I’m going to let into my head again; particularly when it comes to writing fiction (which I haven’t been doing enough of lately). I received the prompt in the title above and this is what I came up with … Man, I had creativity once.
At first it is barely noticeable, in fact, you can’t see it all hidden by his full head of hair. And he’s happy enough to keep things that way, thank you very much. You see, Billy-Jo Jeffries was born with a special condition that doctors down in Mississippi didn’t quite know how to comprehend. Actually, doctors everywhere would have been hard pressed to keep a straight face while writing down his condition at birth, once they saw the little boy was alive and well.
“My momma got in a bit of an accident when she was pregnant with me,” Billy-Jo tells me as he takes a long sip from his giant glass of root beer. “I was more concerned for her when I heard about it, cause you know, when it happened I wasn’t even alive yet so I didn’t know too much about it then. But when I heard about it I felt bad for my mom.”
After sitting with this young man of 18 for only twenty minutes, it is hard not to feel bad for him. He is full of good intentions and aspirations, and just because he can’t spell either word doesn’t mean we should belittle him. Billy-Jo has been learning to adapt his whole life, and continues to do so. He, with his parents’ urging of course, wasn’t going to let his early setback hold him back forever.
“My folks never held me back for nothing. They always encouraged me to make the most of what I was blessed with. And I think I was blessed.”
His parents are both dead now, killed only days after his high school graduation. They were on their way back from a pickling convention, and Cyrus, a little under the weather from all the different ciders and vinegars he had tasted at the convention, swerved into the parked and empty tour bus of the Mississippi Mud Hens minor league baseball team, killing both he and his wife Loralette. Billy-Jo was fishing for crayfish at the time, he tells me between big sips from his root beer.
This was just another setback for a kid whose whole life had been one setback after another. His first 18 years had been challenging enough; his next few would be even harder. While Billy-Jo made due with his limitations, it was often his parents who would come to his rescue and lend their support.
Loralette Jeffries was seven months pregnant when she agreed to play paintball with Cyrus and a few friends from Yazoo. Having more than enough room on their land, the eight of them broke into teams. After a break for lunch they resumed playing, except Cyrus made a terrible mistake. He saw his wife hiding behind a tree some fifty feet away and he took a chance and let one fly. He hit her all right, right in the round of the belly, and watched as his wife buckled over and yelped to the Heavens.
The operation was a simple one; they only had to remove a nail that had pierced his stomach. Initial X-rays showed that the nail had just missed the foetus inside her, causing him no harm. Cyrus was mortified and vowed never to touch pickling juice again. He had nearly killed his wife, and his little one, out of sheer stupidity. I’m told, by the operating doctor all these years later that Cyrus told him “he should have known it wasn’t gonna shoot no paint, it was too darn heavy for that. And I don’t remember there being a cord on the paint guns.”
Mom and baby were fine, well, almost. Little Billy-Jo was born healthy, crying as only babies do, but, he was born with a slight defect. The nail that had pierced his mom had entered the womb at such an angle that it narrowly missed his preformed head. And when I say narrowly missed, I mean it rubbed up against it something fierce. This friction caused the finite bone to chip away slightly, and at birth, he was born with an inch long hole down the back of his head. Location wise, it’s the Florida Keys. You’d never know it was there, unless Billy-Jo invited you to look, and more often than not, Billy-Jo invites people to look.
His fascination with showing off his “claim to fame”, as he calls it, started at an early age on the request of his mother. His best friend, Luke L’Heroux, was having his 13th birthday party. Luke’s family wasn’t very well off so the party was at Billy-Jo’s place. Billy-Jo’s mom had baked a cake and only had one sparkler for it instead of candles. Up until this time no one knew Billy-Jo had a problem.
“It was my mom’s idea for me to put the sparkler down the hole in my head.” Billy-Jo laughs. “I thought it would be a good idea. Luke was awful sad that year, and I knew it would make him laugh. So, I put the sparkler into the hole in my head and my mom lights it. You can’t see the end cause I’ve got nice long hair so the kids don’t know nothing, you know?” I know. “And the sparkler goes, and Luke is smiling and laughing. And then I’m getting really hot, and it’s smelling really bad.”
He’s been wearing a wig since he was thirteen, and rarely does a day go by when he won’t put it on. “My head doesn’t look too nice without it. And the sun can do some bad things up there when I’m not wearing my hair. Besides, I like the look of this one.” He gives me a thumbs-up. If wigs are sold by the strand, this one must be one of the most expensive ones. “The side burns are all mine though.”
You would think burning your scalp to a pasty state would be enough to stop you from inserting objects into your head. For most people it would, but not Billy-Jo. “Usually I just take them little American Flags on the white sticks you get for Independence Day and put one or two of those down there. Strangers just think I’ve got them attached to my hair somehow. I can jump around a bunch, even do kamikaze rolls like a ninja or something and they won’t go anywhere. It’s pretty cool.”
“There are times I wish my mom could see me. Like this past Fourth of July I took my hair off and had three flags in there. I lit the flags on fire and was running around all crazy like. All the kids were running away and stuff. I was screaming ‘I just been hit by fireworks’. Luke was laughing as he always does. I know my mom would have liked that. Dad probably woulda as well.”
Today Billy-Jo is employed as a clown and entertainer. His specialty is putting a foot long straw down the hole in his head with streamers on the other end. He’ll run around, doing jumps, “spin kicks like David Lee Roth”, and more of his kamikaze rolls. The kids love it, he tells me, and the glint in his eyes tells me he loves it too. But he can’t see himself wanting to do this forever.
“Me and Luke have been working on a few ideas. He’s always been good with his hands and I’ve always been the smart one. I think it’ll work out for us.”
The first idea they came up with was gloves with two thumbs. “We saw an episode of the X-Files and there was this man with two thumbs on his right hand. We was thinking it would be awfully hard to get gloves so we thought we’d make them. We took our idea and plan down to one of the local factories to speak to the manager. You know what he told us?’
I hold my breath as I can only imagine. If I saw these two kids in my office trying to sell me an idea that they created I’d be sceptical as well. Simplicity, while charming, does not bode well in big business.
“He tells us ‘that’s about as useful as a hole in the head.’”