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A Hole to China: Part 3

The third of five parts.

Part 1: She left. I asked for it, I think.
Part 2: They met in a bar.


They were digging the same band. She asked him to dance. He danced.

Billy could dance.

Billy was 21 and about to graduate from Lincoln University. Bethany, born and raised in New Lincoln, Illinois, a university town sprung up not much taller than the Illinois corn around a river grove, always wore beautiful pleated, paisley or scotch-check skirts over blue jeans and cowboy boots. Her round face shone like a ripe summer peach. Her soul shone and simmered with the angry passions of a smart girl from a broken home. She loved to ride on the back of Billy's bike, a '73 Honda CB-750 he "inherited" from his older brother Art, and close her eyes and hug Billy's back hard. Burnt-orange gas tank. Billy wiped it on I-74 between Champaign and New Lincoln, after a Gang of Four (featuring Ms. Sara Lee) show at Mabel's that he'd taken Bethany to but they got in a fight and she disappeared, and he started to drive home alone on his bike drunk. The last thing he remembered before waking up in a hospital room were the orange-lit letters "O's Gold," a hybrid corn seed, on a barn off the highway, orange letters shimmering through black rain and drunken tears.

Billy wiped out.

Hole to China

Not quite mangled. Close, real close.

And there she was, Miss Bethany Hawkins, fever-dream starlet, part of the stock company of players that entertained in dreams while Billy "slept."

Anymore she'll make a surprise cameo. She knows how. She got Billy into the movies.

Yes: Billy is immortal. Timeless. Period.

Next time out, rent Grandview, U.S.A. On Key Video, directed by Randall Kleiser, who also directed Grease, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Cusack and fucking Troy Donahue.

No lie. Bethany saw the ad for a cattle call at the Pontiac National Guard Armory, just north of New Lincoln, for dancers for a music-video sequence for the film.

Bethany went: "Let's go." They went. They auditioned.

Billy got picked. Billy became immortal. Bethany became jealous.

Check it out.

Billy now spent a lot of time thinking that he had to be sure not to fuck things up with Anna Gaun the way he did with Bethany Hawkins. Somehow, he figured he had managed to fuck things up. Something about his self-esteem and his conscience combined in a run of fever-dreams wherein whatever went wrong came down to Billy. Almost a reverse ego-trip. He had purposefully eliminated from his mind the possibility that it was fate with no one to blame that made him and Bethany Hawkins part.

He had to make sure not to fuck things up with Anna. Guess what: he failed, again, wow.

He'd always wanted to be a writer and if he was, his take on the old story would be innovative in this regard: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girls stays lost, boy gets over it. Save our ship, same old shit. Girl stays lost and boy attempts to prevent implosion. Boy becomes ashy-man.

He looked forward to spending some time with his buddy Guillermo trying to figure out just what the fuck happened this time around, with Anna. He tried really hard not to fuck it up, and still he fucked it up. It got fucked up, anyway, that much was for sure.

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

The fever was guilt, that was the deal.

Maybe Guillermo would have a different idea. Maybe Guillermo could provide a quick fifty-minute therapy session with medication, yes.

But first, he had to call his sister Madeleine for some dough. For the car payment and maybe some food. He wasn't above asking Madeleine for dough.

Last batch he got was raped out of him at the Mercantile Exchange.


Anna Gaun awoke in the darkness to an all-news station, aware that it was cold, and Desdemona her cat was hungry and scratching. Anna hadn't slept well until just before she had to get up.

Billy's bullshit was getting old.

He was, like, fucking up instead of 'fessing up. Classic, classic shit. Anna could read the writing on the wall quite clearly. It wasn't in the dialogue. Lately, Billy was very "in so many words," living his feelings but not acknowledging them. "I'm not going to be happy," came out, not in those words to Anna, but in these words to Tanya (o and about, say, twenty other people yes including Anna):

"I think Tanya should show us her breasts."

Good one. Not.

The future started horning in on the neat little tryst of Billy, Anna, and now. The future: how, not who. Conversations became arguments. Joy became resentment. Wine became mineral water and cigarettes.

One squirrel was red, the other was black. One wanted to write and one wanted to eat.

Problematic. Billy thought he took his writing seriously. Anna took her eating very, very seriously indeed.

And just now, she was in a shitty mood.

She got up to feed Shivers (the Drooler), her cat.

She kept feeling alone. This was after quite a while. She had a boyfriend but she was still lonely. Period. She blamed herself at first and then it felt like she was married to her father. Billy felt it, too. Inches between were space enough to echo across. Conversations became arguments, and then just monologues, lectures. That really did it. "I need you to be different. Get with it." There was more sadness than happiness, ultimately, and, as usual, she was going to have to be really, really strong.

It was dark and cold and Shivers, a Tabby, had peed on the kitchen floor and Anna stepped in it and damn near, damn near started to cry.

Instead she hissed at Shivers.

It wasn't even 6 ante-meridian.

It was over, and she was the one who was going to have to say so. Again. Great. Women cry like men shit: a long time, with feeling, and afterwards they feel glorious. Men cry like women shit: a short time, with detachment, and afterwards they feel ashamed. Billy would say to Anna that he was going to go have a good cry. Billy always literally cried, actual tears, more than Anna. Billy would get with it, get into it. Anna would get uptight. It started mattering to Anna when Billy started doing it (crying) more in front of her. She loathed having to pity him.

Ultimately, she didn't.


Coming Thursday: One thing she understood was that she had an almost nuclear desire for revenge.


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


Posted on December 5, 2007

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