Billy & Howard

[Continues from: “Departure from Mesopotamia”]

© — Meanwhile, I had polished off the chili dogs that I bought at the rest stop, and now I’ve got my two invisible friends in the car with me.  As we passed through Winnemucca, Howard was already asking if we were there yet, having no idea where “there” was.  And Billy was busy trying to get his cheeks to inflate by hanging his head out the window, mouth wide open, as we rolled down I-80 at 70 miles-per-hour, in the slow lane.  We had already made five bathroom stops because those two couldn’t synchronize their bladders.  And the back seat was taking on an orange hue from the crushed Cheetos.

Howard was a code writer for one of those big internet outfits.  His mother told me that he would spend five to six days at a time in his cubicle, without ever coming out, leaving people to wonder about certain things.  He’d clatter out numbers, letters, and the little symbols on those keys that no one really ever uses.  The word was that you could see, in the reflection of his glasses, code scroll by so fast it made him look like a slot machine that was mistakenly plugged into 480 volts.  He kept in his lair a case of Shasta cola, a Costco-size box of pepperoni Hot Pockets, and a microwave that made worrisome noises when he heated cans of baked beans.  But, apparently, that boy could write code.  He once shyly made the claim that it was he, and not Al Gore, that had invented the internet.  Figuring out how to remotely open the front gate at Ft. Dicks landed Howard a pro bono job at the NSA for a while.  Until he took up entertaining himself by remotely opening the front gate at the NSA…over, and over, and over.  They probably wouldn’t have caught him if they hadn’t run a skip-trace on the “LOL” that showed up on everyone’s screen whenever the gate opened itself.  Still, being invisible, the gig at the NSA would have been perfect for him.  Now he was riding with me, having been left behind at the rest stop in Elko when the trucker sped off as Howard went back for his fourth chili dog.  And he had figured out how to make Siri work with my text messaging, so I was happy to have him.


As for Billy…wow.  Billy was a professional carnie, jumping from one carnival to another as quickly as a nauseous Mom jumps off a Tilt-a-Whirl.   He primarily earned his keep making sure that the balls never went into the goldfish bowls, the rings never hooked around the Coke bottles, and the ducks at the shooting gallery never tipped over…that sort of thing.  He was perfect for the job, also being invisible.  What he was not perfect at was not throwing soft drinks from the Ferris Wheel, not holding the doors shut in the Haunted House, and not making hats out of cotton candy for the paying customers.  So, Billy changed jobs a lot.  A ‘Hole’ in carnie-talk is a place of employment, and it was in-between holes that I found Billy.  At the rest stop, trying to fool Howard with a game of Three-Card-Monty, becoming increasingly loud with irritation, as Howard was winning every time.

So, I jumped in the game, let Billy take me for a few bucks, and let Howard have a good laugh at my expense.  I figured we were all basically doing the same thing anyway: just drifting through life…coddiwompling.  We might as well get along.  Besides, taking a hit from those two was a small price to pay for new friends.  I figured that having a quick-talker and a brainiac along just might prove useful, and since I had my roomy ‘99 Ford Taurus, we made a pretty good team.  Off we went…toward that mythical place called ‘Woodacre.’  Handing Howard a map so he could figure out for himself just how not-there-yet we were, and yelling at Billy to pull his head in so I could pass the big-rig.

(For your convenience, we offer…The Coddiwomplers Route Guide)

Copyright – Robert W. Hansen – 2017

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