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Chilled to the Bone: A Short Story

I Finally Made Time

It’s been a long time, much too long, but I’m back writing creatively again and it feels mighty good. I hope you enjoy my little foray into the darkness. I actually have another article written and ready to publish, a feel-good article, but that will have to wait until next week.

I don’t know where my muse went to, but she has returned. I suspect she felt ignored and unwanted with me running around frantically trying to accomplish more than I was capable of accomplishing. I said my mea culpas to her and she has forgiven me.

And this is what she wrote!

It is always cold on the streets

It is always cold on the streets

A Winter’s Day

So cold!

I wish Tyrone would turn up the damned heat.

Can’t mention it, though; don’t want him mad at me.

“Angel, get up, girl! It’s almost noon and we need to get our asses out on that street corner.”

Angel looks at me from one eye, her tangled, strawberry locks covering most of her face. Tyrone says she’s eighteen. Eighteen my ass! More like fourteen with those narrow hips and smooth skin. Been here a month now and still showing attitude, the kind of attitude that will earn her a split lip . . . or worse.

Me, I’m what? Twenty-two? Is that right? Yes, twenty-two, soon to be twenty-three, a Christmas baby, like the Christ child, too damned funny, no resemblance at all to that child, not unless Christ turned tricks for a twenty.

Angel crawls her ass out from under the covers, squeezes herself, her long curly hair spilling over her tiny breasts. I can see her breath when she speaks, one lonely tear caressing her cheek, tracing a path to her chin, dropping to the floor.

“I won’t survive,” is all she says.

I hug her tight then, hug her hard enough to push those demons back, hard enough to make myself forget for just one moment.

“Yes you will,” I tell her, not believing it for a New York minute. Truth be told we all die in this job, some slower than others, but we all die.

“My little sister, Marie, she’s really missing me, you know. She would always follow me around, like a puppy, and now . . . “

“Don’t go there, Angel,” I tell her. “It does no good. The sooner your little sister realizes you are dead, the better for everyone.”

I’ve seen hundreds of Angels over the past six years, runaways, discontents, streakin’ to the big city like a comet entering the atmosphere, and like that comet they burn out quickly . . . or, like Angel, they are snatched from parking lots and jogging trails, back in Cedar Rapids or Topeka or Bozeman, there one moment, gone the next, their families left with memories and empty rooms.

Me? I’m from Salem, another place, another time, home no more.

“Come on, now, let’s get moving before Tyrone comes back. Twelfth and Pine is just waking up and we need to be there when the lonely boys start searching for salvation.”

Lunch on the streets

Lunch on the streets

In a Deep, and Dark, December

That’s what we are, you know? Salvation for the lonelies, a fifteen, twenty minute escape for the guy with a bitch for a wife, the guy with the too-stressful job, or the guy who can only get a date if he pays for one. For a quarter hour we make him feel better, give him release, even his keel so he can sail back to that hellhole he came from and face it refreshed.

Most of them are okay. The few assholes answer to Tyrone, and word gets out on the streets that you do not want to be messin’ with Tyrone’s girls, not if you don’t want to be fish food in the Hudson the next day. So it’s safe enough, just spread your knees, take them in, give them what they paid for, and pretend it never happened thirty, forty times each day. Put together five good days and Tyrone give you a day off, benefits on the job, a day off to do whatever, as long as Tyrone knows where whatever is going down.

He’s okay, you know, as good as pimps go in this city. Treats us all right, buys us clothes, insists we see the doctor every six months . . . he even bought me a Christmas present last year, pretty necklace, all turquoise and purple, made me feel special, sweet-like, I wear it every single day . . .

Angel is holding herself tight, can’t stop shaking, colder than a witches tit on that street corner, sign above First Federal says eighteen degrees, our coats, lined with newspapers, no match for that kind of weather, and Angel being so damned skinny to begin with, no meat on her bones, no hope in her heart, shaking off the baby fat, her mind twelve-hundred miles away in another time, another place, going to dances, flirting at study hall, bitchin’ at her mother for all the damned rules, rules she wishes now she had followed, a good life gone in a New York minute, or in her case fifteen minutes, that first trick, always painful, always shattering, bye bye Mom, bye-bye Dad, sorry, sorry, so sad.

Tyrone stops by around four, first of two stops, collects cash, ninety percent to him, ten to us, better than most, takes a look at Angel, asks her if she’s okay, tough kid, hacking up a lung, says “don’t worry ‘bout me, Mister Tyrone,” makes a half-assed effort to smile at him, but she’s burning up an hour later, eyes glazed, me worrying something fierce. I page Tyrone, he’s back in ten, scoops Angel up and takes her away, away from the corner, away from the Johns, back to her safe place, her memories, her . . .

She died that night!

