Episode 1, The First Night,
Part 1- in which our hero gets up and goes...well, he gets up, at least.
The walls were steep and white. The plaster of paris was smoothed on in patterns that resembled highly stylized waves. Forever roaring towards a beach that doesn't exist. I envy those waves, Johnny thought. He reached up and ran his hand across the rough, pebbled surface of the wall, outlining a row of wall-waves. Johnny had traced these waves a thousand times. When he layed in bed reading, he would reach out , absentmindedly, and caress the tips of the waves closest to him. If Johnny was sitting on the bed with his guitar, writing a song, he would reach back to stretch his arms. Without looking back, he would place his hand directly in the middle of a wall-wave for balance. But they never meant anything to him then. Today they were like a great, screaming signpost. Leading a path to freedom. Crashing endlessly towards a break that will never occur.
It was like a switch clicked off in his head...he knew what to do. It was time to go. Just need to put together a few essentials, Johnny grabbed a duffle bag and headed for his dresser. He stared blankly at the chest of drawers, Why can't I focus?, he thought frantically. Suddenly feeling an unrelenting panic rise from somewhere in his groin, "I have to pee", he said aloud, and smiled as he remembered the first rule of travel, Go before you go... Johnny released the pressure in his bladder, gathered his supplies...stole $100 from his fosters, and walked out the door. Ready to become his own endless wave.
The air was still moist from the evening rainfall, and Johnny breathed it deep into his lungs. That familiar garbage-and-dead-worm smell made him feel free. It also made him feel like he needed a cigarette.
He walked down the gravel shoulder of the road, his eyes adjusting to the fading light. Where are you going, Johnny? He asked himself. I should come up with a plan... Cars of people he knew passed him, honking and waving. Cars of people he did not know passed without acknowledgement. Johnny criss-crossed the local streets randomly. He cut through yards and parking lots, hoping something would inspire his direction. All the while knowing he could not stop moving forward.
Predictably, a light in the disctance caught his eye. His stomach growled and he knew his next move. Johnny turned towards the light. It was the sign for Johnny's favorite, local greasy spoon, MIHM's. They put pads of real butter on their burgers and toasted garlic sauce directly into the buns...Delicious.
As he came up to the door of the dingy diner he heard a rhythmic THOK! THOK! THOK! coming from down the quiet street. It was old Jimmy the Chief, the town drunk and it's entire homeless population. He was shuffling down the street, bouncing his tennis ball. One of the local barflys passed him on the sidewalk. Jimmy the Chief stopped bouncing his ball, turned around, and shrieked at the woman as if he was preparing to scalp her. She froze in terror. Unable to run away or hold onto her purse. The woman stared at The Chief, paralyzed in anticipation of his next move. Jimmy slowly turned away and resumed the walking and the bouncing. Only Johnny could see the Old Indian quietly laughing to himself. "FUCKING ASSHOLE! ", the barfly screamed after Jimmy. He just laughed a little harder. She finally stormed away.
"Scared the tampon right outta that one, didn't I, Pale Face," Jimmy the Chief giggled as he passed Johnny at the door to MIHM's. "Sure did, Redskin," Johnny replied, "You coming in?" Old Jimmy peered up at the taller boy, "You Buyin'?", he grunted the question. "Sure," Johnny held the door open for the older man, "It's the least i can do for the show you just gave me." Jimmy sneered at the notion, "It's the least you can do for turning my ancestors beautiful land into crappy towns full of fat, white people," the Old Indian burst out laughing as he finished his rant. "Fucking landraper, Pale Face." Johnny smiled and shook his head as he let the door close behind him. The two men slid into a booth and prepared for the best, least healthy meal, in the city.
The restaurant was unusually desolate for this time of night. It was midnight and, being that MIHM's was the only 24hour place in town, it was usually at least half full with kids recouping/fueling up for the local pub-crawl. Johnny looked around, the emptiness made the place seem unfamiliar. He felt uneasy.
"I like when it's quiet like this," Jimmy the Chief said softly. He was playing with the salt & pepper shakers, "I can usually get free food here. If it's empty." The old man was practically giddy and the prospect of a free meal. "I was going to pay for you," Johnny replied, still scanning the nearly empty diner. His gaze landed on a table at the far corner of the restaurant. Sitting there were three girls from the local high school...three very pretty girls. Jimmy noticed where Johnny was staring, "You know those girls, do ya?" "Yeah," Johnny tried to sound ambivalent. "Well, why don't you get'em over here," The Chief was practically drooling, "I haven't sat near a girl that young or pretty since the 70's."
Thankfully, before Jimmy the Chief's pedophilia could take control, the waitress arrived...
"You both want the usual?" Margret (the waitress) was very familiar with both Johnny and Jimmy. Her parents owned MIHM's, so she knew all the regulars. "Yes please, Margret", Johnny smiled at the girl, "Do I have to pay for the old Chief here?" Johnny tried not to make eye contact with Margret. The two youngsters had known each other since Johnny was first moved to the town and her parents had been trying to set them up since they were 6 years old. This always made Johnny uncomfortable. Margret was unfazed...Johnny assumed it was because she was fat..."If he don't gotta pay I want two meals", Jimmy the Chief piped up, "one in a doggy bag."
