perfect and styled, I put on my favorite jeans and a black worn leather jacket and did a few vocal exercises in the mirror. The band’s original plan to sing a song from the 70s and 90s didn’t work because of the constant bickering between Craig and Sebastian, so we opted to write an original. It took A LOT of work, but a special someone in the audience would appreciate it. 

Before I knew it, I went back to the mall and found the large stage hovering in front of an imposing crowd. Everyone in town seemed to be here. My mom, Arthur, Liam and even my crush Melody. I thought Mike and Mohammed would come and support me, but I couldn’t find their faces tonight. 

“Hey,” Sebastian said. He added a red streak to his long hair and it actually worked. 

“Hey, are you ready?”

“I was born ready.”

Craig showed up a few minutes later and I couldn’t wait for the MC to call our names. The first act called up was introduced as M & M. It took my eyes a second to register that M & M stood for Mike and Mohammed, who didn’t want to perform with me! Mohammed took vocals and Mike strummed on his acoustic guitar. They weren’t cool enough to sing an original and opted for You’re Beautiful by James Blunt.

“Boo,” I yelled from backstage, but it was no use because the crowd LOVED Mohammed’s sappy voice. 

A few more bands performed, but none of them stood out. Suddenly, two people I recognized went on stage. If I had had water in my mouth, I would have spit it all over Sebastian and Craig. 

“No way,” I yelled. Little Timmy sat on a bench behind a sleek keyboard and the 50 year old man took his place next to the microphone. These two became a band without ME?

Little Timmy knew how to play the keyboard very well, which explained all the instruments in his basement. 

Then they started performing. I was mesmerized by the harmony these two guys could produce together. They’re voices blended perfectly to create the most incredible sound. I couldn’t believe the baritone on Little Timmy. The two of them sounded just like the Everly Brothers. I was about to start crying, but then I started to actually listen to the lyrics.

When we first met at Dunkin Donuts

And our third bandmate disowned us

It turned out to be a bonus

Because his music skills suck so much

Hold on, were they singing about me?! I continued listening to the song to see if I was just jumping to conclusions.

We were abanaaandoned

(yes abandoned)

By a man named Johan

We couldn’t stand him

(couldn’t stand him)

So when he said “so long”

We felt free

(we felt free)

We finally could go on

And we’re better

(so much better)

Without stupid Johan!

Oh my god! I didn’t abandon them. I just didn’t think we were a good fit to form a band together. Sadly, it seems that I was the one who stood in the way of their success. They finished that song which they then announced was their debut single We Met at Dunkin Donuts and Ignored the Loser (Johan) Who Introduced Us which I thought was a lot longer than necessary.

They then announced their next song called To Whoever Broke in and Destroyed My House, I’m Going to Find You. I ran away as soon as I heard that song title even though I didn’t think anyone suspected it. As great as these guys were at performing, they could really use help coming up with song titles. I mean, who did they think they were, Fall Out Boy?

Finally, the MC came back to the stage and I knew that he would announce my awesome band. I started jumping up and down from the anticipation. Everyone in town would remember my name. 

“Please welcome to the stage Johan O’Malley, Sebastian Swain, and Craig Bach making their debut as the band Johan Sebastian…Craig!?”

A confused hush fell over the crowd which I assumed was just people being shocked to learn that I also had musical talent to go along with all my many other talents.

“Hello Metrowest!” I yelled. All great concerts start off with the lead singer announcing the name of the city where they were performing. But since we were at the Metrowest Regional Mall, I decided just to say hello to the whole region.

“We are Johan Sebastian Craig. And our first song we’d like to dedicate to a special someone.” Now was my big moment. I wanted to look into Melody’s eyes so I could always remember her expression when she fell in love with me.

Hey Melody

Loving you might be a felony

That’s what they keep telling me

When I see you with other guys I get filled with jealousy

I could tell by her expression that I was winning her over. If these first few lines were already winning her over. The rest of the song would make her jump on me as soon as we finished.

I love you more than I love anyone

Sorry ex-girlfriends, but I’ve moved on

Just like you, I want something special

Don’t you want me as your romantic vessel?

