Poor Billy Green! When he was just turning four, his father tried to throw him in the trash. He was a smart kid but that just seemed to create enemies. His mom did everything to protect him. But this was Detroit, armpit of the wasteland! Catholic school didn't help much, except the time he got his first kiss from an atheist nun. Home life was dismal. Was his father capable of anything but drinking beer and farting? And what was with that neighbor who made puppets and tried to molest Billy? Golly! Detroit was sucking the life out of him. At such a young age. Then adolescence swirled around him. Like water in a toilet bowl. High school was a B movie. Only without a plot. So finally he did something about it. Billy ran away ... to college. Cornell University. That was a good move for sure! He studied hard, lost his virginity, met the love of his life. Things were definitely looking up! What could possibly go wrong?
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The Man Who Loved Too Much
Book 1: Archipelago
By John Rachel
Literary Vagabond BooksCopyright © 2014 John Rachel
All rights reserved.
THE EARLY YEARS
1986 – 1995
It was an especially cold Thanksgiving on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Today was the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and the crowd alternated between shivering and cheering. People shuffled and stomped, attempting to keep their feet from freezing. Gusts of steamy cold blew from their dripping noses and through clenched teeth.
Suddenly Billy started screaming. "My balloon!! My Balloon!!"
"Harold, do something. His balloon!"
"Goddammit, Irene. Do I look like I have wings? It's too late."
Up up it went. The string had slipped from Billy's grasp and the balloon was off to wherever balloons go. The stratosphere? Balloon heaven?
"You stupid little fuck. I told you to let me tie it to your wrist. But you're so goddamn smart. See what happens when you don't listen."
Billy's face instantly melted into a chastened mask of humiliation and defeat, as he started to cry like his puppy had been crushed under a bus.
"Nice work, Harold. Give the kid a complex. Let's find a vendor and get him another one."
"Over my dead body! He'll learn something from this. Next time something is so goddamn important to him as that there balloon ..." Harold jerked his thumb skyward at the latex dot which was all but invisible by now. "... maybe he'll take better care of it."
"Jesus Christ, he's only three. How could I have married such a heartless man? Come here, sweetheart." She reached down and picked up the heartbroken and tremulously sobbing young boy, face streaked and blotchy, mittens wet with the fresh tears of tragedy.
Another parade float approached and would soon be right in front of them.
She pointed. "Look, Billy. Look at the dinosaur."
Sure enough, big as a moving van, bloated with helium, tethered to the 8-wheel steel flatbed of a float frame covered with artificial turf, and looking about as realistic as cardboard and crayons, was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Its mouth was agape in what was supposed to be a scary, imminent man-devouring chomp. Several repairs were visible on the rubber underside, patches which were poorly matched in color to the skin of the faux beast. To underscore the implausibility of the threat, eight baton twirlers circled around the float, dancing, kicking their bare legs high, tossing and twirling gleaming chrome batons in the clear November air.
"Grrr!! Grrr!! Careful he doesn't eat you up." She tickled his cheek with her wool-gloved finger and tried to elicit a smile.
Billy had already stopped crying and just looked confused. He seemed more interested in the baton twirlers than the gas bag monster.
Next came a landlocked riverboat float, bearing the Flint Banjo Club players. This was their historic parade debut and they enthusiastically picked and twanged their way through various Dixieland and bluegrass favorites to a crowd which almost seemed to notice. Two mounted policemen followed, their horses snorting and blowing foggy jets from their wet nostrils.
"Harold, I need to powder my nose. Can you take him?" Giving her husband no real choice in the matter, she abruptly reached over and pushed the boy up against his father's chest.
"Mommy, I have to —"
"Just sit tight, Billy. Mommy will be right back."
"But, Mom ..."
His father took Billy, obviously under protest, and slung him up on his shoulders. The boy completely caught off guard by the sudden and heavy-handed move, grabbed on desperately to keep from falling, wrapping his arms tightly around his father's neck.
"Easy! Easy! You don't have to choke me to death."
Billy knew better than to try to talk to him and just settled in an uncomfortable slump against his father's head. Before she had left, he was trying to tell his mom that he had to pee. But she was off to find a ladies room and it would have to wait until she got back.
He had to go. Really bad.
