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Notable Quotables from Rip the Sky

“We must practice forgiveness each second of every minute, every minute of every hour, and every hour of every day until it becomes as natural as breathing.”

 

“If there is a God in heaven, nothing must make him cry more than when greed attacks paradise and takes it for its own. And paradise is so easily taken because it is innocent and never fights back. It always turns the other cheek. It has to, to remain innocent.”

  

“Fame and fortune can be destructive, leading you away from happiness, while suffering and introspection can lead you to it. Being up can be down, and being down can be up. Falling can be rising, and rising can be falling.”

 

“I learned what my sword really was. My hate for myself was my sword. I picked up the sword every day and killed myself with it.”

 

“For the first time, Billy suffered from grief that arose out of his love and his desire to avoid profound loss. War was pain. Addiction was pain. And now Billy knew that love was pain.”

Spotify Playlist Inspired by Rip the Sky

“Run Through the Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Universal Here, Everlasting Now” by The Fireman

“Go Insane” by Fleetwood Mac

“S.O.B.” by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

“Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright

“Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

“Oh My Love” by John Lennon

“Power of Gold” by Dan Fogelberg, Tim Weisberg

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by The Undisputed Truth

“Born Under a Bad Sign” by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb ‘Mo’, Rebirth Brass Band

“Way Down We Go” by KALEO

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult

“Fix You” by Coldplay

“Within You Without You” by The Beatles

“#9 Dream” by R.E.M.

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The Long Ride to the Bus Station

A few weeks later, Billy tossed a scuffed-up duffle bag into the rusted bed of his father’s 1957 Chevy pickup and climbed into the passenger seat. Floyd Worster sat behind the wheel of the old truck and steered onto the dirt road in front of their old farmhouse, kicking up a trail of dust as they made their way to the bus station in Abbeville, a thriving city 90 miles away.

The route led them onto a county road that ran northwesterly through the tiny town of Langtry, just two miles from their farmhouse, and then onward to another small town named Clairemont, about thirty miles away. In Clairemont, Floyd steered onto a smooth state highway that led to Abbeville, where Billy had his appointment with the United States Army. Once in Abbeville, Billy would hitch a ride on a Continental Trailways bus to Fort Polk, so that the Army could transform him into an efficient killing machine.

The sun baked down on the old truck as it sputtered along the charred highway, and as Billy gazed at the treeless fields, he heard his father ask, “Are you scared, son?”

“No, sir,” Billy answered.

“That’s good,” said Floyd, “but there’s nothing wrong with being scared.”

“Well, I ain’t scared, that’s for sure.”

The old truck had no air conditioning and hot air rushed through the open windows as Floyd lit up a cigarette.

“Go ahead,” he said, and tossed the pack of unfiltered Camels to Billy, who sheepishly pulled a cigarette from the pack and fired it up.

“Billy, when you get there, you pay attention, you hear me? No daydreaming, you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That damned daydreaming, you know that’s how you always get yourself hurt,” Floyd said, taking a long drag on the bright cigarette, exhaling the smoke like a dragon through his nose.

 

“You got to pay attention, listen close, and do what they say, you got that?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Billy replied. “I’ll try real hard.”

 

Floyd blew a stream of smoke from his lungs with a measured exhale and reached for another cigarette, forgetting one was already lit in his other hand, a mistake born out of addiction. He flicked ashes from the end of the firestick out the open window and looked over at Billy. Floyd stared at Billy long and hard, at the tussled hair, the red pimples sprinkling across his face, the thin arms.

His voice cracked a bit as he choked out the words, “There’s something I need—that I have to say before you climb on that bus.”

Billy slowly turned his head toward his father. The voice he heard was kind and tender and unexpected.

“What is it, Dad?”

Floyd stared ahead at the pavement for a few seconds and then muttered, “Before you go off to war, I need to tell you that I’m sorry.”

Billy squirmed in his seat, never really knowing what to do when he was caught off-guard.

“I’m sorry—sorry for the way I raised you,” Floyd stammered. “The cancer killed your mother when you were just a small boy, and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was never there for you. I was always working, there on the farm, and then at night, I was just too damn tired, or maybe just too damn selfish, to help you like I should have. You needed a mother at home, somebody to make you do your schoolwork.”

Billy looked briefly over at his father, who was staring straight ahead, almost like he was talking to the windshield. Floyd gripped the steering wheel tightly, cleared his throat, and continued, “You didn’t learn nothing. It was wrong that you didn’t know your colors when you went to first grade and didn’t know how to tell time like all the other kids. I should have taught you those things. I know all those other kids made fun of you. I should never have let that happen to you. I should have known you needed more help because you were always scared.

Scared of everything. Scared to go to the damn school dance. Scared to be in the school play. Too scared to even go out for the football team. I should have pushed you more. I should have —been there.”

Floyd took his eyes off the road and turned to Billy, who stared briefly into the glassy pupils encased by crow’s feet, before quickly turning away. Billy didn’t make eye contact with other people. It was a habit born out of his insecurity. So, Billy just continued to stare out the window at the barren fields.

“There ain’t nothing you could have done,” he said at last. 

 

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