Many years ago, I used to live in Antibes which is in the Midi region of France – between Cannes and Nice. One day, I was on a yacht in the harbour and happened to look across at the boat next door. A man appeared to be drilling a hole in his leg. I shouted to him, asking whether he was all right. He was an Irish shipwright and had been cutting wooden plugs to glue into the deck of the boat that he was working-on. He’d just run out of wood and as he needed only one more wooden plug, he had decided to use his electric plug-cutter to extract a plug from his own wooden leg. We talked and went to the local bar for a drink. During a very long drunken evening, he told me the following story which he swore was true. Surprisingly, it was not about his wooden leg but about a friend of his. I wrote-up the story about 20 years ago and have only just found it again on an old disc. This is very, very sad story of BILLY THE SKID.
Billy was a very ordinary man – he was in his mid-thirties, slightly overweight, single and still lived with his aged mother.
His life used to be very simple and extremely ordered. Every morning, Billy would have a cooked breakfast, pick up his ham sandwiches and leave for work. He was a junior clerk in a small insurance office.
He would sit at his desk all day – he would even eat his sandwiches at the desk . On the dot of five o’clock, he would stand, put on his jacket, ensure that his bicycle clips were on properly, say good-bye to his employers and leave for home.
When he arrived home ten minutes later, his tea would be waiting for him on the table. He would kiss his mother and eat his liver and onions or his shepherds pie whilst reading the evening paper.
Then he would sit and watch the television until the pub opened.
He was normally the first in. He would order a pint and wait for his friends who would filter in during the next hour or so.
That was Billy’s life. Sad but uncomplicated.
This particular evening was to be the evening which changed Billy’s life and cause him to reappraise his whole lifestyle.
Billy and his friends spent the whole evening drinking lots of pints of beer whilst exchanging the same platitudes that they had been recycling since their schooldays. Then, about ten minutes before closing time, Billy had an urge to visit the lavatory.
He put down his pint and hurried through the crowd to the pub’s toilet. His timing was immaculate. In one movement, he turned, closed the latch on the toilet door, flicked his trousers open, slid the zip down and flipped down the wooden toilet seat.
The heavy seat crashed down onto the toilet bowl just as Billy’s ample rump reversed onto it. It had been close on this occasion. Seconds later, he’d enjoyed one of the biggest bowel movements that he could remember. He groaned, leaned forward and held his head in both hands. He imagined that this just had to be better then sex!
It was only when he was reaching for the toilet tissue that he noticed something. Although he had removed his trousers, in his tipsy haste, he had omitted to remove his Y-fronts which, needless to say were now full and weighing about half a stone.
” Shit!” he hissed rather appropriately and then “Shit!” again as he heard the familiar ring of the pub’s bell signifying that it was closing time.
(The following part of the story is a reconstruction as Billy was to spend the next two hours drifting in and out of consciousness.)
Panic caused Billy to attempt to stand with his trousers still around his ankles. He stumbled backwards and sat on the edge of the toilet seat.
However, the contents of his Y-fronts caused him to slip off the edge of the seat and onto the floor. As he tried to regain his balance, he managed to hit the back of his head on the low-level cistern, and sustained a deep cut. Billy also vaguely remembers grazing his fist on the toilet wall and he also recalls vomiting as he fell and lapsed into unconsciousness.
He ended up in a seated position, just in front of the toilet bowl . There was vomit down his shirt-front and the backof his head was seeping blood onto the toilet bowl.
Meanwhile, back in the bar, his friends, assuming that Billy must have gone home, said their good-byes and left. One of Billy’s friends thoughtfully finished the pint that Billy had left on the bar. The owner of the pub cleared up all the glasses and about half an hour later came into the toilets to hose down any mess. He was surprised to see a pair of legs sticking out from below the door of one of the toilet cubicles. He recognised the legs immediately.
” Billy!” he shouted, ” are you OK?”
There was no sound.