To make matters worse, his father was bouncing him. Whether this was to entertain Billy or just to try to stay warm was a moot point. The pressure of the full kidneys built quickly and all Billy could do was concentrate on holding it in. He couldn't even look at the parade floats. He closed his eyes and bit on his lower lip. The critical pressure in his groin quickly intensified. He clamped his legs together as hard as he could against the urgent and painful need for release.
"What the fuck are you doing up there? This ain't no wrestling match. Back off with the leg lock."
His dad reached up under Billy's arms and shook him to drive home his point. That was all it took for the dam to burst. Billy let out a tiny whimpering cry. Then silence. He tried to stop it but his urethral valve was open and it wasn't about to be turned off until the job was done.
At first Billy's father only noticed a slight increase in the temperature around and below the collar of his coat. Then he felt the wetness and sensed the faint odor of the boy's young discharge.
"Is that what I think it is? You little shit!"
Billy was swallowed whole by shame and fear. He fought desperately to keep from crying and covered his face with both hands as his father roughly lifted him off and held him out in front of him to confirm his worst suspicions. Billy was still going. Pee dripped from the bottom of his wet trousers, past his shoes, onto the pavement.
Billy's father was fast to act. Still holding Billy at arms length, he turned around and headed away from the street, towards the public restrooms, just as Billy's mom was making her way back to join them.
At first she was puzzled at the way Harold was carrying the boy, then terrified by the look on her husband's face. Obviously something had gone very wrong.
"I asked for a son and you gave me this piece of trash."
She tried to grab for Billy, both to rescue him from his father's rage and offer him whatever comfort might be needed. But Harold was too quick. He muscled past her and walked over to a large wire trash basket, already nearly full of newspapers, crumpled lunch bags and food wrappings.
He dropped Billy in head first and stormed away.
She was there within seconds.
"Are you all right? My poor little boy! My poor little boy!" She fought back her tears and tried to hide her anger, though the back of her eyes were angry hot embers and an ache for her abused little boy filled her chest with sulfurous pangs. As she reached down and uprighted Billy, she saw his wet pants and realized what had happened. She immediately drew him into the kind of hug that only a mother can provide a frightened child, covering his cheeks and head with kisses.
"It's alright. It's alright, my sweet handsome young man."
The cushioning of the paper refuse already stuffed in the wastebasket had broken Billy's plunge. He wasn't hurt. No bruises. No scratches. Surprisingly, he wasn't crying. He just blinked and stared off in the direction his father had taken.
Then he turned and whispered. "Can we watch the parade?" "We probably should get you some new pants. Looks like you ran through the lawn sprinklers while I was gone."
To take advantage of the masses of people attending the event, several stores were open for business, though it was a national holiday. His mom carried Billy into two clothing shops and they found some jeans he really liked. The new pants were a little big on him but at least they were warm and dry.
By the time they returned to the parade route, things were reaching a climactic conclusion. This, of course, was the arrival of none other than Santa Claus himself, on a motorized sled drawn by unmoving reindeer figures, deer-in-the-headlights gazes epoxied into their eyes, with the biggest reindeer celebrity of them all, red-nosed Rudolph himself, in the lead.
Billy's eyes widened as the Santa float approached. Within minutes, there he was right in front of them, the man with the giant belly, rosy cheeks, red and white fur-trimmed suit, and a huge white beard which flowed down on his chest like angel hair. Santa laughed his deep, sonorous 'ho ho ho' and waved like a prom queen to the excited children and conspiratorial adults who were bonded together in a special covenant to perpetuate and promote the Santa myth, just as their parents had done before them.
When Santa had passed and only the top of his waving arm could be seen over the high back of his red and gold sled, Billy finally lowered his own tiny hand and let it hang at his side.
Lost in thought, Billy watched his own fidgeting hands, then looked up at his mom.
"Mommy. Can Santa bring me a new dad?"
The Boy in the Bubble
Billy didn't get his Christmas wish. Harold was there to stay.
Irene realized that as a companion and father, her husband lacked everything. On the other hand, he was a good provider, something Irene's generation and someone from her working class background valued a great deal. She couldn't remember the Harold who had courted her, the young man she had fallen in love with. The Harold she ended up with was certainly not what she had bargained for. But he did provide a decent house to live in and kept food on the table. She had cast her lot with him and that was that. She would stand by him and stick it out till the bitter end.
