By Richard Leise
Because we didn’t know his name and he played air guitar outside Family Dollar, we called him Air Guitar Eddy. He had two dogs. We called the pit bull Pitbull, and the other, a terrier, Funky Bitch. Funky Bitch was pregnant, bursting at the seams, and she would flop, belly against the dirt, panting in the shade. Because it was Family Dollar, Air Guitar Eddy, Pitbull, and Funky Bitch didn’t get much in the way of charity.
We played in a punk band called Junk and shared an apartment in a housing complex across from Family Dollar. We got our meth from Sam, who lived one half-mile east. Whenever forced to re-up, which was every other day, two of us would walk to the Sunoco, grab chips and a couple Cokes, spend an hour with Sam, then walk back to our apartment. We’d smoke, check each other’s pockets to make sure we weren’t carrying, then, after looking both ways, cross the highway and get candy, Mountain Dews, and a liter of water. Two of us were nineteen, and two of us were eighteen. We were definitely punk—at least for Endwell.
One day, some mom driving a Toyota Tacoma hit Funky Bitch. Air Guitar Eddy fell to his knees and crawled towards his dead—or dying—dog.
She parked her Monster Taco and told her kids that they’d better sit still, that she’d had it with their garbage. She grabbed her purse and the baby from its car seat.
She was put together, all tan in her black bathing suit and knock off Birkenstocks. A regular Jackie O., with her oversized sunglasses. She looked like a praying mantis. Her mouth, though—Sangria? Bloody Mary? Red smeared her lips into a mess. It was as though her mouth slid off her face. In her hurry, she stumbled, using the baby as a counterweight.
There was nothing we could do for Funky Bitch. Air Guitar Eddy prayed. Hands clasped before him, his head raised, what he said was not meant to be heard. He was crying. We talked about that later, how his eyes were still useful for something. It amazed us. We smoked more than we usually did, and I forgot a lot of the rest.
Tacoma exited the store with a plastic bag and four pool noodles. One was blue, one was green, one was yellow, and one was pink. Lightning split the sky and huge, warm raindrops plashed the concrete. We were being pushed and pulled by nature—and our natures. The thunder was so loud, but Eddy didn’t even look up. He knew that there was nothing for him to see.
“Hey, lady,” I shouted. “You just killed this dude’s dog.”
“Like hell.” She plopped the baby into its car seat.
Her kids stopped their wrestling match, for she had tossed them Fudgsicles. Satiated, a boy shed a fistful of his brother’s hair.
Blood drained from the dog’s ears.
“That bastard’s lucky.” She pointed at Eddy. “Good thing I was paying attention, or I could have hit him. It’d be him laying there, whimpering.”
“How long you gonna stay drunk?” I said. “There’s a camera up there. Not smart to hit and run. We called the cops.”
“No, you didn’t.” She pulled herself into the truck, reversed, and slammed to a stop before us. “Not that it’d matter if you did. Another thing. I don’t want to see you junkies here anymore. This is a family store. Says so. Right there on the fucking sign.”
She went her on her way, opening an ice cream sandwich, and her face was no longer downcast.
That made one of us.
That night we wrote a song about Eddy. It went like this…