BILLY JONES

A short story about a trip to the pharmacy.

‘For the love of God!’

‘God got no love.’

‘Gordon Bennett!’

‘The name's Billy Jones.’

‘One more time and I'll bust in your fuckin' face.’  Karen's eyes are shut fast. Billy softens,‘What is it?’ Karen is lying on her back on the living room floor, her arms and legs outstretched, hands and feet gripping the carpet, ‘Vertigo.’ 

‘Vertigo?’ 

‘Fuck me! Fuckin' vertigo.’ 

‘Too high for you down there is it?’

‘Holy shit! This is goddamn awful.’

‘Don't look so bad from up here.’ Karen's skirt has risen up her thighs revealing her red pants. ‘Go get a fuckin' gun!’

‘Where does a bloke get a gun in Blackburn on a Tuesday morning?’

‘Get a motherfuckin' machete then!’

‘Seriously?’

‘Stop fuckin' talking and act.’

‘That bad eh?’ Karen's face is screwed up tight. Billy leaves the room.

Billy's bedroom is dank. If you could see the smell it would look like a corpse. Billy rummages under the bed, the side of his head presses up against the base as his arm blindly searches for something… Billy pulls out a machete.

‘Where the fuck did you get that?’ Billy stands above Karen holding aloft the tool. ‘Don't remember.’

‘Get to the pharmacist and get me some shit to deal with this.’

‘Tablets?’

‘Yes!’

‘Vertigo tablets?’

‘YES!’

‘What do I do with this?’

‘Give it to the coppers you prick.’

The policeman looks at the machete. Then looks at Billy. ‘What have you done with that?’

‘I've done nothing.’

‘Why do you have it?’

‘I don't know. I just have it. I have a lot of stuff.’

‘Stuff like this?’ Billy shrugs his shoulders, ‘Shoes and stuff.’ The policeman leans over his counter and looks at Billy's shoes, ‘What you got on today?’

‘Sergeant Peppers, they help me climb.’

‘Climb what?’

‘Trees mainly.’

‘And drainpipes?’

‘Drainpipes?’

‘You don't like climbing up drainpipes and sneaking into people's houses while they're sleeping to quietly behead them with that thing,’ indicating the machete. ‘No.’

‘Are you aware that there's no amnesty.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘I've got to take your prints.’

‘But I haven't committed a crime.’

‘If I'd believed every fib I'd ever been told I'd have no fucker behind bars.’

‘I ain't lying.’

Two officers clasp onto Billy's wriggling frame. A third policeman wrests Billy's fingers from his balled-up fist, rolling one digit after another over the ink pad then onto the paper. ‘This is goddamn antiquated. Can't you just fuckin' scan 'em?’

‘We certainly can you wanker…’

‘We sensed you'd be fuckin' trouble. This is safer.’

‘Safer! Safe from what?’

‘Them scanners are costly. A murderer like you likes to destroy things.’

‘Murderer? I'm an innocent man.’

‘Innocent men don't fight.’

‘That they fuckin' do. You bastards need to learn something about human nature.’ A bright scarring startling flash - BUUUUPH! Billy's mugshot is caught; the picture has him mid-scream, two clenched fists directed at the photographer… BUUUUPH! Another flash. Captured is a glob of saliva frozen inches from the lens… BUUUUPH!  Billy's head pinned forcefully against the wall by three sets of hands, his contorted mush barely seen underneath the knuckles and nails digging into his cheeks and eyeballs… BUUUUPH!  The fourth and final shot has him defeated, a fat lip, two black eyes and a cross-hatching of scratches disfigure his face as he stares disconsolately at the camera.

The pharmacist studies Billy, ‘You want some TCP too?’

‘Nope.’

‘That lip looks nasty.’

‘Police brutality.’

‘That so?’

‘Yes. I'll get a million. Watch this space.’

‘What space?’

‘This space,’ Billy jabs his two thumbs at his own chest.

‘Watch your space?’

‘Yes. I'll come in every day.’

‘What for?’

‘So you can watch this space,’ the two thumbs again jab at Billy's chest. The pharmacist is confused, ‘That's eight pounds fifty for the meclizine.’

