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Billy the Kid in Margaritaville: A Short Story
When last we saw Billy the Kid, he had just gunned down his enemies, a proactive act that most likely kept him above ground for longer than he really had a right to expect. The Russian mob up in New York is none too happy with Billy, and in the dead of night he boarded a southbound train for destinations unknown.
If you’ve got a hankerin’ to read about Billy’s exploits to date, you can find links to the earlier stories to the right.
Now let’s find out what is happening with our reluctant hero.
- Billy the Kid Faces the Music: A Short Story
The story comes to a conclusion as Billy the Kid discover the price is often steep for a casual dalliance.
- Walking the Streets on a Cold Fall Night: A Short Story
Take a walk with me along the mean streets of America
- Billy the Kid Rides Again: A Short Story, Part 2
A story about life on the mean streets of New York.
The streets are steaming after the late-afternoon rain, smelling of moist regret. Key West isn’t a destination as much as it is an exclamation point, as in “he went to Key West to die!!!!!!!” That’s what it feels like, man, a place to die, a dead-end location on a dead-end road, only one way off unless you own a banana boat and have more money than God himself. It’s probably the worst choice I could make in late November, a small town surrounded by water, no place to hide and yet overflowing with those seeking anonymity.
I walk Whitehead past Hemingway’s museum, heading two blocks north to my crib, an upstairs studio under a giant banyan tree. The sun breaks through, a silent signal to the tourists to come out of hiding in their garish shirts and blinding smiles, white butt cheeks and farmers’ tans, escapees from Iowa, North Dakota, Montana and, in my own case, the shores of New York. They all scurry to and fro, carrying souvenirs for Junior and Missy, t-shirts and mugs, mugging for selfies under a layer of Coppertone, the golden orb turning on the heat just that quickly as I pick up the pace, sweat dripping faster than the rain drops from overhead branches.
I’ve been here a month now and not one sighting of the Russians. I know one thing for sure, they don’t forget, they don’t do “bygones be bygones”and forget about the crazy Mick bastard who shot their boss Ivan. They’re out there, scouring the major cities on the eastern seaboard, sending out word to Vegas and Chicago, the city of Angels and Detroit, keep your eyes open, find the prick, make him pay, and they won’t stop looking, man, it’s a crusade for them now, no matter who the new boss is, find me, kill me and spread my body parts for all to see, for all to know, you don’t screw with the Russian mob.
My new book on writing
One month is enough time to blend in with the locals. You just gotta know how to do it. Dress like them, act like them, don’t stand out, easy does it is the mantra in Key West and I’m easying my way one day at a time. My apartment is sweltering, the skylight is leaking and the landlady winks at me as I ask her if she’s ever going to fix that leak. “All in good time, sugar,” she tells me, smiling her fat-assed smile from underneath folds of lard from too many fried shrimp, biscuits and gravy and the ever-present tumbler of margaritas in her hand. “You’re on island time now, honey. We do things a bit differently here.”
It would piss me off but seriously, I’ve got bigger problems than a leaking skylight. My money is running out and I need a job. I grab a beer, down it in three gulps and head back downtown in search of employment. I’m too anxious to sit in my own sweat. Might as well keep moving, a moving target, harder to hit, stay on alert and on the lookout. Speaking of lookouts, there’s Maurice, on the corner, surveying the land, looking for the addicted, hoping to sell a dime bag to anyone in need.
“How’s it shaking, Billy,” he says to me, his wary eyes scanning the surroundings, his dreadlocks spilling over his shoulders. “How’s the whitebread this afternoon? It’s too hot for a stroll, fool. What you lookin’ for?”
“Lookin’ for work, Maurice. Know of anything?”
He pulls a beer out of the cooler at his feet, cracks it open and takes a pull.
“I just might, Billy. Word has it Tiny Momma is in need of a doorman/handyman. Go see her. Tell her Maurice sent you her way.”
Tiny Momma, four-hundred pounds of pissed-off Jamaican, about as friendly as a starving Rottweiler, she of the local brothel, local strip club, and local watering hole called Death Alley. Just perfect!
I thanked Maurice and turned southwest, the cobblestones burning my threadbare soles, goddamned November and hotter than my stepfather’s temper. I passed the tweakers and the hustlers, the whores and the tourists, the nubile teenagers and the Bible-thumpers, Jesus saves and Jesus ignores, all crammed on a pile of rock no bigger than any neighborhood back in my hometown. Jehovah’s handing me pamphlets, promising me salvation, but their message ain’t never seen a nine millimeter blow out the backside of a crime boss’s head, never witnessed a crack baby in withdrawals, never seen the teenagers selling blow jobs for a fix, so their message falls on deaf ears as I pull open the doors and step into the darkness of Death Alley.
