Billy; or, How to Throw a Mentally-Retarded off a Cliff
Lots of times I want to throw a mentally-retarded off a cliff. Not just like push him off, but grab a wing or an ankle, or both really, and start swinging him around and around at the top of a cliff. I’m turning around and around as I do it. And then I just let go. Isn’t there an Olympic sport like that?
He wouldn’t spin or be flailing around. It’d be like one of those football throws where the ball doesn’t move while it goes through the air. Just rotating slightly as he sails away. Like that.
I’d even feel like tossing Billy like that sometimes. But not really.
I work at the Group Home. Billy makes the same noise all the time. Like, “Ahuh, ahuh, ahuh.”
“What’d he say?”
“Huh, huh, huh.” (laughter)
“No, I mean, ‘What’s he mean?’”
“He meant, ‘Gimme a beer.’” (laughter)
That’s Kerry. I work with him. He looks half Indian but I don’t really know if he is.
We work this crazy weekend shift thing where we’re there all day--12 hours awake--on Saturday and then we sleep over and still get paid and Maggie comes on for the overnight awake, and then we get up and do it again, but Maggie goes home to sleep. And so we do that and then we go and work at the Cheezie factory all week. We make pretty good cash.
Anyway, the way I think about it when I throw a retarded guy that’s bugging me off a cliff--he goes flying out over the cliff, sort of floating but like in a direction, maybe even upwards at first, and at first it might even be exciting for him. A rush. He’s fooled because he doesn’t know anything about falling, that you land on something and probably die. He thinks you just keep going and it feels good. So that’s good for him. But then he starts to drop and it starts to dawn on him that something’s wrong. He gets a worried look on his face. Then--smuck! He lands on the rocks. Or maybe the cliff is over water. I don’t picture that part too much actually. I just like the throwing part. I think I got the idea from about how the Romans threw deformed babies off cliffs or down onto rocks. That was in History or something.
So that’s what I think about if they bug me too much sometimes.
The funny thing about Billy is he really tries to understand what you’re saying, kinda like dogs sometimes look like they’re trying to figure out what people are saying. It’s kind of funny actually.
You might be able to tell--we’re stoned when we’re talking to Billy. We smoked a reefer--we do that sometimes at the Group Home. It’s freaky. Sometimes when I’m stoned and we’re laughing away with Billy and Zoltan it suddenly hits me that they’re not handicapped at all--they’re like, people. I mean, they don’t talk very well, or they can’t talk, and they’ve got physical problems and look weird but, like, when it’s the three of us, if it’s just Billy--I mean when it’s just him and Kerry and me cause the others are watching TV, and we’re joking and it hits me that Billy’s just one of us. It’s kinda cool.
One time--and I mean like we got really stoned on some Thai stick so yeah, that’s why--Billy was doing his, “ahuh, ahuh, ahuh” and I could understand him. Not like when Kerry puts words in his mouth, like,
“Hey Billy, want some pussy?”
“He’s saying, ‘Is it tight?’” (laughter)
But like I could really get what he was saying, what it meant, even though it was just sounds. Weird, huh? It’s like babies are people, they’re just not grown up yet. But those baby sounds they make are what they’re saying. Something like that.
Kerry wants to get Billy stoned but I said no. More like just because I don’t think he needs it to get like we do, than that it wasn’t right, but that too. We all three just sit and laugh like we all got stoned together anyway. I guess Billy was just easy to get along with.
Kerry’s always saying Billy wants to fuck Maggie. She’s not bad, either. I think it means Kerry wants to fuck Maggie so he’s pretending he’s Billy, in a way. He’ll be like,
“Let’s let Billy fuck Maggie!”
“Like she’d do that.”
“We’ll drug her.”
“We could do it! It’d be fuckin’ hilarious--we’d strip her down, maybe tie her up, and let him go at her.”
“You mean, ‘She’s fucked.’ Ha ha!”
We take them out and do things--walks, drives, shopping. There’s Billy, Zoltan, Martin, Charles sometimes--he goes home a lot on weekends--and Raheed. Paki. Take them out for ice cream. I like Billy the best. I mean, he drives me nuts too, always grabbing your arm and hanging onto you like he likes you. So that’s why sometimes I think about throwing him off a cliff too. Not really. He’s the nicest one, he doesn’t have fits or break things or whatever.
I usually change him too. Kerry hates that, and Maggie wakes me up if she thinks he has to go. She’s not supposed to do things like that anyway, cause they’re males. The rest of them can go to the bathroom mostly anyway, but Billy has to wear diapers even though he’s the most normal looking. Weird. So that’s a drag. But its okay. It’s not all the time either, just if the timing doesn’t work, cause we go and sit him down there regularly.
His parents come by to visit. They’re pretty nice. He has sisters and brothers, they’re all normal. A couple of them have come before to visit but not usually. But Billy’s parents come once a month. I guess that’s not that much. His dad doesn’t say much--it’s like, “Hey! Hey Billy!” like they’re going to play sports or something. His mom’s nice. Billy knows them for sure, not so much his dad but he hangs off his mom, really gives her a big hug.
And we do all the feeding and pills and baths if they need it--fuck, it’s a lot of work when I think about it. “Toast buckets”--that’s what Kerry calls them. But I don’t mind doing it, I really don’t. Funny. I say stuff but really I feel sorry for them and someone’s got to do it anyway.
But this was kind of funny. Billy’s got a big thing and Kerry’s always saying what a waste. “What a waste of sausage and eggs!” he says. “Maggie doesn’t know what she’s missing.”
Anyway, the one time Billy got a boner in the bath. And Kerry calls me in, he’s like, “Joe, get in here quick!” He’s pointing and he says, “Check it out!” It was sort of embarrassing. Kerry stands up straight and salutes and says, “Maggie needs meat, sir!” I had to laugh. It didn’t even make sense.
It was kinda weird though. I wonder why Billy got that in the bath, he never did before. I took over and got Billy out of the bath and dried him off--he didn’t have the hard-on then--and got him in bed. I make it so Kerry doesn’t do the bath part now.
Kerry even pushed Billy’s hand onto her ass once, like Billy was doing it on his own. That’s when Maggie came in early for her shift and Billy was still up. Maggie was walking by and Kerry pushed Billy’s hand so it hit her ass. She just went like, “Eww...” but really it was like Kerry wanted to grab her ass so he made it like Billy did. Billy wouldn’t really know to do it--or that it was bad, or good, I guess. But I laughed too, I’ll admit it. I’m thinking all this stuff afterwards really, about wrong and right, about how these guys are people like us.
But I’m saying all this about Billy like he’s still here. But Billy died. Yeah, he’s dead. Wham, he got hit with a brain-something. I wasn’t there, it was during the week. But the manager said we could go to the funeral if we wanted. His parents were there and some of the brothers and sisters. Kerry didn’t go. It was weird, I just like all of a sudden my chest heaved and I couldn’t help it and I started bawling right there. It felt weird but I couldn’t stop. I was saying his name, Billy. Billy, like he was my friend.
Dimitrios Otis bio: Born in Belleville. Lived out west 20 years. Came back. Wrote novel, still unpublished, based on the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom.
Author photo credit: Catalina Motta