A scene from 'The Last Picture Show' written from Billy the street sweeper's perspective.
I was excited. I got to go out with Sonny and his friends. I don't really know who they are. They're Sonny's friends. Not mine. I stay with Sam mostly. I look after the street. Someone has to clean it. It's so dusty all the time. It needs a good clean. I like Sonny. He looks after me sometimes. Always has. We have our own special signal so I know everything's alright. He turns my hat backwards. I know everything's alright then. Everything's alright.
That night it was the Christmas Party. Sam would be inside. I didn't know what he was doing, but he's usually busy, so it must've been work. He'd seemed a little reluctant to let me go. He gave me that look. Slightly worried. I got that look a lot when I wanted to go out of his sight. Bad things happen when I'm out of his sight. When I go with Sonny's friends I sometimes trip over, but they always laugh and help me up. Sometimes I lose things when I'm with them, but Sonny always finds them for me. Even when I don't realise they're gone. Sonny always looks after me.
Me and Sonny were dressed in our best jeans and shirts, and I had my denim jacket. I almost left without my hat, but Sonny made sure I had it. He turned it backwards as we walked out the door. He always turns my hat backwards. I know it's alright. We walked to the Christmas Party at the town hall. There were lots of people there. They knew Sonny. They knew me, but I didn't know them. I knew Sonny. Sonny looked after me. And Sam. I saw Sam. Sam looks after me too.
The hall was busy. There were lots of people. I lost sight of Sonny. And Sam. But it was alright. I knew they wouldn't leave me for long. They never left me alone for long, and when they were gone I'd wait for them. Right where I was. Sam always said to me not to go wandering off by myself. He lets me sweep out front, but I never go too far. Just out front near the Pool Hall. Sonny would take me riding in his truck sometimes when he came to the Pool Hall. That's when he turns my hat backwards.
I was right. Sonny came back. Something good happened. He was smiling better than before. He turned my hat a second time. We went outside to meet his friends then. They were waiting for us. They didn't seem happy. At least one of them didn't. He was Sonny's good friend. The one who was always with him at the Pool Hall. Duane someone said. I'm sure. I think. Yes. Duane. Someone said he was ‘sore' because his ‘gal' had run off and left him. I didn't really understand, but Sonny didn't seem up set, so neither was I.
A bottle was being passed around, and came to me a lot. Some of the others watched me drink and laugh, but I didn't know why. The water tasted strange. Not like cola. It make me choke and cough sometimes. It was very hot. It burned the back of my throat and warmed my chest and stomach. After a while my head felt fuzzy, but Sonny was still there, so everything was fine. Sonny would look after me like always.
"I'm bored; let's go do something." The dark haired one called Duane said as he passed the bottle to Sonny, who took one look at me and passed it to another of his friends. There were five others aside from Sonny and Duane. I hovered outside the group and watched while Sonny turned to Duane and grinned.
"Let's go hunt up some pussy!" One of the others suggested. I didn't know his name, but I didn't see him with Sonny often, and he never visited Sam in the Pool Hall. I didn't even see him while cleaning the street.
"Yeah! Let's all go get a fuck!" Duane agreed, though I didn't really understand what they were talking about. Whatever it was made Sonny smile, so it couldn't have been bad. Another boy stepped forward. One with blonde hair like Sonny. He leaned over Duane, wobbling slightly. I wondered if he was alright. Sonny wasn't bothered, so I wasn't either.
"We could visit my Uncle Hank's heifer; I say a heifer beats nothing." He said. His words were slow and dazed. Everyone seemed to be speaking strangely. Slower than usual as if they were out of step with time. I felt my body lagging behind. Or my mind. I wasn't sure which. I watched the group huddle together. A couple of the boys looked over at me, but Sonny was still there, so everything was fine.
"What we ought to do is buy Billy here a piece of ass." Duane said as he walked towards me and looped his arm across my shoulders. He didn't turn my hat backwards. The other boys gathered around me laughing, but Sonny was still there, so I smiled. The boys never paid attention to me like this.
