Eric Edson

"Villy" Villion, 25, black, homeless denizen of the LA midnight streets, runs from the cops. He's bleeding. At a small, all-night neighborhood pharmacy, Eugene Patitrac, 70, says goodnight to his only employee and locks the front door. Grieving over the death of his wife, Eugene turns on music, places a suicide note next to the City of Hope collection canister, and pulls out an army .45.

A desperate, scruffy man appears, banging on the front door glass. Villy. No shopkeeper in his right mind would let him in. Eugene unlocks the door.

Villy wants bandages. Pulls out $50 and an unopened switchblade knife. An implied threat? When Eugene goes into the back room Villy nervously follows and spots the .45 behind the counter. He grabs the gun, and Eugene tells him to get out. Villy tosses the weapon away and pleads for help cleaning and dressing his wound, says he doesn't mean to hurt anyone.

Eugene leads Villy upstairs to his apartment. Villy asks about a second apartment door, and Eugene says his son once lived there but no longer. Been empty a long time. Inside, both wary, Eugene cleans Villy's knife wound as the two men verbally parry and thrust. Eugene calls Villy a man without honor. Villy learns Eugene broke off with his ne'er-do-well son and hasn't spoken to him in years.

Then Eugene asks Villy to kill him. Villy thinks Eugene is crazy, brushes the idea aside. Villy is haunted by his own horrible memory. He suddenly longs for a bath. He insists the pharmacist not be out of sight, and in the bathroom Villy keeps his switchblade in view.

Villy reveals that he came to LA to sell his rap songs but had no luck and sank into homelessness. Now Villy just wants to get home to his girlfriend, who he left pregnant in New Jersey three years ago. Eugene scoffs. "She could be married by now. Living in another state. She could be dead!" But Villy holds an unshakeable belief that his girl and baby are still waiting for him. Then Villy raps out one of his songs. Insightful. Eugene softens.

A cop knocks on the door, Eugene's friend. Villy panics, threatens Eugene with his knife, tells Eugene to get rid of him. The officer warns Eugene a bum got killed, and the murderer is still at large. He leaves. Eugene is furious, realizing Villy got his cash off a murder victim. Eugene won't harbor a fugitive, demands Villy get out. Villy insists the killing wasn't his fault and the money he grabbed haunts him. "Why you so upset, old man? Because I got some place to go and you don't?"

Returning to the pharmacy Eugene hands Villy antibiotic pills. Villy asks for a ten minute head start before Eugene calls the cops. Eugene refuses. Villy has to take his chances, heads for the door. Eugene calls, "Leave the knife." Striding back to the counter, Villy rips the lid off the City of Hope canister, and stuffs in all the dead man's cash. Villy holds up the knife. "Ten minutes." He slaps it on the counter and runs off.

Eugene grabs the phone. Starts to call several times, but stops. Conflicted. But he's got to do it. Punches the number. It rings. Finally someone answers. "Hello?" Eugene says, "Danny?" He gathers courage. "It's dad."

As a freight train gains speed, Villy climbs up to a car roof. He pulls out the antibiotics Eugene gave him. Takes a pill. Considers the bottle. Clutches hope. The train rolls east into the first light of dawn.

Copyright 2005 Eric Edson
All Rights Reserved