By Jeff Harvey
Crazy Bill dropped out of Pearl’s Beauty Academy after the instructor told him that women in this area wouldn’t want someone like him doing their hair. Bill asked her what that meant, and she said, “You know what I mean.”
He went back to sleeping late and watching game shows. Occasionally, he cut and styled hair without a license for money to eat. Kicked out by his parents after he wore one of his momma’s dresses to his senior prom, Bill was homeless for a while. The only place he could find to live was a room in back of a feed store that smelled like a horse farm. He cleaned the store in exchange for the room.
Most evenings, he hung out at the fountain in downtown Little Rock where occasionally there’d be a bit of excitement. Regulars drove by the fountain every night and Bill knew them all, some only by sight. Most were afraid to stop and talk because of what that might mean about them. Dr. Garry, Dusty, Guy in Green Jeep, and a few others.
One muggy August evening full of mosquitoes, Dusty drove by the fountain a few times in his ’77 El Dorado. He eventually stopped and asked Bill if he wanted to go for a ride. Bill jumped in and felt like he’d hit the jackpot. Dusty reminded Bill of one of the Osmonds.
A white Cadillac drove by as Dusty was turning into a vacant lot. “That was my wife. Better drop you off.”
Back at the fountain, sitting on the curb and smoking a cigarette was Ace, the closest Bill ever had to having a friend. They’d joke around together and laugh at the locals.
Later that evening, on a dare from Bill, Ace pulled down his pants and mooned a station wagon full of ladies on their way home from bible study. Bill laughed and promised he’d do it to the next car that drove by. He didn’t get a chance because Officer Tommy stopped his cruiser and asked them who showed their butt to the Baptists.
“Only having a little fun,” Ace said. “Meant no harm by it.”
“Gonna have to come down to the station with me.” Officer Tommy slapped handcuffs on Ace and got him in the backseat. “Crazy Bill, you better get out of here unless you want your ass arrested too.”
Back in high school, after P.E. one day, Bill almost scalped Tommy when trying to give him a haircut. Tommy had locked Bill in a storage closet and told the principal he did it because Bill was crazy, giving him his nickname. Even his family started calling him Crazy Bill. ‘Course, Tommy didn’t mind picking up Bill once in a while, when he wanted a little oral pleasure that his wife wouldn’t give him.
After walking back to his room, he found pinned to his front door a cease and desist letter from the Cosmetology Board of Arkansas. Miriam Hopkins had reported him after he burned her neck with a curling iron. Bill turned on the gas stove and lit the letter on fire, then dropped it in the kitchen sink.
He packed his bag and decided to hitchhike to New Orleans. Ace had lived there for a while and told Bill the city would like him. Maybe he could find someone there who wouldn’t mind hanging out with him once in a while.