Billy: Boy Statue (The Bearded Angel)

by Callum B. Downes

“Look who’s back!” Livy sang, as she glided through the door, practising her dance moves for the school musical.  Her hair was stringy and salty from the beach, which meant she just got back from surfing practice. With a half turn, a skip and a low bend balancing on one foot, she picked up the glass of orange juice waiting for her on the kitchen bench. When she turned back around to face us at the table, she gave a low bowe.

“Hooray!” Yelled Mr Baker, who was backing through the door, holding a bucket full of soaking wetsuits.

“How’d you go, sport?” Asked Mrs Baker, as she began clearing up the empty plates on the table.

“Pretty good,” replied Livy.

“She was sensational,” said Mr Baker whilst flipping four large pancakes onto a plate and using the rest of the maple syrup to pour on top. This didn’t mean he was sad. He just ate a lot of food. The doctor says he needs to go easy on the sugar, but Billy guessed the smoking was more of a worry anyway.

He took a seat next to Billy and kept talking. “You know, Livy. If you keep nailing those reverse cut-backs like you are now, you’re a shoe-in for the state titles.”

“I know,” shrugged Livy, taking her seat on the other side of Mr Baker.

Billy rolled his eyes and sunk lower into his chair. He thought perhaps he could just become part of the chair and not have to talk to anyone ever again. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t. So he just slid down off the bottom and walked off to his room to get ready for school.

Nobody had noticed that he was gone and when he returned, teeth brushed and lunch packed, Mr and Mrs Baker were in the middle of an argument. Mrs Baker crossed her arms and looked longingly out the kitchen window, only turning to squeeze her eyes and grind her teeth at Mr Baker, as he recited the same excuses, explaining to her why he got home so late last night. Then, as per custom in the Baker household, Mrs Baker pulled at her hair and shrieked at her husband. Billy could tell how mad she was by the amount of spit flying through the air. One time, she was so fed up, that Mr Baker would have needed a snorkel just to keep breathing. But today he only needed to swipe over his face once.

What was wrong? Thought Billy. Why so little spit? Was she just tired from a lack of sleep? Did Dad really sleep on the street to raise money for homeless people this time? Were her spit muscles broken? A tornado of horrible conclusions rushed through Billy’s mind, until…

“I’ve had enough, Wal,” she said dryly, like she had nothing where her heart should have been.

Wally Baker, loving husband and father of two, sat completely still.

“I can’t keep doing this. WE can’t keep doing this.” And just like that she started crying, then weeping and she slid like a ghost across the kitchen and into her bedroom. It was the first time Billy had seen his mother cry. He felt the same as he did before, and he went outside to wait for his sister on the front-porch steps. As he sat collecting rocks stuck between the planks of the deck, he made a wish to be like the chair at the breakfast table. To be invisible. Completely unnoticed and free to do anything he liked.

For some reason, time felt like it had stopped for Billy, and no matter how many rocks he threw at the mailbox, he didn’t seem to get bored. Just as he scored his first direct hit, he caught something moving in the corner of his eye. Instead of celebrating his stone throwing glory, he squinted across the road and down the street, searching for whatever it was that distracted him. He noticed a new water-feature in the neighbour’s yard. It was the Bradley’s place two doors down. With a lazy shrug he turned back around, hurling another few rocks, until one connected again with a resounding clunk. Again, he noticed something. No, he was sure it was someone, now. They were moving further down the street. Just like before, he scanned the gardens and picket fences of Darby Street, Barley Bay in search of the elusive figure. That’s when he noticed something rather strange. The new water-feature, which he was sure had stood in the Bradley’s yard a few seconds earlier, now stood amongst the shrubbery of Old Mrs Berry’s garden, six houses down.

Completely gobsmacked, he examined the water-feature more closely, poking his head forward and scrunching up his face. It was a dark grey angel spouting water into a bowl wrapped inside its wings, about one and a half metres tall with wrinkles and a beard. Wait a minute. Wrinkles and a beard? He thought to himself. What kind of an angel has…

Before he could finish this train of thought, he was forced from his stupor with a firm hand pulling him by the shoulder.

“C’mon Statue Boy, time for school,” sniggered Livy.

Author’s note: Another rough draft of Billy’s story. This excerpt captures Billy’s troubled relationship with his sister, Livy, and his parents’ rocky marriage, provoked by the repeated absence of Wally Baker (Billy’s dad) . 

Whilst wishing he was invisible, Billy notices something peculiar in his neighbour’s yard. Was there someone out there who wanted Billy’s wish to come true?

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