And he looked into her eyes, and lo! when her gaze fell upon him he did verity turn to stone, for her visage was wondrous ugly. Praise the Lord.
Mother came home depressed as hell with a bag full of groceries and a headache fit to turn her hair turn to snakes. Billy, he knew when Mommy was like that, he could tell as soon as she grumped through the living room. But if she was full of hellfire, he had the light of heaven, and so he said, "Don't be sad, Mother, Jesus loves you. "
Mother put the margarine into the fridge and wiped the graham cracker crumbs off the table and dumped them in the sink even though the disposal hadn't worked for years. "Billy, " she said quietly, "you been saved again? "
"I only was just going to look inside. "
"Ought to sue those bastards. Burn down their tent or something. Why can't they do their show from a studio like everybody else? "
"I felt my sins just weighing me down and then he reached out and Jesus come into my heart and I had to be baptized. "
At the word baptized, Mommy slammed the kitchen counter. The mixing bowl bounced. "Not again, you damn near got pneumonia the last time! "
"This time I dried my hair. "
"It isn't sanitary! "
"I was the first one in. Everybody was crying. "
"Well, you just listen! I tell you not to go there, and I mean it! You look at me when I'm talking to you, young man. "
Her irresistible fingers lifted up his chip. Billy felt like he was living in a Bible story. He could almost hear Bucky Fay himself telling the tale: And he looked into her eyes, and lo! when her gaze fell upon him he did verily turn to stone, and he could not move though he sorely feared that he might wet his pants, for her visage was wondrous ugly. Praise the Lord.
"Now you promise me you won't go into that tent anymore, ever, because you got no resistance at all, you just come straight home, you hear me? "
He could not move until at last she despaired and looked away, and then he found his voice and said, "What else am I supposed to do after school? "
Today was different from all the other times they had this argument: this time his mother leaned on the counter and sobbed into the waffle mix. Billy came and put his arm around her and leaned his head on her hip. She turned and held him close and said, "If that son-of-a-bitch hadn't left me you might've had some brothers and sisters to come home to. " They made waffles together, and while Billy pried pieces of overcooked waffle out of the waffle iron with a bent table knife, he vowed that he would not cause his mother such distress again. The revival tent could flap its wings and lift up its microwave dish to take part in the largess of heaven, but Billy would look the other way for his mother's sake, for she had suffered enough.
Yet he couldn't keep his thoughts away from the tent, because when they were telling what was coming up soon they had said that Bucky Fay was coming. Bucky Fay, the healer of channel 49, who had been known to exorcise that demon cancer and cast out kidney stones in the name of the Lord; Bucky Fay, who looked to Billy like the picture Mommy kept hidden in the back of her top drawer, the picture of his father, the son-of-a-bitch. Billy wanted to see the man with the healing hands, see him in the flesh.
"Mommy, " he said. On TV the skinny people were praising Diet Pepsi.
"Mm? " Mommy didn't look up.
"I wish my foot was all twisted up so I couldn't walk. "
Now she looked up. "My Lord, what for! "
"So Jesus could turn it around. "
"Billy, that's disgusting. "
"When the miracle goes through you, Mommy, it knocks you on the head and then you fall down and get all better. A little girl with no arm got a new arm from God. They said so. "
"Child, they've turned you superstitious. "
"I wish I had a club foot, so Jesus would do a miracle on me. "
God moves in mysterious ways, but this time he was pretty direct. Of all the half-assed wishes that got made and prayers that got said, Billy's got answered. Billy's mother was brooding about how the boy was going off the deep end. She decided she had to get him out doing things that normal kids do. The movie playing at the local family-oriented moviehouse was the latest go-round of Pollyanna. They went and watched and Billy learned a lesson. Billy saw how good this little girl was, and how preachers liked her, and first thing you know he was up on the roof, figuring out how to fall off just right so you smash your legs but don't break your back.
Never did get it right. Broke his back, clean as could be, spinal cord severed just below the shoulders, and there he was in a wheelchair, wearing diapers and pissing into a plastic bag. In the hospital he watched TV, a religious station that had God's chosen servants on all day, praising and praying and saving. And they had Bucky Fay himself, praise the Lord, Bucky Fay himself making the deaf to hear and the arthritic to move around and the audience to be generous, and there sat Billy, more excited than he had ever been before, because now he was ripe and ready for a miracle.
"Not a chance in the world, " his mother said. "By God I'm going to get you uncrazy, and the last place I'm going to take you is anywhere in earshot of those lying cheating hypocritical so-called healers. "
But there's not many people in the world can say no more than two or three times to a paralyzed kid in a wheelchair, especially if he's crying, and besides, Mommy thought, maybe there's something to faith. Lord knows the boy's got that, even if he doesn't have a single nerve in his legs. And if there's even a chance of maybe giving him back some of his body, what harm can it do?
Once inside the tent, of course, she thought of other things. What if it is a fraud, which of course it is, and what happens when the boy finds out? What then? So she whispered to him, "Billy, now don't go expecting too much. "
"I'm not. " Just a miracle, that's all. They do them all the time, Mommy.
"I just don't want you to be disappointed when nothing happens. "
"I won't be disappointed, Mommy. " No. He'll fix me right up.
And then the nice lady leaned over and asked, "You here to be healed? "
Billy only nodded, recognizing her as Bucky Fay's helper lady who always said "Oh, my sweet Lord Jesus you're so kind" when people got healed, said it in a way that made your spine tingle. She was wearing a lot of makeup. Billy could see she had a moustache with makeup really packed onto it. He wondered if she was really secretly a man as she wheeled him up to the front. But why would a man wear a dress? He was wondering about that as she got him in place, lined up with the other wheelchair people on the front row.
A man came along and knelt down in front of him. Billy got ready to pray, but the man just talked normal, so Billy opened his eyes. "Now this one's going on TV, " the man said, "and for the TV show we need you to be real careful, son. Don't say anything unless Bucky asks you a direct question, and then you just tell him real quick. Like when he asks you how come you got in a wheelchair, what'll you tell him? "
- *Just talk, Mick. Tell us everything. We'll listen. * Well to…
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