” He’s had a bloody heart attack!” the barman shook one of Billy’s legs and soon realised that there was no way that he would be able to drag Billy out of the cubicle. The solution was simple – he would have to break the door down.
The barman went into the adjacent cubicle and standing on the toilet, looked in on Billy. Billy was slumped against the toilet bowl and looked to be in a bit of a mess. The barman walked to the other side of the toilet and propelled himself at the door of Billy’s cubicle. The latch and lock were ripped from the doorpost as the door smashed inwards.
Unfortunately, at the precise moment that the barman’s shoulder connected with the door, Billy was regaining consciousness and began to sit up . Regrettably, at the instant that Billy sat up, the toilet door flew inwards and connected with his face and broke his nose. The whiplash threw Billy’s head backwards onto the toilet bowl where he sustained another cut to the back of his head.
Once again Billy was unconscious.
The barman soon realised that Billy had not had a heart attack and had probably been in some sort of fight. He dragged Billy from the toilet and with a little bit of a struggle, managed to pull up his trousers.
He plucked some toilet tissue from the holder and wiped-down Billy’s face, head and shirt-front. By now, Billy was once again recovering consciousness and as he attempted a more vertical position, he moaned occasionally.
However, he was not yet confident enough to attempt to stand.
“Wait here Billy,” whispered the barman unnecessarily, “Ill call you a cab. Your mum will sort you out!”
Billy mumbled through the blood and vomit.
” You’ll be OK,” added the barman rather optimistically.
Billy lay on the wet floor for another ten minutes while his clothes slowly soaked-up the stale urine and disinfectant from the concrete floor. He attempted to stand only once. Unfortunately, he slipped , landed on his left knee and cracked his kneecap.
The main toilet door swung open and the barman entered with another individual who took one look at Billy and said, ” I ain’t putting that in me cab. Sod off!”
As the cabby turned, the barman took out a twenty pound note from his hip pocket and held it out. ” He lives about a quarter of a mile down the road . We’ll clean him up. He’ll be OK”
Without a sound, the cabby took the note.
Between them they cleaned Billy up and pulled-up his trousers . The barman handed Billy a towel soaked in cold water and said ” Hold this on your nose Billy. You’ll be OK.” Billy nodded as he was helped to his feet and dragged through the bar to the cab. The night air hit Billy like a sledgehammer and in spite of the mild shock that his body was experiencing, he began to feel the onset of the ” whirling pits”. Past experience told him that if he kept his eyes open, he would not be sick.
Depositing Billy in the back of the cab was quite a struggle because Billy had difficulty in bending his left leg. He had also become very aware of the contents of his Y-fronts. Luckily, neither the cabby nor the barman were conscious of Billy’s predicament.
After the cabby had spread a travel rug over the back seat ” just in case”, they decided that the only solution was to somehow push Billy onto the back seat. They took a two-step run-up, each holding an arm. As they propelled him through the cab’s door, Billy hit his head on the door post and once again lapsed into semi-consciousness. However, the cabby managed to shut the door behind the twitching Billy.
The cabby fired up the engine and spent a couple of minutes listening to the barman giving directions to Billy’s house. As he selected first gear, the cabby said to the barman. “If he pukes, I’m coming back for another twenty quid. So don’t go anywhere for the next ten minutes. I might be back!”
” He’ll be OK,” offered the barman rather lamely, ” He’ll be OK”
By the time the cab was in third gear, the cabby felt a movement on the back seat and automatically looked in the rear-view mirror. The grinning apparition that appeared in the mirror caused him to swerve – until he realised that the hideous mask in the miror was Billy, his passenger.
The motion of the cab had awoken Billy and he had struggled into a semi-seated position because he was again beginning to experience the “whirling pits” and was about to part with the remaining contents of his stomach. He’d had liver and onions for tea, followed by three cups of tea, a steamed treacle pudding , seven pints of bitter and two packets of pork scratchings.
