by Diamond Jim
Billy loved to run and went running one evening. He never made it home.
| During the first week that Karl was recuperating from a sprained ankle, I was commissioned by my Dad to do some painting.
I had to paint the cement along the side of the house which was below the bricks. It was peeling really bad so I had to scrape
off the old paint before I put on a new coat. It wasn't a bad job and besides, he was going to pay me for the work. When it comes
to money, it was the few things my Dad and I agreed. I mean, he agrees to work and make money. I agree to do the work. Also,
getting fed proper was a good thing too.
Now I have to tell you, I love my Dad, but he drives me crazy with white colors. We have white towels, white shirts, white paint,
and so on. You would think we live in a hospital.
I got up early to paint so I could beat the heat. It's been over ninety degrees every day for about a week. There is an alley along
the side of our house. Cars can just make it through, but they have to go slowly. I would start at the back of the house and work my
way up front. I would scrape first, then paint next. It's a simple process, just right for a kid to figure out. The paint was an oil base
paint and it took hours to clean up. I can still smell the turpentine. It burned my hands and legs.
My friend Billy Reinsinger lived across the street from me. Well, not exactly, it was more of a diagonal direction. He lived next to
my friend Donna from school. He had a nickname for me. He called my "Gaul". I always new it was him when I heard the name.
He'd say, "Hey Gaul, what's going on and so forth. He was a good friend.
Billy was older than me. He was in the ninth grade. I was only in the seventh. He was a tall boy with lots of brown wavy hair.
He was a straight A student. He was handsome and an all around athlete. Unfortunately, Billy had heart trouble. His doctor told
his father that if he stayed in sport, that he could die. So Billy's father asked Billy what he wanted to do, quit sports or maybe die.
Billy choose to stay in sports. He went jogging again today. He was always excercising.
It was getting near suppertime and I was hot and tired. I covered head to toe in sweaty paint chips. The dust from all the scrapping
gave me an eire pale appearance. Even ghost like. I was bending over painting the spouting when I heard a voice say "Hey Gaul, how
are you doing?" It was Billy on his daily run. He ran across the small alleyway taking long, giant strides. He was on his way to making
his routine jog up to the elementary school. We both attended the school. We even had some of the same teachers. It was a great
school to go to.
As he ran by me, he was breathing very hard.
He was pushing himself to the limit.
Billy's Dad coached little league baseball. I was on one of his teams. The team name was the Lions. So you know we were at the
top of the other teams. We had a strong name, so when we played the birds, well, we ate them for lunch. Ha. His Dad was a good
coach and well liked by us kids. When Little League opened up a few years before, I was the first one to get a hit. This is true. But it
was only a bunt. Still a hit. But Rich Correl hit a double and that's what made the newspaper. It said, 'Rich Correl hits away on opening
day." They even made it rhyme. There was no mention of my first hit on the first day at bat. I wanted to set the story straight.
Billy was running very hard up on the school playground. He told me yesterday he didn't feel too well. He had the flu "he said".
His heart was coming apart at the seams and he didn't know it. It was exploding in his chest. He stumbled, fell, rolled a few times, then
came to rest on the cool grass on the north side of the building.
I watched Billy's Dad speed up the street towards the school. Soon after that, I heard sirens from an ambulance. The sound broke
the still summer air.
Billy's Dad found him lying on the ground near the steps of the school. He was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. He was
already gone. He missed all the things I got to do like high school, college, war, working, marriage, and children. It was terribly sad an
so I am just writing about it.
All the kids gathered on his porch. We would not leave until his Dad came back from the hospital. Finally, around sunset, Billy's
Dad pulled up in his car and parked it ever so slowly. His face was drawn, his eyes were red. My boys, Billy died tonight. They tried
to save him, but his heart was broken. He kept on speaking, but his words were fading away. Then my
world got real quite. I didn't hear anything after that. He was talking, but my mind was wondering somewhere else.
I looked at the sunset and the tears burned my eyes. Just like they are now.
I was thinking about all the good things he did and said to me. A week later, I would make a bad joke at the baseball field. We were
one player short and I said "let's get Billy". Everyone looked at me like I was a real jerk.
It was my own way of grieving. I missed Billy a lot. Why did he have to die so young? It just wasn't fair. I wrote a letter to God
saying that Billy shouldn't have died so young. Why was He dead and not me? I signed it little Jimmy. I went on to say that I hoped
God didn't get mad at me and kill me too.
The funeral was the saddest place in the world to me. His parents sat there motionless. We all walked by and talked to his Dad.
His mind was somewhere else. He looked lost. He still may be, I really don't know. I don't think his Dad or anyone else who knew
him well can forget him. I know, I think about Billy a lot.
I went back to painting my house. I played the radio while I painted. A song came on by the Four Seasons, it was about a face
dressed in lace. I thought of Billy lying in his coffin and the lace around him. I started to cry again. Even now, when I hear the song
tears come to my eyes. We never, ever stop grieving for the people we love and miss. I finally finished painting my house. My Dad
gave me an extra five bucks for doing a good job. Thanks Dad.