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A Hole to China: Part 2

The second of five parts.

Part 1: She left. I asked for it, I think.


Yes: Billy hated poetry, or, more specifically, poets. Mimes, it was like being a mime to him, or any other legerdemain proffered by anyone calling themselves an "artist," some who, maybe too much like Billy, was trying to find a way out of the normal Hell that life can be. He'd get a chill of rage up his spine whenever he heard anyone refer to themselves as an "artist."

"If they were really artists," to himself Billy would go, "they'd never say it aloud."

He felt that such discretion was the rest of the world's due.

Soon, he'd learn a long, if not hard, lesson regarding such matters, such certainty, such cynicism. Not quite yet.

Billy wanted to be a genius, but he didn't know (yet) that he'd have to become an artist first. And in order to become the artist he could be, he'd have to develop some serious, late-hour humanity. Period.

Hole to China

Art was one thing, art was cool. Artists, that's another thing entirely. Billy's hero Goethe was a writer, scientist, philosopher, perhaps even a playwright, but, as far as Billy was concerned, not an artist, and surely not, of all things, a poet.

Good one!

I think it had something to do with his older sister's talent for drawing and the attention she got for it as they grew up together. That's part of it, anyway. Another part had something to do with not wanting to accept that tons of other people were also working hard conjuring up ways to avoid the Hell of a dull and lifeless life as an enslaved worker-bee of one kind or another. Period.

That was surely Billy's game, and he didn't want anyone else horning in on it.

He was, in fact, hard at work at his own transformation, even if he didn't know it yet.

Well. He was hard at work at it when he wasn't, as they say in Britain, "down pub." Sipping at Stella's. Slurping at Black Rainbow. Leering at Olaf's. Or Esther's. Or The Blue Lynx. Or The Little Red Bunny.

Yeah, The Little Red Bunny.

Pressing up to the bar, confessing the blues to the barkeep or barmaid, confessing all the blues, then sucking the blood of Christ till forgiveness is felt, and then looking to eat some of the body.


Stinkweed is square and flat and like Dingle has a pub a la The Little Red Bunny on every corner.

It has a scent and it has a voice.

The world's longest continuous straight street, aptly named, Western Avenue. Augustine says the City of God has the longest streets.

Anyway: Billy took Anna Gaun to The Little Red Bunny on their first date. Anna Gaun was a beautiful woman Billy met at a party. Her face shone like a bloomed spring rose. Brunette bangs trimmed deep brown eyes, resonant with inherited sadness, from a home not broken but burdened with the siege mentality of folk refugees at least of the soul. Would the blue blood ever not flow back from lost Ulster? Billy could never reach this part of Anna, and Tanya must have had a similar unreachable place, where one hides from the legacy of having an aunt, or a sister, or an aunt and a sister, say, leave the house for the store never to come back alive.

Anger and grief and their attendant wisdoms. There was no thrill in danger for Anna. One doesn't have to live like a refugee, was Billy's line, but that's just not how it really was, or could be. It is very difficult to argue blood (not that our lovers here didn't try).

The gravity of sadness in a woman is not defiable.

She was somebody's sister. Kin, friend of a friend. She drank beer. "Beer!" Billy was very, very excited about that.

Billy gotta boner.

Billy was very pizza-and-beer. He didn't make with Champagne and caviar or diamonds. They made a toast with their beers, sat back, smiled, and started talking. And talking. And talking.

About cats and horses and movies and books and food and beer and politics, not much politics, and cars and jobs and dreams and the people sitting at the bar right where you go order a drink and clothes and her family, mostly her family, and music and school and old boyfriends and girlfriends, and television, o beautiful television, and modes of partying.

Billy valued partying. Beer and pot, pretty much.

Dumbshit. Well, that's just me.

He valued quality time with his entertainment center.

He valued partying.

Hard partying in moderation. O just a little bit of hard partying every day and, before you know it, you are a perfectly happy person! Yes!

Anna Gaun had a lighter touch, pretty much.