‘I ain't paying eight fifty.’

‘What do you want to pay?’

‘Nothing.’ The pharmacist looks at Billy and smiles, ‘Watch this space…’ and gives Billy the middle finger. ‘Those tablets probably cost forty pence.’

‘They probably do.’

‘Here's forty pence.’ Billy slides two coins across the counter. The pharmacist looks at the coins. Then pushes them back. Billy picks up the money and pockets it, ‘Got any jobs going?’

‘Got a degree in pharmacy?’

‘Eh?’

‘You need a degree in pharmacy.’

‘A GP tells you how many tablets to put in a box. You then put that number of tablets in a box. You need a degree for that?’

‘Yup. I get paid shitloads too. I probably get forty pee a minute. Now fuck off.’

‘What?’ Karen is dubious. ‘Sold out,’ repeats Billy. ‘Sold out?’

‘He said there'd been a vertigo epidemic.’

‘Bullshit!’ Karen is still flat on the floor. ‘Did you try the place on Church Street?’

‘I tried everyplace. There's been a bank run on the shit.’

‘Give me my tenner back.’

‘I was mugged.’ His purple balloon face seems to back up his statement. ‘Where?’

‘Church Street. The muggers were pissed off that I didn't have any meclizine so nicked your tenner and battered me for being an asshole.

‘What's that?’

‘A person's anus…’

‘No that. In your pocket.’ 

Billy is lying on his bed eating a Ginsters pasty. Crumbs litter his jumper. Many Ginsters wrappers are discarded about him. FWACK-BANG!… The bedroom door blasts open, Karen explodes into the room, spinning like a top. She surges and slams into a wardrobe, bouncing back off she rotates again crashing into a chest of drawers; Billy's crap clatters to the ground. Tornado-esque Karen performs a pathetic pirouette… Billy, mouth open and full of pasty, follows Karen as she pinballs around his room. The whirling dervish whips into a lamp on a stand, the recoil sends her volatile vortex towards Billy's bed where Karen instantaneously leaps high from the invisible springboard and wallops down dead centre on Billy's stomach… Unph!  Billy spits out his mushed up pasty all over Karen's back. Karen forces her weight down onto Billy's gut but still manages to start punching Billy's face, ‘Where's my motherfuckin' tenner?’  In between blows Billy coughs up the words ‘I've…’  Thwack!  ‘Eaten…’  Thwack!  ‘It…’  Thwack!…       ‘Oi!’  Both are startled. Karen stops punching. At the door stands their mother. ‘Your dad wants to know which one of you asswipes is stealing his cigarettes?’

‘We don't smoke.’

‘He said he had eighteen in the packet but now has only fourteen.’

‘You're the smoker.’ Karen still pins down Billy. Billy struggles. Thwack!  Bang on Billy's nose… ‘Fuck!’

‘He don't know that.’

‘Of course he does.’

‘I need one of you two to take the blame.’

‘Blame it on his dementia?’

‘I did. He's having none of it.’

‘How's that?’  Billy huffs and puffs. ‘It seems to come and go,’

‘He's fuckin' scamming us?’

‘Impossible.’

‘Doctors are bent. Dad's bent.’

‘Bent as a two bob bit.’

‘Bent as a ten bob note.’

‘Let's go test the fuckwit.’       Thwack!

The old man is sat in his chair, his pallid pock-marked greasy skin begins to undulate and crease as he starts to speak directly at Billy, ‘I need one asswipe to go down to the supermarket and pap pap papa-pap pap pap papa pap all of those motherfuckers in that store…’ 

‘Papap papa pap pap papapa pap pap…?’ asks Billy. ‘Damn right!’ …Billy, Karen and their mother all stand in front of the dribbling old man. Karen is supported by the two, each have an arm wrapped around Karen's waist, preventing her from collapsing… ‘I'm gonna be sick.’

‘What do you mean dad?’ Billy prods.

‘I mean pap-a-pap papp pap papapap pap papapa pap pap those motherfuckers…’

‘Like shoot the staff?’

‘Yeah! Papapap pap papp papp pap pap papapa pap pap…’

‘I see. Fair enough. Before I do that though can I get a cigarette?’ The old man's energy freezes, his eyes stop dancing, they fix on Billy, ‘A cigarette?’

