Stupid kids, Davy thought as he sat at his laptop. Since his return from the war, Davy had opted for an isolated existence, not for mental health reasons or from a deep-rooted hatred for his neighbors, but because he felt trapped in a world where no one understood him.
Words were his only friends, and he found a sense of peace in writing his emotions out. Davy opened his word processor and stared at the blank screen. His cursor flashed but never moved, and for several minutes he tried to clear his mind and think of a title.
All this time back, and his home had never been invaded. Leave it to two kids to breach it.
Davy typed the title, Just Another Day in Hell, into his website. For a moment he considered adding ‘based on true events,’ but he didn’t. Davy had enough problems without adding more to his plate.
His phone buzzed and distracted him from the screen. He stared at the phone. It was a notice from the local church that his group would meet on Tuesday at 1500. Davy stared at it and started to put it back down without responding, but he knew his doctor would want an update, so he responded with, “Okay, I’ll see you then.”
Davy hated going to the meetings. However, his doctor thought it would do him some good to get out and meet new people. She’s wrong, Davy thought, but he had to go. She checked on his attendance and they spoke about it at his appointments.
Dr. R. Wayfarer, local head shrinker for the veteran community, had recommended Davy attend these group meetings at Mountain Top Faith Center. Davy wasn’t opposed to going, it felt good to congregate with veterans from all wars, but to dig into raw, naked emotion, he struggled to find peace in the ripping open of old wounds.
The pastor of the church would sometimes sit in and tell her story. She had been a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. She had never walked the blood-soaked sands of the desert. Her closest encounter with danger had been on a search and rescue mission in the mountains during a wildfire.
It was a relevant story, but it wasn’t war.
Davy placed the phone down and focused on his screen. This story wasn’t going to write itself, and Davy set his fingertips on the keyboard. Life in the sand sucked, he began to type. Soon, Davy found the words he needed to express the darkness in his heart.
While Davy unburdened his heart, Belle had walked home. Her momma, Wilma, had a nasty reputation, not that she cared not one whit what others thought of her. Wilma’s boyfriend Jocko had a nasty rep too. When people saw them together everyone knew trouble wasn’t far behind them. Wilma watched Belle enter the yard. She smiled at the wavering image of her blonde-haired daughter as she depressed the plunger of the syringe loaded with heroin.
“Hiya, dar-ling,” she muttered, as the heroin rushed through her veins.
Wilma slumped against the rotted post and gulped the air greedily. Belle looked at her mom and shook her head. The needle was still stuck in Wilma’s vein. Belle pulled the syringe out and set it to the side. Wilma began to snore.
Jocko walked out on the porch bare chested and smacked his lips. ‘A few more years and that fruit will be worth picking, just got to tough it out with her junkie momma until then.’
“You want a hit?”
Belle shook her head and went to move around him. Jocko smacked her on the rump. “One day, you will want some, and then I’ll give you all you can handle.” He smiled at Belle, his yellow teeth flashing menacingly. Belle suppressed the urge to vomit and continued inside.
“No thanks,” she said as she went to her room.
Cockroaches scattered when she flipped on the light. The hot night air was suffocating. Belle opened the window and turned on a lamp. She checked her bed for bugs and roaches. There were none on the bed.
She opened her favorite story, The Sword, and The Stone by T.H. White, and leaned against the corner bedpost. Belle read until her eyes grew heavy.
During the night she woke up several times. Jocko and Wilma would laugh raucously about something they saw on television, or they would argue, and Jocko would slap Wilma around. Belle covered her head with her pillow and tried to ignore the anguished sobs of her mother.
As dawn approached, Belle rose from her bed and began to prepare for the day. She showered and dressed in a yellow sun dress with flowers on the material, brushed her hair and let it hang loose about her narrow shoulders, and wore her best black shoes. Then, she topped off her outfit with a big, floppy hat that drooped on all sides. Belle smiled in the mirror, and whispered, “I am beautiful. I am not my mother.”