In the clenched fist of his head, the cement block that had anchored him as he "slept," and in the huffing and puffing heart of his heart, he bet he'd end up OK. But he really, more than anything, wanted to be more than OK. It was just a thing that he had. Same with Anna. He was sorrier for the poor girl calling looking for her money, it's got to be somebody's money, and getting blown off by the likes of Billy and probably taking a good dose of it from her uptight, repressed, primarily a symphony of beiges boss.

"Message for Mr. William McMann . . . "

William, went Billy. It's either Mother or Jesus H. Christ himself, drunken Madeleine, or an officer of a private or state institution looking for their dough (by the way, take it from a ghost: the H. in Jesus H. Christ can stand either for Hellkiller. If you're good, and live a life of humility, justice and charity - good one - you don't have to go to Hell. Boom. Period . . . ).

Anyway, Billy closed his eyes, and tried to soak in the salves of the warm, gnarly, aforementioned optimistic wave.

Billy lived on Damen between Goethe and Schiller. On the Schiller side. On Wicker Park. There's no more Weeping Wicker Willows there, anymore. Only their ghosts.

Anna was zaftig.

Her sister Tanya was svelte.

They lived on Lincoln Park. Lincoln isn't there, by the way, the statue, I mean. Grant is. Lincoln is in Grant Park. Goethe is in Lincoln Park as well. At Diversey, not Goethe. Anna seemed like a countess from some old, distant country in the past.

Billy loved Anna. And, conveniently enough, Anna loved Billy. Once upon a time. Pertaining the 21st century? This is prehistory. A moment of prehistory. A blink, a deep blip.

It only took a couple of hat dates. Yes.

Chicago, Illinois: Hot is often hat. Rock is often rack. Somebody could say hat rack and be talking about good music. Pot is pat. North is Nart.

Squirrels are, occasionally, "blaick."

This was in the future when the anti-smoking movement finally got itself a national prohibition law. How it happened is hard to say. It is the end of a long story. Cigs were dope. Cigarettes, sugar, and red meat. Brutal. Pollution and ozone damage would often turn the sky a deep, artificial red after the sun reached its peak in the sky. Sunset was now almost always red, when it wasn't grey.

It was a weird time to be alive. Anywhere. Anytime. Around and around.

Besides Billy was another separate, living/breathing William who answered to "Guillermo." Guillermo was, essentially, Billy's best friend from the old days in Downers Grove, in the suburbs, when they'd cut through the yards and then through the woods toward Downer's Grove Central High. Guillermo's house was right on the way, if you were cutting through the yards. Not everybody with a yard thought it was such a great idea. Downer's Central was right off William Butler Ogden Avenue, named after one of Chicago's great mayors, which leads one way to the heart of the glamorous, dangerous, and romantic city of Chicago and the other way to the glamorous, dangerous, romantic, and two thousand miles further away city of Los Angeles, California. Like a main artery in a huge heart, huge and fatty, but deep with soul. Downer's Central was right off Old 66, The Road.


A rich scent wafted eastward.

Billy wrestled for the Indians (which was legally changed to the Fine Young People the same year tobacco was outlawed) and Guillermo threw the javelin. The Road would call to the young men like a distant and seductive siren. "Hither."

Chicago was closest, firstest. Fingers of scent like from a Disney full-length animation feature, what is that smell?

Fucking Guillermo. Damn. Always bagging babes. It could be annoying. You would be out with him having a drink and women would come up and totally ignore you while asking Guillermo for a light. It was his eyes. Even Billy loved the hazel eyes exaggerated, enlarged by glasses for this delicate man who otherwise would be basically legally blind. Without his glasses, he couldn't find his ass with both hands. Thus the lenses were thick and the eyes large and luminous.

Billy was always borrowing money from his sister Madeleine.

And his old girlfriend from school kept coming back to him in the fever dreams his ruined love now engineered. Her name was Bethany Hawkins. She had blond hair, zaftiggy, light and easily sunburnt skin, and small, soft, white hair all over her forearms. She was 17 and a townie. Well, she was 16 when they met. Yes.

They met in a bar.


Coming Wednesday: At the moment, Billy was favoring the He-fucked-it-up version of events.


J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at Images graciously provided by Brett Johnson.


Posted on December 4, 2007

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