‘Sure. It's traditional. 'Cos if I go down there and do what you're asking then I ain't coming back alive.’ The old man processes the request. ‘A condemned man cigarette?’

Billy nods. Slowly the old man pulls out the packet of B&H from his breast pocket, his gaze never shifts from Billy, lifting the top and using his thumb he pushes one cigarette forward and extends it towards Billy, ‘Here you go son.’ Billy takes the gift. His mother instantly flicks a lighter and extends the flame, all very slick until Billy clasps the cigarette, the hold is unsure of itself, apprehensively he torches the tip then inhales, billowing the smoke without sucking it into his lungs. The old man's focus slowly slides from right to left, stopping at his wife… ‘I don’t smoke!’

‘Pap papa papap pap pap pap papappap pap pap…’ The old man's hands are two six shooters popping off round after round. Billy turns to his mother, ‘He looks demented to me.’

‘Don't be fooled that prick's as sharp as a razor blade.’  The old man empties all twelve cylinders… He lifts both gun barrels to his lips and blows the plumes from one muzzle then the next. The old man stares at his wife… ‘You owe me four fuckin' cigarettes.’

‘Make your own fuckin' dinner.’ Mother stomps out of the room, letting go of Karen who drops, unfolding onto her back, arms and legs spring out akimbo, palms sticking to the floor, ‘Holy shit!’

‘The room still spinning?’

‘What do you fuckin' think!’

‘I got medication for that.’

‘What?’ The old man says it again, ‘I got medication for that.’

‘What fuckin' medication?’

‘Stick your fingers down your throat.’

‘I'm not pissed. I don't drink.’

‘Don't suppose you smoke neither.’ Karen is exasperated, ‘NO! I don't.’  Billy interjects, ‘Dad.’

‘What?’

‘Dad.’

‘What?’

‘Do you reckon the doctor thinks that I've got what you've got?’

‘What is it that I've got?’

‘You've got an incredibly rare condition that means you can't work and that the State gives you free money and that mother has to clean your filthy arse.’

‘I see.’

‘I mean is it feasible that I've inherited your condition?’

‘Just say it - BoneIdleMotherfuckinItis.’  The old man looks down on Karen, ‘It seems son that your sister here is starting to show all of the symptoms.’

‘This vertigo shit is genuine!’

‘Sure it is.’

‘It is!’

‘Surely your condition is genetic. Do you think your doctor would think that too?’

‘Damn right he would - ThievingSwindlingCorruptFuckinFluenza that's what the Doc's got.’

‘Because I don't think it's safe for me to have a job. I'm dangerous to others.’

‘Don't ignore me down here…’  The old man is calculating the request, ‘I could think about making you an appointment.’

‘That would be great.’

‘But he's a busy doctor - you know what I'm saying…?’

Mother enters the back door into the kitchen. Billy is stood in front of a smoking oven. ‘What's on fire?’

‘Dad's dinner.’

Mother throws four cigarettes at the old man, ‘Here…’

‘Did you pap pap papap a pap pappa pap pap the fuckers?’ 

‘Did you get the meclitzone?’ Karen is still stuck to the floor. ‘The what?’

‘Did you not just go to the goddamn pharmacist?’

‘No…’    BOOM! KAR-RASH! The front door is booted off its hinges… Firemen rush into the house, into the front room, quickly they scan the situation, then dash into the kitchen… The oven is on fire. The room is thick with smoke; Billy is coughing. One fireman grounds his feet, ‘Back away!’  Billy backs off. The fireman adopts the position, points the extinguisher at the flames and slams down on the lever that lets rip the foam that paints the kitchen white… 

‘It was a small fire. I had everything under control.’ Billy is sitting on the front garden wall. ‘My mummy told me that if I ever see flames to call nine nine nine,’ says a little girl. Billy pulls out a Zippo, flips the lid, strikes the wheel…       ‘What are you waiting for?’

‘That's a baby flame.’

‘And you're a baby.’

‘So are you.’

‘I'm forty-six.’