I Am Alone

It happens sometimes. They just can’t hack it on the streets. No rhyme or reason for it. I don’t know what happens to them then. Tyrone takes care of it. Angel will show up in a dumpster, or floating down by the docks, her hair tangled around that sweet face, finally at peace, her room back at home forever empty. No more school dances for you, darlin’.

And a new girl takes her place, Janice she says, pissed off and breathin’ fire, but the fear is there, no hiding the fear, no matter the bravado, the threats, the fear is there, so real you can touch it.

Red is gray and yellow white

Red is gray and yellow white

I Touch No One and No One Touches Me

There’s physical touch, you know, and then the real touch, the one that reaches the heart, a momma’s touch on a summer day, a soft breeze caressing the two of you, you knowing love will always win, no matter what, Momma is there so hush now child, don’t you worry none.

No one touches me that way, never again, won’t allow it, won’t open those doors for nobody, that’s just the way it has to be if I want to see another year. Emotions will kill you quicker than the cold out there, stone-cold dead from the inside out, and I aim to never let that happen, and that’s just the real of it.

Burned Out Bob stops by, ex-military, left some of his brain back in Khe Sanh, not a bad guy, sad, lonely, wants his usual, around the world, no kissing, never any kissing, kissing like that movie, too personal, like Julia Roberts would ever hook, what a laugh, but she was right about that, never let them really inside of you, not where the ghosts roam the corridors and the truth will kill you, so Bob gets his pleasure for a part of his retirement pay, an even exchange, capitalism dating back thousands of years, me part of a history, Bob happy, Tyrone happy, me, I’m just killing time till the end of time.

Damn it’s cold, colder than a hooker’s heart, and ain’t that the truth?

Fog now, drifting down, staining everything a surreal gray, wrapping us in its arms, squeezing the warmth from us, red is gray and yellow white, an old song, can’t remember the title, and we decide which is right and which is an illusion.

Silliness! Fog can’t shade the pain.

“Come on, Janice, let’s me and you get some coffee. I’ll tell you how it is and how it’s going to be.”

A Personal Note

It felt good to write creatively again. Naturally I returned to the dark side. It’s where I’m always drawn. There is so much darkness in the world, and I happen to think it’s important we acknowledge it . . . at the very least acknowledge it . . . so that no one becomes invisible.

By the way, globally, sex trafficking is a $150 billion industry involving over 20 million victims. Capitalism . . . ya gotta love it!

Thanks for reading!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 22, 2018:

So sad, PS...so very sad to think that women are treated like that, with no value...let's hope the better angels of our nature will prevail.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 19, 2018:

So real, Bill. I am a huge fan of Ann Rule. At present I am reading Green River Runs Red. It is tells of all of the 'Angels' that were taken ...it's startling to know these women, most very young, were treated as if they had no value. You nailed it here, once again.And now some special Angels head your way bringing love and blessings. ps

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 14, 2018:

I agree with you, Lawrence, and I totally believe that...we keep exposing the darkness to the light and sooner or later the darkness will disappear.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 14, 2018:


Totally captivated by this story.

Wanna know something? The darkness may be as 'black as can be' but it only takes the weakest of Candles to cause it to flee, and that's what this story (and others like it) does, by shining the light on it, you cause it to run and hide.

So keep doing it bro and one day, it'll be gone forever, and they'll be free of it.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 02, 2018:

Thanks so much, Zulma! I was beginning to worry I wouldn't be able to write like this; I had taken so much time away from it. :)

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on July 02, 2018:

It's good to see you haven't lost your touch during your hiatus. The people came to life for me and now I feel despair for all those throwaway people who populate your stories. Poor Angel. I guess she really is one now. :(

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 30, 2018:

Thank you PS! This kind of sickness is beyond my grasp of understanding...owning another human being for profit???? Sick!

The angels are busy; pat them on their little heads when you see them return with hugs and friendship.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 30, 2018:

There is darkness...you are right...and we do need to be aware of it and acknowledge it and try to find a way to stem the tide and one day maybe there won't be so much darkness. I know sounds like Pollyanna...Sending Angels to you and to all who are caught in the snare of this insidious net. ps

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 21, 2018:

I agree, Liz! This scourge is everywhere in society, and it needs to be dragged out of the shadows.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 20, 2018:

I think a lot of us would be shocked if we knew how close to us that human trafficking is going on. The more negative publicity this issue is given the better.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 19, 2018:

One of my all-time favorite songs, William, and that line in particular is brilliant in my opinion.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 19, 2018:

Isn't that the truth, John? Why isn't this a bigger news story?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 19, 2018:

Shyron, I agree with you. I would not last one night...very sad indeed, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2018:

Your last sentence, Peggy, says it all. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2018:

Thanks so much, Liz. I wish this were not a real-life topic, but it is and it must not be ignored. Human beings are bought and sold in 2018.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2018:

