Callum B. Downes

Billy’s Moods

It was the same feeling he always got in old people’s homes. It was that feeling of hollowness. Like everything in the room was waiting around for death, but it was taking too long, and so they grew lonely in their longing for its sting. It sapped the life out of him and he shared in their emptiness.


Billy’s Best Friend.

Django, though weak and broken, shoved his sloppy tongue in Billy’s earhole and slurped up every last chunk of wax in there.

“Django!” Laughed Billy, grimacing his face in gleeful disgust. “You always go too deep, sucking my brains out and turning me gaga!” Billy scooped his dog up and scrubbed his entire head in ruthless affection, striding back into the bush, brimming with a new found confidence.

Author’s Note

Everyone needs a close companion during life’s trials. Here, Billy finds this comfort in his pet dog and only true friend, Django. 

This scene immediately succeeds Billy’s mad search for Django, after the poor dog seeks refuge during the flood. Billy is extremely relieved to find his long-lost pal, who later in the story becomes very important in pushing Billy to achieve his dreams.  

Peace and love, 

From Callum

Warm and Fuzzy (Billy’s first flashback)

He dreamed of their camping trips to Pearly Heads when he was five and six. Oh, how he missed those days. Days full of sunshine, glistening upon the clear waters of the river, of burying Livy in the sand all the way up to her neck, and icy poles melting all over their hands, so that they were sticky for the rest of the afternoon.

More than anything, he missed the campfire. He longed to be back there, curling up into his Mother’s lap, letting the gentle rumble of her belly lull him to sleep. The pop of the fire would suddenly wake him. He’d sit up, rub his eyes and listen to his Father’s silly stories. Livy would fall off her chair in fits of laughter and they’d all pile on top of her, tickling her until she had no tears of joy left to cry. Then Dad would lift Billy up, high into the air, swooshing him round and round, making rocket noises with his mouth. The streaking stars above would blend into a whirlpool of silver light. Nothing could ever stop Billy Baker, rocket man, safe in the hands of his Daddy. Mr Baker was fit and strong back then. No drinking or smoking. He smiled more too. And he always tucked Billy into bed first, whispering his sweet heart into Billy’s hopeful ears.

Author’s Note

It’s during this first flashback that we learn of Billy’s cherished past. He holds onto these precious memories, as they are filled with images of a loving family unit. The imagery offers both longing and hope for Billy. A longing to be back in the past. And a hope for a loving family again in the future. As readers, we can also draw hope from these moments, as we relate to Billy’s pursuit of acceptance. 

The memories are drawn from my own recollections of childhood camping trips to Currarong – a sleepy town on the south coast of New South Wales, about an hours drive south of my home town Gerringong. The power of positive emotions attached to childhood memories can spur us on through life, as we search for similar family connections with those special people we relate to in adulthood (friends, partners and so on). The need for true, vulnerable and lasting relationships is more acute than ever before, in a society that places greater value on personal success and fulfillment. Those who attempt to fill this basic need with anything other than social connection, like Billy’s pursuit of fame, spiral down into a path of self-destruction.

Such universal truths are what make us human. It’s a truth that Billy, along with many other young people today, must to re-discover. 

A Description of Billy (first edit)

Standing weakly on the beach, Billy was soaked, shivering and scared for his life. Being a runty nine-year-old, the current situation only added to his reputation as being ‘all skin and bones’. His ribs – along with his knees, collarbones and cheekbones – seemed to pop out of his pasty-white skin. Some nicknamed him ‘skeleton’, much to his dismay. Others, who enjoyed joining his freckles together with pen, called him ‘freckle-fart from K-Mart’, on account of the sun spots that covered his face, neck, lower arms and legs. Deep blue eyes squinted from his face and a wild mop of bleach-white hair hung down from crown to shoulder blades. To top it all off, he was the shortest boy in his year at school, and the year below. A handsome boy, no doubt. But none could ignore his scrawny build.

Author’s Notes

This is the first description of Billy’s physical features, introduced on the very first page of my manuscript. This is also my first attempt at editing / re-writing my story.

The passage doesn’t intend to accurately depict his appearance. Instead, it captures Billy’s negative self-concept and highlights the self-esteem issues that contribute to his social anxieties. 

In an effort to reinforce his issues of body dis-morphia, I have listed some typically envied features, such as bleached hair and blue eyes, as a prelude to the phrase, ‘To top it all off’. This oxymoron adds strength to the defeatist mood of the paragraph and entire first chapter. 

As if to almost confirm his fears, the last sentence summarises how others perceive him in blatantly, and almost certainly self-exaggerated, terms. 

Many of Billy’s self-perceived flaws are influenced by my own personal experiences of bullying. Both nicknames above haunted me during primary and high school respectively. It always amazes me how long negative comments like that can stick. Sometimes you don’t realise how deep some of those words cut, until you find yourself cutting others in self-defense, as they poke at old wounds that never healed.  

Peace, love and joy to you all,

From Callum

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