Friday, July 01, 2011

A bad Day For Billy


A shot rang out and the crowd cheered…

The taxi ride seemed to take forever. Traffic had been bad even though the sun had only begun to rise. His luggage had not arrived with him. Billy tried in vain to call his wife, but his cellular phone would not work.

He stuffed the phone in his pocket in frustration. Still, he was wearing a smile. The memory of last week’s rendezvous with a young flight attendant perfumed his mind with articulate clarity. In his mind, he could still feel every kiss and each long caress. He was in his forties and balding. The affection of such a young and lovely mistress made his mind spin.

Then he saw the billboard. It was one of those kind where the messages were pop-in letters and could be changed daily. The sign read:



This also sent his mind to spinning.

Billy winced and pulled out his wallet to make sure he had not miscounted. Three dollars. In the front pocket of his pants, there was the occasional jingle of some loose change.

He asked the driver to please stop by the nearest automatic money machine and explained that he had spent the last of his cash on bourbon while in flight. This was not a necessary explanation as the driver had rolled the window down in an attempt to escape the fumes emanating from Billy’s coat. There had been spillage during some slight turbulence. Billy was not too terribly pleased with the situation either as this was a brand new suit. Now, it was a brand new suit with a stain.

The driver pulled into the first parking lot of a convenience store that displayed an ATM sign. Billy stepped out of the car and entered the store.

He walked to the money machine and extracted a credit card from his wallet, punched in his ID number and waited for his cash to come popping out. What he received instead was a digital message that he had insufficient funds for the transaction. He grumbled to himself and tried another card. Same result. He tried a third card and the machine printed out the same message and made a sound that, to Billy, sounded like mocking laughter.

The frail voice behind him asked him to please hurry. He turned around and found himself looking down into the face a short, elderly woman.

She stared at him for a moment and then asked, “Isn’t your name Billy? You’re Joan’s husband, are you not? My daughter works with her.”

Billy managed a half smile and acknowledged that he was indeed Joan’s husband. The woman edged her way past Billy and inserted her card. The machine popped several bills into the slot, where she grabbed them and put them in her purse.

“Look, I don’t know you, but since you seem to know my wife, I’d like to ask a favor of you. Could I please borrow a hundred dollars or so? I’ll send Joan with it to your daughter in the morning.”

The woman smiled and said, “I’ll be right back.”

Billy paced back and forth between the machine and the entrance, or exit depending upon one’s direction. Then he gave a slight jump, startled as he was by the shriek let out behind him. He spun and WHAM! The woman slammed a bag of flour into his face. “ Take that you filthy, fornicating philanderer!” she screamed as loud as she could manage with her frail voice.

Stunned, Billy fell by the door. He had never considered the possibility of a bag of flour being used as a weapon. He was a now a convert of such a tactic.

Blood had spurted from his nose and mixed with the flour to form a pinkish paste across the lapels of his coat. He regained his senses somewhat and glanced up at the woman. “Hey lady,” he groaned. “This happens to be a brand new suit.”

He helplessly watched as she walked out the door and handed his taxi driver a wad of money, then climbed into the back seat. The tires of the cab screeched as it sped off.

Billy managed a monosyllabic utterance of, “Shit!” Then he realized that he was sitting in something wet. Someone must have spilled a drink of some sort at the exact spot where he fell.

“Sir? Do you need to call the police or something?” the clerk inquired, while obviously trying to contain a laughter that probably would have sounded like a slightly more hysterical version of the sound that the money machine had previously made.

Billy said nothing. He managed to get to his feet and walk out the door. The bank he used was only a couple of blocks away, his office only a few blocks farther.

Upon rounding the back of the store, Billy encountered the large brown dog. It was a mutt, but a large one. The dog snarled and growled. Its teeth were bared. Billy, not particularly fond of dogs in the first place, decided to run for a tree. The dog pursued.

