The day that Bingo died was the day I decided to put on my walking boots and leave town.
Bingo had been like a brother
to me, hell scratch that, he had been closer than a brother – if that’s even
possible. We used to suck in the air at the same time, it was that close – no
funny stuff – just brotherly love through and through. And then he goes and
dies on me and you know how people say ‘I felt as if my right arm had been
amputated’? Well that was how it felt. Honest to God, I felt like I had
lost a limb right there and then.
It was his mother that came to
the door to break the news and break my heart (the only one I’ve got). I walked
back down the path on account that she didn’t invite me in. So as I’m walking
down the path, I’m thinking that a few seconds earlier I had almost skipped up
the path as I knew nothing about what was waiting on me behind that door.
Boom! That was what happened.
There was a kind of boom in my head and I could see his mother’s lips moving
but I wasn’t sure what the old lady was telling me. I thought I heard her tell
me that he was red and I’m thinking to myself that sure is a strange thing to
say about someone. Then I realized she’d said he was dead and my whole insides
disappeared and the blood in my legs shouted ‘so long’ and I felt like I was
going to hit the floor. Next thing I know she’s closed the door on me. I
reckon she thinks it was all my fault. If he hadn’t met me, Bingo would still
That just ain’t true. Bingo did
what he wanted, always did – just then I was going to say that he always would
but he won’t , not any longer ‘cause Bingo is well and truly dead.
I met Bingo when he was in that
zone where he’d been lost for a time and was just crawling back to where he
should have been. I had already been to that place and I told him so. I ‘d just
sat down on the big chair in Tubby Brown’s Bar when this kid, probably about
17, sits on Tubby’s chair and says ‘beer’, just like that. Well Tubby told him
that was his goddamn chair and that he should get the hell out of it, then he
asked the kid how old he was and he spat out ‘21’ right away, like he’d been
rehearsing it and all.
“Sure, you are kid, sure you
are.” And Tubby must’ve taken a liking to the kid because he served him beer
without another word.
Seems that Bingo was ready for
the world long before it had been ready for him which explains why he kept
ending up in trouble more times than his goddamn mother was ready to admit.
Bingo had strayed from the righteous long before we had clapped eyes on each
Just at that particular time I
had been running a small business over in Saturday County and I was in need of
someone who’d work cheap and fast. When Bingo was sober he was the fastest I’d
ever seen. The fastest, no kidding.
Bingo got real drunk that night
and painted a clown’s face on Mayor Atholl’s statue. Now there are some who
might say that the statue never looked better but his widow wasn’t one of them.
She went to the newspapers, then she went to the TV stations, she even went to
a meeting of the Hell’s Angels to ask if anyone knew anything about the ‘perb’traitor’
– I ‘m spelling it like that ‘cause that’s the way she said it and it made me
One early morning in July, a
beer truck - minus its driver - ran into the statue and broke it for good.
There are some folks who say that Bingo was the one that started the truck
rollin’ down Hickory Street in the first place but nothing was ever
So Bingo came to work for me
and he did a job (and then some) but he was like a trapped desert cat and could
never settle. You’d find him lookin’ out to the horizon and wondering what was
over that next hill.
Then one day – the day after
his 18th birthday – he got up and left. He placed a note in the
pocket of my jacket that just said ‘Thanks’.
The next few years got
swallowed up and wasted on living. I got married, became a father and then got
divorced and nothing to show for it except empty pockets – well not quite
empty, I kept Bingo’s note in one of them. No idea why, I guess I thought he
might come back one of these days. My wife , strike that, I meant to say when
my ex-wife and kid moved out to the boon docks, it meant I rarely saw
them and so the morning that Bingo turned up was the start of a really good
In all the years in between,
Bingo had grown and become a man. There had been women here and there but not
so you’d notice - he said. The woman that stops Bingo in his tracks is
going to be a mighty fine specimen when she does, at least that’s what he
That day when Bingo met Angel,
it was a balmy and thundery one. The kids on the street had opened the hydrant
and the water was shooting up in the air in an arc. Bingo and I had been
smoking and keeping our feet cool by sitting on the edge of the sidewalk and
letting the river of street-water run over them. We talked about this and that
but nothing real serious you understand.