I realized when singing this that I must have sounded like the perfect boyfriend to Melody. She probably swooned the second that she heard her name mentioned

I know it’s too soon to talk about forever

But if you choose me, never say never

It’s impossible to exaggerate

How much I believe that you’re great

I can’t think about you

Without starting to…


I heard a collective sigh of relief when I said the last word. I don’t know how else they thought I was going to end it. Then someone from the audience yelled “I love you, Johan!” which I knew was Melody even though it sounded just like my mom’s voice. I stayed up there and bowed and blew kisses to the crowd, searching for Melody’s face the whole time, but I didn’t see it. She must have been waiting for me backstage. I rushed back there where I found her making out with Craig!

“Melody!?” I yelled, somehow sounding more like a disappointed father than a heartbroken teen. “I wrote a love song for you and you’re making out with my bandmate! How could you do this?” 

“What do you mean, Johan? Craig told me he came up with it. Isn’t that right, sweetie? He said all of you came up with was the band name which doesn’t even make sense. You should have called it Johan Sebastian Bach.”

“Yeah,” Craig said, very confidently, “don’t you remember I gave you the idea and you told me it was perfect.”

Okay, three things were wrong here. One: Melody just met this guy, as far as I know, and she’s already calling him sweetie? Two: Johan Sebastian Bach, who was that? And three: Craig just gave me the idea for the title. I was trying to think of something really witty and creative and he goes “Dude, we need to practice. Why don’t you just call it Melody’s Love Song and move on so we can get back to work.”

I was heartbroken, but someone on the mic said that it was time to announce the winner. So I wiped the tears away from my face and got ready to give my acceptance speech. Or maybe I should keep crying. Everybody loves when someone’s emotional when accepting an award.

“The winner of this year’s talent show, which includes a record deal and $1,000, is the team of Little Timmy and his older partner for their beautiful, creative blend of acapella and instrumental!”

I began approaching the front of the stage to accept my award when I realized what the woman had just said. How could Little Timmy and that older guy have won? Why does nobody seem to know his name? And “blend of acapella and instrumental”? That’s just music!

Everyone was staring at me as I stood at the front of the stage looking dumbfounded. I didn’t really know what to do so I just moonwalked my way backstage. I heard a couple people boo when I did that which I found a tad unnecessary. I didn’t think this moment could get any worse. But then I heard the crowd chanting for an encore. That should be me they wanted an encore from.

“Okay everyone, settle down.” The announcer called. “I’m sure they would love to give you one more song.”

I wanted to run home and lock myself in my room, but Little Timmy’s voice was just so beautiful that I couldn’t resist listening to them perform.

Little Timmy then started to speak, “Thank you, everybody. You’ve been an incredible audience. Our final song of the evening is called Don’t Steal My Award.”

Oh my god! How in the world could they already have a song about that. It just happened. As much as I wanted to hear them perform, I couldn’t bear to stay because everyone definitely knew this song was about me.

I decided to walk home. I didn’t want to be in a car with mom and Arthur right now because on the way outside they couldn’t stop talking about how great Timmy and the older gentleman were. I planned to just take a nice, hot shower and then head off to bed. But when I walked into the house I could have sworn I could still hear Little Timmy singing.

“Is that coming from the radio?!” I asked my mom, bewildered.

“It is, Johan! I guess after we left some of the guys from the local station asked them to come down to the office and perform live so none of the people who missed the talent show would have to miss out on their beautiful voices.”

“Wow, good for them!” I said, with a little too much enthusiasm to make her believe it wasn’t forced. “You know, I’m the one who brought them together. I created them!”

“I’m sure you did, sweetie,” my mom replied in a condescending tone I hadn’t heard since I was five.

“Alright, well. Goodnight!” I called down to her.

“Shh!” she and Arthur both said. “Don’t talk over the music.”

Okay, everything about today was a disaster. I crawled into bed and tried falling asleep. I couldn’t stand to experience one more second of today. But as I drifted off, I had a terrible realization. I was humming along to the radio! As much as I hated Little Timmy and the older man, I had to admit that their sound mesmerized me.

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