Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Years' Eve: Billy In Trouble

New Years Eve is usually presented as a time of champagne, carousing in good (or bad) company, and soul kisses at midnight. The following excerpt is taken from a novella called BILLY IN TROUBLE. Billy is a selfish, foul-mouthed, often drunken student who's been sent by his parents to live with religious relatives, in the icy far north of the state, as a punishment. His uncle and aunt go to bed early on New Year's Eve. Billy creeps out hoping to locate some company and excitement, and finds more than he bargained for:

"I climbed out the window, crossed the frozen lawn and began walking down the dark road. I had no plan. There was no one around me. It was lonely. But about a mile down the road I could hear the howling of the wild dog pack Joe had told me about. They just raged around the country and tore a living out of the land with their vicious teeth. A minute later they howled again, closer. Joe had told me what they did to deer: ate them alive and spat out the crunchy bits. I began to picture myself, disembowelled and gobbled up while those big northern stars coldly looked down.

"I was turning to run back to Joe's when headlights surged over the hill, then an old Chevrolet followed with the backend souped up high and shouts and loud music coming from it and even legs hanging out the open windows. I almost wept with joy. The wild dogs weren't going to get me, not this time; but also, I'd been missing kids my age, and here they came, roaring and pillaging right down the hill.

"They knew I was the sheriff's nephew Billy, and I knew they were from those crazy Finn families that lived back in the woods. They were about my age and there were seven of them, ice-blond like ghosts would be if ghosts were born Finns--and they were all related, brothers and sisters and cousins. I never did get it straight. We were all jammed in together. They were all bigger than I was, including the girls, a white-headed giant tribe, and they were at the stage of drunk where you're blazing with the flammable delight of existence. They had names like Helga and Elga and Friedelund. It seemed they'd been having a whale of a time all evening and hadn't finished yet.

"We drove flashing fast like a comet cuts through stars down those deserted country roads, tossing bottles of whiskey and peppermint schnapps back and forth and glugging out of them, stomping our boots and doing some kind of seated jig to the rock music hard enough to pop the rivets in our jeans. Gradually I noticed that several of my new friends had teeth missing, a scar where normally an eyebrow would be, or a nose mashed toward an ear. One of the boys had what looked like a serious head injury, and he laughed about how he'd been piling wood with his dad that afternoon and the old guy thought he was too slow and threw a log at his head to wake him up.

"There was no heat in the car, and you could see the moving road through holes in the floor. There was duct tape over every inch of the car seats, and old and new fast-food wrappers and empty bottles were jammed into every crevice One of the girls dandled me on her knee like an infant, she was that big, and then the old Van Halen song "Jump!" came on and she suddenly jogged me up and down hard with her knee in time to the music so the top of my head kept smashing into the car ceiling. I hoped this was some kind of primeval Finnish seduction. I was timidly making the first moves to feel up her tremendous chest when she whomped me hard with her fist like a mother bear and just about knocked my head off. Even though I feared I wouldn't survive the car ride I laughed with everybody else.

"I never knew kids that were so much fun, until I asked if somebody had a doobie. Then all of a sudden they fell silent, and seven pairs of icy, crystal-pale eyes looked at me with whiskey-bombed malice.

"We don't use them dirty drugs," the drunkest one said in a quiet, deadly voice. They all leaned in toward me, the girls too, clenching their paws into fists, and I began to gag and retch wildly. I was afraid I would faint from terror and these boys and girls, who seemed to exist out of time, would do something terrible to me--maybe eat me, and my bones would join the fast-food wrappers and empty bottles.

"He's throwing up, he'll ruin the car!" somebody shouted, and as I was seized by enormous hairy hands and flung out the door of the moving car I heard the radio solemnly and sweetly begin to play "Lest old acquaintance be forgot..." The car peeled out smoking. The dog pack began howling again.

(excerpt from "Billy in Trouble", a novella)

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