Authors: N.C. Reed
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ODD BILLY TODD
by N.C. Reed
Published by Creative Texts Publishers
PO Box 50
Barto, PA 19504
Copyright 2015 by N.C. Reed
All rights reserved
Cover photo modified and used by license.
Credit: Troels Dejgaard Hansen
This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.
The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual names, persons, businesses, and incidents is strictly coincidental. Locations are used only in the general sense and do not represent the real place in actuality.
FROM THE AUTHOR’S DESK
Billy was supposed to be a short story. I was working on a plague novel and suddenly thought about a cousin of mine, wondering how he would make it if everyone else was gone. It was a sobering thought and so I wrote a small short story about such a man.
That story grew. And then grew some more. And just kept growing until it was the book you’re now reading.
Much of my many nephews can be found in Billy. Skills they have, abilities they have developed, things we’ve taught them over the years. If something happened to us, they would make it. They know how to survive, and even how to thrive. It would be hard, but they would make it.
This story is for them.
Billy Todd looked at the world around him, feeling as if he were on the outside of a glass menagerie, looking in. Smoke still rose from several places around the small town, but he knew no one was going to be putting out any fires.
There was no one left to put them out.
Clutching his rifle, Billy walked across the street, careful to keep his eyes open for feral dogs. Funny, he thought, how it took centuries to domesticate the dog and only a few weeks for him to revert to wild animal.
Of course, not being fed would do that to you, he allowed.
The virus had swept across the globe like a whirlwind. It had happened so fast that no one had ever bothered to name it. There hadn’t been time, Billy figured. One minute everything was fine, then it wasn’t.
That had been the word most people had used, in the few short days where anyone had been talking about it. In what had seemed like a few short hours, the power had gone out and the other utilities, such as water and gas, had quickly followed.
Television stations kept broadcasting for a few more hours, gradually falling silent as the people running them fell sick and died. Radio stations had stayed on the air using generators for another day or so, being more closed, more isolated, but they too, in the end, had gone silent.
Billy had hid in his small apartment, using carefully hoarded food and water, waiting for help to come. None had come. For anyone. The last reports he had heard had claimed the death toll worldwide had climbed into the billions. Billy could scarcely credit that number. It was hard for him to imagine. Impossible to imagine.
William Conrad ‘Billy’ Todd was a small town mechanic. Born and raised in Cedar Bend, he’d never been further than Nashville in his entire twenty-five years. His world revolved around cars, and the small farm he had inherited when his parents had passed away two years before.
He’d never really done anything with the farm, being too occupied with his job as a mechanic. He had made good money fixing cars for people. With the economy in the tank, more and more people were fixing the problems with their older vehicles, driving them longer, and Billy was the top mechanic in the whole county. Everyone said so.
Had said so. There was no one left in Cedar Bend to say anything now, so far as Billy knew. This was the fourth day he had dared venture outside the small apartment in the rear of his shop. The fourth day in a row that he had prowled the area around his garage, seeing no sign of life outside animals. Apparently, only humans were affected by the virus.
But for some reason that Billy simply could not credit, he had not fallen ill. He couldn’t imagine why. There had to be a reason, he figured. Things just didn’t happen for no reason. One of the silliest things people told him when they brought their cars in for repair was ‘it stopped for no reason’.
There was always a reason. Billy was very good at finding those reasons, and fixing them, but he couldn’t find the reason for his still being alive when everyone else was dead.
Billy knew he wasn’t anything special. Never had been. He wasn’t the smartest, or the strongest, or the fastest, and wasn’t the best looking. In fact, he wasn’t the best at anything, except fixing cars.
Somehow, he didn’t think he’d be fixing many cars for a while.
Clanging metal startled him and he swung around to confront the noise. A dog looked at him from the overturned garbage can, studied him for a second, then turned his attention back to the garbage can.
Billy watched the dog sift carefully through the can’s contents for a moment before resuming his walking. He’d have to watch for that dog on the way back, Billy knew. If he didn’t find anything worthwhile in the can, he might decide some raw Billy would go mighty good about then.
Billy had found several bodies out and about, and most of them had been eaten to some degree or another. Even the dogs that ate the dead didn’t seem to get sick, though. Apparently the plague really was only deadly to humans.
