I know, Billy. Besides, I get to go to church tomorrow. You wanna come with me?”

Billy shook his head no. “I’ll pass, Belle. You go on and go. I’ll see you after church, okay?”

“Okay.”

Davy Ford watched the children from afar. He walked through his house and pulled his drapes shut. He shut off the lights and made sure his doors were locked. Satisfied that his home was secure, he went down to the sub-basement and began to work on his latest project. 

 Stupid kids, Davy thought as he sat at his laptop. He opened his word processor and stared at the blank screen. His cursor flashed but never moved. 

All this time back, and my home has never been invaded. Leave it to two kids to breach it. Davy typed the title of his new piece of writing titled, Just Another Day in Hell. For a moment he considered adding ‘based on true events,’ but he didn’t. 

His phone buzzed and distracted him from the screen. He stared at the phone. It was a notice from the local church that his group would meet on Tuesday at 1500. 

Davy hated going to the meetings. However, his doctor thought it would do him some good to get out and meet new people. She’s wrong, Davy thought, but he had to go. She checked on his attendance and they spoke about it at his appointments.

The pastor of the church would sometimes sit in and tell her story. She had been a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. She had never walked the blood-soaked sands of the desert. Her closest encounter with danger had been on a search and rescue mission in the mountains during a wildfire. 

It was a good story, but it wasn’t war. 

Davy placed the phone down and focused on his screen. This story wasn’t going to write itself. 

While Davy tapped out words on his keyboard, Belle had walked home. Her momma, Wilma, had a nasty reputation. Wilma’s boyfriend Jocko had a nasty one too. Wilma watched Belle enter the yard. Her image of her daughter was hazy from the heroin she shot into her veins. 

“Hiya, dah-ling,” she muttered. Belle looked at her mom and shook her head. The needle was still stuck in Wilma’s vein. Belle pulled it out and leaned her mom’s head back against the chair. Wilma began to snore. 

Jocko walked out on the porch bare chested and smacked his lips. ‘A few more years and that fruit will be worth picking, just got to tough it out with her junkie momma until then.’

“You want a hit,” Jocko asked Belle. She shook her head no and went to move around him. He smacked her on the rump. “One day, you will want some, and then I’ll give you all you can handle.” He smiled at Belle, his yellow teeth flashing menacingly.

“No thanks,” she said as she went to her room. Cockroaches scattered when she flipped on the light. The hot night air was suffocating. Belle opened the window and turned on a lamp. She checked her bed for bugs and roaches. There were none on the bed. 

She opened up a book and leaned against the corner. Belle read until her eyes grew heavy. 

During the night she woke up several times. Jocko and Wilma would laugh raucously about something they saw on television, or they would argue, and Jocko would slap Wilma around. 

At 0900, she slipped from the house and stood on the corner until the van from Mountain Top Faith Center arrived. She boarded the bus and stared from the window. Children’s laughter carried through the bus, and for once, Belle felt at home.

Davy stood in front of his window and peeked from the curtain. No one was near his gate, no one had crossed his perimeter. He sipped coffee from his steel to-go cup and kept watch. People drove by and always slowed down to look at the cabin.

“Keep moving,” he chided them in his mind. “Nothing to see here.” Satisfied that his home was secured, he sat in his recliner and flicked on the local news. 

It was all bad news. 

Wars were being fought, drugs were rampant within the city, prostitution and various other facets of perversion was being normalized. Davy shut off the television. 

It wasn’t worth it,” he thought not for the first time. “All the blood and the guts, all the destruction, it was all for naught.”

Davy sat in the dark. He had never felt so alone as he did at this moment.

Billy waited at the bus stop for Belle. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes and saw the van coming down the road. Belle saw him from her seat in the bus and waved. Billy waved back. The bus stopped and the driver opened the door. Belle leaped out and almost tackled Billy. 

“Hey, Billy. We had awesome church!”

“Well, that’s good. You seem wound up; did you get converted?”

“No, I just feel…light. You know, like a feather.”

Billy laughed. “Light, huh. Bet you can’t beat me in a race to Old Man Washington’s place.”

“You’re on, Billy.”

They lined up side by side. Belle looked at Billy and told him to count to three. 

“One…two…two and a half…three!” 

Both took off like racehorses at the track, Billy and Belle were neck to neck. Belle reached out and pushed Billy, he stumbled and slowed down to regain his balance. Belle finished first and bent at the waist to catch her breath. Billy came up and punched her in the shoulder.

“You cheated,” he said. She shook her head no. Both of them were panting hard. 

“No, I did not. I took advantage of you being too focused. That’s not cheating, that is being smart.”

“Whatever,” Billy snapped.

“Suck it up, Billy. You lost to a girl.”

Billy and Belle walked to the shade of an old oak tree. They leaned against it and caught their breath. 

“What do you want to do now”, Belle asked. Billy shrugged. 

“Let’s go to the waterway. I have some money; we can get a Coke to share.”

“Sounds good.”

Together, the two friends walked off toward the store to grab a Coke and make memories. 

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