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Something For Billy

A Brother Remembers

By Wayne CoolidgePublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 6 min read

I awake suddenly, sweat pouring down the side of my face like warm rain drops. My hands are trembling lightly, and I know at once that I have had the dream again. I sit up in my bed as my eye’s slowly adjust to the darkened room. There is a slight breeze blowing through the open window, and I am grateful for the cool wind now hitting me in the face. I can hear my grandmothers hurried footsteps coming down the hall towards my bedroom door, did I cry out in my sleep again??? Probably so.

“Jimmy, are you Okay?” My grandmothers worried voice almost cries from the other side of my door.

“I’m fine Grandma, just another bad dream, but I am okay now” I hear myself say. We both know that it is a straight up lie though, I haven’t been fine or anything close to it in a very long time, not since Billy’s death.

“Do you want me to fix you a glass of warm milk, it will calm your nerves, maybe make you feel a little better?” she asked. Of course she already knows the answer, but must ask any way out of some grandmotherly duty.

“No, I’m fine Grandma, I just need a little time.... sun will be up soon anyway.” I say, hoping she will take the hint, and she does.... After all, this is nothing new for either of us, the dream is some thing that has affected both of our lives over the years since Billy's death. When I was younger, she would never just knock, my grandmother would simply burst through the door and wrap me in her arms and let me cry into the warmth and safety of her bosom. But I am not a child anymore, and the horror's of the dream are mine to face alone. I can now hear her softly walking back down the hall to her room. There will be no more sleep for her or me, in less than an hour the whole farm will be wide awake and buzzing with the start of new day.

I swing my feet over the edge of the bed, and they land hard on the cold hardwood floor below. Clumsily my feet search for my bedroom slippers, as usual they are hiding just under the bed, after a moment I am finally able to wriggle them on. The old farmhouse and its wood floors are incredibly old, and it is never a good idea to just go walking barefooted across them. Billy had found that out the hard way the first night we had come to live with our grandparents, he had caught a splinter as long as his pinky finger straight up the middle of his left foot. It had took damn near two months for the splinter to completely work itself out of the tender flesh of that foot, it was a hard lesson neither of us ever forgot. One of many hard lessons we would both learn about life on a farm.

Finally.....I pick my self up from the bed and walk slowly to the open bedroom window, and lean out just a little. I take in a deep breath of cool Kentucky springtime air, and try to shake off what is left of the dream from my head....This nightmare is a stubborn thing though, and does not give up its perch in the middle of my brain easily. The cool morning air helps.

Off in the distance the rooster is already starting to crow. Just across the yard, I can make out the outline of the barbwire fence, and unbelievably just beyond that... I can hear the old bull grunt at me from the pasture. It’s like the beast knew I had dreamed about it again. Anger and shame quickly replaces what is left of the dream. I never understood why my grandparents kept the bull after what it had done, it should have died that very day. My grandfather said no one else in the county would take the bull, and and he couldn't just kill the animal, it was the only of age breeder in damn near all of Eastern Kentucky. So the bull had stayed.

My father had been a lineman down in Georgia.... He had not been a very bright man when it came to how electric currents actually worked and had accidently gotten himself electrocuted one fall afternoon in 1929. It had been the start of the great depression, times were hard, and about to get harder. My mother did the best she could, mostly cooking and cleaning for people who would never know her....our struggle. She only made a few penny's a day, but she never complained and did any other work that she could find just to scrape out a meager existence for the three of us. Then in the winter of 1932 fate had reared it's ugly head once more, and my mother had caught the cancer and died a short two months later.

Me and Billy had been sent to live with our grandparents on their farm in Kentucky in the spring of 1933. I was 10 and Billy had been just 12 at the time. Farm life was hard, but we both immediately fell in love with it. There was always some kind of chore that needed to be done, and animals to look after. We loved to feed the chickens, ducks, pigs, and goats. My grandfather had even let us adopt one of the baby goats as our own. We had named the goat spider, because the crazy thing was always eating spiders. Our grandparents were hardworking, but loving people. They had been angry that my father had taken their only child and moved all the way down to South Georgia with her, but they had happily taken us in after our mothers untimely death. Grandfather really had only one rule when it came to living on the farm, and that rule was simply never to go into the bull’s pasture. “You boys stay out of that pasture, that bull is mean and ornery as most of his kind are, why he would make quick work of the likes of you two before anybody could get there to help ya” he told us, and we had believed him.

Then one afternoon about a year after we had come to live on the farm, we heard Spider squealing loudly, unnaturally. We looked out into the pasture, and there was our beloved baby goat running for his life, the bull was right there on his heels trying to gore him with those big white horns of his. Before I even knew what was happening, Billy jumped the barbwire fence and ran out into the pasture..... he got to Spider and scooped him up in his arms and started running back towards the fence. My brother did not quite get five or six steps off before the bull was upon him. I watched in absolute horror as the monsters big horn burst through the front of Billy’s chest, knocking Spider to the ground.... the little goat immediately ran full speed for the fence. By the time my grandfather had gotten there to scare the bull off with his old shotgun, it is beyond too late.

In the dream, all this happens in extra slow motion....I can see the shear terror in Billy’s face right before the beast's horn burst through the front of his chest. I am helpless and can do nothing but simply watch as the bull furiously shakes it's giant head back and fourth trying to dispatch my brother's lifeless body.... Finally Billy comes free from the bulls massif horn and is thrown to the ground in a bloody heap, where he lay's motionless, just staring at me with dead eye's.

I back away from the window and slowly get dressed, it is time to start the day. My grandparents are already at the table eating breakfast by the time I finally get to the kitchen. My plate is waiting at the table as well, but I barley give it a second look as I walk to the back door and pick up my grandfather’s old double barrel shotgun that is propped up in the corner. It is always loaded, so I know it is ready for the business at hand. Both my grandparents are looking at me hard, but with knowing eye’s. “What are you doing son” my grandfather calmly asked. I just stand there for a moment, feeling the cold hard steal of the shotgun in my hands, and then finally answer….

“I got something I gotta go do, something for Billy.”


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    WCWritten by Wayne Coolidge

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