Mother started to cry. "Billy, I can't stand it if you don't let them in. All those babies; all those twisted-up people, all those cancers and the fear of death in their faces, I can't stand it except that somehow, by some miracle, when they come in your room and touch you, they come out whole. I don't know how to turn them away. Jesus gave you a gift I didn't think existed in the world, but it didn't belong to you, Billy. It belongs to them. "
"I touch myself every day, " Billy whispered, "and I never get better. "
From then on Mother only took half of whatever people offered, and only after they were healed, so people wouldn't get the idea that the healing depended on the money. That way she was able to scrape up enough to keep the roof over their heads and food on the table. "There's a lot less thankful money than bribe money in the world, " she said to Billy. Billy just ate, being careful not to spill hot soup on his lap, because he'd never know if he scalded himself.
Then one day the TV cameras came, and the movie cameras, and set up on the lawn and in, the street outside.
"What the hell are you doing? " demanded Billy's mother.
"Bucky Fay's coming to meet the crippled healer, " said the movie man. "We want to have this for Bucky Fay's show. "
"If you try to bring one little camera inside our house I'll have the police on you. "
"The public's got a right to know, " said the man, pointing the camera at her.
"The public's got a right to kiss my ass, " said Mother, and she went back into the house and told everybody to go away and come back tomorrow, they were locking up the house for the day.
Mother and Billy watched through the lacy curtains while Bucky Fay got out of his limousine and waved at the cameras and the people crowded around in the street.
"Don't let him in, Mother, " said Billy.
Bucky Fay knocked on the door.
"Don't answer, " said Billy.
Bucky Fay knocked and knocked. Then he gestured to the cameramen and they all went back to their vans and all of Bucky Fay's helpers went back to their cars and the police held the crowd far away, and Bucky Fay started talking.
"Billy, " said Bucky Fay, "I don't aim to hurt you. You're a true healer, I just want to shake your hand. "
"Don't let him touch me again, " said Billy. Mother shook her head.
"If you let me help you, you can heal hundreds and hundreds more people, all around the world, and bring millions of TV viewers to Jesus. "
"The boy don't want you, " Mother said.
"Why are you afraid of me? I didn't give you your gift, God did. "
"Go away! " Billy shouted.
There was silence for a moment outside the door. Then Bucky Fay's voice came again, softer, and it sounded like he was holding back a sob. "Billy, why do you think I come to you? I am the worst son-of-a-bitch I know, and I come for you to heal me. "
That was not a thing that Billy had ever thought to hear from Bucky Fay.
Bucky Fay was talking soft now, so it was sometimes hard to understand him. "In the name of Jesus, boy, do you think I woke up one morning and said to myself, 'Bucky Fay, go out and be a healer and you'll get rich'? Think I said that? No sir. I had a gift once. Like yours, I had a gift. I found it one day when I was swimming at the water hole with my big brother Jeddy. Jeddy, he was a show-off, he was always tempting Death to come for him, and that day he dove right down from the highest branch and plunked his head smack in the softest, stickiest mud on the bottom of Pachuckamunkey River. Took fifteen minutes just to get his head loose. They brought him to shore and he was dead, his face all covered with mud. And I screamed and cried out loud, 'God, you ain't got no right! ' and then I touched my brother, and smacked him on the head, I said, 'God damn you, Jeddy, you pin-headed jackass, you ain't dead, get up and walk! ' And that was when I discovered I had the gift. Because Jeddy reached up and wiped the mud off his eyes and rolled over and puked the black Pachukey water all over grass there. 'Thank you Jesus, ' I said. In those days I could lay hands on mules with bent legs and they'd go straight. A baby with measles, and his spots would go. I had a good heart then. I healed colored people, and in those days even the doctors wouldn't go so far as that. But then they offered me money, and I took it, and they asked me to preach even though I didn't know a damn thing, and so I preached, and pretty soon I found myself in a jet airplane that I owned flying over an airstrip that I owned heading for a TV station that I owned and I said to myself, Bucky Fay, you haven't healed a soul in twenty years. A few folks have gotten better because of their own faith, but you lost the gift. You threw it away for the sake of money. " On the other side of the door Bucky Fay wailed in anguish. "Oh, God in heaven, let me in this door or I will die! "
Billy nodded, tears in his eyes, and Mother opened the door. Bucky Fay was on his knees leaning against the door so he nearly fell into the room. He didn't even stand up to walk over to Billy, just crawled most of the way and then said, "Billy, the light of God is in your eyes. Heal me of my affliction! My disease is love of money! My disease is forgetting the Lord God of heaven! Heal me and let me have my gift back again, and I will never stray, not ever so long as I live! "
Billy reached out his hand. Slow and trembling, Bucky Fay gently took that hand and kissed it, and touched it to the tears hot and wet on his cheeks. "You have given me, " he said, "you have given me this day a gift that I never thought to have again. I am whole! " He got up, kissed Billy on both cheeks, then stepped back. "Oh, my child, I will pray for you. With all my heart I will pray that God will remove your paralysis from your legs. For I believe he gave you your paralysis to teach you compassion for the cripple, just as he gave me temptation to teach me compassion for the sinner. God bless you, Billy, Hallelujah! "
"Hallelujah, " said Billy softly. He was crying too-- couldn't help it, he felt so good. He had longed for vengeance, and instead he had forgiven, and he felt holy.
That is, until he realized that the TV cameras had come in right behind Bucky Fay, and were taking a close-up of Billy's tear-stained face, of Mother wringing her hands and weeping. Bucky Fay walked out the door, his clenched fist high above his head, and the crowd outside greeted him with a cheer. "Hallelujah! " shouted Bucky. "Jesus has made me whole! "
It played real well on the religious station. Bucky Fay's repentance-- oh, how the crowds in the studio audience gasped at his confession. How the people wept at the moment when Billy reached out his hand. It was a fine show. And at the end, Bucky Fay wept again. "Oh, my friends who have trusted me, you have seen the mighty change in my heart. From now on I will wear the one suit that you see me wearing now. I have forsaken my diamond cuff links and my Lear jet and my golf course in Louisiana. I am so ashamed of what I was before God healed me with the hands of that little crippled boy. I tell all of you-- send me no more money! Don't send me a single dime to post office box eight three nine, Christian City, Louisiana 70539. I am not fit to have your money. Contribute your tithes and offerings to worthier men than I. Send me nothing! --"
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