"I'll bring you two burgers", Margret reassured the old man, "if Johnny don't mind payin' for one of'em." Johnny nodded, looking back in the direction of the more attractive girls across the diner, "I want to get them a round of beer." His voice was distant, and kind of cold. Margret rolled her eyes, "Johnny, you're barely 18. I can't sell you beer...For them!" But Johnny knew he could get what he wanted from the kind hearted, lonely girl, "C'mon Margie", he cooed up at her, "It's dead in here, and i know your parents wont mind if you say it was for me." He looked right into her eyes and she blushed, "Okay, fine", she said, " I'll be right back with your food." Jimmy thanked Margret and Johnny waved at the girls at the other table. They reacted by giggling and huddling together in that way that only high school girls can make cute (or maybe only high school boys think it's cute).
"What are you doing out so late, Pale Face?" Jimmy the Chief's question snapped Johnny back to reality. He stared down at his silverware, "I'm leaving", the boy said quietly, "I just have to go...now." The old man leaned back in the booth, "I know that feeling", he inhaled slowly, deeply, "I wasn't born here either, Pale Face. This is just the last town that hasn't kicked me out...just yet." The Old Indian laughed as he said this. The old man was compulsively pulling napkins out of the table dispenser as he spoke, "I was born on a rez in Colorado." Jimmy the Chief looked his young companion in the eye, "But after I got back from the war I just couldn't stay." His intense gaze suddenly went vacent, "I felt like an alien." Johnny was about to ask The Chief a question when one of the girls from the other table walked up to them. "Thanks for the beers", she said coyly, "Can we come join you?" Jimmy was grinning like a banshee on the verge of screaming. Johnny looked the old man directly in the eyes as he said to the girl, "You are welcome, at your own risk." "We'll take our chances", she giggled, as she waved her two compatriots over to them.
The girls squeezed into the booth. The two late arrivals sat next to Johnny, while the more adventurous female, the one who initially came over to the table, sat next to Jimmy the Chief. She looked so comfortable, so confidant, Johnny could not take his eyes off her. "So", the adventurous girl began, interrupting whatever bullshit her friends were chirping on about, "what is the great Johnny Virgil doing at MIHM's with Jimmy the Chief at twelve-fucking-thirty AM?" Johnny wanted to say everything. He wanted to tell her about the wall-waves and that he had to be moving on...forever crashing forward. "I'm just buying Jimmy some dinner", was all he said before Margret arrived with the food for Johnny & Jimmy. The sweet, husky waitress looked distainfully at the trio of pretty girls now at the table. "Does anyone need anything else?" The two girls sitting next to Johnny were about to speak up but Jimmy the Chief, mouth full of ground beef, beat them to the punch, "If you wanna bring us a round of anything for free we'll take it, otherwise, just give Pale Face the check." Margret smiled and walked away before anyone else could speak. The adventurous girl leaned across the table to Johnny, "Don't worry", she pulled a wad of cash out of her pocket, "my parents' got it." Johnny finally looked up at her, "Thanks, Mac", was all he said. She looked right back at him with a gleam oin her eye and put her finger to her lips, as if she knew what he was about to do and wanted to help.
The boys finished their meals and Margret brought them all a second round of cheap beer ("it's still dead in here, and i don't like being alone with the night cook", was her explaination) before they decided it was time to head out.
The group stepped outside into a rainy night. The two twittery girls backed off quickly towards their car, "C'mon, Mac. Let's go home", one of the girls whined. Mac took Jimmy the Chief by the arm, "I'm gonna hang for a bit. Johnny can get me home", she looked at him, "right?" The boy nodded and Jimmy giggled approvingly at this turn of events. Johnny led Mac and Jimmy the Chief down the street. In the opposite direction as the two ridiculous, twittery girls.
It was nearly 2am and Main St. was quiet. Soon, though, the bars would let out and it would be crawling with the drunk and degenerate that frequent the late night, downtown arena on a rainy Monday night. Mac broke the walking silence as she detatched herself from Jimmy the Chief's arm. "Where are you guys goin'?" The pretty girl was playfully eyeing Johnny's duffle bag. "I just have to go", Johnny's voice faded away, "need to keep moving." The boy's eyes drifted off into the distance, towards the river. The girl saw the drop in Johnny's defences and sidled up to him with an awkward, young sexiness. The Old Indian peed on a dumpster. "Take me with you", Mac whispered as she again tried desperatly to hold his gaze. "That would not be a good idea", Johnny replied with a smirk, "I don't have a plan. I have no money, and I'm not going to slow down for you."
"I have a car."
It was all she needed to say.
to be continued at some point today or tomorrow in "the misanthropic digression of johnny virgil"