Welcome Home, Billy
I’ll tell you a truth I learned a long time ago from my old man: you can never outrun who you are! Take it to the bank, my friends. It’s in the genes, in the DNA, burned deep in your soul and can’t be scrubbed out with Borax or steel wool. You are who you are and no amount of makeover or nip and tuck can change it. You take a crazy Mick bastard from the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, give him a flowered shirt, grow his hair long, replace boots with sandals, cover that white face with a beard, do all that and you’ve still got a crazy Mick bastard from Hell’s Kitchen.
What I’m saying is Death Alley wasn’t much of a stretch for me. I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a beer from a forties-something bartender who had left innocent in the rearview mirror twenty years ago when she spread her legs for sailor boy who promised her true love, and told her I wanted to see Tiny.
“Sure you want to do that today, hon? Tiny isn’t what you would call hospitable today.”
“I’ll take my chances. Just tell her, okay?”
I was finishing my beer when a hard hand landed on my shoulder and spun me around. I’m looking up at seven feet of black pissed off, and the first thought that floats into my brain is kick him in the nuts and break the glass over his head. That’s where the “crazy Mick bastard’ tagline came from, reacting first and thinking second. Somehow I passed on the opportunity, a fact that probably prolonged my life.
“Spread your arms,” my new best friend said.” I comply, smelling his sweat, smelling his onion sandwich, smelling his entire sense of waste as he pats me down. He seemed satisfied because he grunted and waved for me to follow him as he lumbered across the room and opened up a door that led to a narrow aisle.
“End of the hall. Knock first and wait until Tiny tells you to enter.”
I followed his instructions to the letter and heard permission five seconds after my knock. I opened the door and entered a room of gold. The walls were gold-colored, the fixtures gold, the furniture gold, the rug gold, and seated in the middle of the room on a gold ottoman, in flowing gold silk adorned with ten pounds of gold chains, sat Tiny herself. Every fat finger had gold, and those fat fingers motioned for me to enter. Her fat had fat. Her ankles were bigger than my forearms and I’m not a small guy. Her jet-black hair flowed over it all, a dark waterfall upon a golden landscape.
“Speak to me. Why you bother Tiny this fine afternoon?”
Never Show Fear
Never show fear. More words from my old man and they had served him well until he met his match in a barroom fight and bled out on the sawdust floor. No matter the situation, no matter the overmatched numbers and no matter you are facing an overwhelming force, never show fear. Animals like Tiny could smell fear, they snacked on it, and the minute they sensed it the game was over.
“I need a job. Met Maurice down on Main and he said look you up, so here I am.”
Her beady and yet intelligent eyes surveyed the potential meal in front of her. She licked her lips in an oddly provocative way. She nodded her head and what might have passed as a smile crossed her face.
“What are you, Irish? You look Irish. What’s an Irish lad doing in Death Alley looking for work? Me thinks you might be lost, boy. This isn’t the Irish Support League, no. This isn’t the headquarters of the IRA, no. There are no handouts here. We work hard, here. We play hard, we play dirty and at the end of the day we all laugh and count our money. Momma thinks you too soft for this job.”
“I’ll tell you what, Tiny. Call that seven foot piece of shit, tell him to get his black ass in here. I’ll rip off his head and shove it up your fat ass. Will that be enough to pass your test?”
A gold clock ticked away the seconds. Feint sounds of a jukebox could be heard through the gold walls. Her eyes peeled away my clothes and stripped away all pretense. Then she laughed. It rumbled from her ample stomach and erupted from her mouth.
“All right, Irish. You’ll do. The job pays three grand a month and all you can drink. Stay away from my girls. They are working girls, no? You will work the door, run some errands, keep the product moving and everyone happy. Go on, now. You start tonight at ten. Isaac will walk you through the first night, introduce you to our friends, make sure you know your place.”
And with a wave of her hand she dismissed me.
Billy the Kid rides again.
Thanks for Following Along
I thought I was done with Billy, but like a bad penny he just keeps turning up. I hope you enjoyed the latest installment. I’m sure Billy will be back and I’m equally certain that trouble will follow in his wake.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)