“That’s it, empty your trays and back to your rooms!” One of the men in white shouted out.
* * *
Later that evening, the old man was looking out at the forest from the small window in his room. As he studied the tree line disappearing into the cloudy horizon hoping to catch a glimpse of the deer again, the old man’s mind wandered to thoughts of Billy. Much as he had known Loretta, he could see Billy alone in his room.
On this night, as so many nights before, Billy was lying in his bed on his side, facing away from the door. The tears had dried away. Billy had cried out all of the pain and what was left now was that dull aftermath lingering in his chest and stomach, the kind that all strong cries leave in their wake.
Before the facility, Billy had a mom who loved him. Billy’s mom gave birth when she was just a teenager. His father had run off, leaving her to raise him on her own. Throughout Billy’s joyful childhood, her love was enough. She rented a small house not far from the lake, which had a huge public park with two duck ponds, three playgrounds, and a concessions stand that sold soft-serve ice cream, cotton candy, and funnel cakes in the summer. He even had a friend—a neighbor boy who came over from time to time to play with toy cars and soldiers. Though Billy had special needs, he never knew he was different when he was little.
When his mom died in a car crash, things changed. They took Billy out of school, away from his home near the lake. Away from summers at the park. Away from twilight visits to the duck ponds. And away from the neighbor boy and toy soldiers. They brought him to the facility.
Billy is in a grown man’s body, but he’s seven years old inside. Billy will have the mind and spirit of a child for the rest of his life. Billy, this man who is permanently a boy in his heart, hasn’t been outside to play in more than fifteen years. No friends. No schooling. No books. No one to read him stories. No one to care about him. No one at all.
Back in his room, the old man could feel Billy’s hunger churning in his own stomach. He tried speaking once more, to say something as if to comfort Billy who was several rooms away, but only mumbling gibberish came out of his mouth. The old man clenched his fists and his eyes narrowed. The anger, placed in check with the old man’s wisdom, was only controlled; it had never been subdued.
* * *