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Part One: Billy is Crazy

Chapter One

My Own Hands

Billy paced the living room, hands clenched. Marie was sitting on the sofa, her face crushed into her hands. She imagined the ambulance arriving, and large men putting Billy into a straight jacket before driving him away. Then she would sit here, uselessly crying, trying to figure out how to explain it to their son Thomas.

"Listen, Marie. Just listen." Billy wiped a large hand across his red face. He was looking down as he paced, and the words struck Marie with their desperation. "OK, Billy. Say it again. Will it suddenly make more sense?"

"Marie, here's the thing. I didn't want to tell you at all. You pushed and pushed, and now you are hearing it. They come for me at night, they take me right out that goddamned window, and up into their ship. They do something to make me still. They fill my head with static. I'm frozen."

"Billy, it's a dream. It's a dream you have because you don't take care of yourself. It's stress, and alcohol and...", Marie let that hang in the air for a minute. "It's something, Billy, but no one is taking you out the window at night. I'd know." She had slept beside him every night for thirteen years, and if the two hundred pound man floated out her window at night, she would know.

"Then they do something to you, too. Do you dream at night? Do you remember a dream last night Marie? Did you wake up one time last night to pee or to get water, and do you remember it?"

She swung her feet up onto the sofa, so that the stage was set for the rest of the play. Her, the prone patient on a sofa, while the agitated therapist paced and questioned her. He should be the one lying here, not her.

"I don't remember anything about last night. I didn't dream, I didn't pee, I slept. I slept soundly, and then I woke up and you were laying right there beside me. I don't feel strange at all. You are going through something, that's all. You aren't thinking straight."

Billy swung around to face her. He stopped pacing and he stared at her as she looked at him nervously. How did he think she would react, she wondered. It's ridiculous. And yet he'd told her, and here they were.

"It doesn't matter if you believe me. I knew it was going to go badly when I told you about it. Just know that I'm going to deal with it."

This made Marie sit back up. The last time Billy determined to go "deal with" something, he wound up in the county jail for punching Lester in the face after church two years ago. Lester had made overtures to Marie that were at first flattering. A comment about her dress, an offhand remark about her hair. But that eventually turned into innuendo that wasn't very gentlemanly. So she told Billy. She didn't expect the result she got. Lester spent three days in the hospital, and Billy got a court date.

Billy let his face relax a little. "Listen Marie, I'm going to go down to the cave for a while. I need to go down there for a little while." The cave was what Billy called his workshop; a place where he tinkered with electronics, drank scotch and sometimes smoked a cigar underneath the ventilation fan. "Don't worry."

"Don't worry? After what you just told me? I'll do nothing but worry. You need to go see Doctor James today, or you are sleeping on the couch. You hear me, Billy?" He was already walking out of the room. Marie stared into the carpet. As the tears kept welling up, she stared through them at the blur of patterns and wondered what would happen next.

Down in the cave, Billy bellied up to the electronics workbench. He put his square chin in his hand and thought. How was he going to deal with this? Was Marie right, and he needed to see the doctor? He hated doctors, and he especially hated talking to doctors about things that didn't involve broken bones or fevers. Feelings. Feelings belong to you, and aren't to be discussed in some cold room with a stranger.

Just then, Thomas came in. "Hey dad, what are you building?"

"Nothing yet, just thinking about the next project, T." Billy's son was a big, strong 14 year old. Like Billy had been in better days. His eyes were bright blue, and suffered from the extreme optimism of youth. No one had broken his heart yet, and he'd never had to pay a mortgage; much less been carried out a window in the night by black figures with too big eyes.

"Can you help me with the rocket a little? I had an idea about how to make it awesome." Billy was reaching behind the old television while Thomas talked, intent on putting some scotch in a glass. He kept a good bottle down here for those evenings when Marie didn't mind him slipping off alone.

Thomas continued, "Is there some way to have it know how far up it's gone? And then at a certain height it can shoot out some wings from the side." Thomas walked over and sketched on the legal pad. He wanted the rocket to sprout wings and then glide down from on high. The rocket was a project he and Thomas had started years ago. It started as a simple tube, and a simple engine, all launched with a simple wire connected to a push button. It had become a colossus. It stood over 4 feet tall, and was packed with gizmos. It had a camera, it could deploy emergency chutes; it could even shoot a small fireball out of one side (this was a Thomas request from when he was just 8 years old). And now he wanted to give it wings.

"Thomas, this is really cool. I like the idea. Right now I need a little daddy time, ok? Let me keep the drawing and think a little. And on Saturday, we can get working on it. Ok?"

Thomas looked hard at his dad. The blue of those eyes could really work on you. Thomas said "Sure thing. I love you dad. Mom is going to take me to the clinic anyway to see the Mastiff that came in." He turned and ran out the door.

Marie was a veterinarian, and their house was less than a block from her clinic. She probably knew that she and Thomas needed to be out of the house for a bit. He was grateful that she did these little things, and smiled a little bit as poured just a little too much scotch in his tumbler.

Then it struck him, and he knew exactly what he was going to do.