These are 3 chapters to this story, entries for Bluebellbooks short story slam, the first 2 have already been entries, this is the last one. To make it easier to read, the first two episodes are here too.
“When the wind hauls, you can hear the Indians come,” my cousin Billy had said. Apparently, he said it often, he was a drunk I suppose, and rather useless in his little hometown somewhere in Arizona. Now I had never met him, we lived in The Netherlands, but his mother wrote her brother, my father, letters, describing her hard life in the cooking hot desert, living with her awkward son. She made it a tradition to tell us about how often Billy had been in trouble with the local police, how he ruined the roof one day setting fire to it, how he was found more dead than alive in a well and so on.
“He is getting weirder and weirder,” she wrote one day. Her monthly letter had, for some reason, been lost in the mail and travelling for weeks before it finally got delivered and we all were anxious to know what he had done this time.
It was Summer, a hot day had ended in a thunderstorm and the lamp flickered. We sat around the table drinking lemonade as my father read on. “He now thinks he can see ghosts. He claims he has befriended a man with a Stetson on a horse, riding towards the horizon every night. He calls him Abe.”
“He must have seen too many John Wayne movies, “ my mother chuckled. “That part of your family has always had a screw loose.”
“There is no movie theatre where they live. Nothing there but sand, rocks, snakes and#3p” His voice went silent, abruptly. He stared at the window.
The lightning put everything in a flash, and for a second we could all see the arrow, sticking on the windowpane. Then it was dark for a moment. Thunder made speaking impossible. The lamp had died.
My mother found a candle and matches. My father went to take a look at the window.
There was no arrow to be seen.
“Read on,” my mother said, she was hoarse. My father’s hands were trembling.
“Billy is getting worse and worse,” my aunt had written. “What am I to do? I think I will have to send him over to you. ”
“No way!” my mother immediately exclaimed. “He can’t stay here! Why, he can’t even speak Dutch! We haven’t seen him since he was a little boy!”
“Tomorrow I will send her a telegram that it is out of the question!” my father said. “Now all of you, go to bed!”
At that moment, there was some knocking on the door. A visitor at eleven o’clock in the evening?
My father put the door ajar.
“Yes?” we could hear him ask.
We stared at each other. An American?
My father let him in.
“My name is Abe,” he said. “I just want to tell you that your sister’s son Billy decided to stay in Amsterdam. Good evening.”
He left as quickly as he had come. We stood in disbelief as we heard horse hooves running away.
The telegram was never sent and no one ever heard of Billy anymore. My aunt died that same year.
part 2: Billy
It was a dark day in Amsterdam, some years after Abe had visited our home. I was eighteen now and lived in Amsterdam , where I felt right at home. I rented a tiny room with no running water. My best friend at work was a gay hooker, he would make money during our lunch breaks from the city’s energy company, where we had to copy forms, and with those extra earnings he bought fancy food to share. We would often eat his salads and sandwiches in the Vondelpark next to our office building, me sitting, and he standing, for obvious reasons. His name was Rick.
He was a real nice guy, earrings and lipstick and all. So this one day it was too rainy for eating in the park, and none of his regular customers had phoned for a trick, as he called his second job, so we decided to take shelter in a café and have lunch there.
It was the kind of weather we had when this Abe showed up years before, thunder and lightning. As the storm started to get nasty outside, we entered. We wanted a beer. The café was full of rather stoned hippies who smiled friendly and instead of beer, we decided to go with the flow and have tea.
The air was thick of hashish. Everyone was talking English or Arab, and we forgot we had to go back to our desks to push pencils.
We befriended some Americans and went to their hotel room, my friend to smoke pot and I just listened to their fantastic music recordings from India and sort of danced to it. Hey we were hippies, right?
All of the sudden there was trouble in the hotel, we heard shouting and angry banging on doors. It was a police raid, no idea what they were looking for. The Americans got nervous.
We all decided to leave the shabby hotel room by the window, it was a bit of a climb down. We had to take a fence, and all of a sudden, in the middle of a thunder-storm, we were in somebody’s city garden.
“Hi there.” The man in the white suit waved, we had to follow him inside. “Welcome, come in,” he said, in English. “So you are Americans? The police is after you?”