Billy reached the tree at just about the same time as the dog did. He did manage to jump high enough to grab hold of a branch. The branch was large and strong and bore his weight well. The dog did, however, possess a great ability to leap. It took no more than a half of a second for it to snag a portion of the right leg of Billy’s pants. The dog then ran off as though it had discovered a trove of bones left behind by pirates.

“This is a new suit, you stupid beast!” Billy cried.

After ascertaining that the dog was gone, Billy dropped himself from the branch. Unfortunately, he landed on a rock at an awkward angle and twisted his ankle. To make matters worse, his right hand struck a broken bottle.

He cursed silently to himself as he picked the fragments of glass out of his bleeding palm. “Shit!” he screamed at the heavens. He thought about going back into the store and asking for a paper towel, but decided instead to tear off a portion of his shirt and wrap it around the wounded appendage.

The limping gait to the bank did not take as long as he would have thought, but was arduous, none the less. He filled out a withdrawal form and handed it to a teller.

“I’m sorry, Billy, but you have no funds here anymore.”

Billy thought for a second about this situation and said, “Please let me speak with Bob. There must be some mistake here.”

Bob was the president of the bank and made his appearance shortly after the teller phoned him. “Jesus! Billy, you look like bloody hell!”

“Thanks, Bob. Look. I need some money. I’m having a rather difficult day.”

“I’m sorry, Billy. But your wife has transferred all assets. She does act as your accountant, does she not?”

Billy grabbed Bob by his coat and screamed, “I need some money, you jackass!”

“Don’t make me call the police, Billy.”

He had never experienced vagrancy before. Maybe this was some sort of joke, he thought. A prank.

Limping toward his office, he did spot a dime on the sidewalk and picked it up. The dime became part of the family of loose change in Billy’s pocket.

The key did not fit right. The lock to the office had been changed. Al, the security guard came to the door and warned Billy that he was about to call the police if necessary.

“Embezzlement,” Al explained, was not taken lightly by the firm.

It was midday by the time Billy made it to his house. The clock read exactly 12:03 p.m.

The wall was, to his horror, adorned with photos of he and the flight attendant. Every sexual position imaginable was given the most graphic detail.

“I knew I should have shut the damned curtains,” he softly spoke.

“Hi Daddy,” a voice with a dark and cheerful tone sounded.

“Mom left this for me. She explained that this is what you wore on your ‘bowling nights.’”

Billy glanced at the coffee table and on it lay a white robe and a cone-shaped hat. Busted.

“This is my fiancée. His name is Solomon. Solomon Reese. Mom has known about this for a time and said she would forge your signature if necessary. I realize that I am only 17, but, oh Daddy, how could you?”

Solomon only glared. He felt like punching Billy in the gut, but realized that not much positive would be attained by such an action. He and Billy’s daughter merely arose and made their exit.

Billy then heard the thumping of footsteps on the stairs. His son appeared, carrying his guitar. “Jesus, Dad. You look like shit. You were supposed to announce my band at the church benefit later this afternoon.”

“I’m sorry son. I forgot. What are you called again? The Crusaders?”

“Never mind, Dad. We changed the name of the band and replaced all of the posters. Wanna see one?”


“What are you thinking, son? I can’t announce something like that! I’m a respected man in this community!”

“I don’t know that that’s the case anymore, Dad. I need to go now. We’ll announce ourselves. By the way, I’m moving in with Mom. Also, oh God you look like shit! Don’t bother finding more clothes. Mom burned them all. It took her three days, but she managed to get the job done. Gotta go!” The door closed with defiant clarity. Billy lowered his head and sobbed.

He walked up the stairs and, as he was warned, there was nothing in the closet but space. A space void even of stars or comets or clothes or whatever else space can contain. Just space.

The bed had been removed. His mind was filled with many thoughts. What was happening? He had always insisted that his children attend church every Sunday. He tried to keep his suburban neighborhood free of undesirables. Being a member of the KKK simply seemed like the right thing to do. Everyone did it, did they not? A sort of clandestine insurance policy.