Peace and love, Cris...that's what we need more of....thank you for your hard-hitting words, my friend...evil does exist.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on June 17, 2018:

Good to see you back, Bill - and what a way to start. Not sure your reference to "red is gray" was just part of the story or an actual question, but to answer it, it's from The Day Begins by the Moody Blues. Just thought I'd throw that in. Great story, Bill, and glad to have you back!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 16, 2018:

A sad reality that you reveal in this "too true" piece of fiction, delivered as expertly as only you can, Bill. Human trafficking is such a big industry worldwide it is amazing that not more is said about it or done to try stopping it.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on June 16, 2018:

How sad and lonely a life, I think I would die the first night. Worse the men who sell the girls and turn their dreams into nightmares so they can feel like men.

Blessings as always

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 15, 2018:

Every so often sex trafficking is mentioned on the news. Raids are occasionally done as in that video when all kinds of men from every type of profession are arrested. Kids are kidnapped never to be found again. This is all so very sad and you made the reality of it come alive in your short story. The inhumanity of it all is unfathomable!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 15, 2018:

WOW! Hard-hitting, gut-wrenching, dark, dismal, maddening, sickening, what other negative hyperbole can I find to describe the topic of this article?

Thanks for sharing this information. I know you wrote it as fiction, but so much of fiction has a basis in truth; as does this story. The videos were so sad, but also importantly informative.

Sharing this!

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on June 15, 2018:

Fiction but sadly real in the real world. Does my statement ever make sense? Dark indeed Bill and no there's nothing enjoyable about this story though truthfully, this kind of evil exists. Sickening yet largely unreported. As regard to the writer? No surprise! Bill can deliver creatively even the most churning and chilling to the bone.

Peace and Love from the sky~

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Ajodo, welcome to my world, and thank you so much for the comment. Were one begins? That is the problem, for sure...this is a complex problem with no easy solution, I'm afraid.

Peace always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Sha, that means a great deal to me. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement all of these years.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

My thoughts exactly, Pop! Why can't we combat this in some way?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

I agree with you, Flourish! Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were signals to look out for?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

I appreciate that, Linda! Thank you very much.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

MIchael my friend, thank you for sharing your wisdom and philosophy of life. What we need, more than ever, is love!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

I am too, Chris! I am too! Thanks so much!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Maria, thank you dear friend! Sorry about the tears...a happier one next week.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Shannon, thank you for sharing your experience...all too real and yes, sickening!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Thank you Frank! If you and I combined on a dark story, everyone would have nightmares. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Deliilah, welcome to HP. I thank you for finding the time to friend me and comment.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Thanks so much, Ruby! It's always a bonus when you show up.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

I appreciate that, Larry! Thank you sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2018:

Thank you so much, Emese! There are times I wish I wasn't very good at these types of articles.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 15, 2018:

Bill, it's so good to see you back in the saddle. I love your creative, albeit dark side. The topics you cover through fiction take your readers on a journey into places and experiences unknown to most of us. You make us think and realize the many corners of life (and sorrow) outside our own.

You're a fabulous fiction writer, my friend!

breakfastpop on June 15, 2018:

This is a tragic real life story. I find it impossible to believe that we can't get a handle on it. Well done, billy, as usual.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 15, 2018:

So sad. I wish good people had pointers so we could be aware of what to be on the lookout for and how to help. So shameful. You write real stuff.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 14, 2018:

This is a very sad story that is an important reminder of tragic real-life problems. I'm glad your muse has returned, Bill.

Ajodo Endurance Uneojo from Lokoja, Nigeria. on June 14, 2018:

Hello Bill,

A good wakeup call, I guess!

The dribbles...the twists...the lappings and the looppings all keeping the read interesting. A sad story in itself though, the intrigues was worth keeping the tears on and still reading.

Trafficking in human: another complex war to think about.

Where one begin? Who do one fights? Ignorance, poverty, joblessness or the monsters among humans?

Well, thanks for the call Bill.


Michael-Milec on June 14, 2018:

Following you faithfully my friend, be kind to me once more please...

Perhaps the only chance to illuminate by eclipse prospective expressing myself via an ancient philosophy.

"Even though people may live for many years, they should enjoy every one of them. But they should also remember there will be many dark days. Everything that is coming is pointless.

You young people should enjoy yourselves while you're young. You should let your hearts make you happy when you're young. Follow wherever your heart leads you and whatever your eyes see. But realize that God will make you give an account for all these things when he judges everyone..."

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on June 14, 2018:

Guys like Tyrone burn me up. They make the girls think they care. 90%/10%? Yeah, he cares. A new necklace? How nice. And Angel ends up in a dumpster.

Way to bring it to life, Bill. I'm glad the muse is back.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on June 14, 2018:

And an island never cries...