We all nodded, even Rick and me. He seemed to like Americans.
We stayed all evening, drinking wine and eating nice little dishes of raw fish (sushi, but we didn’t know that then).
The rain stopped. Rick and I had to leave and we said our goodbyes. It was obvious the Americans were too stoned to go anywhere.
“Thanks for the shelter,” I said.
“You are welcome. This is not really my house, you know. That food isn’t mine. It is from the man who wants me dead.” He laughed. “He is in Germany now. He took my wife, so I take his house. He will have a surprise when he comes back tomorrow! Six stoned Yanks in his living room! And this!”
All of the sudden I saw a picture on the wall. It was a picture of my cousin Billy, the same picture my parents had on the mantelpiece for years.
“That is him,” the criminal creep said. “And I will be waiting for him.”
I now saw a gun sticking out of his pocket. I pulled Rick out of the house and we ran away. I tried to tell him what had happened, but he just cried. He was too stoned and drunk. I took him to his room where we both fell asleep. The next day we went to work and never spoke about what had happened.
A week later my mother, now a widow, called me at work. Cousin Billy had died and in his will he had left everything to her.
I didn’t ask how he had died. She got a nice inheritance and went to America to live with her sister-in-law.
part 3: Abe again
When my mother died a few years later, there was still some money left from Billie’s inheritance and I got some cash to go on a holiday. Of course my best friend Rick went along. We made an odd couple perhaps, but hey we had fun.
We hitchhiked to Spain and there, in a marina, we decided to buy a boat. A Yacht, it was a wonderful ship.
Now neither of us had a clue how to sail, but that didn’t seem to matter.
We left port on a beautiful evening.
“Frannie?” Rick asked while we were watching the sun set. “Do you want to live forever?”
“Sure,” I said.
“I don’t. Well , that and the test results came in positive.”
All of a sudden everything changed. The weather, as a storm started. Rick, as he was a patient now. He got HIV.
We sailed through a rough sea and entered a port of which we didn’t know the name. It was a big harbor town.
We decided to sell the ship. Rick needed some rest.
Somehow we managed to get 20.000 dollars for the ‘Amazing Madness’, as the yacht was called, and she was not worth every penny.
We needed a place to live. Then I saw this board.
“Heavenly cruises. Boarding now.”
A cruise! I was convinced this was the thing to do. There was a small office, a bit shabby, with one, very skinny lady, who looked at us with sad eyes.
“You have come for the Heavenly Cruise,” she said. We nodded, Rick was too sick already to stand.
“Tickets,” she said.
“We have none yet.”
“Okay. I had some cancellations. How much can you spare?”
It wasn’t the best deal I ever made, okay. I paid all my 20.000 and we were signed off through a door. It lead to a quay and there she was. The “Rose”.
“It isn’t really a passenger ship,” Rick said.
“No, I think it is an old coaster?”
We followed some people, there was a silent queue walking up the gangway. One by one we went aboard.
The ship left the harbor and soon we were in full sea.
We were given a small hut and there we slept for hours, we were exhausted.
When I rose to get some food, I noticed something. Everyone on deck looked sad. Depressed. Sick. The ship was in a very poor condition.
“Where can I get something to eat?” I asked some old man in a uniform.
“Why bother,” he asked. “It will be over soon. No need to eat.”
I was a bit astonished, but all the passengers seem to think the same way.
Some were crying, two were dancing in the rain.
I did some investigation, this was really a strange ship. The captain and mate were very old men, and they looked as if they were dying.
Every one looked as if they were dying. There was no food anywhere.
“I missed the briefing,” I said to a lady in an old fur coat. “Where exactly are we going to?”
“Oh, it will be over soon,” she said. “Look, they are already putting the dynamite on fire.”
And then I noticed a pamphlet.
“Euthanasia cruises. Your last voyage.”
Suddenly a little boat showed up. A man climbed on board, grabbed me and carried me down again. The other passengers and the crew members just looked dense.
“Wait, what is this, what are you doing?” I asked. “Rick! Rick is still there!”
He wore a cowboy hat. He put me in the little speedboat and we went like lightning, away from the “Rose”.
I recognized him, while there was a big explosion.
It was Abe.
“Howdy,” he said. “Just in time, huh?”