The willow grieves over raven’s exile from a lonely grove.
—from the journal of Billy Branwen
Billy Branwen woke—gasping—from a recurring dream of flight.
“Just leave me alone,” he said to his dim bedroom.
The dream had become a curse, a thrice-weekly swirl of green trees, someone shouting, and a vivid sensation of rushing wind—wailing and cold. Billy woke, each time, disoriented and afraid, as though new to these visions.
He sat up, kicked off overly warm sheets, and perched on the bed’s edge. The digital clock on the nightstand glowed green: 5:27. So much for getting any more sleep. The hell with it...might as well go downstairs and eat breakfast.
Billy used the bathroom, washed his hands and face. He hoped his father hadn’t fallen asleep on the couch after one too many.
Billy came off the stairs, glanced into the living room and could see its silent gloom. Good.
In the kitchen he switched on the ceiling-fan light, stepped up to the sink and rinsed his father’s scummy beer mug. Christ, can’t even clean up after himself?
Brewing a pot of French roast, Billy stood wondering whether his mother would pursue her Ultimatum Plan. She’d mentioned it last week, after inspecting the broken headlight on the SUV. “I couldn’t have done it,” said Billy’s father, “or I’d remember, wouldn’t I?”
Billy’s mother—back from grocery shopping—slammed canned goods onto the pantry shelf. “That’s the big question, Phil! Do you remember?”
“You know, I don’t need this goddamn disrespect,” countered Phil. “That’s what work’s for.”
Later that night, Billy’s mother told him she’d give Phil one month to get his act together. Failing that, she had her eye on a position in Arlington, doing documentation for an NSA subcontractor. She and Billy would move on, leaving Phil Branwen to do as he pleased with his anger and beer. Billy saw his father as a self-divided, troubled man, regretful of marriage and domestic responsibilities. Love still existed in the Branwen home, but love wasn’t enough....
Billy poured himself a cup of the black elixir, sipped.
When he saw the microwave clock, he grinned. Two more hours until he’d leave for school. Subtract a few minutes to dress, and that leaves plenty of time to write.
He quietly made his way upstairs and into his bedroom, where he thumbed the light-switch on the wall and closed the door. Placing the coffee on the nightstand, Billy plucked his pen and journal from the desk, hopped into bed, and returned to the story he’d been writing over the past few days: “Remember Our Future.” In this, Billy chronicled the fractured existence of a gay writer whose first novel becomes his actual day-to-day life, so he begins another book to write himself out of it.
After an hour of scribbling, a jarring noise startled Billy.
“…Time for you to get a move on,” said Billy’s mother from his doorway.
He’d actually been asleep... dreaming he was writing about a man in another life.
And wishing he could be with him.