Feeding The Habit

"I will go in this Way, Oh but I will find my own way out." -Dave Matthews

Friday, October 15, 2004

His name was Bill

          He stood facing the last sliver of a setting sun beside a dirt road. He held the name tag clenched in his hand. Looking down he lingered over the words, mouthing them softly, “Bill Frances. Maintenance, Staff.” He let his arm drift back down then held it back, poised, like a pitcher. Bill took two shuffled steps and gave it a hardy side-armed throw. He waited and watched, determined, until it cleared far over the other side of the dirt road. The corn fields seemed to be waving at him softly in the breeze.
          They have no idea, Bill thought. It’s not like I come a dime a dozen. He walked back over to his pickup and slammed the door. The pedal sank far down and brought some satisfaction as rocks flew and pelted on the no trespassing sign. The truck pulled a nice 180 and headed back towards the main road; wind rushing in through the windows. Bill liked the way it obscured the steady click of the tires and the engine’s hum bearing down over the Metal on the radio. He fumbled with his pocket knife, fliping it open, and then back closed to pass the minutes of the drive home.
          Pulling into the suburbs, he turned the radio down. Those filthy pigs. They think they can drive all over without any care to who might be around, who might be trying to sleep. I’d show them a thing or two, Bill thought as he pulled into his driveway. Bill pushed the door shut on his blue pickup and wiped the dust off his jeans. The screeching hinges had a welcome sound that tried somewhat to soothe him. The telephone was already ringing as he opened the door. He walked slowly towards it as the ringing stopped. He picked up the receiver anyway.
          “Yah?” he said as he fumbled into the cabinet for a glass.
          “You weren’t at Bubba’s tonight man, what’s going on!” the voice at the other end said.
          “Just not in the mood. I’ll see you there for drinks next Friday night maybe.” The voice went on for a while about what a great game Bill had missed and how the Dolphins looked like they might make a comeback this year. Bill thought about the neon signs and how they always looked so bright against the dark sky all the way down Jefferson Street. A strip club under the guise of a sports bar was no place for a guy like him to hang out at anyway. The voice was hollering something about his birthday next week and Bill came back to the conversation. “Uhh, I don’t know,” Bill said, “I’m supposed to have dinner with the kids.” He pried the cork out of a gallon jar of wine and poured the first glass.
          “No way, just move it to the next day. Your birthday is for you!” the voice responded. Yah, maybe I will, maybe I’ll do that, Bill thought as he set the phone absently on the counter. He swirled the tumbler of wine under his nose then cleaned the glass without breaking for air. He poured another and set it on the table remembering to carry the child support check out to the mailbox. He raised the flag and slid the check in over the rest of the mail that was in there. He ignored Sally waving at him from the window next door and went back inside. When he thought about it, life was a lot like the gallon bottle of wine. He took a full gulp. It’s only worth it when someone is there to enjoy it, when someone is there to savor every sip. And sooner or later, it’s bound to be empty. Bill set the roast he thawed that morning in the crock pot. We’ll put this on slow.
          The cutting board had deep scars as Bill set it on the counter. He always liked the faded off-coloured pine and all the childhood memories it held. It’s important to have an heirloom. Something of worth to pass on to those you leave behind. Bill was always bragging about his worth, how important he was. “It’s not like I come a dime a dozen,” he’d always say after a good story about how he fixed the mess someone else had made. And rest assured there were plenty of those. Every stripper in Bubba’s knew to steer clear of Bill once he’d had a few. It always started with “you’ll never believe what this idiot…” and by the time he was done he was telling the girl how to get out of her pitiful line of work.
          He once met Carla and her not knowing any better told him how she was stripping to make a good life for her two kids. You think you’re doing anything good for your kids? disrespecting them like this! Bill had yelled after his lap dance was over. He started escorting her towards the front door forcefully, determined to make her leave and start a new life. She was yelling about her clothes. Oh, so now you’re ashamed are you? Bill said. And moments later he was knocked out cold by the big guy watching the door.
          Bill set the Butcher’s knife down beside the cutting board and went to take a shower. He stayed for a long time under the hot stream of water, leaning against the wall, until it turned a bitter cold. When he finally got out, he climbed naked and wet into the bed. Most of the night was spent sleepless in a drunken daze.
          It was the lawnmower that woke him late that Saturday afternoon. He stumbled up and into the kitchen to put the coffee on. It had been so long since he remembered to savor its rich fragrance, even though he still bought only the best coffee from Venezuela. “The damn roast oughta be ready by now,” Bill said out loud. He moved over to the crock pot, turned it off, and reached in to pull it out. He ignored the scalding juices as they ran quick between his fingers and he thumped it loudly onto the cutting board. Sally would be over for lunch soon.
          He picked up the knife and let it slide through the first slice. Normally, he liked to cut it delicately and thin. Today it got cut thick. He thought of the turkey he had carved on so many holidays. The smiling faces and “hurry daddy” seemed so far from him now. He felt his heart tighten in his chest with each resounding slice. He watched the browned flesh as it pulled away from the hump, lifeless. On slice six, the knife stopped dull as it struck a bone. He looked up out the window and saw sally walking, dressed in a mini skirt and a tight shirt from her front door. Her heals clacked loud on the sidewalk.
          A huge gasp welled up in him and he walked back as if struck until his butt hit the table. He sunk slowly to the floor. Floods of the past two years washed over him like a memory. It brought out a huge sob and his eyes began to overflow. He saw the knife still grasped in his hand. He could almost picture it slicing through his skin. Sally knocked on the front door and the knife fell, clattering on the kitchen tiles. He put a hand on the table to try and pull himself up. It fumbled and knocked over the half filled tumbler he had left there the night before. He let his hand fall back down beside him and he watched as the deep red wine poured down. It formed a puddle around his outstretched body.