THERE WERE WITNESSES who said that Billy hit the train with his truck. They were careful to point out that the train didn’t hit Billy. Billy hit the train. They said the train and a load of boxcars had already been in the crossing for about a minute or so when Billy tried to drive through it. The police wanted to know what the witnesses were doing at the railroad crossing at 2 AM on a moonless night. They said they were there to see Billy hit the train.
The police report stated that the witnesses, all male, appeared to be intoxicated. According to the report, Billy’s truck was found in a ditch about a hundred yards away from the crossing. Apparently, the truck had approached the crossing at a high rate of speed and the impact with the moving train had knocked it at an angle away from the tracks. The train had continued on its way, its crew apparently unaware that a crash had occurred. Billy’s truck sustained considerable damage to its front end, but the cab was relatively intact. The police searched the truck thoroughly, but Billy wasn’t in it. A wider search in the area around the truck was carried out, but there was no sign of Billy anywhere.
The police questioned the witnesses concerning the whereabouts of Billy. They all testified that the last they’d seen of him was just before he hit the train, and the last thing they heard him say was, “YEEEE-HAAAA!” The witnesses were initially retained as being material to the investigation, but, the next day, they were released.
It was later determined that the train had, in fact, sustained damage to a boxcar, so the Federal Railway Administration got involved. Local and federal charges were filed against Billy for willfully damaging a moving train and for leaving the scene of an accident. It was noted that several warrants for Billy’s arrest were already outstanding for various other offenses. manhunts to find Billy were instituted by federal and local authorities. In addition, Billy’s wife wanted him for child support and a man named Ramirez said Billy owed him a lot of money. Billy’s mother was interviewed on TV. She said, “Billy—you really did it this time.”
For weeks, Billy was in the local news. Several dozen leads came in and were investigated. He was sighted as far away as Tulsa, but nothing panned out. Then he got reported on a national TV news show and sightings came in from everywhere. Every skinny man in the country with stiff red hair had to prove that he was not Billy. After a while, the hoopla died down, and Billy was still missing.
Eventually, the case went cold and the police filed it away. Only the railroad detectives kept looking for Billy, but after several years he had been forgotten by everybody else. His wife got several men at different times to come and fill in for him, as baby Millie grew up.
A little flurry rose up the year the man who called himself “D. B. Cooper” jumped out of a jet plane with $200,000 strapped to his body. In Billy’s hometown, a man in his thirties went to the police department and asked if there was any reward for turning the guy in. In a statement that was taken down, the man said that he was one of the witnesses who saw Billy hit the train years ago, and he declared that D. B. Cooper was Billy. He said, “That’s what Billy used to call himself all the time.” This got reported on local TV and people started calling in wanting to know if D. B. Cooper was really Billy or not. The police said they were skeptical of the man’s story. The man then demanded to take a polygraph test to prove that he was telling the truth. The polygraph proved that he was lying. So Billy went back to being forgotten. After many years, a judge declared that he was legally dead. That satisfied his aging mother, but Billy’s wife was not so sure. She said, “He’s out there, somewhere.”
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I was a little shy about asking. I thought I might not be able to get one. I called the Apple store and talked with Siri.
I said, “Siri, I’m tired of robogirls. I want something a little different.”
“Do you want a roboguy?”
“Don’t be silly—I like girls. I can’t help it—I’m made that way.”
“I know what you want.”
“Yes—you want a real girl.”
“That’s exactly what I want. I want a real girl.”
“Are you sure?”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you ever had a real girl before?”
“Well, real girls are—unpredictable. I cannot guarantee that you will be happy.”
“Robogirls are predictable. That’s what I’m tired of. Send me a real girl this afternoon.”
“It doesn’t work that way. First, I’ll have to find a real girl who’s interested, and then I’ll have to let her pick the time when she can come.”
“You mean I have to wait?”
“Yes. If I can find one, she will call you. I can send you a robogirl this afternoon. Do you still want a real girl?”
“Yes. I’ll wait.”
Poem of the Week
who have experienced
on a large
i tell raif
i think my
might be dead
haven't seen her
& her car hasn't moved
for two weeks.
you would smell it
passing me a plate
of triangular shaped bread
slathered in jam.
Story of the Week
DARLEEN SQUEELED into the empty spot as soon as the gleaming white Mercedes pulled out. "We got lucky," she told Montana. "Even on a Monday night, this lot is killer."
Montana rolled her big blue eyes. "Whatever."
The eleven year old had better things to do, like text her friends. Incessantly, as if she had a tic. The kid hadn't wanted to shop tonight, but Darleen insisted. This was their first Christmas without Paulie and the girls needed to stick together. Darleen's ex had been nasty lately and mediation had hit a cement wall. Montana wasn't aware how dangerously close they were to losing access to Paulie's vast and unreported wealth.
Montana sighed dramatically as she yanked open the door of the Porsche Cayenne and tumbled out. She didn't pause in her texting.
Darlene checked her face in the rearview mirror. The most recent fat transfer had been wildly successful. She loved her new lips. Grabbing her Gucci bag, she hopped out of the front seat.
Her daughter trailed her into the mall, thumbs flashing on her phone keypad.