Part One: The Sea of Japan

 

 The first time they kill him, it comes as a complete surprise.

 Later, though, when Billy looks back on this night, even he has to admit he was pretty much begging for it. With all the grief he had caused in those last few days, Christ, he should’ve been wearing a bulls-eye and a toe tag just to speed things along.

 And he had to give the bastards credit. They couldn’t have picked a better time than right now, when Billy is so calm and serene, or a better place than right here, on this silent country road beneath a sky full of mutely exploding stars.

 Beautiful, he thinks as he drains the excess beer into the dark; like talking to God on the cell phone.

 Sal and Vince, sitting back in the car, could never appreciate this, not if you grabbed them both by the hair and pointed their mutt ugly faces straight up at the North Star. City rats like aren’t happy unless they’re surrounded by smoke and concrete.

 Billy zips up, closes his eyes and takes a long draw of country air to wash out all the stale smoke and loud music. Yes, he thinks on the exhale, God is good all the time.

 He takes another blind breath and listens to the traffic noise drifting across the river from Jersey, eons away from Billy and his beautiful night. It was a good move coming up here, taking a look at his house-to-be and getting away from the misery back home.

 He loves this spot, the rest stop on 611, especially now, at this ungodly hour, when it’s dark and devoid of life. It feels like nowhere.

 Billy remembers something about young girl who was murdered and dumped here decades ago. She went without a name for the longest time until the cops finally ID’d her body and got the bastard who killed her. At least some people pay for their sins.

 He opens his eyes and looks over the edge into the black empty. Damn, just imagine falling into that shit, slamming into those carnivorous rocks. They’d haul your ass away in a sandwich bag.

 Billy pictures his twisted body sprawled out dead in the woods down below, sees his holy spirit rise slowly into the eastern sky like a B-movie angel.

 Stars gather around him, satellites cruise around the earth and comets streak by on their way to infinity.

 It’s like the Christmas show at the planetarium, the old one, of course, where they traced the origin of the Star of Bethlehem. Only now Billy’s in the middle of the celestial ballet, instead of sitting in the audience with his mother.

 From here Billy looks down at the river coursing toward the ocean, at the red-tailed Matchbox cars, rolling down the distant stripe of a highway.

I will swim to the Sea of Japan…

 It’s all down there in the river, his life’s work, shimmering just beneath the water’s surface. His dearest memories, his most grievous faults, all preserved in an eternal photo album.

 Jesus, when you look at it, Billy really was a son-of-a-bitch, wasn’t he? Thank God his sins are all the way down there; so far away, like they belong to someone else.

 Do you still love me? Please, tell me. Do you still love me?

 The voice is distant, scratchy, like it’s coming from a sunken Victrola buried in the riverbed and it makes him wince. Leave me alone, for Christ’s sake. Can’t you see I’m trying to die now?

 Charley would get a kick out of this. He’d love being up so high, looking down on this part of the world that meant so much to him. But then Charley’s gone, too, like so many others who get close to Billy.

You see that man there? He don’t like you very much...

 And just when Billy’s ready to take that step off the embankment for real—you know, just for the hell of it--the voice of a mere mortal reaches up from the earth’s surface and grabs him by the ankles.

“I’m sorry…”

 Sorry? Sorry for what, you stupid bastard? You want to--ah fuck, Billy doesn’t believe this, not now. He opens his eyes, reaches to his waist, but his fingers snag in this sweater Lucille gave him last Christmas and by then it’s much too late.

 A red giant goes supernova in his face as he shrieks across the cosmos engulfed in flame, mayday! Mayday! We’re going down! And Billy crashes back on the embankment at the speed of doom.

 Oh, such pain, he wants to scream, he wants to die; he wants to burst into a thousand radioactive pieces. He gags as red-eyed demons scuttle up from below the rocks and gnaw on his throbbing brain tissue.

You gotta take the pain…

 He’s stretched out of the ground, like Frank Sinatra after the Nazis drilled him the back, and his bleeding head hangs over the edge of oblivion. Voices float over him like mist from the river.

“Is he dead?”

“If he ain’t now he never will be.”

“Maybe you should go back there and check.”

“Maybe you should suck my dick.”

 Billy lies motionless, crushed beneath the weight of time and space, and thinks, yes, of course, it would be these two committing his murder. No one else could ever get so close.

“I’m just saying we ought to be sure.”

“You wanna be sure? Take the fucking gun and go back there yourself.”

“You want me to shoot him?”

“No, I want you to tongue kiss him, you fucking asshole.”

 Billy can’t believe his dying ears. Finish the job, you brainless humps; finish what you started. Two in the back of the head, get rid of the body. Pricks can’t do anything right.

 The voices drift and Billy senses the car starting up and driving away. It’s just him now, in this forsaken place, with his memory bank leaking into the abyss.

 All right, he thinks, it’s over. I’ll just bleed to death here and that’ll be the end. The lady on the white horse will come to him soon and Billy will be swimming in the Sea of Japan...

