Billy nipped at his flask and stared at his mother’s casket. He was one of 14 guests at her memorial service and the only relative. The rest were coworkers, members of her book club, and a turnip-faced widower who went on one date with her 20 years ago.
She had died from a fall down a flight of stairs a week before. Some thought Billy had pushed her. He hadn’t. He wanted her dead, but not then. It was too soon. He wanted her to die today, five minutes from right now, to be exact.
He would be dead as well. He figured since he had just turned 50, he had lived long enough. A lot of people whose lives would end in five minutes would be a lot younger than him. Some would be children. It made no difference. The kind of death that was coming did not check IDs. Billy figured he was lucky to have a half century. He wasn’t greedy. He had lived a full life, or would have if his bitch mother hadn’t ruined it for him.
Her first crime was robbing Billy of a father. Billy’s dad, like his son, was a drunk. Unlike Billy, he was a violent one. Billy sometimes wanted to smash things, but not people, because things could not hit back. Billy’s mother knew about his father’s nature from the get go. She could not plead ignorance. Billy had seen the wedding photos and noticed how her shiner stood out in sharp contrast to her virgin-white dress.
The father sometimes hit Billy, which Billy didn’t like very much. Mostly he hit Billy’s mother, which Billy liked just fine. He was taken away when Billy was 8 years old. This was Billy’s mother’s doing. She could have hit back. She could have ducked. Instead, she called the cops. It could have been that she screamed loud enough for the neighbors to do it for her. Either way, she was complicit.
There were several visits by the police before they made an arrest so she had every chance to change her behavior, but she never did. Billy, even at his tender age, had a sneaking feeling that his mother had orchestrated the whole thing. When she agreed to drop the charges in exchange for his father not contacting her and relinquishing his visitation rights, Billy was convinced of it.
From that point on, Billy had a dull and uneventful childhood. He did poorly in school though not poorly enough to get him transferred into a special-education program. Instead, his scholastics were the kind of bad that made Billy’s guidance counselors suggest career choices where he would be given a nametag and coveralls, and often a mop. All the while, his mother continued to work the same cashier job at the supermarket and reacted to his report cards with a sigh of resignation.
On the day Billy graduated from high school, he got a surprise visit from his father. Billy was walking home from the commencement ceremony (he would have gotten a ride from his mother, but she couldn’t get off) when a blue Yugo pulled up next to him. The window rolled down and there was Billy’s old man. He had a full beard now and his nose had been broken several times, but it was unmistakably him.
“Congrats, you little bastard. Here, catch!” his father said and tossed a bottle at Billy before driving away, never to be seen again.
It was a liter of Jack Daniels. Billy had almost fumbled and dropped the bottle, but he managed to hang onto it and keep it from smashing on the sidewalk.
He had very little experience with alcohol up to this point in his life, just the odd beer on those very rare occasions when he was offered one. His mother was a teetotaler so he couldn’t get any from her. Some of the other students at his high school threw parties where alcohol was served, but Billy was never invited. Now he didn’t need to be. He had his own bottle.
He unscrewed the cap and took a swig from his graduation present. The brown liquid burned his throat. Then it warmed his insides. He continued walking, taking several more hits off the bottle as he went. The JD started to work its magic. It made life something approaching tolerable.
Billy hid the bottle under the bed when he got home. His mother would not approve. It didn’t matter that he was 18 and therefore an adult. He wasn’t adult enough to buy alcohol yet, but he was adult enough to get charged as an adult for underage drinking and that had to count for something.
His mother would no doubt disagree. She would probably tell him that if he was living under her roof, he would have to follow her rules. Billy knew that the real reason she hated alcohol was that it made his father hit her. Alcohol was not to blame. The old man hit her plenty of times without touching a drop. Also, Billy was feeling plenty drunk at this point and he had no desire to hit his mother. He wanted to see her get hit, which was not the same thing.
Not just any hit would do. Billy’s father could blacken her eye or split her lip, but fell short of doing any lasting damage. There was a guy on the football team who put a cheerleader in the hospital because she wouldn’t give him a BJ, but Billy’s mother was too old and fat for him to want one from her. Besides, he didn’t punch hard enough for Billy’s liking. The cheerleader ended up too ugly to keep being a cheerleader, but that was the extent of it. Billy wanted real power in the punch and the way he figured it, nothing hit as hard as a nuclear bomb.
This was a logical next step for Billy as he often turned to the prospect of thermonuclear war to aid him in his time of need. If he was failing a class (or even just life in general), he would take comfort in knowing that his shortcomings didn’t matter if he was just going to get vaporized anyway. Billy wanted to see his mother get vaporized as well and he didn’t mind being caught in the blast if he got to watch her go. Of course, it would all occur in an instant so he would have to be alert when it happened. Billy knew that paying attention wasn’t his strong suit, but he promised himself he would pay attention to this.
For the next six years, Billy drank steadily and waited for World War 3 to start. The first three of those years were the hardest because Billy was not yet 21. He knew better than to ask his mother because she would just stare at him with eyes that conveyed profound disappointment. Instead, he relied on the kindness of strangers.
Well, it wasn’t exactly kindness. These were older men who agreed to buy the liquor and pay for it as well. All Billy had to do was close his eyes and let them put their hand or mouth on his junk. Billy only did this in secluded areas because he didn’t want anyone to see this happen and think he was gay. He didn’t have anything against gay people. It was just that homosexuality was not considered cool in the mid-1980s and he felt unpopular enough as it was.
If Billy were gay, this would have been the time to find out. Instead, he just wanted to put the experience out of his mind. He found that getting drunk afterward helped and being drunk during helped even more. The men didn’t seem to mind that Billy showed no sign of arousal. Even when he tried to pretend he was with a girl, his blood-alcohol content and the reality of the situation ensured that he became no more turgid than a stadium dog that has been floating in a hot-water vat for eight innings.
Billy turned 21, but was not ready to give up his line of work. He was of age, but needed more money to fund his now full-fledged alcoholism than the meager allowance from his mother would provide. The problem was that he was not as popular an item as he had once been.
Being no longer a teenager made Billy less of a hit with the ephebophiles. The customer base was further shrunk by Billy’s weight gain, which was considerable. His mother may have provided little monetary support and no emotional support to speak of, but she did give him a roof over his head and food on his plate. Billy took advantage of the latter with gusto and packed on a lot of pounds he never got around to shedding.
There were some men specifically drawn to Billy’s new look. Most of the chubby chasers were nice enough if a little fixated on his girth, but there were others who demanded he humiliate himself by making porcine snorts and oinks while he was being fondled.
All this made Billy wish for the Soviets to launch their missiles even more. “Kill us all, Mr. Gorbachev” was his nightly prayer.