Billy Pilgrim has a Gerber-baby face and a Son-of-Sam haircut. His outfit is Army surplus: he only ever wears the service greens and the camo. It suits him, though. But it’s not the military fatigues, the dino spikes on his head, or the matching mini spikes on his wristbands that hit you first. It’s the unadulterated goofy smiles that keep popping up, somehow untouched by the world of shit around him.
Billy Pilgrim makes his living booking trips to the uncharted places inside. You ever need a stream laid directly through your consciousness, you talk to Billy. Of course, then you’ll also have to talk to Petey. They always work together, a matched pair. And if Billy’s the salt, Petey’s the pepper.
Petey’s more Oscar fish than human. His default expression is one of mild terror, fully complimenting his flying saucer eyes. But look closely at that sullen face and watch the chemical reaction that takes place when he notices your gaze upon him: see the unctuous facial terrain oozing across itself, reforming into the near perfect replica of a human smile. Then just nod and slowly walk away—don’t make any sudden movements—while he rushes towards you, shooting off promises with that faulty submachine gun mouth of his: rapid firing syllables that sometimes jam or completely lock up.
Petey makes Billy look downright cherubic.
“You s-seen them Sony Wega flatscreens in the Sears catalogs?” Petey’ll ask. “I got the hookup on a f-f-forty incher. Practically new. A real steal, if ya know what I mean. Heheheh.”
But the moment his partner heads off to the bathroom right quick, Billy’s there telling you through his trademarked smiles that it’s his own mother’s TV the fish wants to fence you.
Better to stay the hell away from them. I would if I could, but they’ve made connections with my coworkers, signed certain invisible contracts granting them unalienable privileges: free bowling, loitering rights, and a license to practice their shady businesses. Hell, they might as well take up office in the glass conference room and hang a sign out front that says, “Burroughsian Fantasies Sold Here.”
By some miracle, Billy’s alone today. He’s been bowling since I clocked in at one, and likely been at it for a few hours before that. It’s three now, and he shows no signs of stopping.
“Hey Billy.” I finally get the chance to talk to him, after straightening the place up a bit. I can’t help but mimic that sappy grin when he looks over at me.
“Well heya bossman, how are ya?”
“Doing alright, Billy. So no Petey tonight, huh?”
“Naaaaahhhh,” he says, starting on a chugging laugh that builds momentum throughout his sentence, “he sleepin’, man. Got them pipe dreams.”
“Oh, okay.” I don’t know what that means and I’m not sure I want to. It’s nice to get a chance to chat up the time traveler without the fish around though.
“Maaaan, you’re always playing this goddamn Chinese cartoon music.” Billy’s head is bobbing forward at the neck in time with the j-rock blasting through the speakers.
“Oh really? I thought they were Chinese porno cartoons.” I chuckle. “That’s what you called them before, right?”
“Oh, that’s only when a girl’s singing.” His head is a metronome now, jamming from side to side. “What’s this one called?”
“Uuuhhh, this is Driver’s High.”
“Alright, alright. I like it. Now…” He leaps high into the air and lands easily on top of a nearby table. He throws one hand skyward and shouts, “C’mon man!”
“What the hell are you doing, Billy?”
His legs quick shift and now I’m looking at his back. He peeks at me over his shoulder and says, “Making a music video.” His body spins around to line back up with his face and his fingers snap into twin pistols that take a few imaginary shots at me.
His lips are synching perfectly with the music now. With an uncanny grace he’s leaping across tables, pirouetting, locking, and popping. He slides across the top of table 32 on his knees before his body goes limp and he folds forward onto himself.
He holds his yoga pose until the guitar comes back, then he’s on his feet performing some kind of preternatural Flashdance maneuver before he’s taking a bow from on top of table 34 as the song fades out.
Billy plops down into a seat and takes a few deep breaths.
I don’t know what else to do so I burst into laughter.
He winks at me and says, “I want a copy of the cameras,” then he sashays over to a ball return, picks up a stray neon orange eight-pounder, pitches it down an unlit lane, and gets a split.
The rake comes down in front of the pins, and stays down.