Part One: The Sea of Japan

 

 The first time they kill him, it comes as a complete surprise.

 Later, though, when Billy looks back on this night, even he has to admit he was pretty much begging for it. With all the grief he had caused in those last few days, Christ, he should’ve been wearing a bulls-eye and a toe tag just to speed things along.

 And he had to give the bastards credit. They couldn’t have picked a better time than right now, when Billy is so calm and serene, or a better place than right here, on this silent country road beneath a sky full of mutely exploding stars.

 Beautiful, he thinks as he drains the excess beer into the dark; like talking to God on the cell phone.

 Sal and Vince, sitting back in the car, could never appreciate this, not if you grabbed them both by the hair and pointed their mutt ugly faces straight up at the North Star. City rats like aren’t happy unless they’re surrounded by smoke and concrete.

 Billy zips up, closes his eyes and takes a long draw of country air to wash out all the stale smoke and loud music. Yes, he thinks on the exhale, God is good all the time.

 He takes another blind breath and listens to the traffic noise drifting across the river from Jersey, eons away from Billy and his beautiful night. It was a good move coming up here, taking a look at his house-to-be and getting away from the misery back home.

 He loves this spot, the rest stop on 611, especially now, at this ungodly hour, when it’s dark and devoid of life. It feels like nowhere.

 Billy remembers something about young girl who was murdered and dumped here decades ago. She went without a name for the longest time until the cops finally ID’d her body and got the bastard who killed her. At least some people pay for their sins.

 He opens his eyes and looks over the edge into the black empty. Damn, just imagine falling into that shit, slamming into those carnivorous rocks. They’d haul your ass away in a sandwich bag.

 Billy pictures his twisted body sprawled out dead in the woods down below, sees his holy spirit rise slowly into the eastern sky like a B-movie angel.

 Stars gather around him, satellites cruise around the earth and comets streak by on their way to infinity.

 It’s like the Christmas show at the planetarium, the old one, of course, where they traced the origin of the Star of Bethlehem. Only now Billy’s in the middle of the celestial ballet, instead of sitting in the audience with his mother.

 From here Billy looks down at the river coursing toward the ocean, at the red-tailed Matchbox cars, rolling down the distant stripe of a highway.

I will swim to the Sea of Japan…

 It’s all down there in the river, his life’s work, shimmering just beneath the water’s surface. His dearest memories, his most grievous faults, all preserved in an eternal photo album.

 Jesus, when you look at it, Billy really was a son-of-a-bitch, wasn’t he? Thank God his sins are all the way down there; so far away, like they belong to someone else.

 Do you still love me? Please, tell me. Do you still love me?

 The voice is distant, scratchy, like it’s coming from a sunken Victrola buried in the riverbed and it makes him wince. Leave me alone, for Christ’s sake. Can’t you see I’m trying to die now?

 Charley would get a kick out of this. He’d love being up so high, looking down on this part of the world that meant so much to him. But then Charley’s gone, too, like so many others who get close to Billy.

You see that man there? He don’t like you very much...

 And just when Billy’s ready to take that step off the embankment for real—you know, just for the hell of it--the voice of a mere mortal reaches up from the earth’s surface and grabs him by the ankles.

“I’m sorry…”

 Sorry? Sorry for what, you stupid bastard? You want to--ah fuck, Billy doesn’t believe this, not now. He opens his eyes, reaches to his waist, but his fingers snag in this sweater Lucille gave him last Christmas and by then it’s much too late.

 A red giant goes supernova in his face as he shrieks across the cosmos engulfed in flame, mayday! Mayday! We’re going down! And Billy crashes back on the embankment at the speed of doom.

 Oh, such pain, he wants to scream, he wants to die; he wants to burst into a thousand radioactive pieces. He gags as red-eyed demons scuttle up from below the rocks and gnaw on his throbbing brain tissue.

You gotta take the pain…

 He’s stretched out of the ground, like Frank Sinatra after the Nazis drilled him the back, and his bleeding head hangs over the edge of oblivion. Voices float over him like mist from the river.

“Is he dead?”

“If he ain’t now he never will be.”

“Maybe you should go back there and check.”

“Maybe you should suck my dick.”

 Billy lies motionless, crushed beneath the weight of time and space, and thinks, yes, of course, it would be these two committing his murder. No one else could ever get so close.

“I’m just saying we ought to be sure.”

“You wanna be sure? Take the fucking gun and go back there yourself.”

“You want me to shoot him?”

“No, I want you to tongue kiss him, you fucking asshole.”

 Billy can’t believe his dying ears. Finish the job, you brainless humps; finish what you started. Two in the back of the head, get rid of the body. Pricks can’t do anything right.

 The voices drift and Billy senses the car starting up and driving away. It’s just him now, in this forsaken place, with his memory bank leaking into the abyss.

 All right, he thinks, it’s over. I’ll just bleed to death here and that’ll be the end. The lady on the white horse will come to him soon and Billy will be swimming in the Sea of Japan...