‘Big fat baby!’ The little girl runs off. The front door opens. The old man comes marching out. He marches straight up to Billy and snatches the Zippo out of Billy's hand and heads back into the house. ‘Let me smoke in peace you bastards.’ From a top bedroom window mother shouts, ‘Go to the pharmacist and get what your sister needs, NOW!… Here,’ she throws down a crumpled up tenner.

Billy enters the pharmacy. The pharmacist smirks, ‘You got your compensation?’

‘I can take my business elsewhere.’

‘Then take it.’

‘Church Street would take it.’

‘Take it for Christ's sake.’

‘They'd say, “Billy…” as they got down on their knees and raised their clasped hands begging, “Billy, we'll take your fuckin' business.”’

‘Do you want to give me the nine pounds fifty or what?’

‘Nine fifty?’

‘Yeah, nine pounds fifty.’ Billy's face twitches. ‘Looks like you might have some nerve damage there.’

‘That'll be two million from the pigs then.’

‘Watch this space?’

‘Exactly.’

Billy strides into a building - Ormston, Ormston & Ormston Solicitors. He heads straight up to the reception desk. A woman sitting behind it greets Billy, ‘Afternoon sir.’

‘I'd like a solicitor.’

‘Good. We got those. May I ask what services you're looking for?’

‘I'm looking to service bent coppers.’

‘Pardon?’

‘I intend to claim zillions for extreme violent police brutality.’

‘I see…’

‘Look at my face.’

‘I am. Did the police do that?’

‘That they fuckin' did…’ The receptionist picks up a phone, presses a button, waits a second… ‘Ms. Ormston we have a client enquiring about seeking compensation for police brutality…’ Before the receptionist has finished the sentence a door opens instantly to the left; out from within levitates a predator, ‘Good afternoon, my name is Ms. Ormston and immediately I can see by the disgustingly horrific mess that is your face that you've suffered unbearable physical and psychological damage at the hands of those who are meant to protect us. I am certain I can make you an incredibly rich man.’ Billy's eyes sparkle. ‘Do you like the sound of that sir?’

‘Absolutely!’

‘Excellent. Please step into my office.’

Billy sits down. Ms. Ormston pours two glasses of whisky, ‘Mr. Jones, I have an idea. I'd like to suggest that Dave, who works in accounts, help our situation…’

‘I like the sound of Dave.’

‘I do too.’

‘How might Dave help us?’

‘Dave's speciality is that he can help us strengthen our position…’

‘In accounts?’

‘Eh?’

‘He can release extra funds to fight our cause?’

‘No.’ Ms. Ormston gives Billy a glass of whisky, ‘I look at your face Billy and I see a man who's been in a fight…’

‘With three cowardly shits…’

‘But what I'd like to see is a face that's had all recognition beaten out of it, a face that has been pulverised, that the face we once knew is never coming back.’ Billy sips his whisky, ‘Say that again.’

‘This is where Dave comes in…’ Dave enters the room. Billy looks worried. ‘Billy meet Dave.’ Dave holds out his hand, Billy apprehensively shakes it. ‘Pleased to meet you Billy.’ Billy smiles without smiling. Dave holds out two clenched fists: On his right hand knuckles are tattooed the letters I T S M and continuing over onto the left set of knuckles E J O B.

‘Dave has the talent. Your own mother won't recognise her beloved Billy.’

‘Is that right?’

‘Yep. Think of the millions.’ 

‘I'm struggling…’

‘Your own chauffeur driven limousine…’ Billy is still smiling without smiling.

The policeman is confused, ‘You're saying that we already have photographic evidence.’

‘You have the before. This is the after.’

‘After what?’

‘After you imprisoned an innocent man and did him in proper style.’

‘Proper style?’

‘This grotesquerie happened after the mugshots were taken which proves my point.’

‘It does prove that point.’

‘I know.’ Ms. Ormston points at Billy, ‘So you report this crime and take photographic evidence of this face.’

‘Who is that?’

‘This is Billy Jones.’

‘The buffoon with the machete?’

‘The very same.’

‘We'll need proof of that.’

‘You have his fingerprints.’