Now me, I do... your writing stirs my heart, dear Bill.

Love, Maria

Shannon Henry from Texas on June 14, 2018:

You sure know how to land a good sucker punch. Took my breath away and sent chills down my spine. I unfortunately learned of a few sites that "pimps" use to sell their girls on. An acquaintance of mine is an FBI agent and she deals with sex trafficking. She had to give me advice in what to look for when I was afraid someone else I know was being used for sex on the streets. It is all too real and sickening. Good to see you writing again.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on June 14, 2018:

I feel so sad for Angel.. gone on that New York Minute.. I like the short Bill, very intense with so much frailty, dysfunctional way of living..set on the dirty streets.. wow hitting the winter streets the hard way... awesome my friend

Delilah from Kentucky on June 14, 2018:

Wonderfully written story. Such a hard topic to read about but like others have said, a reality of the world we live in. Even when it's hard to think about and talk about, issues like this need more awareness. Perhaps with more coverage and awareness, one day it will be no more.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 14, 2018:

Bill, this is the type of writing that makes me feel cold on this hot summer day. I know this happens daily in the cities. Too bad they don't end up like Julia Roberts! ( Only in the movies ) Your writing is sooo good. I loved reading it....

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 14, 2018:

Hard read.

Wonderfully done as always.

Always a good thing for everyone when you can find time to write creatively.

Emese Fromm from The Desert on June 14, 2018:

Great writing, and perfect title; yes even thinking of this is chilling - to the bone. Fiction piece that exposes the dark side: you're a master at this, Bill. Hard to read, but you're right, these stories need to be told, then maybe some of it might be stopped.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Thank you Linda and yes, she was the inspiration for this piece....ugliness surrounds us and it must be exposed.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 14, 2018:

Bill, as you probably know, a 15-year old who lives in our area was lured away from her home via social media. He sweet-talked her and led her to believe that he thought she was special. She disappeared from her home the evening before Mother's Day and was missing for 3 weeks.

When finally found she had changed her appearance. Her sweet-talker had raped her, gave her mind-altering drugs, and then pimped her out. No doubt he convinced her that her family would no longer want her. A story that horrible has to be told and I'm guessing why your Muse returned to you.

You did this well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Thank you Ann! The sheer volume of this problem is mind-boggling. A billion dollar industry will not disappear until people stand up and demand that it disappear from civilized society.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Thank you Liz! The first step towards a solution is exposing and recognizing the problem. I hope many more writers take up the cause.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Then you know very well, Mary, about this topic and the sadness associated with it. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 14, 2018:

You pitch this so well. It's hard to read but we know it's a reality and you tell it like it is. So sad. Will it ever end? Probably not. Hasn't it been around for ever in one disguise or another? But something has to be done and there are those who are fighting to lessen it. I'm hoping one day it will happen but I'm not holding my breath. It certainly needs to be brought out in the open, people have to acknowledge it.

Great hub, bill.


Liz Westwood from UK on June 14, 2018:

Human trafficking is a dark side to the world that should be exposed, as you have done so well in your writing.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 14, 2018:

Yes, you have shown us darkness and invited us to accept it. It is often hard to imagine when one lives comfortably. I was hired as a consultant once to do an evaluation of a sex trafficking project so I got close enough to have stories from these young women and it gave me a deep respect for them. Those who succeeded to get out try to help others. But nothing can compare to the international trafficking happening each day. One village we visited in Thailand had no young girls left. It is so sad.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Sis, thank you! It's been awhile. I miss writing like this. There are some topics which should never be ignored, and this is one of them. As a "civilized" society we can, and must, do better.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Sad stuff for sure, Nell....I have no solutions, but it needs to be talked about and brought out in the open.

Suzie from Carson City on June 14, 2018:

Bro.....I'm confident you know me well enough to be fully aware of my thoughts & reaction to this powerful expose. The videos are of course nightmares.

As young as 12 years old.....outrageous, heartbreaking.

This has been a special treat for me today, that you've shared creative work. IMO, no one does it quite like you bro. Sheer mastery. I could read Bill Holland creations, daily. Peace, Sis

Nell Rose from England on June 14, 2018:

Powerful stuff Bill. And so well told. I recently watched a program over here about street walkers. They were all under 40, but looked at least 80. Drugged up to the eyes, and swaying as they talked. nothing glam about that way of life at all. such a shame, it was so sad.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Well thank you sir! I'll take refreshing any old day.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on June 14, 2018:


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 14, 2018:

Thank you Eric! I don't think we need a frame of reference with this one; just an open mind and heart.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 14, 2018:

My mentor who has taught my wings to fly has shown his mastery once again. I have no frame of reference here. Well maybe just a small tad. But not like you would think. This hit me because of it's style; "Can’t mention it, though; don’t want him mad at me" You left out "to make". And that is perfect.

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