al let billy sleep on his couch, but billy was supposed to use the bathroom down the hall, not al’s private one.
one morning billy woke up.
he never slept good on the couch. he had bad dreams, but could never remember them.
al wasn’t in the apartment. he never told billy where he was going or how long he would be away, and billy never asked.
al was scary. billy had heard he was a soldier in iraq, or maybe in afghanistan, or that he was a bodyguard for a colombian or a mexican drug lord.
billy didn’t know or care if the stories were true, or if any stories about anything were true. he knew al was scary.
on this morning, billy’s brain was kind of fuzzy.
without thinking he went into al’s bathroom. he took a whiz and flushed the toilet. the toilet took forever to flush and was really loud.
then billy took al’s toothbrush - or a toothbrush that was sitting on the sink, he didn’t think of it as “al’s toothbrush” - and squeezed some toothpaste on it and started brushing his teeth.
while he was brushing his teeth he noticed a comb on the edge of the sink.
the comb had hairs in it.
al’s hair. (al didn’t have much hair, he was kind of bald.)
suddenly billy was completely awake, and the horror of his situation exploded into his brain.
al would kill him.
he had specifically told billy not to use his bathroom.
forget about using his actual toothbrush.
i’m in this deep, thought billy, and for one insane second he actually thought of using al’s comb.
he took a deep breath. maybe he could clean the toothbrush off, hope that al wouldn’t notice anything?
especially if al didn’t come back for a couple of days, and the toothbrush had plenty of time to dry off.
but he might be back in any minute, any second.
billy washed the toothbrush off as best he could with trembling hands and put it back on the sink.
was is it in the exact same spot? how could he tell?
he checked his pockets to make sure he had his wallet - his empty wallet .
he took the key to the apartment - the key al had trusted him with - he trusted me, thought billy, and this is how i repay him - i deserve to die - and put it on the table beside the couch al had let him sleep on.
billy ran down the stairs.
there was no sign of al in the street.
where could he go? anywhere he went al was sure to find him.
he had enough change to get to queens, to his grandmothers. he would beg, plead ,cry for enough money for a bus ticket.
he would murder her if he had to.
billy got his money, without actually having to murder his grandmother.
he got a bus to albany. in albany he panhandled enough for a bus to cleveland.
in cleveland he started hitchhiking. it wasn’t easy.
this was how he would live from now on - always on the run, always looking over his shoulder, never able to stay in one spot.
knowing al would hunt him down eventually.
from cleveland he got to chicago. in chicago he came up with enough for a motel room.
he slept for eighteen hours on the motel’s big bed.
when he woke up it was past time to start running again.
des moines, omaha, tulsa, amarillo, albuquerque, flagstaff arizona.
he decided to skip las vegas - al probably had friends there who would be on the lookout for him.
yuma arizona, death valley.
finally huntington beach - the end of the line.
he knew al would find him eventually.
billy thought of walking into a police station and confessing to any damn thing , just to get thrown in jail.
but al or his friends would find him there too.
at least al would probably kill him quick - not waste time on him. who knew what the friends would do?
with the sound of the surf outside his window, billy fell asleep.