Bill isn't the sharpest tack in the drawer. He's been that way pretty much his whole life or at least since I've known him, which is close to the time he left the womb. Now most people think Bill just came out that way but not me. I think that when Bill was a kid he just took too many pucks to the head. He's not much of a skater so they'd always throw him into goal. Unfortunately, he's not much of a goalie either. But that's neither here nor there, for the final result is the same. Bill needs a little extra care and understanding.
He's a large man. Not fat, but tall and solid, and when you combine that with the dim-witted look that he has about him, a lot of people find him kind of scary. It seems that everyone just expects him to do something nasty. It's almost like they want him to, so they'll have a reason for feeling about him the way that they do.
I know Bill better than that. I know him to be as gentle as a kitten and as innocent as a child. I know that he didn't do what they're after him for and I wasn't about to sit by and watch them punish him for it. That wouldn't be right.
That's why we boarded the train. And that's why I sit across from Bill now, watching him stare out at the blank canvas of a wheat-covered prairie. Once in a while I'll see his eyes light up and he'll smile like he's laughing at a joke that nobody else gets. Then his look will fade as quickly as it came and he'll just stare intently at the fields. I'll be damned if I can ever see what he's laughing at.
"Can I get you anything?" I hear in a French Canadian accent. I look up to see a lanky steward pushing a refreshment cart through the centre isle.
"No thanks. Bill, you want anything?"
He just shakes his head. Bill's a man of few words. The steward moves on offering his wares to the rest of the disinterested passengers. I turn back to Bill just in time to see that stupid grin come across his face again. I look out the window, but I can't see anything there. Maybe he thinks the noon sun has truly turned the field of wheat into a sea of gold. Or maybe, having never seen the prairies before, in his simple mind he thinks that a gold ocean is what he's really looking at, the train has turned into a boat and we're sailing away into a new magical land called Toronto. I find myself envying the childlike way in which he sees the world.
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Copyright © Colin Frizzell 2001. All rights reserved.