The policeman frowns, then remembers, then smiles at Billy, ‘Oh yes! We do have this wanker's fuckin' prints.’ Billy holds his gaze and reveals an unsightly sneer - Billy's two front teeth are missing, ‘Ath-hole!’

Outside the police station Ms. Ormston asks, ‘Are you pleased Billy?’

‘Do I not look pleathed?’

‘It's hard to tell.’

‘I'm fuckin' ekthtathic! When do you think we'll geth the money?’

‘They'll be a misconduct hearing first.’

‘Could we thettle now? I'd thake a million.’

‘A million?!’

‘You thed think of the millionth… How muth then?’

‘Let's get you to a doctor and see how severely damaged your brain is. Remember, the worse it is the better for us.’

‘Underthood.’

‘If you want I can give Dave a ring?’

‘No thankth. I can handle thith one mythelf. How muth then?’

‘Maybe twenty k.’

‘Thwenthy k!’

‘Minus our cut.’

‘Your cuth!?’

‘So probably…   Two k.’

‘My beauthiful faith wath worth more than thoo k!’ 

‘Beautiful?’

The doctor holds up three fingers. ‘Four,’ says Billy.

Outside the doctor's Ms. Ormston asks again, ‘Are you pleased Billy?’

Billy holds up both thumbs, ‘Billy did good.’

‘Good? You answered every single question nonsensically.’

‘Yup. Brain damage.’

‘Brain damage? That says your brain is working damn fine. Idiot!’

‘Where the fuck have you been?’

‘Dentist.’ Billy’s swollen cheeks swell even more as he peels back his lips to reveal two bright red plastic teeth in the centre of his mouth. ‘What the fuck?’

‘Cool huh.’ Billy throws the packet of meclizine onto Karen's belly; she is still recumbent on her back. ‘Get me some water please.’ 

Billy stands at the foam-stained kitchen sink and fills up a glass of water. Through the window he sees the little girl's head sticking up above the neighbour's wall. The girl rubs her pretend tearful eyes and sticks out her bottom lip… Billy gives the girl the Vs.

Back in the front room Billy places a cushion underneath Karen's head. Karen pops two of the tablets into her mouth and swallows a slug of water… ‘Holy shit! It's off again. Move the friggin' cushion.’  Billy moves the cushion. Karen lets go of the glass of water spilling the contents, she slaps her palms to the carpet sticking them down, ‘How long before those bastards kick in?’

‘I'd say half an hour.’

‘I think I've got tinnitus too.’

‘No. I can hear that.’ … Eeeee-uh Eeeee-uh Eeeee-uh… Above the ceiling rhythmical squeaking bedsprings. Billy leaps to his feet, ‘They're having sex!’ 

‘No way!’

‘They're fuckin' having sex!’ … Eeeee-uh Eeeee-uh Eeeee-uh… Billy heads for the door… ‘Don't fuckin' leave me Billy.’ …Billy stops. ‘Billy, don't think twice!’  Billy rushes back for Karen. ‘Give me your hands.’  Karen slowly raises her arms. ‘Quickly!’  Billy grabs her wrists and starts dragging Karen out of the front room… And into the kitchen… Into the middle of the blackened kitchen… They stop. ‘Listen.’  The two hold their breaths, tilting their heads… Through the door they can hear it, faintly: Eee-uh Eee-uh Eee-uh Eee-uh Eee-uh… Billy races to open the back door. Darting back. Grabbing Karen's wrists again. Dragging her backwards out into the backyard. Out onto the slabs. Billy collapses onto his arse, panting, ‘Where the fuck did that come from?’

‘It's repugnant.’

‘She must be as deranged as he is.’

‘I'd say more so!’

‘That image will send me insane.’

‘That's mental abuse!’ …Billy points at something, ‘There's an ant's nest.’ 

‘What?’

‘Hundreds of 'em.’ Karen twigs, or she thinks she twigs, ‘Ants… Yeah, I see 'em… Hundreds.’

‘Let's just think about those bastard ants…’

‘Ok.’

‘Look at 'em. All pumped up on phet…’

‘Zipping here, zipping there, going fuckin' nowhere…’

‘Just looking for a fuckin' fight..’ 