The cabby squinted into the rear-view mirror ” Are you OK mate? You look as if you’re going to throw u………….!!!”
Too late! The back of the cabby’s head took the first wave and by the time that the emergency stop had been completed and Billy’s face had come into contact with the driver’s headrest.
Billy’s stomach was now totally empty and Billy had yet another injury. The cabby had not strapped Billy into his seat. Mind you, had Billy’s forehead not contacted with the headrest on the back of the cabbies seat, his injuries could have been far more serious and he would not again have been merely semi-conscious.
The cabby leapt out of the car and in his haste, almost pulled the rear door from its hinges.
” Bastard!” he screamed as he dragged Billy out of the back seat by his legs. ” Bastard!”
The cabby then noticed the large wet discolouration on the back of Billy’s trousers. He looked at the spot on the back seat where Billy had been sitting. ” Bastard!” he screamed once again as he kicked Billy in the crotch several times. Luckily, Billy was feeling no pain.
There was a trail of smoking rubber as the cab took off, executed a perfect hand brake turn and headed back in the direction of the pub.
Billy lay by the side of the road and slept.
He awoke about twenty minutes later and although in a bit of a mess, he managed to stand and realised that he was only about one-hundred yards from his home. He began the long limp home and luckily for him, although long and uncomfortable, the journey was otherwise uneventful.
He managed to find his mother’s house and it was not until he had managed to negotiate the front gate and was walking up the garden path that he had another dizzy spell. He fell into one of his mum’s rosebushes. Luckily he did have the presence of mind to hold out his arms to break his fall and only sustained slight scratches to his hands and face. It took him several minutes to disengage himself from the rosebush and in the process, he ripped his shirt, trousers and jacket.
Billy screamed and was dimly aware that the light in his mother’s bedroom had come on. Even in this confused state he knew that he should not disturb his mother. He fumbled in his pockets and eventually managed to find the front-door key.
Fitting a key into a Yale lock in the dark is never easy. Tonight the task proved even more difficult than usual but soon Billy was standing triumphantly in the front room.
He needed a cup of tea . Yes that was it! A cup of tea. Then he would sort himself out!
He dragged himself into the kitchen, filled the kettle from the kitchen-sink tap and put it onto the old-fashioned gas stove. At last he was back in control!
He turned on the gas and went to the cupboard where he knew the matches were kept. By the time he lit the gas there was only enough gas to cause a very minor explosion. The singed hands and eyebrows seemed a minor irrelevance as he waited for the kettle to boil.
Billy had only poured enough water into the kettle for about two cups of tea. He waited for a couple of minutes until the kettle’s whistle began its high-pitched murmur.
Billy smiled as he turned off the gas and lifted the kettle from the stove. His teacup was ready with one teabag and three sugars in it and he had even put the milk bottle next to the cup. He was sure that nothing more could go wrong.
They say that bad luck is merely a question of bad timing. Billy had a slight memory lapse. Unluckily for him, it took place in that one or two seconds when he was swinging the kettle from the gas ring to the teacup. Billy had forgotten that the metal handle on his mother’s ancient kettle had a tendency to become extremely hot. He dropped the kettle and began to scream as boiling water spilled from the kettle and soaked into the front of his trousers.
At that precise moment, his mother appeared at the kitchen door in dressing gown and curlers. She was holding a heavy broom. For some time now she had been fed-up with Billy going to the pub and coming back later and later and waking her up. Tonight’s racket was the final straw.
” Don’t…you…ever…dare…to…come…back….so ….late…. and wake….me…up….!” Each word was punctuated with a blow from the broom to the back of the cowering Billy’s head.
Billy could do little to defend himself and once again took refuge in unconsciousness. His mother left him where he fell.
The following morning Billy was admitted to the local hospital and still believes that he sustained the highest number and variety of injuries ever sustained in one evening.
More importantly, however, Billy is now completely teetotal but refuses to leave his room.