Holy Cow! Twenty-one! Billy couldn’t believe that today was actually his twenty-first birthday!
“Yahoo!” cried Billy, jumping up and down in his “Major Exports of Economically Challenged Countries” pajamas. He thrilled to think of all the fun and excitement awaiting him, now that he could finally strut right up to any bartender tending his bar, and say, “Yo, bro! Brew!”
He leapt out of his bed, donned some over-21-type togs (black chinos, black T-shirt, red neon socks, shoes), and practically skipped down the hallway to the main room of the Bottomless household, where, today being Sunday, his mom and dad were sitting around the Sears Maplewood Early Americana table, chowing down.
“Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!” chirped Billy.
“Hi there, little Billy!” said his mother, flopping a few flapjacks onto the plate of her husband, Jack.
“Now, Mom,” said Billy teasingly. “No more calling me, ‘little Billy.’ From now on, it’ll be ‘Big Bill’ to you! Because today I’m twenty-one!”
When Mrs. Bottomless heard this pithy proclamation, she shrieked, dropped the plate she was holding, ripped off her apron, clawed at her breasts, screamed, “Oh my God! No! No!” and hightailed it right out the front door, wailing and moaning.
Mr. Bottomless and Billy stared at each other as they listened to the family Toronto squeal out of the driveway and go careening wildly down the street.
“Yowzer!” said Billy. “What’s up with Mom?”
“Well, ya’ know, Billy, it’s tough on a mother when she realizes that her little milk sucker is all grown up.”
“Oh,” said Billy remorsefully. “That is tough.”
“Tough on Moms,” said Billy’s dad, a wild gleam coming into his eyes. “But not on Dads!” Oh, boy! Billy knew that look! That was the look that said, “Look out, world! Something mind-boggling is about to happen!”
“Ya’ know why it’s not tough on Dads?” said Mr. B. mischievously. Billy shook his head back and forth, grinning like a dog.
“Because we Pop-types dig it when our little testosterone-packing progeny finally, legally, get to be us! It’s the best! And, accordingly, for this glorious day, when, in the finest tradition of nut-swingers everywhere, you finally put behind you those pathetic days of childhood and begin your glorious journey towards decrepit old age, you can bet your lucky rabbit’s foot—hey, whatever happened to that thing, anyway?—that I’ve planned something for your twenty-first birthday, son, something so great that when you see it, you’re bound to get on the floor and do those little head spins like you used to. I mean, I’m not one of those dads who just lets their kids mature according to some lame schedule the kid happens to be on. Screw that, right Billy?”
“You bet. That’s why I’ve got a real surprise in store for you. C’mon! Let’s you and I hop in the ol’ Toronto—no wait, I guess we’ll be using the Bolero—and take ourselves for a little spin, shall we?” He cackled and rubbed his palms together. “Man, this is really going to be something. I can’t wait. I gotta’ ask ya’, son—I’m just too excited not to. Do you have any idea—any idea whatsoever—what I got you for your birthday?”
Billy thought of the other things his father had gotten him in the past. A gigantic orange sock filled with hard mucky stuff. A dog whose hair kept falling out. A boomerang that, when you threw it, just disappeared into the sky.
“Gee, Dad,” said Billy, with just a touch of consternation in his voice, “I don’t.”
“Darned right you don’t! You never do! Now c’mon! Let’s get in that car!”
Throughout the car drive, Billy’s dad kept snurffling and horking to himself. “Hee-hee,” he’d say. “You’re gonna’ love this.” Billy was pretty darn certain he was right.
“Here we are, son!” said his dad, pulling up into the driveway of a nice green house in the middle of a lovely neighborhood filled with nice green houses. (They weren’t all green, of course. Billy saw a pink one.)
“We are?” said Billy.
“We are,” said Mr. B. “C’mon. Get out. This is it.”
Billy and hid dad got out of the car and walked right up the little cement pathway to the front door, and then right on into the house itself.
“Honey!” cried Mr. Bottomless. “We’re home!”
A lady came out from the back rooms. She looked about Billy’s age. She was beautiful. She was wearing a red gingham apron, and carrying a little baby in her arms.
“Hi, honey!” said Billy’s dad. The lady just smiled. She reminded Billy of Wendy, from Peter Pan. Or maybe Betty Rubble. Somebody.
“Son, I’d like you to meet Honey. Honey, I’d like you to meet Billy.”
“Hi, Billy,” said Honey, in a voice as sweet as candied apples. “Please come in. Have a seat right here, on this very nice couch. Can I get you anything? A Coca-Cola Classic? A beer? Some Kool-Aid? Perhaps a bite to eat? We have cookies, crackers, marinated artichoke leaves, pretzels, popcorn, ice cubes, cow balls, and, best of all, some Hostess Yo-Yo cakes. What can I get you?”
“Say, I’ll have some of those Yo-Yo cakes,” said Billy, smacking his lips.
“Sure thing, Billy,” said Honey. “And Dad? How ‘bout you?”
Wow, thought Billy: She’s as cheery and selfless as a crosswalk guard.
“Oh, I think I’ll just have some Saltines,” said Billy’s dad. “And some coffee. Black. Really black. Just crackers and hard, hot joe for me.”
“You got it,” said Honey merrily, spinning away and walking proudly off into the kitchen.
Billy looked around. This was a terrific house. The carpet was a nice orangey color, and there were pictures on the walls, of forests, and deserts, and one of an ocean, with a ship going down. That one was signed “Popeye.”
“Wow,” said Billy to his dad. “This is incredible. Who lives here?”
“You do now, son,” said Billy’s dad, a huge smile on his face.
“I do?” said Billy. “I do? Are you kidding me, or what?”
“No, I have no sense of humor, son. You know that.”
“That’s right,” said Billy, remembering the time his dad bit that clown. “Well, gee then, Dad. What’s the deal here?”
“The deal, son, is that–hold onto your happy sack now—this is what I got you for your birthday!”
Billy’s eyes opened so wide for a moment he couldn’t even see out of them. “You mean . . . ?”
“That’s right, boy! I got you a life! I felt it was about time you had one, and I spared no expense getting you the best one within a 10-mile radius of our house. This whole placeis yours! The house is yours; the yard is yours; the garage is yours. Honey is yours, and so’s that little tyke you see her lugging around. That’s yours too! His name is Wingo! Isn’t that great?”
“Oh, Dad,” said Billy, choking up. “I think I’m gonna whine.” Looking around him, Billy could hardly believe that he was lord and master of all he beheld. It was just too much.
“Oh Dad,” he said. “How can I ever thank you?” Mr. Bottomless had just taken a deep breath, getting ready to respond, when Honey, looking as chipper and ready-to-please as ever, returned from the kitchen. She was bearing a big platter full of delicious if not altogether nutritionally sound snacks: Pop Tarts, Instant Whoopie Rolls, Bubble Gum Chunks. She was carrying all this, and the baby too. Little Wingo was crying so loudly nobody could hear themselves think.
“Here you go, boys!” hollered Honey over the sound of the baby’s screaming. “Eat it all up! I’ll just be sitting over here on this floral easy chair with my little bundle of joy! Feel free to ignore me completely! Don’t pay any attention to me whatsoever! Unless you need me for anything!”
“What?” said Billy’s dad, straining to make her out over the baby’s din. “Whadd’ya say there, Honey? What?”
“What?” cried Billy, too. “What?”