‘Anybody any-fuckin'-time…’

‘The whole goddamn colony…’

‘The whole goddamn planet!’ …Their mother steps out of the back door, a smouldering cigarette hanging from her lips, she sucks on it, ‘Alright,’ and exhales serenely, ‘What are you two chumps doing out here?’ Both Billy and Karen absentmindedly fiddle with weeds and stones, ‘Nothing.’

‘Nothing?’

‘Not much.’

‘Not much?’

‘It's nice out here.’

‘Not that nice.’

‘There's nature.’

‘Where?’

‘Ants and plants.’

‘Call that nature?’

‘Yes.’

‘I'm about to start the tea.’

‘What we having?’ Billy pulls up a dandelion. Mother runs a hand through her messed-up hair, ‘Egg and chips.’ The old man steps out beside his wife, his chest all puffed-up. He too sucks on a cigarette quickly followed by a barrage of smoke rings:    O    O    O    O    O    

‘Did you torpedo any subs dad?’

‘No subs son but I did sink Bismarck,’ he turns and winks at his wife. ‘That's repulsive!’ The old man ignores Karen, ‘What's happening out here then?’

‘Them two are suddenly into nature.’

‘Nature?’

‘Yup.’

‘Not suddenly…’

‘We've always liked it.’

‘That so?’

‘Yeh.’ They all ponder this. The old man eventually taps his ash, ‘Who'd have guessed.’ KER-BANG! The back gate slams open and smashes against the brick wall. Four policemen storm into the back yard. One of them points at Billy, ‘That's him.’ 

‘Are you sure boss?’

‘Arrest the fuckin' weasel!’  The other three officers pounce on Billy lifting him right off his feet. One nearly snaps Billy's neck grabbing him in a headlock, twisting his head to a freakish position. The other two force Billy's arms behind his back dislocating both shoulders… ‘Billy Jones you're under arrest.’

‘Motherfuckers!’ The old man lunges forward chinning one of the coppers holding Billy. With one graceful movement the boss unsheathes his truncheon lifting it high and backwards before swinging it speedily and with precision cracking the old man on the back of his legs. The old man crumbles, screaming. Karen screams too, she has wrapped herself around the legs of one of the policemen grappling with Billy, she bites through the trousers into his calf. The policeman kicks furiously desperately trying to kick off Karen. Mother steams into the melee knocking helmets flying until she too is downed by a cowardly blow to the back of her legs. ‘What's the fuckin' charge you cunts?’ The policeman with the truncheon faces up to Billy, ‘Armed robbery of a pharmacy…’

‘What?’

‘With a machete.’

‘You have the machete.’

‘I've found it boss, the weapon's down here,’ pointing to a spot near the gate where the machete rests carefully positioned. ‘I just ran out with the tablets - I wasn't fuckin' armed.’

‘Not according to the pharmacist and I'm prepared to wager Billy Jones that your fuckin' prints are all over that fuckin' weapon.’

‘Okay. Okay. I'll accept one million!’. The boss, with eyes still on Billy, whacks Karen on her back… BIFF!  Karen slumps, ‘The constabulary do not negotiate with criminals.’

‘Stop fuckin' beating up my family!’

‘They're preventing us from apprehending you. It is well within our rights to use reasonable force…’  BOFF!  This time it is mother who drops to her knees. ‘Stop for fuck's sake! I don't want any money. I'll give you money. I've got a tenner in my pocket!’ Both Karen and her mother holler in unison, ‘That's MY soddin' tenner!’  BIFF! … BOFF!

Springwatch is on the TV; something about faecal sacs… Sat around the room are the family wolfing down their tea. Billy is wearing a neck brace; his bulbous face looks like its been squeezed up through the too tightly fitted support. ‘Billy Jones.’

‘Yes Dad.’

‘You made me a proud father today.’

‘I did?’

‘You did.’

‘Thanks Dad.’ Karen and her mother share expressions, expressions that say some people in the room are utter fucking bonkers. ‘Dad.’

‘Yes son.’

‘You're an inspiration…’

‘I know son.’

‘What? He's a TWAT!’ spurts out mother. ‘A complete and utter TWAT!’ echos Karen. ‘Ignore them son.’ Billy's face brightens. He pushes a large chip into his gob.