I couldn’t see Angel at first,
the sun was behind the face and I was a little blinded. Angel sat on the
sidewalk and smiled at Bingo and a sort of peace flooded over Bingo’s face.
I’ve never seen that happen before or since – with anyone’s face.
They called him Angel, not on
account of any good works that he had done - no, they called him that because
he had the face of one of those paintings you could see in a dusty old room.
The ones with saints painted in blues and reds and who always pointing to
Heaven - in that weird way that they did.
It's a strange thing I gotta
say but the kindest person in the world, with the biggest heart, could be
looked on as sort of bad guy just 'cause his face was worn down by life and rotten
genes, and the most evilest heart you could ever meet, might hide behind the
face of an angel and people would think they were real good-natured. We folks
really are shallow when it comes to reading faces. Now I ain't sayin'
that Angel was mean or that he was a saint and all - I ain't sayin' that. When
I'm tellin' you is, that Angel was worth watchin'.
With those kind of looks, Angel could have cut off one of your little fingers
and sold it back to you for a buck (and wrapped in your undying gratitude).
You're thinkin' that I was jealous of Angel 'cause he shuffled into town and
into folks lives without a bye or leave? That he took over almost everything,
including Bingo's time and that didn't sit too well with me?
Well you might be right, in a
way, but it wasn't the whole story. Whatever magic dust that Angel sprayed over
ever soul he met, it didn't seem to work with me and that left me out in the
cold. Let me tell you folks that it ain't a nice place to be. It's like being in
a dance hall and everyone is swallowing Pastor Jones' hooch and you ain't
allowed to drink on account of somethin' or other. Lonely as Hell, folks I tell
you, lonely as Hell.
Sometimes I would look at Bingo
as he was laughin' so hard that I thought he might burst open right there and
then, and I'd look at Angel and he was just dancin' and messin' with those
folks' hearts and souls and I felt sorry for them - I kid you not, I felt
They'd all look at me and I'd
laugh so hard and loud, so as to make them think that I was in his power too,
but I could see when Angel slyly looked over at me, that he knew. Oh yeah, he
knew all right. I was taking none of the crap that was fallin' out of his face
hole - none.
I remember one night, the night
of a harvest moon if I recollect, we were all walking back from Tubby's. Angel
and Bingo were helpin' each other walk along the sidewalk, when Bingo turned
off to go home and that left just me and Angel. I did my usual joshin' and
laughin' as if I had too much of old Tubby's beer - and that was when Angel
stopped and looked me straight in the face. Real serious like.
"You ain't foolin' me, you
never did have a drink of beer," he said.
Now there was two ways I could
go with this. Either I could act as if I didn't know what he was up to, or I
could just come clean and tell him what I thought. I gotta tell you, I
made an enemy that night. Not the kind that turns their back on you, oh no,
this was the kind of enemy who runs silent and deep. An enemy who draws you in
even closer, so as not to let the natives see what is really happening.
Angel was real cute when it
came to things like that. He'd mosey up to you and put an arm around your neck,
like you were a long lost pal. But although the hold was just a little too
tight, it was subtle enough that no one else saw. You could feel just enough
burn to let you know he was there. You knew that you were on his radar
and that you weren't going to escape unless he said so.
That night Angel asked me why I
was called 'Cowboy', and then told me that it was a real stupid name anyhow. I
could have said that 'Angel' weren't too much better, but I let it lie, instead
I just said that it was on account that I shot a man. Killed him, stone
"What he do that upset you so much, 'cow....boy'?" Asked Angel.
"On account that he asked one
too many questions," I said. Now I could see that he wasn't sure if I was
telling the truth or not - and quite frankly I didn't really care what he
thought. Although if he was getting around to thinking that I was a
cold-blooded killer, then that might not be so bad.
He walked away, that's all he
did that night, walked away. Stopped, spat on the ground, waved his arm as if I
wasn't worth the bother and staggered off home. I knew that me and him were
finished - that I had just declared war on Angel and that he might come to get
I just didn't figure that the war
was gonna start the very next morning at sun-up.I kid you not on that fact -
but let me tell you good folks that I was ready for him. Oh yeah. Real
bobby stevenson 2015