He was upset and she knew it.
Life was slow and boring and he couldn’t take it anymore. She never really knew what to say to him when he was like this, so she stopped herself before speaking. Maybe he would snap out of it. Maybe he would smile and let the so-called problems roll off his back like the rain.
He kicked a clump of dry dirt away. There was no escaping it now.
“I am sick of this place.”
She held her tongue a little longer, hoping, praying, that he would come around.
“Wish I was never born,” he whined. “The boredom of modern life is too much. I don’t do anything. I don’t have any say in what goes on. Nothing much is expected of me. I have no skills. No function, really. It’s like I am part of the background. The color. Wallpaper.”
He looked at her with disdain and she knew what was coming next.
“At least you can do something,” he said and she nodded. “Dairy products. You make cheese. At least that’s something to hang your hat on. I just loll around, make a few new kids once in a while with you or that scene queen, Darla, and that’s the extent of it.”
He kicked a little more dirt around and sighed.
“Otherwise, I have no life.”
That was enough. Betty thought there was something wrong with him, but she’d heard this song before. Many times.
“Look, Billy, I’m sick of hearing you bitch about your life, day after day,” she said. “Year after year. If you hate it so much, get out. Leave. You know where the door is. Do it. Live on your own, but you won’t find it any easier out there, past the gates. You’ll be alone. Out in the cold. Chased by wild animals. Eating whatever scraps of food and who knows what else you’ll find on the ground. Tin cans! You’ll be back.”
Betty was right. He did say the same things and complain all the time. It was so easy for her. She had a career. A function in life. He didn’t and it was time for a change. He knew it. Maybe he was just trying to find the courage to do something new and take control of his life. Couldn’t she understand that?
“Betty, I’m scared,” he said. “I’m not happy with myself and I don’t know what to do. I would love a new life, but I’m too afraid to leave the farm and strike out on my own. I don’t know what I would do somewhere else. I mean, there’s gotta be more to life out there in the world, but what would I be? Who would I be?”
She thought about that for a bit, ate a little salad, and spoke.
“You’d still be Billy,” she told him. That clanged Billy’s bell. He kicked over pail of old rainwater with his hoof and chuckled. The bell around his neck clanged again. Betty smiled.
“Hah! I’d still be Billy with no life, no job, no home and no clue. What good is that? I’d rather be Billy the One and Only, so’s I can drop my seed all over this farm, so’s that we can have more milkers like you, so’s that Hank and Emily can make more cheese and sell it to that snazzy gourmet shop down in Topeka for who knows how much than be Billy With Nothing.”
Betty was happy. She’d seen this conversation with Billy wrap up the same way countless times. Even down to the “drop my seed all over this farm” part. He was over it, she reckoned, for another few days or so. She thought he might be getting horny again. A good sign, and after a few minutes, conception. Betty wasn’t that impressed, but was glad she was able to help Billy out.
Soon after they were done, one of the farm hands came over and filled the trough. There was a scream and he went running over to the sty. Later, Billy and Betty heard that Dottie, that whiny little twerp who sang all the time out by the tractor had fallen off the fence and into the pig pen. Justice served. Of course, someone pulled that vapid simpleton out of there eventually. She was still singing about somewhere over the rain cloud or rain bucket or something as her auntie wiped the pig shit out of her hair.
Then the dog ran away.
A couple days later, a big tornado came and tore the place up. Dottie got knocked out and was in bed for a while. The guys drew a mustache on her face while she was sleeping. Her Uncle Hank was in there a little too long one night with her and Aunt Emily gave him hell the next morning.
Billy thought that it was all very funny, but Betty was too busy feeding the kids to notice. After a few weeks, one of the pigs came around talking revolution.
Billy was up for it.
Finally, there would be something to do.