Today would be the last day, he decided. The last day that he would search through town for anyone still living. Tomorrow he would pack up and head to the farm. He had been in town when things got bad and hadn’t realized what was happening until it was late. Fearing the sickness, Billy had elected to stay in his small apartment rather than risk going to the farm.
In a way he was glad he had, since he would have wanted to drive into town from the farm to see what had happened. Being the only living person in town for four days had cured him for the need to see it anymore. Once he reached the farm, he’d decided, he would stay there. He knew now that no one was coming. There was no one left to come. Even the government radio, the NOAA channel, had gone silent three days ago. If they weren’t on then no one was left to do anything.
He hated to leave everyone lying about. He knew everyone in the small town…had known them… all his life. Now they were dead. He didn’t know them anymore—and they didn’t know him.
He would need food, he knew. Water he had in plenty at the farm, but food not so much. Oh, he had food, right enough, and he could grow his own food when the season came again, but it was almost winter now. There was no chance to grow anything now. He would have to have enough food to get him through the winter.
Albert’s grocery would have what he needed, he figured. Well, he hoped. There was no telling what folks had done in the few days before everyone died. Billy hadn’t ventured out during those days, even when folks had come by, banging on his shop door. He had kept the lights off at night, hoping that no one would want to break in. No one had.
Billy decided that he would check the grocery and Mister Wickam’s hardware store too. He needed a generator. There was a large one at the farm, but he wanted a smaller one for times when he only needed a little bit of power, which meant he’d need fuel.
As the list grew in his mind, Billy started to get a headache, which made him think of going by the Rex-all. He’d need medicines in case he got sick, and bandages in case he got hurt. He had a first aid kit in his garage, of course, but he needed more than a few Band-Aids or a small tube of antibiotic ointment. He needed get more and better stuff.
Realizing that he needed a lot more stuff than he’d first thought, Billy knew he’d need a trailer. No way could his pick-up haul everything. He sighed. His headache was getting worse. That always happened when Billy got flustered. He got a headache. The doctor had called them migraines. Billy’s mother had suffered from them, too. Sometimes, she’d have to lie down for hours with a cloth over her eyes and earplugs in her ears. Light and sound, she had said, made the migraine hurt worse.
Making his way up the Albert’s front door, Billy carefully looked through the window. He was glad he couldn’t see anyone. He didn’t want to see anyone else he had known lying dead, or worse, eat by dogs.
Billy tried the front door, finding it unlocked. He was a little surprised at that, but glad he didn’t have to break in. He had never broken into anything and he didn’t want to start now, even though he knew it didn’t matter anymore. Billy had always been a good boy. Everyone said so…had said so.
No one was around to notice if he was good now, but his mom and dad had raised him to be a good boy and he knew they were in heaven watching him. The preacher had said so. He wondered if the preacher would say Billy was a thief for taking things from Albert’s. ‘Thou shalt not steal’, the preacher always said. He said it every time someone stole something. Well, he used to. He wasn’t saying anything anymore. Billy decided that meant the preacher wouldn’t say he was stealing.
After looking around for a minute, Billy took a cart and started down the aisles. The store was in good shape. He had expected everything to be all torn up, lying on the floor, like one of those movies or stories where the world ended.
Had the world ended? Billy wondered. This part of it was pretty ended, he decided, but maybe, somewhere, there was people like him. People that found themselves all alone. He wondered if they wondered if they were alone in the world like he did.
Billy took dozens of cans of his favorite vegetables from the shelves and placed them into his cart. He also took the Treet, and the Spam, and all of the canned hams he could find, as well as any other canned meats he came across, and the tuna. Three country hams hung near the meat department. The smell told Billy that the rest of the meat was ruined, but the country hams would be okay, so he took them.
When the cart was filled he pushed it to the front and took another. He walked down another aisle, taking toilet paper and paper towels. A man just didn’t want to be out of toilet paper if he could help it, Billy knew. He also threw in some plastic cups, paper plates, and plastic eating utensils. This cart filled quicker, so it was back the front for yet another. This one was cleaning supplies. Billy liked to keep a clean house. His mother had taught him that. Cleanliness was next to Godliness. Billy figured right now only he and God were around, so he wanted to be clean.
