The Only Way to Fly
We decided to leave the boy to his practice - at least he was able to keep himself occupied without us nursing him every minute of the day - so we went back to our coffee. We were both pretty tired and we had a heavy day ahead of us tomorrow. We sat by the fire and thought our own thoughts till Daley suddenly said, "Mags, in case you get the wrong idea, there's something you ought to know. When I was last up here, about two years ago, Bill told me that, since Billy came to live with him, the boy had never slept alone; he was too scared to, so he's been sleeping in his dad's bed. He realised at an early age that his dad was gay, and he let Bill know about his own feelings on the subject. Bill tried to distance himself from a possible incestuous relationship but the boy was cool about the situation. He wanted his dad to be the one to teach him everything, including safe sex, but Bill held back from doing the more physical stuff, at least till the boy turned sixteen. Even then he wouldn't go all the way with him. Turning him out of his bed was the only solution but that would have been hell for Billy. Bill swore to me they never went further than kissing and cuddling, sucking off, stuff like that, although the kid didn't like sucking dick very much. Bill taught him how good it felt to be caressed, and massaged with oil, and to share a shower and bathroom together. On the rare times I came up I witnessed the transformation from a totally traumatised little boy to a well-adjusted young man, and wondered how Bill had done it. Then he told me and I understood Bill's predicament. If it got back to the social workers, they'd never believe Bill had done it to keep the boy on an even keel."
"So why are you telling me this?"
"Because Billy begged me to sleep with him in Bill's bed tonight, and I didn't want you getting any ideas that I'm taking advantage of the kid. Bill was looking for someone to step into his shoes if anything happened. He didn't want the boy to be on his own and he made me promise to carry on where he left off, just like in the letter. What else can I do, Mags? Having sex with kids isn't my scene." I had nothing to say on the subject, never having lived a gay life. Daley sighed deeply. "Perhaps when Trilby gets here, he'll know what to advise."
Daley gave me a lob-sided smile. "Trilby is my dad's partner. With Dad's blessing, he taught me all I know. Several members of the band have had their hang-ups and Trilby has always been there for them. He's the proverbial wise old owl. The band is like a family of brothers, and people on the outside wouldn't understand and would think us perverts and weirdoes but we're just a close-knit group who look out for each other."
"And you're telling me you don't know how to handle a kid? It seems to me you're more level thinking than half the social workers I've ever dealt with, and I've tied a few up in knots I can tell you. Can I give you some advice? The kid needs a friend."
"Yes, get him a dog."
"Oh yeah! I can see Farmer Watson appreciating a dog running loose on the farm."
"No problem; ask Watson to find him a farm dog, one trained not to go after the sheep. There must be a few around here needing a home."
Daley stared at me for a moment as the idea sank in, then his eyes lit up and he dragged his mobile from his pocket. Selecting a number he made a call. "Hi Dad, could I borrow Jake for a couple of months?"
The next day proved to be a busy one, what with the solicitor visiting in the morning, and Farmer Watson arriving with his wife and a load of produce, and offering to cater for the wake. Apparently Bill D'Marco was a popular character in the area, and according to Mrs Watson we could expect a large turnout for the funeral and the wake. They told us not to worry, they would provide the food and come up on the morning of the funeral and get everything ready. This offer of friendly neighbourliness hit the right spot with Daley, and I made a note to get him a load of tissues when I went out to get my hair cut. Billy pulled at his hair and did a scissor motion with his hands and offered to show me where a decent barber was.
We drove down the lane and instead of turning right toward Urmston, he made me turn left and I found myself driving into the quaint English village of Bingford boasting half a dozen red roofed cottages, a post office and a small indoor market. There were several open stalls alongside separate miniature shops, and one of these was a barber shop complete with red and white revolving pole hung over the door. Billy's finger moved fast as he made the introductions and I was soon invited to take one of the two barber's chairs. As I let the young lady make some sense of my unruly hair I watched the barber, a greying shrimp of a man, transform Billy's hair into a close layered cap with a side parting and a deep side fringe which he thinned with a razor. The hair was left shoulder length at the back and the whole effect was to make him look even more striking. Billy looked my way and gave me a sly grin, and I realised I had been staring at him with my mouth open.
