Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

About William

Clara, his ex-wife, called him Will.

Hernandez (I’ll get to him later) calls him William.

Everyone else in town, at least those who knew him as a boy, call him Billy and there’s simply no shaking them of it.

He never liked Billy, but he admits it feels too natural to change now. William, on the other hand, appeals to his inner adult. The first person to ever refer to him as William was Mrs. Keith, his 6th grade teacher, who always expected more of him and, at age 92, still does. But for the last year or so, now living in the town where he grew up, only leaving the house for the chores of subsistence (mail, groceries, car repair, etc), most of the time he feels again like the sometimes shy, often mischevious, and always uncoordinated Billy.

It’s a fine retreat from playing Will, the quiet, sure-thinking, considerate, sensitive, urbanite, pseudo-yuppie with a serious – some would say sour – raven-haired wife who evinced little or no interest in his origins beyond their so-called comic/impossibly-rural anecdotal value. Billy boy, by contrast, is divorced and the same strange and unthreatening kid in a 32 year old body. Billy never rats out the locals for the indiscretions he seems always available to witness, but also almost never encourages their bad behavior. He is a good guy who some locals resent and even hate on principle and others like, support, encourage and help for the very same reason.

It’s as if people around town know that if Billy isn’t entirely right in his heart and mind they must bear some of the responsibility since they helped raise him. Mostly those are the old folks, dying off carefully and quietly in front of their televisions, battered editions of Reader’s Digest condensed books open on their laps, hand-knitted afghans tangled at their feet, and moths banging against the screens of nearby windows, wanting only to finally orient themselves to the overly ornate table lamp moons that have so reliably shone light into these fading lives. So, Billy’s defenders and apologists go one-by-one to their graves – the only ones who might remember as well as Billy has forgotten, through one of old Doc Freud’s less-than-verifiable theories, what made him the unrealized man he is now.