At 0900, she slipped from the house and stood on the corner until the van from Mountain Top Faith Center arrived. She boarded the bus and stared from the window. Children’s laughter carried through the bus, and for once, Belle felt at home and at peace.
Davy stood in front of his window and peeked from the curtain. No one was near his gate, no one had crossed his perimeter. He sipped coffee from his steel to-go cup and kept watch. People drove by and always slowed down to look at the cabin. These ‘on-lookers’, busybodies Davy called them, were an annoyance, but part of living in a small town. It was the price of being the local freak and monster.
“Keep moving,” he chided them in his mind. “Nothing to see here.” Satisfied that his home was secured, he sat in his recliner and flicked on the local news in hopes there was something good going on somewhere in the world.
It was all bad news.
War had broken out in Europe, and once again threatened all the neighboring countries and nation-states near the warzone. People never learn from history; they insist upon making the same mistakes over and over. Drugs were rampant within the city, prostitution and various other facets of perversion was being normalized. Davy shut off the television, but not before the sins of his past came into his mind.
“It wasn’t worth it,” he thought not for the first time. “All the blood and the guts, all the destruction, it was all for naught.”
Davy sat in the dark alone, with only his dark thoughts and demons for company.
At 130, Billy waited at the bus stop for Belle. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes and saw the van coming down the road. Belle saw him from her seat on the bus and waved. Billy waved back. The bus stopped and the driver opened the door, Belle leaped out and almost tackled Billy.
“Hey, Billy. We had an awesome church service!”
“Well, that’s good. You seem wound up; did you get converted?”
“No, I just feel…light. You know, like a feather.”
Billy laughed. “Light, huh. Bet you can’t beat me in a race to Old Man Washington’s place.”
“You’re on, Billy.”
They stood side by side, and Belle told Billy to count to three. Billy grinned at his friend, the scrawny redneck girl had disappeared, and a beautiful young woman had emerged from cocoon. He had a tough time keeping his eyes off his friend.
“One…two…two and a half…three!”
Both took off like racehorses at the track, Billy and Belle were neck to neck. Belle reached out and pushed Billy, he stumbled and slowed down to regain his balance. Belle finished first and bent at the waist to catch her breath. Billy came up and punched her in the shoulder.
“You cheated,” he said.
She shook her head no. Both panted hard and stayed bent over at the waist until they regained their breath.
“No, I did not. I took advantage of you being too focused. That’s not cheating, that is being smart.”
“Whatever,” Billy snapped.
“Suck it up, Billy. You lost to a girl.”
Billy and Belle walked to the shade of an old oak tree. They leaned against it and caught their breath. Belle grinned slyly and wiped at the sweat on her forehead, she could see her remark stung, and Billy swallowed hard and tried to restrain himself from saying something evil in return.
“What do you want to do now?”
Billy shrugged and muttered, “I don’t care.” Belle winked at him and grinned, but Billy didn’t return her grin. She gave him a light shove and said, “Let’s go to the waterway. I have some money; we can get a soda to share.”
Together, the two friends walked off toward the store to grab a soda and a Little Debbie snack cake. Belle bought a glass bottle of Barq’s Root Beer and a fig bar, and the pair walked to a picnic bench under a tall pecan tree and watched a barge drift lazily down the waterway.
“How did it go last night?”
Belle shrugged and nibbled at her portion of the fig bar. “Jocko smacked Wilma around again. She cried and begged him to stop, and I guess he did when he got tired of beating her. They were cuddled up on the couch when I left this morning, Billy.”
Billy didn’t know what to say to that, so he ate the remainder of his cake and stayed silent. “Wanna climb that tree?” Belle grinned and nodded. “Ladies first,” she retorted as she ran toward the oak. She leapt to the lowest branch and pulled herself up, and Billy grinned.
This is perfect. Why can’t every day be like this?