james lewelling

 

BILL

 

Bill said: In the evening, the sky gets all red and soft behind the fence near the crapyard on Last Street where Lorraine’s mother flew. I wanted to give it the twice-over, but Lou wouldn’t take me. Lou is a prick. Lou wouldn’t take me because he used to sort crap in the crapyard, and he says, when I go I go and I don’t go back. Lou used to sort crap in the crapyard, but then he met Charlie, and Charlie met me, and now Lou drives a truck, and I sit box. Lou’s a goddamn chauffeur. Lorraine’s mother was a peach, but after she flew, she got sorted, and after she got sorted, she got an operation, and she didn’t live too long after that. But she looked O.K. to me. I would’ve taken what was left.

Bill said: Lou is a prick, but he ain’t no blockhead. Charlie’s a snake and a fancy dresser. Mason’s a fairy and a blockhead, but he’ll give you a clam if he’s got it. Lorraine’s a bitch in heat. Betty’s a twisted screw.Twisted up tight so her hair sticks out from her head. Henrietta’s a goddamn freak. She says to me: Bill, I’m no peach, but you ain’t where you should be, and I’ll take what’s left.Tom and Dick and Lucy and Manfred are fairies and blockheads, and they should’ve got on the bus a long time ago. Zero ain’t square ‘cuz he’s got his parts, but rides like a trunk. It ain’t my business to cross no one, but I say what I want.

Bill said: I wanted to see where Lorraine’s mother flew. I wouldn’t leave Lou alone about it. I wouldn’t leave him alone when he picked me up and shook the box, and I wouldn’t leave him alone when he took me back to the trough. I said: Say Lou, I promised I’d never put the word on you Lou. I promised that, didn’t I, Lou? Isn’t that what I promised? And Lou looked at me with his fat face like I was dumb or he was deaf. He looked at me for six days. On the seventh day, he said:The crapyard . . . the crapyard and the fence. The crapyard on Last Street where Lorraine’s mother kissed Zero’s bumper. The crapyard where she flew and the crapyard where she got sorted.That crapyard? Why that place is a parade. It’s a walk in the the park. It’s a goddamn birthday party. Are we gonna have a little pic-nic you and me? Is that your plan? Are we gonna have a little pic-nic in the crapyard?

Bill said: I can watch the sun spin up, and I can watch it wind down.And I can watch the moon flip over slow like a big quarter. I can wait for three days, and then I can wait four more.Time don’t mean shit to me. Time is for chumps and slobs shuffling out of the crapyard when the whistle squawks.

Bill said: On the eighth day, Henrietta got like a bitch in heat.When we got back to the trough, she said, Hey Bill! You on the bus yet? But I didn’t say nothing ‘cuz I didn’t want any of that, and I didn’t want her in my pocket. I said, Say Lou, I promised I wouldn’t put the word on you. I promised that didn’t I? And then Henrietta said, Say Lou, you’re the driver, aren’t you? You’re a goddamn chauffeur! And then Tom and Dick and Lucy and Manfred all said, Say Lou! at the same time. Lou didn’t say anything. But he opened his mouth.

Bill said: On the ninth day, everyone said it. Say Lou, we all said. We won’t put the word on you Lou because we promised we wouldn’t. We promised you that, didn’t we Lou? Wasn’t that what we promised? And Lou looked at us all in the trough grinning up at him with our mouths open. Lou said: Ain’t you all a row of tulips. Like a garden here. Ain’t you just flowers in spring. Maybe I should go planting. Maybe that’s what I should do.Then Henrietta said, No Lou, you should take Bill here to the wire fence by the crapyard ‘cuz he doesn’t ask for much, and he doesn’t ask often. And Lou said: So Bill’s going on vacation? He’s going on a pic-nic?

Bill said: Henrietta’s a freak.When she gets tight, she brags about it. She says: If you want to, Bill, you can go talk to Charlie, but God burked me, Bill, before I even was.

