29 December 2011

The Moral of the Story

You want to know the truth about Billy Drebnik? I'll tell you the damn truth. He was a fake. A liar and a fake. His dad owned that shop over on the other side of town, and he was an unrepentant believer, he was. His father, that is – not Billy. Billy would hang glide for hours, leaping from the 428th story of that under-garment manufacturer's office building and screaming bloody murder with a tail of tied-together pantaloons, corsets and jimmy-warmers streaming behind him. Billy would go out of his mind as he floated through the ether and the pantaloons would become dragons, the corsets would become air nymphs and the jimmy-warmers would become tiny air snakes, and the lot of them would chase little Billy to the ground.

But he was a fake. A liar and a fake, I tell you. He would make up outrageous claims about the things he saw while he floated through the ether, and he claimed to have the answers. Billy Drebnik always told us that he had the answer to big things like world peace and hunger and domestic violence, and that one day he would go to that big city where they make the laws and start wars and things and he would change the world. The pantaloons and the corsets and the jimmy-warmers would follow him to that big city, and they would help him figure it all out.

That was before the fever.

Billy Drebnik came down with the fever in his thirteenth year, and it lasted until he was almost forty-three. That is “forty-three” with a capital “4”. When the fever broke, Billy's father had long since died and the store had crumbled to dust. The pantaloons and the corsets and the jimmy-warmers were threadbare, and the 428-story undergarment manufacturer's office building from which Billy used to leap had been sold to a developer and was now the home to the city's largest Croatian Buffet (with a branch location near you). The fever broke and Billy wobbled to the window of his room. He stared hard through the glass at a world that had passed him by. He had not gone to the big city where they make the laws and start wars and things. He had not changed the world. He did not offer to the world the answers to world peace and hunger and domestic violence. He had lain in bed for three decades and watched the world pass him by. The rest of his days would consist of drinking cheap beer before noon and writing angry letters to editors of small-town papers and dreaming of past loves that never were but could have been and now never will be.

A fake? Why a fake? That fever was fake. That fever never was. Billy just rubbed his tongue with a mixture of camphor, chicken fat, and lye every time the nurse came to take his temperature. The whole three decades were fake and Billy knew it. If they weren't fake, then at least they no longer existed, but Billy was not man enough to find out which was the case.

Let this be a lesson, little Mikey Nitrous – let this be a lesson to you, even though it has already partially come to pass in your own life. Let this be a lesson, because you know, sweet-cheeked honey-child that you are, this cheap old fake by the name of Billy Drebnik, he doesn't have to wind up his days drinking cheap beer and writing angry letters.

Go ahead, ask him if he's going to the spring cotillion. Perhaps he will lace up one of those corsets, pick up his best gal and join you at Colonel Murphee's palatial estate for dancing and some of that fine, fine lemonade the Colonel is known for.


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