Why May Not I Love Johnny?


"I shall go crazy," Doyle announced from his cramped spot by the window.

"Too late," Bodie said cheerfully.

Doyle made a face but reflected that it was, quite possible, true. They had been here for eighteen hours. Eighteen hours without food, eighteen hours without a break. Doyle said it out loud. "Eighteen bloody hours!"

"And thirteen minutes," Bodie added helpfully. Doyle wanted to turn around and thump him one, but it was Doyle's turn to watch the house and he would not be able to forgive himself if Hakiku disappeared in that brief moment it would take to murder his partner. They had been on this trail all week. He was not about to ruin it now!

There was a mysterious thud behind him. "What are you up to now?" Doyle asked in an irritated whisper. There was a flat under them. Of course, the occupants were probably used to unexpected sounds at all hours. The place was riddled with rats and mice and other unpleasant and unmodern inconveniences.

"Just looking through the box. Don't get your knickers in a twist!"

"We've seen it all before. There's nothing there but some ruined toys and rags."

"You're wrong. There's a book!" Bodie held it up aloft, ignoring that his mate could not even look around to see the battered item he triumphantly produced.

"A book? Bible? Cookbook? Latin text?" Doyle named off the items he had the least use for at the moment, knowing how his luck was running.

"The title is," Bodie paused for effect, but not for too long. He knew his partner's current temper! "The Real Mother Goose."

"I was close," Doyle mumbled, with a very real sigh.

"Your favorite book, is it?" Bodie asked.

"Never read it," Doyle said, truthfully.

"Nor I," Bodie admitted, opening the book.

"Why not?"

"Not my sort of thing. Went directly from nappies to the streets, same as you did," Bodie said. It was quite close to the truth. He read a bit, and said, "I remember my grannie telling me some of these, though, before she died."

"You had a grannie?" The idea of Bodie on the knee of a sweet old lady was enough to make Doyle grin.

"Everyone does. Two, even. I had mine until I was six."

"Mine was never around. Disapproved of us, she did. Tin pot Irish, she called us, with a proper sniff at the end."

"Didn't approve of your da?" Bodie suggested.

"Among other things." Doyle did not want to talk about that. "What's in the book? You can read the good bits aloud to me," he offered generously.

"Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick?" Bodie offered, reading one off at random.

"I've heard that one, of course. D'you ever wonder what the silly prat was up to, leaping about that way?"

"Bored, I expect. He'd probably been on stakeout too long," Bodie suggested. "You know the stupid stuff the blokes get up to, sitting around with nothing to do? Somebody probably dared Jack to jump it, and he did it to win a few pennies. Remember last week, they were betting how many crackers Murphy could get into his mouth at one time?"

"I remember you challenged him, and lost. Looked a right fool with your cheeks out like a squirrel and crumbs down your front!" Doyle then added, "And you lost!"

"Of course I did. Realized that if I won, they'd tease me about having the biggest mouth on the squad, and I'd have proved it to them! Decided that I didn't want to be known as the biggest mouth--can tease Murph about that now!--and if I was to be known for the biggest of something, it'd be for the biggest...."

"Arse?" Doyle asked sweetly.

"You're in the right area," Bodie agreed, kindly.

Doyle decided to change the subject. He did not want to discuss the fact that Bodie undoubtedly did have the biggest whanger on the squad. That would bring up his own endowments, which, while no means overly modest, still did not quite match up in length with his partner's.

"Read the whole book from the beginning," Doyle ordered. Keep the blighter busy, that was the ticket.

"Starts out with 'Little Bo-Peep'" Bodie announced. "I didn't know it was so long," he added, and read it through in a voice which was actually quite pleasant. He even added some drama to the part where Bo-Peep (Stupid name for a bird, he added in an aside.) finds the lost tails hung on a tree to dry and runs back to put them back on the sheep. After a lively discussion on what she might possibly have used as glue or a fastener--and how the silly things had lost their tails in the first place.