After three more carts, Billy decided he had everything worth saving at the front. He stood there looking at the carts, deciding what he should do. He peered outside and noticed there was still plenty of light. He decided that he would get his truck and Mister Nelson’s trailer from next door, and come get the carts now.
He walked back to the garage fairly quickly, though always making sure to watch for the dogs. Billy wished he had a dog. He’d been afraid to have one at the garage, because his insurance wouldn’t pay if the dog bit anyone. His father had told him it wasn’t good business to have a dog if he couldn’t get insurance because of it.
Well, Billy decided, he didn’t need insurance no more, that was for sure, and he really wanted a dog. Maybe he could feed one of the wild dogs and make friends with it? He didn’t know. And dogs needed shots. He didn’t know how to give them shots, and Doc Hayes, the town vet, wasn’t going to be taking any new patients anymore, Billy knew.
Reaching the garage, Billy fired up his truck, which he’d kept parked inside while he was closed. Pulling out of the garage, he got out and closed the garage door, then climbed back inside. Mister Nelson’s Lawn and Garden Center was right next to Billy’s Garage. Billy had worked on Mister Nelson’s truck, a beautiful old Ford that he’d restored with his son. Billy had asked Mister Nelson once why he didn’t do the work himself, since he’d restored the truck. Mister Nelson had smiled sadly, saying that he and his son, Donnie, had worked on the truck together as a father-son project, but that had been before Donnie had gone off to war in the Far East…or was it the Middle East? Billy couldn’t remember.
Donnie hadn’t come back from whichever one it was he had gone to, or rather he had, but in a box with a flag on it. Mister Nelson was very proud of that flag and of his son. He kept the flag on display in his store, with a picture of his son in a uniform above it.
The trailer was one that Mister Nelson used to deliver the small tractors he sold. It was small enough that Billy could pull it with his truck, but big enough to carry most everything he needed to take with him. In no time Billy had the trailer hitched up. He thought about leaving Mister Nelson a note, then remembered why he needed the trailer. Mister Nelson wouldn’t ever read the note, so Billy decided not to leave it.
Billy drove carefully down to Albert’s, parking in the fire lane. Billy grinned a little at that. He’d always been afraid to park there, even to load his groceries. He’d been afraid his truck might get towed. That wouldn’t happen today, so Billy parked there, even though he wasn’t supposed to.
Once the carts were loaded and tied down, (his father had taught him it was always important to tie down a load so nothing broke) Billy drove back to the garage.
He backed the trailer into one bay of the garage, unhooked it, then placed the truck in the other bay. By now Billy was hungry. He wanted to walk down to Loretta’s Diner and get a cheeseburger. Loretta made the best cheeseburger in three counties. Everyone said so.
Had said so.
Billy remembered that Loretta wasn’t making cheeseburgers anymore. Not ever. Sadly, he decided that he wouldn’t get a cheeseburger. Shaking his head at his misfortune, Billy went into his small apartment and made himself a sandwich. He was almost out of chips, he realized.
He hadn’t gotten any chips! How could he have forgotten potato chips! He’d have to go back and get chips, and pickles. Billy loved pickles.
Billy ate in silence, washing his meal down with a Coke. Greatest drink ever, Coke. Billy had always thought so. He’d have to enjoy what was left carefully, he decided. Once he drank all the Coke left in town, there wouldn’t be anymore. Probably wasn’t anyone left to make it anyway.
Billy finished his meal and carefully put everything away, just as his momma had taught him. He missed his momma. He missed his dad as well.
Billy took stock of his situation. That was something his dad had taught him. Never rush off in a blind panic, he’d always said. Make sure you know what you’re doing. Billy had always found that had worked for him.
Billy knew he wasn’t very smart. Plenty of people had told him that. Never about cars, of course. When they need their cars fixed, they all told Billy how smart he was, but any other time, he was dumb, or odd. ‘Odd Billy Todd’, he’d heard more than once.
He’d grown up hearing all these things, so once he was grown they hadn’t really bothered him anymore. His parents had never called him that. They had taught him how to do things, how to take care of himself, and how to protect himself.