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.