Under The Monster’s Guise.
“Trevor! Come and Eat!”
The rambunctious eight-year-old came tearing around the side of the house, under his mother, Imelda Brook’s arm and straight for the dinner table. Before the screen door finished closing, Trevor was seated and ready to dig in.
His fingers were about to grasp a hot steaming roll, his mother yelled, “Trevor Michael Brooks, go wash your hands before you eat.”
Sara his two-year-old sister had plastered mac and cheese all over herself, the highchair, the tray and everything in a three-foot radius.
Sighing, Imelda started cleaning the toddler from head to toe. Sara was humming “Let it go” from one of her Disney videos.
Getting up from the table, Trevor argued, “Sara’s eating and look at how messy she is.”
Without saying a word, Imelda paused then gave Trevor a look sufficient to stop any further objections about washing up.
After Trevor returned from washing his hands, he plopped down and began devouring his food with the veracity of a lion cub. His mother quietly cleaned his sister.
The nightly routine hung with quiet sadness because of the empty seat at the head of the table. For eight months, the chair stood empty.
The chair, a reminder that Trevor Senior, an Army Reservist, deployed to Afghanistan, had been Missing in Action from his family since his deployment.
Trevor’s mom broke the uncomfortable silence, “Miss Smitty called and said she saw about five boys your age harassing Billy Whitaker again. You were not among them were you?”
With a mouth full of food, in between chewing, Trevor worked out, “Billy…Whit…aker….is…a big dumb monster.”
Pulling the cleaned tray off Sara’s high chair, Imelda paused and looked at Trevor. Trevor could see the soft, sad wetness in his mother’s eyes, “Billy has endured enough heartache in his life. He can’t help it. Billy has what is called Downs Syndrome.
Despite Billy’s disabilities, he is a remarkable young man. Since his mother passed away, Billy takes care of his father.
You and your friends should be kind to him. He is a nice young man.”
Billy Whitaker was a 25-year-old man. Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker could not have children. After years of trying, failing, giving up, finally, they decided to adopt when they were in their late forties. They adopted Billy knowing that he had Down Syndrome.
Billy worked for a company that employs disabled adults. Every day Billy walks the mile and a half to and from work carrying his Dad’s old metal lunchbox with the thermos in the lid.
Old Mr. Whitaker had given Billy his lunch box after he retired from the Ford Plant. Billy is proud of the beat up, dented, scratched old lunch box.
Sometimes when Billy is walking home from work, Some of the younger neighborhood boys would call Billy names such as freak or retard.
Or worse, among the many mean-spirited acts, Tim Smith, a fifteen-year-old and his gang of teenage thugs pummeled Billy with acorns shot from their slingshots.
Despite the mistreatment, Billy always donned a smile.
Two nights later, during dinner, Imelda was quieter than usual. She kept turning away from Trevor and Sara to wipe her eyes. Watching his mother, Trevor asked, “Mom, What’s wrong?”
Tears had started streaming down her face, “Daddy is coming home.”
Trevor’s eye lit up with excitement, “When?”
Composing herself enough to speak, “Trevor, Your dad… Your dad was badly injured.”
What she was trying to say kept sticking in her throat, She was silent for several seconds trying to form the words that she feared.
“Mom, is Dad going to be okay?
Imelda walked over to grab a tissue from the box on the counter.
After wiping her eyes and blowing her nose, Imelda said the words, “Daddy died.” Trevor went slack. His mother walked over and grabbed him in her arms as they both cried.
Finally, Imelda loosened her grip and looked at Trevor, “The army has shipped his body home.”
Trevor Sr was well liked and respected. Many attended his funeral.
The Pastor spoke on,
“Trevor Michael Brooks Sr, A husband, father, a pillar in the community, known for his compassion and kindness, was loved by his family, his friends, and well-loved by this community…”
After several minutes, the funeral sermon lost Trevor’s attention. Distracted by all the sad faces. His mother, grandmother, Aunt Lily were crying. Sara played quietly with a toy.
Trevor saw one face in the crowd smiling. Billy Whitaker had an immovable smile. He wore that thing most of the time. About the only time, he was not smiling was when Tim and his buddies were taunting Billy. Usually, some form of pain received by Billy could dissolve his smile.
For a long while after the funeral, Imelda put on a strong face for the children. After Imelda put the children to bed, Trevor would hear his mother’s sobs each night.
Weeks passed. Trevor lost in grief; he deeply longed for his dad. Trevor Sr. was his hero. He hardly played with his friends. All he could think of was the man who taught him to ride a bike, play baseball, taught him to fish. The man, his father was gone and not coming back.
One day while walking home from school, head down, not paying attention, Trevor walked right into Billy Whitaker.
Billy was about 5'10' and a densely built man. He didn’t budge. Trevor fell on his rump.
Looking up at Billy, Trevor was afraid. In the past, he and his friends were always taunting and picking at Billy. They saw Billy as a monster.
Nestor Smith, Trevor’s school buddy, said, “My older brother, Tim said that Billy accidentally killed a man by putting him in a sleeper. Billy loves to watch Wrestling.”
The neighborhood kids looked up to Tim Smith. He was charismatic, handsome, and athletic. One problem, Tim was a conduit for his drunken father’s rage. What he received, he often dished out on others weaker than himself.
Billy stood there with a big smile looking down at Trevor. Without saying a word, Billy reached down to offer Trevor a hand. Flinching, Trevor pulled back, please don’t hurt me. Laughing Billy replied, “Hurt you? Why would I hurt you? I was helping you up.”
Trevor grabbed Billy’s hand. The strong young man pulled Trevor up like a down pillow.
“Hi, my name is Billy!”
Trevor shyly responded, “I know who you are. Trevor. My name is Trevor.”
After several awkward seconds, Billy said, “I am sorry about your dad.”
Trevor responded, “Thanks!
Why were you smiling at the Funeral? Everyone else looked so sad, yet you had this big grin.”
Billy scratched his sandy red hair for a moment and staring off in thought, “I liked your dad. He was kind to me. He gave me a rides home when he saw me walking. We talked about our families.
I smiled because I have good thoughts about him.”
Trevor replied, “Oh. Okay. Well thanks for telling me, Well, I gotta go. My mom is expecting me home. Nice talking to you.”
While Trevor walked home, he pondered everything he had heard about Billy from his friends. He was different, but he was no monster.
After meeting Billy personally that day, Trevor started challenging his friends whenever they said mean things about Billy Whitaker. He stopped joining in when they were teasing him and calling Billy names.
While on the way home from school one day, Nestor picked a fight with Trevor
All the neighborhood kids were there including Tim and his gang.
Trevor was getting the better of Nestor, so Tim grabbed Trevor and held him so that Nestor could punch him.
From behind a large hand grabbed Tim by the back of the shirt and flung him to the ground taking Trevor with him. Tim looked around, “Who the…?” then froze when he saw Billy standing over him like a tree with that big grin.”
“You leave Trevor alone.”
Tim truly believed the rumors he had spread about Billy. As easily as Billy had flung him to the ground, Tim realized the Billy was strong. Afraid that Billy might retaliate for all the mistreatment he and his friends had dished out, Tim jumped up motioning to his guys, grabbed Nestor by the arm, and said, “Let’s go.”
Billy helped Trevor up and said, “You okay?’
Trevor smiled and responded, “Yeah I’m okay. Thanks for helping me.
Trevor thought to himself, “Tim is the monster, not Billy.”
Billy started to walk away, Trevor yelled after him, “Do you play video games. If I ask, maybe, my mom will let you come over.”
Billy paused looked back still smiling, “That would be nice.” Then turned back and started walking toward his home.