Bill said: Lou dropped me on the sidewalk next to a wire basket and tore off in the truck like he wasn’t coming back. It was hot as hell, and there were bees in the basket. All afternoon with the sun on my head, and the chumps shuffling around me like they had somewhere to go.Three sonuvabitches crossed me with their boots. The first one said,You ain’t my baby brother. The second one said, Let’s say we unpack. The third one didn’t say anything. I put the word on all three after they left.They’ll get theirs.

Bill said: The sky got yellow like the sick eye of a huge sick slob. Like Charlie’s eye’s gonna be after I put the word on him.Yellow like that. It was yellow, and the chumps’ shadows got long and striped the sidewalk and the wire fence, and the world looked like a tiger off a box of animal crackers. I was thinking how goddman thirsty I was and whether Lou was ever gonna come back. Lou’s a prick, and I’ll needle him, and I won’t leave him alone, but I don’t cross him. I wondered if he’d cross me.

Bill said: Betty showed up to cat the slobs when they humped out of the crapyard. She was all Hey Baby!’s and How-de-do!’s and Hi!’s. And then she came over, and she said to me: If I remember correctly, if I can recall, you had a box, didn’t you, Bill? Where’s the box, Bill? You on vacation? You on a little cruise? Got anything to drink? I said, and she got scared and opened her furry handbag and pulled out a cherry soda and poured it in my mouth.And it was good. Real good. Just what I was looking for. Then she got all funny, and then she got like a bitch in heat.You ain’t got parts, but you got teeth, Bill, she said. I’ll take what’s left, Bill. How about it? But I didn’t want any of that. And I didn’t want Betty in my pocket.Then the whistle squawked, and the slobs came humping out, and Betty forgot about me and drifted over to the gate with her arms spread out like an old newspaper.

Bill said: The sky got all soft and rosy like I knew it would with the tall vat all black in front of it and the wire fence all black in front of that. And it was cooler then too. There were no chumps on the sidewalk, the crapyard was empty, and the bees were passed out in the basket behind me. I felt good then. Only I wished I had my goddamn box ‘cuz if I had my box I’d know Lou was coming back.Then I heard this soft whoosh, and I could smell car smoke. A door opened behind me, and I could hear expensive shoes scraping up the sidewalk. It was Zero, and he ain’t square, and some people call him a snake and a sonuvabitch. But it ain’t my business to cross no-one. He stood over me, and he said: William, Lorraine’s mother was a peach, and she had a blue dress, and before she got sorted, she said to me:You watch that Bill, Zero. His parts are good, and he can kick like a sonuvabitch.

Bill said: I don’t see things that aren’t there, and I don’t remember things I didn’t see, and I don’t say I saw things I don’t remember seeing. After Zero got done with his speech, I heard the sound of the car get small until I couldn’t hear it anymore. Then it was quiet for a while.Then I saw Lorraine’s mother’s blue dress, and it was way up over the tall sorter, and the sky was red behind it.

Bill said: Then the sky turned black, and the vat and the yard and the wire fence fell backwards into it. I figured Lou wasn’t going to come back, and I’d be getting on the bus soon. But it didn’t matter much.

Bill said: When I was smaller than I am now and leaner than I am now, and when I had all my parts, Lorraine’s mother strolled down Last Street in her big blue dress with how-de-doo’s for all the chumps on the sidewalks and the slobs in the crapyards and the trunks sitting box, and she had scraps for the dogs and crumbs for the pigeons and a parasol with three Chinese slobs on it getting tight in a boat. She was a peach whether you had teeth or not. I ran her runs, and I always came back, and she said to me: Bill, your parts are good, and you can kick like a sonuvabitch. You ain’t no slob, and you ain’t no chump. Look both ways, and stay off the bus, and you’ll find yourself in paper as sure as I’m standing here. And I said, yup, and you better believe I meant it.