That's what you did.
Billy was an only child. Small favors from a busy God. Of course, it probably had more to do with the fact that Harold and Irene never had sex anymore, and hadn't from the time they found out she was pregnant with Billy, than with intervention at a divine level.
The good news was that, lacking any other children and anything other than a token presence by her mate, Irene could lavish all of her attention on her beautiful young boy, carving out a protective cocoon, and creating a world in their home within which Billy could grow up and, if her maternal fantasies were fully realized, blossom into a sensitive, loving person.
That's exactly what she did.
However he turned out, Irene was determined that Billy would be a much more fully functioning human being than his father, which admittedly wasn't setting the bar very high. In point of fact, she looked far beyond the Neanderthal benchmark set by her husband, and had rather ambitious and idealized notions of how she wanted her son to turn out.
Billy seemed to have a good head start from the get-go. He came out of the womb with his eyes open and was too busy gawking at a nurse to cry when the obstetrician whacked him on the butt. He just stretched his arms and gave a what's-the-big-deal yawn as they cut the umbilical cord and de-slimed him. The doctor said it was just a gas bubble coming out of his empty little tummy, but Irene swears to this day that Billy smiled at her the instant he laid his eyes on her. Closer observation would have noted it was the instant he laid eyes on her breasts. Whatever the key aspect of his enchantment, it was obvious he loved his mom.
As a baby, he rarely fussed and was delightfully easy to take care of. Irene could never remember Billy having a tantrum, and even his "terrible twos" were more tender than trying. On the whole, Billy was remote and pensive, never demanding, seeming to always either be daydreaming or completely and curiously fixated on some activity of the moment. Irene surely couldn't complain. Billy was a better companion in these pre-school years than her husband was in these middle years or, for that matter, most of their marriage.
During these early years, she got the greatest satisfaction in coddling and cuddling her boy, watching him grow day by day, becoming a "little person". He was a very quick learner, and by the time he was four was reading at the level of a 2nd or 3rd grader. Billy also could add and subtract, was already starting to learn to multiply and divide, and could even count up beyond a thousand. He had a good sense of humor and caught most adults off guard with quirky come-backs when they patronizingly talked to him as they typically would a 4-year old.
Billy became fascinated with playing cards and loved to watch when his mom had friends over in the afternoon to play Euchre, their favorite card game. One day he asked if he could play.
Betty Buskirk, a matronly blimp of an ex-nurse from across the street was utterly charmed. "Isn't that cute? Let the little tyke play, Irene. Has he got any money?"
They all clucked and smiled.
But by the end of two weeks, the smiles became a little bit forced, as he methodically cleaned them all out of their precious pennies. Billy just kept on winning and grinning.
"Is it my deal, mom?"
Despite the commonly heard mantra that winning isn't everything, that it's playing the game that's the fun, the joys of their daily Euchre games started to dwindle along with their reserves of pocket change. The chuckling waned and conversations became thin. Gradually, as their losses mounted, the damage this "high-stakes gambling" might be doing to the development of this precocious boy became the new urgent concern and replaced their long-vanished delight in letting Billy participate in grown-up fun.
Farrah the anorexic cat woman: "I'm wondering, Irene, if this is good for him."
Carol who had lost both of her ovaries and her uterus to cancer: "This could make him an addict, a compulsive gambler. It's how it starts, you know."
Billy: "King takes it."
Lucia in the middle of her third divorce: "Doesn't he have a cartoon show to watch?"
Billy: "My hand."
Irene: "He's just having fun. Don't be such sore losers."
Even at four, Billy could take a hint. He sensed in his precocious little mind that his card-playing days with mom and her friends had now come to an end. He gathered his coins and put them in a little leather pouch he had found in his father's toolbox.
"Thanks so much for letting me play. Aunt Lucia, Aunt Carol, Auntie Farrah and Aunt Betty. I think I'm going to go now. I really want to ride my bike."
His mom looked at him puzzled.
"Billy, you don't have a bike."
Holding up the pouch. "I will soon, mom. Maybe later we could go to the bike shop to have a look."
He beat a quick retreat to his room.
"You're son is a goddamn hustler, Irene."
"I'm so proud of him."
So proud that her eyes twinkled when she watched him play in the back yard.