It wasted fifteen minutes, and it took their minds off the dullness, while still allowing Doyle to watch.

"Time to trade," Doyle announced, and handed the glasses over to Bodie, taking in turn the book. He settled himself comfortably and paged through it for a moment.

"Ahem," Bodie pretended to clear his throat. "You were reading the second one?"

"Was I?" Doyle asked, but obediently flipped back to the right spot. "Oi!" he said, as loudly as he dared, "This one's about you." With appropriate gravity, he announced, "'Little Boy Blue.' It's about your eyes, mate!" He then read it aloud.

"Are you implying I sleep on the job?" Bodie said, with just the hint of an edge to his voice.

"No," Doyle said, truthfully. He then read off 'The Clock', a sickening little ditty about keeping the face clean and the hands doing right.

Bodie snorted. "Glad I missed that one as a child. Sounds like the sort of thing the wrong sort of nanny would quote endlessly." He had no comment as Doyle read 'Winter' and 'Fingers and Toes', but he finally said, "Just read the good ones, mate, and we'll come back to the others when we're even more bored."

"Good ones?" Doyle asked.

"Must be some," Bodie insisted. Then, as the silence lengthened, he asked, "What's taking so long?"

"Have to read them to find the good ones, don't I?" Doyle told him. "How about this one? About Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee?" As it was something they had been called, he thought Bodie might have an interest in it. Bodie did not disappoint him. He sat up straighter.

Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee
       Resolved to have a battle,
For Tweedle-dum said Tweedle-dee
        Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew by a monstrous crow,
        As big as a tar barrel,
Which frightened both the heroes so,
        They quite forgot their quarrel.

"I think," Bodie added when Doyle finished, "we've been insulted."

"I know we have," Doyle agreed. He was distracted at once by [a] picture, and then said, "We must skip this one. All it does is list food. Bread, milk, custard, tart...." Almost on cue, Bodie's stomach growled.

"I thought you were going to skip that one!" Bodie complained.

"Quite a few of these are about food, actually. Puddings, mostly," Doyle observed. Bodie reached behind him and, quite blindly but accurately, smacked Doyle's arm. "Ow!" Doyle complained, and moved back a few inches. "If you're not good, I shan't read to you at all!"

"Then I won't read to you on your turn! Play fair," Bodie demanded, which was such a childish thing to say that it caused Doyle to laugh.

"Very well. Settle down, Master William," here he ducked another blow, "and I shall read to you." He went through the one about 'If Wishes Were Horses' and 'To Market' and 'Old Chairs to Mend,' and then Bodie reminded him to just read the good ones.

Doyle turned the page, and stopped, and then almost did himself an injury trying not to laugh.

"What is it?" Bodie wanted to know.

Doyle continued to make sounds reminiscent of leaks in a tyre going over small mammals. Bodie finally took another backward swing at him, knocking him over but not stopping the disgusting sound.

"Doyle!" Bodie hissed.

"Oh, listen to this one!" Doyle at last managed to say.

Robin and Richard were two pretty men,
They lay in bed till the clock struck ten;
Then up starts Robin and looks at the sky,
"Oh, brother Richard, the sun's very high!
You go before, with the bottle and bag,
And I will come after on little Jack Nag."

"It doesn't say that!" Bodie exclaimed, half laughing himself.

"Right there in black and white!" Doyle insisted. "When it's my turn to watch again, you shall see for yourself!"

"Two pretty men!" Bodie sputtered, and finally laughed himself, keeping it quiet only with difficulty, but managing to sound at least human in the process. "Read another, Doyle!"

Doyle was willing, and began flipping through, looking for the worst in the nursery rhymes, which now did not seem at all innocent. "Oh, this one!" he said at once.

Cushy cow, bonny, let down thy milk,
And I will give thee a gown of silk;
A gown of silk and a silver tee,
If thou wilt let down thy milk to me.

