A Halloween Story – Buttface Billy

It’s a tradition here on Older Eyes – Bud’s Blog to tell a spooky tale from my childhood on Halloween.  Like my stories Uncle Will and Good Will Haunting, Buttface Billy is based on events from my childhood and is entirely true … except for the parts that aren’t.

halloween sceneWhen I was I was in fourth grade, we moved to a new neighborhood in East Haven, Connecticut. My Dad had worked two jobs from virtually the day he got out of the Army to scrape together a down payment and would continue doing so to make the mortgage. It was a small nondescript ranch on a wooded lot in a neighborhood of nearly identical homes. Most everyone was the same age and from some degree of what my Mom called middle class. From where I sit now, it was all lower-middle class but back then it was heaven, particularly for 10 year old boy.  Behind our house was a hayfield ideal for pickup baseball or football games and beyond that, several miles of woods. And best of all, there were other kids, mostly boys and mostly my age. Yeah, there were some 12 year olds who liked to push around us younger kids, but back then, nobody talked about bullying unless someone really got hurt. Besides, at the end of the day, we all got along … pushing and shoving one day would be teaming up for a game of football the next.

There’s always one kid, though, who doesn’t fit in.  Billy Sconset lived at the end of the street with his mother.  Back then, broken marriages weren’t all that common and that contributed to his problems.  No one really knew what had happened to his Dad, Will, but the going story was that he used to beat Billy bloody with a cat-o-nine tails.  His Mom, a tiny woman with a hawkish nose and scraggly black hair called the police again and again, but Billy’s Dad, Will, was a real smooth talker and the cops would always let him off with a warning. Then one day, Will just disappeared.

Billy had a round face frequently ravaged by acne, small, watery blue eyes and a taut, thin mouth.  He was short and fat with a crooked spine and an equally crooked walk that made him look like he was cringing before a beating, which he frequently was even after his father disappeared.  The older kids in the neighborhood were happy to take up the slack.  Sometime before I moved into the neighborhood, Vinny Martino, Bradley Street’s hood-in-command, said that Billy had a face like a butt and it stuck.  From then on, he was Buttface Billy.  We called him BB when we didn’t want to bother with four syllables.  One day, my Mom heard me call him that.   She raised one eyebrow and asked, What’s that mean, Buddy?  BB?

It’s just a nickname, I said, but she kept after me until I told her.

You need to treat Billy nicely, Bud, she said. He’s had a tough life.

I wondered what she knew but instead of asking I said, Mom, he’s a total dweeb.  None of the kids like him.

She gave me her shut-up-and-listen look, so I tried, I really did.  I tried talking to him when there was no one around and even invited him in to see my rock collection, which pleased the crap out of Mom.  And away from the eyes of others, I found he was OK.  I mean, I knew he was smart from school, but he knew a lot about minerals and astronomy.   He showed me how to align my telescope to find the crab nebula.  We weren’t exactly friends but I’d say, Hi, when we passed at school and occasionally he came over to do homework.  But when you’re ten years old, a boy can quickly become an outcast himself by hanging with the neighborhood outcast.  As I found myself left out more often by the rest of the kids, I stopped playing with Billy and tried to ignore his hurt expression when I passed him silently at school.

At Halloween, Billy’s house was the favorite neighborhood target.  Not only was it hidden in the gloom beyond Bradley Street’s last streetlamp, it was the home of Buttface and the Witch.  The doorbell rang continually and the windows were soaped until opaque.  Trash was dumped all over the lawn and garbage thrown at the picture window.  Pumpkins from up and down the street found themselves smashed in the Sconset driveway.  Once Vinny Martino set a paper bag filled with dog shit on fire on the front porch then stood in the street laughing brazenly as Billy tried to stomp it out and his Mom shrieked about calling the police.  Of course, the police had been out so many times to the Sconset house, they didn’t bother any more.  Believe me, I was as into Halloween mischief as the rest of the guys but at Billy’s house, I’d stand off in the distance, hoping he’d notice that I wasn’t taking part.  The year Vinny tied a string of firecrackers to the tail of Kittycat, Billy’s tabby cat, scaring the poor thing half to death and burning most of the fur off its hindquarters, I’d seen enough.  I walked up to to Vinny, still braying with laughter on the front lawn and hit him as hard as I could.

It was like hitting a tree, except this tree hit back, sending me sprawling in the dirt.  Vinny was on me in a second … punching me again and again, sending a spray of spittle into the night air.  I could taste my own blood and feel it coursing down my cheeks from my broken nose.  I thought for second that he would kill me but he suddenly stopped.  Billy was standing over us both, his eyes dark and his fists clenched.  Get lost, Buttface, Vinny hissed.  Or do you want some of this?  It was the first time I’d ever seen Billy smile and it wasn’t a smile I ever want to see again.  He leaned forward and clapped his hands over the sides of Vinny’s head.  I felt Vinny’s body go limp and his legs begin to shake.  Billy’s smile darkened into a grimace as his face turned purple and a low moan rose from his throat, harmonizing with Vinny’s soprano scream.  Vinny’s eyes rolled back in his head and saliva frothed at the corners of his mouth.  Then it was over … Vinny was lying motionless on the ground beside me.

I stared at Billy, whose face was returning to its usual splotchy pink.  What did you do?

He shook his head, as if to clear it.  He was evil.  Somebody had to stop him.

But how?  How did you learn to do that?

Tears filled his eyes as he answered.  Mom.  Mom showed me. When she stopped my … A sob stifled the end of his sentence.  But I knew.

Vinny Martino was committed to the Middletown Hospital for the Mentally Ill, harmless enough but rarely able to put together a coherent thought again.  As fate would have it, his roommate was a similarly stricken older man by the name of Will Sconset.  They became if not friends, constant companions, until Will died of a brain hemorrhage 5 years later.   Though I haven’t seen Billy in years, we still keep in touch on Facebook.  He became a small town attorney and served as a Selectman in East Haven for several terms. Though his mother passed away some years ago, he still lives in the same house with his mostly furless cat.  My Dad still lives in his house, too, so I get to keep up with the neighborhood happenings. Every few years, usually around Halloween, the police find someone conscious but incoherent lying on a front lawn with no sign of foul play.  Middletown gets a new patient and I know … someone was evil and somebody had to stop him.  And, oh yeah.  Vinny had a brain hemorrhage last month and isn’t expected to survive.

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