So proud that she gleefully dressed him like little Charlie McArthy every Sunday for mass.
So proud that she more often than not let Billy get away with just about anything and everything.
For example ... when Billy was five.
It was the big day. The crossing of a threshold from which there was no return. A passage through the portal which held all of the possibilities of the future. A life-altering migration towards independence. The laying of a basic foundation for the self-reliance that would buttress the entirety of his adult life. One small step for a child, one big leap for Billy Green.
Today was the first day of kindergarten.
At breakfast, even Harold acknowledged there was something very special about today.
"So the big boy is going to school, eh? Good luck, Billy. Try not to shit your pants."
As Irene watched him conquer the tall steps of the school bus, she tried her best to hide her maternal anxiety and only let her excitement show.
The entire time he was at school, she was distracted and did everything she could to keep herself busy. By noon the house had never been so clean. She kept reassuring herself that he was alright and nothing could possibly go wrong. After all, this was as normal as the sunrise. Kids all over the world went to school everyday. What could she possibly have to worry about?
It was approaching one o'clock. School would be letting out. She rushed out to the school bus stop a half-hour early, then paced like caged snow leopard.
Finally, the bus arrived and Billy was the last of eight kids to step out.
He ambled down the three tall steps and the pneumatic door closed behind him.
"How did it go Billy?"
"Tell me about it."
"It was fine."
"Aren't you excited? Your first day at school!" "I'm fine."
That was it. That's all he had to say about it.
Next morning, Billy didn't get right up when his mother called. Harold had left an hour earlier and she was busy fixing eggs and cereal for Billy's breakfast. But when it was ready, no Billy.
She called again. "Come on, Billy. Time to eat. You don't want to be late."
After a few minutes, still no Billy. So she went and peeked his room. There he was in bed, still in his pajamas, the clothes she had laid out for him on the chair untouched.
He heard her tiptoe in.
"Can't go to school today, mom. Don't feel so good."
"Oh Billy, are you alright? Do you have a fever?" She checked his forehead and face with the back of her hand. "You don't have a fever, hon."
"Can't go to school today. I'll be okay."
"Alright. Just rest. I'll check on you in a while. Let me know if you need anything."
"I'll bring it up to you. Eggs and cereal. Your favorite."
And so it went every day for the rest of the kindergarten year. Breakfast in bed. Hooky from school.
After a few weeks, they skipped the ritualistic feigning of illness and maternal concern. Irene was clueless as to why Billy refused to go back. Still, she never pressed the matter. Truthfully, she was pretty darn glad to have him at home. At least she didn't have to worry about what potential evil or harm lurked out there, ready to inflict itself on her precious boy. And frankly, she really loved his company. The house had seemed abysmally empty the five hours he was in school that first day.
Excerpted from The Man Who Loved Too Much by John Rachel. Copyright © 2014 John Rachel. Excerpted by permission of Literary Vagabond Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter One: THE EARLY YEARS ... 1986 – 1995,
Chapter Two: WING WALKING INTO ADULTHOOD ... 1996 - 2001,
Chapter Three: INTRODUCTION TO REAL LIFE 101 ... 2001 - 2002,
Chapter Four: DANCING ON BROKEN GLASS ... 2002,
Chapter Five: LOVE IS A TRAMPOLINE ... 2002 - 2003,
Chapter Six: LEAPING OFF THE MÖBIUS STRIP ... 2003,
More Books by John Rachel,
About The Author,
Legal Notices and Disclaimers,
Excerpt: The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 2,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Billy Green certainly had an interesting life growing up which is what this book is about. Taking Billy from about the age of four until almost his junior year in college. His mother doted on him and his father was absolutely horrible to him. I could not believe some of the things that man said to Billy. Billy was certainly funny in his ways of looking at things. I really enjoyed reading about Billy. There were a few times when it slowed down and I had to skip a few pages. However, for the most part, this was a very entertaining read. The descriptions and phrases used were hilarious at times. I pretty much sped through the pages, laughing most of the way, until Billy got to college and met Natalie. Then it sort of became redundant and rather lackluster. The ending . . . Yeah, that's about it was. Then I realized there are more Billy books. If the rest of his time with Natalie is as unexciting as it was in this book, I don't think I have the desire to carry on. However, until that point, I was a huge Billy fan. Thanks to Literary Vagabond Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.