Chapter Sixteen: “Rat House”

BILL

Bill came by the house on Independence Day and decided that our lawn was the perfect spot for a fireworks display. He’d brought every type of fire spitting, sparkle inducing, and gunpowder burning item he could purchase illegally from the Indian reservation. He even brought his own beer this time, a rare occurrence allowing me my independence from his dependence on my beer supply.

Sucking on a beer, Bill arranged a few of the items around the lawn then lit a long string of firecrackers. Bill laughed as the dog ran in the house in fright. He drank his beer down then lit a rocket of some kind that shot straight onto our roof and started a small fire. Buzz ran to the garden hose and turned it on, but nothing came out. There was no water in the house. Howard had run over the cap to the water pump earlier in the day when he washed his car on the lawn and all the pressure was gone. I ran inside to call the fire department and the police came and confiscated all of Bill’s fireworks and wrote him a ticket for possession of said fireworks.

That’s what Bill was like, incautious and juvenile. He shot birds with his pellet gun. He beat his dog. He’d stand around in ninety plus degree heat in a flannel shirt and combat boots, his trucker’s cap pulled down low over his sunglasses. He’d drink your beer and never say thanks. He was a freeloading, mooching son-of-a-bitch.

I felt nothing toward Bill and Buzz. They were annoying like gnats flying around your face. They’d spend all day doing nothing, or worse, spend all day working on Buzz’s 1969 GTO. They’d change the oil and gap the sparkplugs and fiddle with the timing, but it was all a waste of time; the car ran the same whether they worked on it or not. It was an excuse to drink beer, and they didn’t need an excuse to do that. They’d stand on our porch and drink beer every day, rain or shine.

I understood not wanting to work. Not many people love their jobs enough to want to go to them, but then there’s downright lazy and Bill was one of the laziest people I’d ever met. I can say this because I’m lazy, but I worked at music and the band even in my unemployment. Bill luxuriated in his unemployment, waking when he wanted, never using a clock or watch, sleeping whenever he wanted. He was like an animal. He’d eat, drink, sleep or rise to no set schedule, just whenever he felt like doing it.

After the fireworks incident Bill had to be careful using the pellet gun, since it looked so much like a real gun. The cops used to come by our cul-de-sac now that Bill was on their radar. He loved that pellet gun. He’d shoot the birds, squirrels and rats with it, making sure they limped or died. He was especially happy when he’d get a head shot and kill the poor things. Being of the year of the rat doesn’t mean I liked the rats, but they lived their rat lives and as sentient beings had every right to existence as any other living being. Bill was a bastard.

Bill occasionally had girlfriends, but these relationships never lasted long and often ended with Bill saying they were really lesbians and hated men. There was one definite report that a former girlfriend of Bill’s was, indeed, a lesbian, but it was not because she had dated Bill, I’m sure. She came to a show we had at Squid Row with her girlfriend and Bill was there. He got mad and started an argument with her. The bouncers threw him out and he sat in his truck the rest of the night smoking cigarettes and scowling. He remained out of loyalty to the band, since he was hauling our equipment. It was the only time I liked the guy.

Among the items Bill possessed was the pinball machine, a pick-up truck, and a sno-cone machine. The pinball machine resided in the Rat House where it was put to good use with the various challenges and tournaments we had. The pick-up truck, a 1984 Chevy, did the hauling of equipment for the band, but he also would look for scrap and take it to the junk yard for cash. It wasn’t a job, it was more of an avocation. He enjoyed driving around and if he found something of value, all the better. The sno-cone machine was an aborted attempt at owning a business. He was going to rent it out at kid’s parties and church carnivals and such. He put up a few flyers and never got any calls so he gave up. He had no tenacity. If it didn’t succeed with the absolute minimum amount of effort it wasn’t worth pursuing, according to Bill.

Bill did have an occasional adventurous impulse. He drove across the country to New York and returned by the southern route through New Orleans, Texas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He hit all the major highlights a tourist should see but of all the places he went he liked the Grand Coulee Dam the best, a sight he could have seen during a day trip from Seattle. The good life was lost on Bill.

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