The thought could not be escaped. George Cowley in a gown of silk. Doyle had to push most of his sleeve into his mouth to keep from shouting out loud. Bodie fared better, as he had duty to keep him from making a complete fool of himself.

Doyle eventually went back to paging through the book. "Here's one, which all you have to do is change one word, and it has an entirely different meaning!"

One misty moisty morning,
        When cloudy was the weather,
I chanced to meet an old man,
        Clothed all in leather.
He began to compliment,
        And I began to grin.
How do you do? And how do you do?
        And how do you do again?

"So which word would you change?" Bodie asked, when Doyle had finished reading it aloud.

"Change the 'old' to young, and you get an entirely different picture! What would say to a young man in leather who began to compliment you?"

"I'd hand him my fist!"

Doyle shook his head. "No, according to this, you'd begin to grin!"

"I don't hold with that."

"Accepting compliments from young men in leather?" Doyle thrust his own leather clad arm before Bodie and said, "I shall never say anything nice about you again!"

"You never did in the first place," Bodie said, not quite truthfully.

"You never listen," Doyle replied, with more verity. "Here then, I'll read another." He then led Bodie through 'Lock and Key' and laughed again when Bodie stopped and would not say the final line in which the second person was to declare 'I am a don key!'

"You don't play fair," Doyle declared.

"You've just figured that out? Bodie asked him, kindly. "Go on. Read some more."

Doyle silently read for a bit. "It's quite odd. What do you think of when you hear the word 'diddle'?"

"It's what you do to expense sheets?"

"That's fiddle. Diddle is what you are always bragging about doing with birds."

"So it is. And it's not bragging!" Bodie insisted.

"Indeed it is. But it is really surprising that so many of these rhymes for children have that word in them. It must have had a different meaning long ago."

"Wouldn't surprise me. Read me a diddle one," Bodie demanded. Doyle read out 'The Cat and the Fiddle' and then commented that quite a few had 'pussy' in them as well. Bodie ignored that. "And cocks," Doyle added.

"They mean roosters."

"I know that!" Doyle then read 'Bobby Snooks'.

Little Bobby Snooks was fond of his books,
        And loved by his usher and master;
But naught Jack Spry, he got a black eye,
        And carries his nose in a plaster.

"Loved by his usher and master, eh? Sounds kinky to me," Bodie agreed. "What do you suppose Jack was doing that was naughtier than what Bobby was up to?"

"The mind trembles trying to encompass it," Doyle agreed. "Here is another one about a pretty man."

        Pretty John Watts,
        We are troubled with rats,
Will you drive them out of the house?
        We have mice, too, in plenty,
        That feast in the pantry,
        But let them stay
        And nibble away,
What harm in a little brown mouse?

"They've got bigger problems than John," Bodie said. "The mice will damage as much as the rats, given time."

"I think that's the point of it. Have you noticed that half of our job is going after the mice? Not the big bad boys, but the little ones. They lead us to the rats, don't they?"

"So, that's what we're doing here? Watching a mouse hole?" Bodie asked, grinning.

"As any good cat should. Speaking of which, it's time to trade again."

"Time is going quickly. Never thought a little book like this would have so much in it," Bodie said, willingly taking the book as he handed over the binoculars. Almost at once he said, "You prat!"

"What?" Doyle wanted to know.

"Skipped the one about you, didn't you?"

Curly-locks, Curly-locks, wilt thou be mine?
Thou shalt not wash the dishes, nor yet feed the swine;
But sit on a cushion, and sew a fine seam,
And feed upon strawberries, sugar, and cream.

"Very logical," Doyle said when Bodie was finished. "I hate washing dishes, and I prefer to have nothing to do with swine. Present company excepted, of course."

"You're going to regret that, Doyle! No strawberries, sugar and cream for you!"

"You weren't going to get them for me anyway," Doyle said.

"How do you know?" Bodie asked. "You shall have corn and hay," he stated, and read off another, about a moppet in a pocket.