Next door to the barber's was a unisex clothes shop. Billy dragged me into this, waved to the young man behind the checkout desk and marched straight down the shop to where several jackets were hung. I didn't know what he was looking for so I couldn't help him. The young assistant must have known about Bill's death and guessed Billy was looking for something to wear at the funeral. Fool! I should have thought of that. He beckoned to Billy and took him to a corner in deep shadow, switched on a light and pulled out a black three-quarter coat. Billy shed his bomber jacket and the assistant helped him try the coat on. It was miles too big and a smaller one was brought out. That fitted perfectly and Billy looked at his reflection in the long mirror. He looked really smart in it, and he nodded and touched his t-shirt and mimed tying a tie. In minutes the assistant had helped him choose a white dress shirt and a black tie before Billy moved to where the trousers were hung. Choosing a pair of these was not so easy and it took them a good twenty minutes trying on several pairs before Billy was satisfied.
"You can always use them as part of your school uniform afterwards," the assistant said as Billy grimaced at the price. "That way you'll get good value out of them. You've grown a couple of inches since you bought your last pair but these should last you till the summer hols at least." He watched Billy's fingers fly and turned to me. "I'm to ask if you need anything, sir."
"No," I replied. "I have something I can use, thanks."
"Very good, sir; I'll get these bagged for you. Card as usual, Billy?"
Billy nodded and took a small wallet out of his bomber jacket pocket. Handing over a card from it, he paid for the gear and we carried the bags out to the car. After that he took me on a tour of the village and politely accepted condolences from several people we met. That trip into the village proved to me that, far from being a child who needed looking after, Bill had trained his son to handle situations and make his own decisions, such as when we caught a weather forecast on a TV in the window of an electrical and hardware shop. He looked up at the weather, sniffed the air and headed back to the market. There he studied the produce on a vegetable stall and put in a large order to be delivered the next day. The order included sacks of root vegetables, and potatoes.
"Stocking up for a siege?" I teased him, His rely was a solemn nod. Outside he pointed to the Northern sky. The horizon was inky black.
Back at the house, he showed me a door under the stairs. I opened it and saw a flight of stone steps leading down to a cellar. He switched on a light and led me down the steps. The place was enormous with supporting pillars holding up the farmhouse above. A large oil-fired boiler stood in one corner, and in the opposite one, shelves and buckets holding several foodstuffs. Most were almost empty. He lifted the lid of one and lifted out a handful of white powder. He sniffed it and spread it out over his hand. Dropping it back in the bucket he took down a notepad and pen from a shelf and made a note. Examining the contents of the other containers and also the oil gauge beside the boiler, he made other notes then tore the page from the pad and placed the pad and the pen back on the shelf. Folding the page he stuffed it into his jeans back pocket and indicated the steps. This was one young man who seemed older than his sixteen years indicated. In the hall we met Daley coming out of Bill's study. Immediately, Billy began talking with his hands, and even I could understand him as he mimed bad weather, clapping his hands together to indicate thunder, and fluttering fingers for snow.
"You're kidding me!" Daley laughed, but Billy shook his head and beckoned us into the lounge where he switched on the TV by the fire, flipping the channels till he got a news program. Sure enough, the weather forecaster predicted a bank of snow and storms heading south from Scotland, and a drop in temperature. We were in for a bad spell and the kid knew it. He handed Daley the list he'd made and made a wide circle with his hands, bringing it ever tighter then clenching his fists.
"What's he saying?" I asked.
"He's telling us we're going to have a beauty of the storm and we've to batten down the hatches. Once the weather closes in, we'll be going nowhere. The kid knows his weather all right; he's a regular farm boy."
"Okay, how many days do we have?"
Billy put up three then five fingers. "Three to five days," Daley said.
"And the funeral?"
"In five days."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]