Airborne again. Des Moines had been left far behind. It was dark, and, but for the sound of the engines, quiet in the cabin of the plane.
Try as he might, he was having difficulty staying awake. The Stewardess had said they would be on the ground for an hour when they got to Kansas City. Time enough to get off and stretch his legs a bit, and wake up. He really wanted to wake up. The dreams were going to come, again. He knew the dreams were going to come. But the sound of the engines, droning on and on, the gentle vibration through his body ... and he was drifting away from the sound to where it was soft and quiet ...
He stood there in the cold drizzle, next to the pine box that her body was in. He held a small bunch of purple flowers in his hand, his eyes tightly shut so he wouldn't have to pretend to cry. A few people were there, grownups, people who towered over him and seemed to talk in whispers and everybody was dressed in black and everybody sounded so sad. And the whispers said "Poor kid" and "Only six" and "whore" and "no way to raise a kid" and "father was executed" and "little bastard". And the priest said words in a language he didn't understand and then the box was gone into the ground and it was time to leave. He knew he was supposed to cry. But he just stood there, eyes tightly shut. Someone picked him up and carried him and held him tight, and he opened his eyes as he struggled to get free and he saw it was his uncle, he didn't like his uncle, his uncle hurt him and made him do things and he didn't want to go anywhere with him he wanted to stay with her but she was gone now and he had no one, no one but his uncle and the things he did, the things he did, the things he was GOING TO DO!! He woke up with a start."FUCK!!"
He wiped his hand across his face.
The Stewardess looked down at him.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah. Where are we?"
"We're about an hour out of K.C. Can I get you something? You're perspiring. Would you like a wet cloth?"
"Yeah. Cold. Ice cold."
The Kid looked out of the small, rectangular window of the DC-3. Nothing but dark out there. Dark, occasionally punctured by little pinpricks of light. Farmhouses. There'll be lots of lights in Vegas. And good times. Lots of good times. Joey The Hat had had a full money belt. Of course, he knew he would. Joey was a runner and a bag man for the bookies. And he'd been skimmin'. Filling his moneybelt with other people's money. And those other people were not happy. Just how stupid did Joey think they were? Dumb fuck. But had he caught him at just right time. There must be Twenty Grand in Joey's belt. He hadn't had time to count it all, yet, but it was around Twenty Large. He intended to turn it in like he was supposed to, but the cops found Joey so fast - the cops were after him so fast, he never had the chance to give the money to the people it belonged to. And now he's runnin'. And when you're on the run, it's 'Finders Keepers'. Like Joey's hat. Joey's hat had come off in his hand as Joey slipped to the ground, like the hat was his now. He pulled the knife from Joey's neck and slipped the hat onto his head. It felt good there. Like it belonged. Like the moneybelt. The money was his ... and the hat was his. And he was goin' to Vegas. Just like that.
The Stewardess brought him the cold cloth to wipe his face and neck.
"Would you like a beverage, Sir?"
"Yeah. Coffee. Black."
The Stewardess walked to the back of the plane to get a mug and fill it with coffee. She wondered about the thin young man in the hat. Most people took off their hat when they flew. But not him. She had thought to offer to take his hat and stow it for him, but he had covered his face with his hat almost as soon as he'd boarded, so she left him alone. She'd do it later, maybe. When he woke. But it was when he woke that she thought better of her planned kindness. Once she looked into his eyes she knew, instinctively, that no kindness would soften the hardness she saw behind those cold, grey eyes. When she looked into his eyes she felt a tightness in her belly. She realized the tightness was fear.
She brought him his mug.
He sat back in his seat and sipped the coffee. It was hot and strong and burned all the way down to his stomach. But it felt good. Yeah, real good. Probably like his uncle felt that night he staggered into the apartment with the knife stuck in his gut. In the year after she died he had stayed with his uncle. And his uncle had hurt him, over and over again. So as his uncle was dying he just stood there and watched. And when his uncle finally died, he pulled the stiletto out of his gut and kept it. The stiletto that was in his pocket, that he had kept for the last 11 years. The stiletto that he had used on Joey The Hat. Joey, and so many others. The stiletto that fed him and clothed him and kept him alive. The stiletto he knew he would find a use for in Vegas.
"Fasten your seatbelt, Sir. We're on final approach to Kansas City."
Kansas City and still awake. Good.
I'll get off, walk around, stretch my legs and wake the fuck up.
And then it's Oklahoma City.