Billy walked into the kitchen, thinking that maybe there would be some leftovers or perhaps something to drink. The refrigerator was every bit as empty as the closet. It was when he turned around that he noticed the noose. The rope was dangling from a rafter. He was surprised that he had not seen it upon walking in. A chair had been conveniently placed underneath. A Post-It note was attached to the bottom of the noose:

Knock yourself out, Billy!

He climbed upon the chair and ran his hands across the coarse fiber coils. Imagining the way the thing would feel when tightening around his neck gave him goose bumps and a feverish chill.

The doorbell rang. Billy climbed back down from the chair and went to answer. When he opened the door, he was standing eye to eye with Ed, the neighbor.

“We need to talk, Billy.” Ed’s voice was low and held a grim tone. “Listen. Your daughter has been seen coming here with, well, you know, someone a little different than what this neighborhood has in mind for – well, you know. Billy, we had a meeting and you were not invited so that this situation could be calmly discussed.”

Billy closed the door without saying a word. What would or could he say? He limped back to the kitchen and stared at the noose. The doorbell rang twice more, then all became mercifully quiet.

At this point, the back door seemed a better option than the front. His limp had become almost a stagger, but he made to the back gate. The alley seemed a comforting place. He sat on a large rock and rested for a few minutes. Then, he made up his mind and began walking in the direction of the highway. It took him almost two hours to get there, but he did succeed.

He stuck out his thumb. The makeshift bandage on his hand had become crusty and brown like an old grocery bag.

In spite of his raggedy-man appearance, a pickup truck pulled over and offered a ride. Billy climbed into the back and found himself surrounded by several Mexicans. They did not speak English and merely stared at him. He felt ashamed of feeling so grateful, but grateful he was. He began to realize that he was at the mercy of the world. A lack of control was never anything he had thought about before.

“I’m not some sort of freak,” he spoke to nobody in particular. “I mean, this is a brand new suit.”

Billy raised his head and screamed, “This is a brand new suit!”

It was then that he spotted the convenience store and the circus tent. He leaned forward and pounded on the rear window. The truck stopped and Billy flopped over the side and fell face down into the gravel. He managed to pull himself to his feet and hand the driver a dollar. The driver handed the bill back, grinned, and sped off.

The small store was just off the highway. The circus tent was a hundred yards or so behind it.

Billy wanted a beer. He bought two. Now he was flat broke, but at least he had a couple of beers and a plan. It was a desperate plan, but at least it was something for him that was mentally tangible.

He opened a beer and studied the circus tent. The store clerk walked outside and told him that it was illegal to drink on the premises. Billy asked, “Where might be the end of the premises?”

“The other side of that green dumpster, sir.”

“Thank you.”

Billy drank the two beers in less than ten minutes. He then pissed on the side of the dumpster. It was time to head for the tent.

He tried to straighten his tie as he (still badly limping) headed toward the tent. The absurdity of this endeavor was not lost on him.

“Who’s the person in charge here?” Billy inquired to a midget mounted upon a white horse.

“That would be him over there. That’s Mr. Gruffman. The guy with the cigar.”

Mr. Gruffman had a slight growth of beard and a large belly that was barely tucked away in a sleeveless T-shirt. His voice was the perfect companion for his name.

“Yeah, so how’s can I help ya? No offense, pal, but you look like you’ve been shot from a cannon.”

Billy breathed deep for a few seconds before speaking. He closed his eyes and felt a modicum of comfort in the darkness that only closed eyes can offer.

“Sir? I need a job. I mean, the rug has sort of been pulled out from under…”

“Mr. Gruffman was tapping his foot and finally said, “Look pal, I’m busy. What is it that you think you can do?”

Billy opened his eyes and replied. “This is a brand new suit. I now know what it feels like. That is to say, I have a pretty good idea of what it feels like to be shot from a cannon.”

Mr. Gruffman took a puff from his cigar. “And?”

“I figure I might as well get paid for it.”