"Hey! Don't tease him Duane." Sonny said firmly as he stepped forward. He wasn't smiling. Sonny always smiled. He smiled at me and turned my hat back to tell me everything was alright. Why didn't he turn my hat back? We were with friends weren't we? Everything was alright wasn't it?
"What about Jimmie Sue? We can all put in to pay for it." The blonde called Leroy said, but I didn't understand. Sonny wasn't happy, and no one was listening to him. What was he talking about? What were they talking about? I didn't understand what was going on. Two of them took my arms and lifted me. I smiled. It was fun being carried, and the others were laughing.
They put me on my feet by a car, but I couldn't see Sonny. Where was Sonny? He was here, he was right here, where did he go? My trousers had been pulled to my ankles. Why? What was going on? I didn't like it. I wanted Sonny. I wanted to see Sonny. I wanted him to turn my hat back like he always did. I wanted to go home with Sonny and Sam.
"Go get her idiot boy!" One of the boys jeered as they opened the car door and pushed me in. I fell forward across the backseat. I was on top of something large and warm and squishy. It was a fat woman. Her dress was open and her skirts were hiked up. She grabbed my arms and pulled me up to look at her old face. I didn't like her. I didn't like this.
"Get moving you little prick!" She ordered, but I didn't understand. I could hardly keep my balance on the backseat. One knee was trapped between her legs while the other was stuck on the floor against the front seat. I could barely move, and her grip wouldn't let me move back. I wanted to get out. I didn't know what to do. I wanted Sonny. Where was Sonny? I wanted to go home with Sonny. "God you're useless!" The woman snapped harshly, her legs trapping my waist and pulling me forward until I was against her. My dick was trapped against her thigh. I didn't like it. I pulled back. She pulled forward. My dick hurt. I didn't like it. It felt strange. I think I wet myself. "Not now you little jerk! You can't even last a few seconds! You got it all over me! Get out you little prick!" She shouted as she slapped me with the back of her hand. I didn't understand. What had I done? I didn't mean to wet myself.
I didn't have time to push myself back. The woman push me back and then out onto the concrete. The ground hurt my legs and a pair of arms pulled me to my feet. My pants were pulled up as I stood and looked for Sonny. I wanted Sonny. He was there. He turned my hat back. Everything was alright now. Everything was alright, but I didn't smile. My nose hurt. My legs hurt. My dick hurt. I didn't understand.
"Let's get you home." Sonny said, and we went. All of us. In a truck. No one spoke to me. No one looked at me. I felt something warm on my face. I didn't like it. At the Pool Hall we got down and went to the door. Sam was there. Sam! I wanted Sam. On the way inside Sam stopped me and took my chin. He looked at my face and stroked my hair. He pushed me inside. As I went inside I could hear him.
"Now you boys can get out of here. I don't want to have no more to do with you. Scaring an unfortunate creature like Billy, just so you could have a few laughs. I've been around that trashy behaviour all my life. I'm getting tired of putting up with it. And you can stay out of this Pool Hall, out of my café and my Picture Show too. I don't want no more of your business." He said angrily. Sam didn't get angry. Not with Sonny. He never got angry with Sonny. I didn't like it when Sam was angry. Was he angry because of me? Did I do something wrong? I don't want Sam to be mad at me.
"We didn't mean for anything bad to happen Sam. We-" That was Sonny's voice. He sounded upset. Why was Sonny upset? Had I upset him? I didn't mean to! Sam interrupted Sonny before he could say more.
"You didn't even have the decency to wash his face." Sam said, his voice filled with shame. He was ashamed...of Sonny? What did Sonny do? It wasn't Sonny's fault! It was my fault! I did something wrong! I don't know what it was, but I upset the woman! It's my fault! Nothing else was said outside. Sam came in. He stood in the doorway for a moment looking tired and disappointed before coming to me. He cradled my chin and stroked my hair. "Come on. Let's get you cleaned up." He said gently as he led me towards the bathroom upstairs. Sam always looked after me.