Words by Jamal A. Bilal
Art by Patrick Boutin-Gagné
Missing Will: The Story
It wasn't the norm for them to meet, or for the occasion to last very long, but after traveling to Italy via their taste buds and crossing the Sahara of tar and asphalt they now lounged in Mark’s living room with the smell of melted mozzarella, spinach, and pepperoni permeating their skin.
Mark's home had become a hub for holidays, birthdays, and brunches. It was the unofficial den for ideas, bullshit, fun, and food: an oasis for the wandering mind.
Mark, Sam, and Dustin weren't always the Three Musketeers; they had a fourth. And after waiting, chatting, eating, and repeating, two hours had passed and the fourth, known better as Will, was nowhere to be found.
As they lounged, a fifth pottered around. The new edition to the clan was Jasmine, Mark’s best friend and co-owner of the den, who never missed a beat.
This lazy Sunday afternoon, they embarked on tirades from gentrification to higher education, career expectations, and, of course, Will.
Sam and Dustin had accepted Will's non-committal behavior, his ability to be there one minute and gone the next, his mastery of flaking—but they couldn't understand why Mark wouldn’t accept it.
Mark refused to accept Will's behavior because he thought by accepting it he was condoning it, and he refused to be treated like a second-class citizen. (Mark had his own issues of abandonment.)
On this particular day, after Will's third no-show in a row, Dustin suggested a game, mostly to quell Mark’s annoyance. The game was simple: what happened to Will?
The glee in Dustin’s voice as he posed the question was slightly unnerving, bordering on maniacal, as if he knew the answer already but kept it to himself.
For a moment Mark thought the game was silly, but as he looked at Dustin and then Sam he said, "Fuck it, I'll go first.”
"Last night Will was at a bar." They all looked at each other with the same expression of no surprise.
"What started as a routine night at his local turned into a night of road drinking…”
Will, Mob-Tony, Black Jimmy, Mickey Bones, and Butch all stumbled into Mob-Tony’s Sentinel.
The road drinking took them upstate, and without their knowledge, Mob-Tony gave them a tour of where the bodies were buried.
When Tony reached for another beer, taking his eyes off the road, he heard the familiar thud and crunch of the bumper hitting fabric and flesh at 60mph, sending his thoughts to bury the evidence.
Tony knew all of his passengers heard the smack, thud, and roll of the body hitting the ground behind the Sentinel, but he also knew they all shared his questionable moral code.
When Will heard the wet smack he knew his weekend was shot, so he fired off his last text saying he wouldn’t be around—Looks like weather will be disgusting tomorrow. As he hit send, Mob-Tony turned to his passengers and requested their phones. Now doomed to be sober, he handed Mob-Tony his phone and reached in the cooler for his last beer.
Will, Mob-Tony and the others stood in the shade of the forest as the moon illuminated the fresh plot of dirt in front of them. Mob-Tony spoke in an unwavering tone, “This day never happened. Tomorrow we talk to no one, and Monday is just another day.” With those words weighing the air down, Will looked at his friends—now accomplices—and knew he was tied to them forever.
As Mark finished his story of Will’s misadventure in the woods, Sam seemed eager to go, almost as if he was only listening to know when to take his turn.
Sam’s sense of humor wasn’t much different from any of the members of the group, except he tended to apologize for things he thought weren’t PC.
“So I think Will’s been gone for weeks now. After a long day of drinking, blow, hookers, and Netflix...”
In a haze Will watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a reminder to him that he loved road trips. While he enjoyed the euphoric afterglow from The Mouth of an Angel, he looked up to see Desperado was now playing. From that moment, he decided his life would be better anywhere but here.
After convincing The Mouth of an Angel to join him on his journey, he was on the road—in her car—creating his very own Hunter S. Thompson adventure.
One night, after traveling closer to the border, Will and his Angel stopped for free HBO and a place to sleep. And while she retired to the shower, he retired to the bed and ingested The Hangover Part III. As the hangover marinated in his mind, the excitement of a solo adventure gripped him, sending him out the door, car keys in hand, leaving Mr. Chow cackling on TV and his Angel washing the grit away.
“As we speak, Will’s ruling a small Columbian town, selling contraband, loving life, and hating the heat, while his pet spider monkey wreaks havoc on the villagers.”
A small smile and apology followed Sam’s story. “Sorry I had to make it a little racist.”
Sam seem satisfied by his story, it ticked all the boxes for an extraordinarily cinematic reason why Will was MIA.
Dustin was up next and after helping Mark make fun of Sam’s apologetic tone, he began his story. “You know what I think happened? Last night Will was out drinking with a bunch of people…”
And once again Will was on the road, but this time with a destination—a strange one, but a destination nonetheless. Will and his gang of drinkers were off to find cows.
North they drove, searching on Google Maps for a dairy farm to go cow tipping. This wasn’t an original idea, but one As Seen on TV. The slow drip of Tommy Boy playing on the bar television next to the Bulls game seeped into Will and his gang’s consciousness.
Will mastered the search engine and was the first to find a cattle farm in Salem. He was also the first to stand at the peak of the meadow and take in all the sleeping cattle as they shimmered in the moonlight.
As his friends paired off and rushed to their respective cows, Will watched, and began his rapid descent alone to what he thought was a slumbering cow.
What Will didn’t know was this cow was a light sleeper, and as Will thundered down the hill, the cow awoke.
When Will collided with the black and white maiden, with enough force to tip a smart car, his cow only groaned and galloped away, leaving him disappointed and breathless.
The sound of the galloping faded while he caught his breath. Will then headed toward his friends, who all proudly stood next to their toppled cattle.
“And out of nowhere the cow appeared from the darkness and drove her head into Will’s back, sending him flying face-down in the dirt. And that’s where he’s lying, unconscious in a field.”
Dustin’s story had Will performing the least criminal act of all, leaving the group feeling that this could happen—and if it did, they would be tipping cows with him.
While they digested each other’s stories, Jasmine continued to potter around until Dustin asked, “Jasmine, what do you think happened to Will?”
And like always, without missing a beat, her vision for why Will was missing bloomed.
“I think Will was out last night and on his way to the bar when he meet a girl…”
This girl wasn’t like any girl he had encountered before, an unconventional beauty with a wit sharper than a razor’s edge. Her name was Lily. She was a flower from France, visiting the concrete jungle of NYC.
As Lily and Will walked to the bar, they matched each other’s ever-slowing pace, trying to savor this insanely rare moment. And after standing outside talking for 30 minutes, which felt like 30 seconds, Lily reached for the door to head into the bar and a sudden uncontrollable urgency gripped Will. He gently stopped her and offered himself as a guide to his city. She made him promise not to murder her or keep her in his closet, and once he agreed he wouldn’t—at least on the first night—they were off.
Will and Lily wandered the city, from Flushing to Astoria, Williamsburg to Coney Island, never an awkward moment between them. And after watching the sun rise over the beach, they found their way to Lily’s room at the Plaza.
“And that’s where he is now, sleeping, totally unaware that he’s missing your lunch.”
The mic had been dropped and Jasmine smiled, thinking about the happy ending she had created, when a cell phone ring interrupted the silence of the room.
Missing Will: The Art
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