At last he had done it. After working at in all day, Billie Joe was very nearly obliterated. He looked out at the world as more of a passenger than a pilot. The pack across his shoulder was just heavy enough to have his listing to starboard a bit, but he found if he squinted his right eye, that accounted for any discrepancy and he could maintain a nearly fair course. Thus he staggered and chuckled his way towards God knew where. He shifted his bag to the other shoulder and the weight caused him to veer heavily to port. He thought to himself, Okay then, I'll go this way for a minute. His course took him between two parked cars, into the street and almost immediately onto the hood of Sadie Johnson's Toronado.
He rolled up the vast expanse of the hood, his pack fortunately absorbing most of the blow. His instinct was to roll with it, similar to letting a wave crash one's body against a beach. If he had a thought in his brain besides amusement it was, Whoops not again, as this was not the first time he'd been struck by a moving vehicle.
Billie Joe had always heard about the angels who look over drunks and wreckless children but had never before tonight believed in them. The large car screeched to a halt and Sadie got out, leaving the door open and ran up to the man she'd hit who was still lying in the middle of the street.
“God almight man, the fuck are you doing?” she yelled at him
Billie Joe rolled over onto his back and looking up at her said “Oh, hey. How ya doin?”
“Motherfucker you walked right the fuck out in front of me! I could have killed your stupid white ass!”
“Oh,” Billie Joe said, “That was you? Far fuckin out.”
She pulled him up by his hand, he stood up slowly, looking around like a man waking from a dream.
“Are you alright?” she asked
“I don't know.” he said, brushing gravel off himself. He looked around and checked all his parts. “I think I am, actually.”
“We gotta get you outta the street man,” she said “A cop's likely to come up here any minute.”
This got him to perk up quite a bit, “Yeah, let's not have any police. Hey, can I get a ride?”
They looked at each other, there in the middle of twelfth avenue as the sun settled into New Jersey and the wind came up from the Hudson signalling the death of whatever was left of summer. The exchange was not without misgiving, but there also seemed a glimmer of something like recognition in each other.
“Yeah.” she said “Get in.” He threw his pack into the back seat and settled into the enormous expanse of green that made up the front and they pulled off.
“Holy shit, this is nice.” he said.
“Thanks. What's your name?”
“Billie Joe. What's yours?”
“Sadie.” she said. “Where you headed?”
“Nowhere. Anywhere. It doesn't matter.” he said. He realized with some irritation that the impact had knocked some sobriety back into him. Couldn't have that. “Hey, you want a drink?” he asked “I'm buying.”
“Okay.” she said, “Where you got in mind?”
“Right up here at the next intersection.” he said, “just park next to the hydrant.”
She did as he requested, he jumped out, wavered slightly and then ran into what looked to be an Italian place two doors down from the corner. The thought occurred to her that she should ditch his bags and haul ass. He was obviously wasted. She had the sap under the seat in case he got squirrelly, but she decided he didn't scare her none. She figured on maybe getting him drunk and robbing him, depending on how things played out. He came back down the block quickly, a brown package under his arm, got in the door and they pulled off.
“Oh, a nice red wine to go with dinner?” she asked.
“No ma'am.” he said and pulled out a liter bottle of Jack Daniels. “Tennessee's finest.” he said, and cracked open the seal. “Got a friend named Julio back there that owed me a favor.”
He pulled hard on it, winced and yelped and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, breathing fire.
“Shit, I wasn't thinking. You want me to get a coke for you?”
She narrowed her eyes at him, took the bottle and tipped it up, let that old familiar heat hit her nose and throat like a fond memory.
“Damn, girl.” Billie Joe said. “You might just be my kind of woman.”
She drove and he sank way down deep in the seat and in this way they drank their way around town.
“So Sadie, might I inquire where you are headed to this fine evening?” Billie Joe asked.
“California.” she said, “Oakland.” The car bobbed and weaved through traffic, dodging potholes.
“Far fucking out.” he said. He pondered this for a minute, then hit the bottle, wincing afterwards.
She reached for it, and looking around first, tipped it to her lips, then handed it back. She caught herself in the rear view mirror, her bald head was finally looking normal. She caught another glimpse, trying to be inconspicuous. The swelling around her eye had gone down but the color had gotten worse, if anything. If the whiteboy noticed, he didn't say anything. He might be too wasted to have even seen it, she thought.
She made a mental inventory of the man. He seemed okay, she got a good feeling from her. The booze cleared her head a bit, slowed the thoughts from racing just enough to be able to prioritize. Where she was, what she was doing and where she was going seemed a little more real, more tangible. She looked at Billie Joe again.
“You wanna come?” she asked.
He thought about this, one leg crossed over the other and regarded his boot. He unscrewed the cap of the bottle in his lap and took a drink, put it back in his lap and put the cap back on.
“Yes. Yes I do.” he said, and smiled. She glanced over but didn't smile back at him.
“You got any money?” she asked.
He produced the roll of cash he had in his boot.
“Yes, ma'am. I do.” he said. He looked at her hard and steadily. She couldn't tell if he was being overly serious or merely drunk.”And if this old girl gives you any trouble along the way, I can most definitely help out in that department.“ and patted the dashboard lovingly.
Sadie thought to herself And if you give me any trouble I'll just take that roll of cash and kick your monkey ass out the door going about thirty miles an hour.