Mother was wheeling Billy around the park. It was a fine summer day, which means that the humidity was so high that fish could live for days out of the water. Billy was dripping sweat, and he knew that when he got home he'd have a hell of a diaper rash, and Mother would say, "Oh you poor dear, " and Billy would grieve because it didn't even itch. The river was flowing low and there were big rocks uncovered by the shore. Billy sat there watching the kids climb around on the rocks. His mother saw what he was watching and tried to take him away so he wouldn't get depressed about how he couldn't climb, but Billy wouldn't let her. He just stayed and watched. He picked out one kid in particular, a pretty-faced body with a muscled chest, about two years older than Billy. He watched everything that boy did, and pretended that he was doing it. That was a good thing to do, Billy would rather do that than anything, watch this boy play for him on the rocks.
But all the time there was this idiot girl watching Billy. She was on the grass, far back from the shore, where all the cripples have to stay. She walked like an inchworm almost, each step a major event, as if she was a big doll with a little driver inside working the controls, and the driver wasn't very good at it yet. Billy tried to watch the golden body of the pretty-faced boy, but this spastic girl kept lurching around at the edges of his eyes.
"Make that retard go away, " Billy whispered.
"What? " asked Mother.
"I don't want to look at that retard girl. "
"Then don't look at her. "
"Make her go away. She keeps looking at me. "
Mother patted Billy's shoulder. "Other people got rights, Billy. I can't make her go away from the park. You want me to take you somewhere else? "
"No. " Not while the golden boy was standing tall on the rocks, extending himself to snatch Frisbies out of the air without falling. Like God catching lightning and laughing in delight.
The spastic girl came closer and closer, in her sidewise way. And Billy grew more and more determined not to pay the slightest heed to her. It was obvious, though, that she was coming to him, that she meant to reach him, and as he sat there he grew afraid. What would she do? His greatest fear was of someone snatching his urine bag from between his legs and holding it up, the catheter tugging away at him, and everybody laughing and laughing. That was what he hated worst, living his life like a tire with a slow leak. He knew that she would grab between his legs for the urine bag under his lap robe, and probably spill it all over, she was such a spastic. But he said nothing of his fear, just waited, holding onto his lap, watching the golden boy jump from the high rock into the river in, order to splash the kids were perched on the lesser rocks.
Then the spastic girl touched him. Thumped her club of a hand into his arm and moaned loudly. Billy cried out, "Oh, God! " The girl shuddered and fell to the ground, weeping.
All at once every single person in the park ran over and leaned around, jostling and looking. Billy held tight to his lap robe, lest someone pull it away. The spastic girl's parents were all apology, she'd never done anything like that, she usually just kept to herself, we're so sorry, so terribly sorry. They lifted the girl to her feet, tried to lead her away, but she shrugged them off violently. She shuddered again, and formed her mouth elaborately to make a word. Her parents watched her lips intently, but when the words came, they were clear. "I am better, " she said.
Carefully she took a step, not toward her parents, but toward Billy. The step was not a lurch controlled by a clumsy little puppeteer. It slow and uncertain, but it was a human step. "He healed me, " she said.
Step after step, each more deft than the last, and Billy forgot all about his lap robe. She was healed, she was whole. She had touched him and now was cured.
"Praise God, " someone in the crowd said.
"It's just like on TV, " someone else said.
"Saw it with my own two eyes. "
And the girl fell to her knees beside Billy and kissed his hand and wept and wept.
They started coming after that, as word spread. Just a shy-looking man at the front door, a pesky fat lady with a skinny brother, a mother with two mongoloid children. All the freaks in Billy's town, all the sufferers, all the desperate seemed to find the way to his house. "No, " Billy told Mother again and again. "I don't want to see nobody. "
"But it's a little baby, " Mother said. "He's so sweet. He's been through so much pain. "
They came in, one by one, and demanded or begged or praytd or just timidly whispered to him, "Heal me. " Then Billy would sit there, trembling, as they reached out and touched him. When they knew that they were healed, and they always were, they cried and kissed and praised and thanked and offered money. Billy always refused the money and said precious little else. "Aren't you going to give the glory to God? " asked one lady, whose son Billy healed of leukemia. But Billy just looked at his lap robe until she went away.
The first reporters came from the grocery store papers, the ones that always know about the UFOs. They kept asking him to prophesy the future, until Billy told Mother not to let them come in anymore. Mother tried to keep them out, but they even pretended to be cripples in order to get past the door. They wrote stories about the "crippled healer" and kept quoting Billy as saying things that he never said. They also published his address.
Hundreds of people came every day now, a constant stream all day. One lady with a gimp leg said, "Praise the Lord, it was worth the hundred dollars. "
"What hundred dollars? " asked Billy.
"The hundred dollars I give your mother. I give the doctors a thousand bucks and the government give them ten thousand more and they never done a damn thing for me. "
Billy called Mother. She came in. "This woman says she gave you a hundred dollars. "
"I didn't ask for the money, " Mother said.
"Give it back, " Billy said.
Mother took the money out of her apron and gave it back. The woman clucked about how she didn't mind either way and left.
"I ain't no Bucky Fay, " Billy said.
"Of course you ain't, " Mother said. "When people touch you, they get better. "
"No money, from nobody. "
"That's real smart, " Mother said. "I lost my job last week, Billy. I'm home all day just keeping them away from you. How are we going to live? "
Billy just sat there, trying to think about it. "Don't let them in anymore, " he said. "Lock the doors and go to work. "
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