Doyle, to whom corn and hay was starting to sound rather good, ignored the poem and pretended to be very interested in what was going on outside. As that was nothing, this was harder than it looked.

"Lots of them about getting married," he observed, after reading a few on the subject. "Unrealistic. Lots of kissing, though. Not at all the proper thing for children."

Doyle made an inelegant sound. "What do you know about raising children?"

"Not a thing. Good thing I don't plan on doing it, isn't it?"


"Do you?"

"Do I what?"

"Plan on children?"

Doyle said, "Not at this rate. I never get three dates in a row with the same woman before something ruins it. Usually," he added darkly, "the job."

"Refuse to believe it's your breath?" Bodie asked.

"My breath is fine."

Actually, after all these hours, that was not quite true, but as he prepared a quick answer, Bodie realized something.

Doyle's bad breath, when he had it, did not bother him.

Nothing about Doyle bothered him.

In fact....

"What's wrong?" Doyle asked. "Go back to reading."

So Bodie did.

        Hot-cross buns!
        Hot-cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
        Hot-cross buns!
        Hot-cross buns!
        Hot-cross buns!
If ye have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.

It was the buns which did him in. Thinking of the buns, and Doyle. Thinking of Doyle's buns. Thinking of what Doyle's buns meant to him, and what all of Doyle meant to him, but going back again and again to the thought of Doyle's buns. He moaned.

"What?" Doyle asked, concerned.

"I'll tell you later," Bodie growled.

"What?" Doyle did not let it go.

Bodie settled for half of the truth. "All of this naughty talk is starting to get to me!" Even this one sounded bad!

Leg over leg,
As the dog went to Dover;
When he came to a stile,
Jump, he went over.

"Bodie, are you saying you're getting turned on by nursery rhymes? Wait until I tell..." but remembering the curly-locks poem, he suddenly changed his mind. "Just go over in the corner and have a quiet wank," he advised kindly.

"You're mad," Bodie told him.

Before Doyle could reply, however, Doyle straightened up. "Action! Call Father! His delivery has arrived!" Even as he spoke, Bodie was bringing the r/t to his mouth.

Eight minutes later, they were running down the stairs into the street. The children's book was left behind, the pages still fluttering in the wind of their passing. One of the pages was in Bodie's pocket, however. One of the pages which he had not yet had time to fully read, but which asked a question he was going to think about. Maybe, eventually, he'd read it aloud to Doyle, changing the name to something else. He was very much afraid he had fallen in love there in the dust of a child's long abandoned room. He was not sure what to do about it, and he didn't even have the time to think about it. Later. Later.

Johnny shall have a new bonnet,
        And Johnny shall go to the fair,
And Johnny shall have a blue ribbon
        To tie up his bonny brown hair.

And why may not I love Johnny?
        And why may not Johnny love me?
And why may not I love Johnny?
        As well as another body?

And here's a leg for a stocking,
        And here's a foot for a shoe,
And he has a kiss for his daddy,
        And two for his mammy, I trow.

And why may not I love Johnny?
        And why may not Johnny love me?
And why may not I love Johnny?
        As well as another body?

-- THE END --

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Others which were good that I didn't get into the story!

Typist's note: There is a handwritten Bodie? and arrow pointing to the last line (Will ever after handsome be.).

The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day,
And washes in dew from the hawthorn-tree,
Will ever after handsome be.

Typist's note: There is a handwritten Doyle! and arrow pointing to the first line ("To bed! To bed!") and a handwritten Bodie? and arrow pointing to the fourth line ("Put on the pan,").

"To bed! To bed!"
        Says Sleepy-head;
"Tarry awhile," says Slow;
"Put on the pan,"
        Says Greedy Nan;
        "We'll sup before we go."

Typist's note: There is a handwritten Bodie? by the side of the poem.

"Willy boy, Willy boy, where are you going?
I will go with you, if that I may."
"I'm going to the meadow to see them a-mowing,
I'm going to help them to make the hay."

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home