A Vignette

“Where and WHEN the hell are we gonna go?”

Where and when indeed. Billy knew where (he’d known for a while now) but he felt it best to simply stay quiet and let the silence of a 3 a.m. winter night settle in for a spell.

“I want to sit for a while and enjoy this crisp, black night,” Billy said. “I want to breathe in the air and feel it near freeze my insides before we do anything at all. I want to be ready.”

Billy always paused. He knew that every moment could have been the last and so it was important to make the most of them. Savor the smells…even the soggy, rotten smell borne on the air by by deceptively clean, white clouds of sewer reek that drifted across to them from the manhole nearby. Even this was beautiful if a guy stopped to understand it…if a guy just waited.

J listened with a stupid, vacant look on his face.

“Maaaan, sometimes you make no damn sense,” he grumbled. “We’ve planned the shit out of this for like four hours now and here we are and all you want to do is sit here. Sit here til’ what? Some asshole comes along and stops to ask a damned stupid-ass question like “what’re two idiots like you doing out here freezing your balls off in the middle of the night.”

“There’s time,” Billy responded in a quiet, raw voice that sounded like the strained, frayed end of a last thin rope of patience. “Like you said, you’d have to be an idiot to be out here in the middle of this frozen fucking night. I’m betting we’re the only two such idiots in this town right now – so……we…..have….time.”

He finished his words in a way that pretty much ended the whole conversation. There was nothing to say or do now except wait on Billy to move and follow along like a dutiful dog hoping the end result was worth frostbite and the maddening tension of the headache that was starting just over J’s eyes.

The night wore on and the sky clouded over and cast an eerie orange glow as the light from the city’s sodium-vapour street lamps reflected back to the earth below. It was as if a great fire was burning somewhere in the distance. A fire J would have relished by this point having near froze solid waiting on Billy and his damned “intuition” to kick in.

“Now,” Billy said and with this one word he rose and began to walk.

“That’s it? You just say ‘now’ and we move? How in hell do you know and why not 10 minutes ago. Why now?”

J was a professional grade A complainer. Not your run of the mill whiner but a top notch, thoroughbred. J,  who could complain about sitting still and then minutes later complain about not sitting still, had developed the skill to such a high and natural degree he never even noticed the contradictions that always arose.

Billy already knew this and knew the questions would come as they had so often before just as he knew that J never expected an answer because one never came. How could one? How could Billy explain the low, dull thud that came slow in the back of his mind like some buried diesel pump come to life in the distance? This thud, this thrum that would not stop until the deed was done? There was no explaining it because even Billy didn’t understand it – he only knew that it was time to move…and so he did…and J followed.

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