Sunday, June 29, 2014




Billy Baxter’s mind was always racing. He saw things that other people didn’t and in his head he was always struggling to make sense of his surroundings by finding patterns.  When Billy spotted a good one, a formation of pebbles on a beach, a flock of birds in the sky or a line of flowers or designs on a sheet of wallpaper, he was relieved yet somewhat frightened.
Most of the time, finding patterns had a calming effect for Billy. Repeating sequences of shapes and colours gave him a certain clarity, and more often than not he could use them to bring order to his thoughts, and that made him happy. Still though, Billy had to be cautious because not all patterns were good for him. In fact, some of them could be downright dangerous.
Billy was thirty eight years old and had no family to speak of. His father had died in an accident underground at Creighton mine when he was just ten years and his mother died of lung cancer ten years later. He had an older brother somewhere, but they were never close and Billy hadn’t seen or spoken to him in a very long time. This estrangement wasn’t a result of sibling rivalry gone wrong or any bitterness between the two, it was just that Billy was distant by nature.
As a result of the constant flow of thoughts jumbling around in his head, Billy would often start speaking in mid-sentence, not realizing how odd that made him seem to the regular people around him. His complete lack of social grace made him a target growing up, the kids at school constantly bullied him, teased him and called him names. The classmates who didn’t tease were frightened of him and didn’t speak to Billy at all.
At recess he would often stand against the fence by himself with his hands in his pockets, counting the brown bricks in the wall of St. Francis Elementary. He would trace the seal of mortar around each brick and, using his imagination, arrange them into dirty words to amuse himself.
On a dare, a classmate approached him one morning and asked him what he was looking at.
Billy laughed. “It says fuckbrick.”
“Where?” The kid asked.
“Fuckbrick,” He answered.
“Fuckbrick, fuckbrick, fuckbrick!”
The student looked at Billy for a minute, then he looked at the wall where he saw no letters or words, and then back at Billy again.
“You’re retarded,” the kid said, and then ran off to join the other children who were waiting for their friend to tell them what the weirdo kid was staring at. The normal children.
You’re not retarded, his mother would tell him when he came home upset by the constant teasing he was subjected to at school. She would console him as best she could, but she could not hug him because Billy did not like to be touched by other people, he never had. Even as a toddler, any form of embrace made him stiffen up and pull away.
You are a very unique boy. Very special. All you need to do is use your words more, Billy. You can’t just live in your own head, because people don’t understand the way you think. When people don’t understand something, they become afraid of it. That’s their fault. Not yours.
Billy lived in a rooming house on Elizabeth Street. His quarters were small but that was fine by him. He didn’t have many possessions, but that was okay too. Everything Billy owned had its specific place, in order by size, colour and shapes. His hotplate sat on the dresser next to his bar fridge, his meager utensils consisting of four forks and four knives (two butter, two steak) were lined up on the small table beside his bed, two spoons (tea and table, respectively) lay at the end to the left. His four non-descript white dinner plates were stacked neatly in his top dresser drawer. The plates had to be plain because if they had any decoration, any design on them at all like checkers or circles, Billy could not bring himself to eat off of them. He would stare at the succession of shapes and colours until he became lost in the pattern. All his other senses, his sense of time and space and even his sense of self would abandon him as the pattern gradually became his universe. That was when things got bad, like the time in the sixth grade when Billy found the cube and had what his teachers would call an episode.
Billy found a rubik’s cube in his desk and had another episode, Mrs. Baxter. Can you come to the school? Right now. He’s in the corner of the lunchroom banging his head against the wall and when we try to take the cube from him he becomes violent.
 Mary Baxter was always able to rescue her son. She could penetrate the frightening and seemingly endless patterns that filled his mind like a stormy sea threatening to drown him, and no matter how lost and scared he was, Billy heard his mother when she called to him. The sound of her voice was like a life preserver he could reach for, something physical in the metaphysical monsoon in his mind. Once he had a grip she would gently tug him back to the safety of the real world by softly singing the theme song from his favorite television show.
“There’s a voice that keeps on callin’ me.
Down the road, that’s where I’ll always be
Every stop I make, I make a new friend
Can’t stop for long, you turn around and I’m gone again.”
When the episode passed, the first thing Billy saw was his mother crouched beside him. She had on the apron that she wore at her job at the meat counter at the Dominion grocery store on Regent Street.  He was surprised to find himself sitting on the floor of the cafeteria, and then embarrassed to discover he had wet himself. His head hurt. He felt a goose egg rising on his forehead.
“Mom,” He whined. “I peed.” His eyes filled up with tears.
“That’s okay sweetie, never mind that. Right now I want you to look at me.”
She took a tissue out of her green apron and dabbed at his eyes. Billy flinched away but stopped when he noticed that his mother was crying too.
“Give me what you have in your hand, sweetheart,” she told him. “Don’t look at it, don’t look down, keep your eyes on me and just give me what you have in your hand, okay?”
Billy obeyed.
His mother quickly snatched the puzzle cube from her little boy and tucked it into her purse. She was still crying a little bit, but smiling at him at the same time.
He looked up and saw the principal Mr. Casso, a heavyset man with oily jet black hair. He always wore a brown tweed jacket with dark patches on the elbows and neckties that never belonged with his shirt. Billy couldn’t stand to look at Mr. Casso’s clothes for more than a few seconds without feeling sick to his stomach.
Mr. Casso was shaking his head and holding a blood-soaked Kleenex against his left pinkie finger. His teacher, a short plump woman with straight brown hair that hung to her shoulders named Miss Eames stood beside him.
Billy really liked Miss Eames because she was nice to him, but mostly because she always wore plain white or soft-coloured blouses and dark knee-length skirts. She never dressed in anything that hurt to look at like Principal Casso.
“Mrs. Baxter, you can take your son home and clean him up,” The Principal said.  He’s excused for the rest of the day.”
“Yes,” his mother replied curtly. “Come on Billy, I’m taking you home.”
“I want to see you and your son tomorrow in my office at nine thirty. Can you arrange that?”
Mary Baxter stood up and straightened and smoothed her apron. She let out a deep breath.
“Nine thirty. Okay.”
As they walked down the hallway to the exit, Billy saw a group of boys gathered at the water fountain. As soon as they noticed him they began snickering, whispering amongst themselves and giggling. When they passed by, one of them said “Hey Fuckbrick, you pissed your pants. You have a freak-out, Fuckbrick?
Billy and his mother ignored them and kept walking, which only seemed to make the other kids join in.
“Fuckbrick had a freak-out,” they jeered in sing-song voices
“Fuckbrick had a freak-out and pissed his little fuckpants...”

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