Friday, April 12, 2013

Bad Luck Billy

Pushing a loose strand of auburn hair away from her wet eyes, she sits behind the wheel and stares—across the parking lot and over the freeway, choked with traffic. One direction stretches north to Waco, the other southwest to San Antonio. But she goes neither way. She just sits, the motor idling, a cigarette burning between the fingers of her left hand, which hangs out of the open window. Al Dexter warbles on the FM station. The air conditioner doesn’t work, but she lets it run anyway, hissing warm air at her sweat-slick neck.

Behind her, in the middle distance, Billy’s garage sits like a gray wad of dust at the opposite end of the lot. The open sign still burns blood red, but the door is locked and all the lights are off. She’d forgotten to switch off the sign, something she realizes now as she peers at it by way of the rearview mirror. For a moment she contemplates going back to take care of it, walks through the steps in her mind: she would have to get Billy’s keys, walk back over to open up the office door. But Billy’s keys are in Billy’s pocket and Billy is in the trunk, because that is where she stuffed him after she opened his throat with the bastard’s own straight razor.

How he gurgled, how his eyes begged for help.

She decides to leave the goddamned sign on.

Jerking the gearshift into reverse, she slowly backs out the slot, curves around to the left, and shoves it down two notches to drive, pointed north. Al Dexter fades into Waylon Jennings. She hums along, unaware that she’s doing so, and steps on the gas. Her plan, the one she’d hatched over her morning coffee, seems like too much effort now. She eases onto the frontage road, merges onto the on-ramp, the purple bracelet of bruising that encircles her right wrist almost pulsing at her eyes as she makes her way onto the freeway. He’d been like to kill her, the way he was. Bad Billy, drunk Billy. Bad luck Billy, whose sure thing at the racetrack turned into a terrible debt he’d never be able to pay. Mean, mad Billy, who passed the mad down to her with his fists and his boots and a belt buckle that sliced her scalp open. Dead Billy, whose yawning red neck was what he got for his trouble while he worried over the receipts in his garage. And though up until now she had every intention to head straight back to their trailer, to haul poor old Billy inside and torch the whole shitheap, it really just seems like too much effort now.

Instead, she cruises north, to nowhere in particular, far away from their trailer where she’d sipped her last cup of instant as the sun came up over the junipers that border the park and decided today was the day she was finally going to kill that rotten sonofabitch.

It’s only just south of Waco that she remembers Billy’s mamma lives outside Fort Worth, a little block of one bedroom apartments built mostly from cinder blocks, and Fort Worth isn’t so far from Waco. She smiles softly, fires up another cigarette, and decides it’s all right with her if the old bag gets to see her boy one last time.

It’s only right.

She touches the sticky gash at her hairline, crusted over with her own dry brown blood, and her smile melts away. The cut, still fresh, stings to the touch. She drags deep from her smoke and wonders what will come next, after Billy’s mamma sees what she has done. Those cinder block apartments just won’t burn the same as the old trailer would have. That, she knows, would have been such a sight.

A pothole escapes her attention, and she crunches the undercarriage right over it. The gas cans in the trunk rattle around, knocking all over poor, dead Billy.

“Come on, baby,” she says in a sweet, sing-song sort of way. “Let’s go see mamma.”