The Day we Killed Billy Martin

Submitted into Contest #170 in response to: Start your story with the line “I’ve got a plan”. ... view prompt


Coming of Age Fiction Funny

The Day we killed Billy Martin

“I’ve got a plan.” Mark knelt in the dust. We all leaned in closer. Mark was the quiet one, but when he spoke we all listened. The four of us had been plotting and dreaming for days about how we could get Billy Martin’s new bike away from him.

We really hated Billy Martin. It wasn’t his red hair and freckles that all but made his face one big freckle. It wasn’t that he always had a smug grin on his fat face. I don’t even think it was because he beat up the little kids and stole their lunch money. No, it wasn’t any of those things.

Every night we watched as our dad came home, tired and dirty and complaining about Billy’s dad. Every day at school we had to watch as Billy paraded his newest toy or fancy clothes in front of us. We ground our teeth at the realization that our small town depended on Martin’s mill, and that someday we would probably call Billy, “Boss.”

Then, our nemesis showed up with a shiny new ten-speed bicycle.

That tipped us over the edge!

In 1952, ten-speed bikes were a rarity in our part of the world. There was no TV to show us what we wanted. Things like 10 speed bikes, pizza parlors, soda shoppes, were the stuff of comic books and school readers. So, when Billy started bragging that his dad had spent nearly $100.00 on his birthday present, we couldn’t imagine what it could be.

Billy should have known better than to goad us. Usually, he left us alone, concentrating on the primary school kids. Especially those who didn’t have older siblings. He knew his bragging would stir us up, but was confident we wouldn’t dare go after him.

We were four brothers between seven and fourteen. At home, we fought like wildcats. One time Tippy threw a dart at me and almost took my eye out. Another time Jamie ran into the bathroom to hide and someone, (no names were ever confirmed) threw a broom that went right through the hollow door. That was hard to explain when Dad came home, I’ll tell you.

But in school, or on the playground, we were one big happy family. Anybody who tried to take down one of us had all four to contend with. So bullies like Billy tended to steer clear of us.

Something like a bike, though. Especially one that had no equal in our town. The temptation to gloat was just too big to ignore.

See, with four boys in school and another two at home, our parents didn’t have much extra. We had one bike between us. It had balloon tires and one speed. It was too small for me and too big for Tip, but we all took turns riding it. We each rode it to school for one day, Monday to Thursday. On Friday we left it at home. That was because of a major battle when we first got it that Dad happened to witness. Friday was ‘no bike’ day.

This particular Friday, as usual, we were sauntering down the road to school. We were laughing and discussing what to do on the upcoming weekend. We had chores, but usually, Mom kicked us out early on Saturday. She’d rather do the chores herself than put up with our noise and fighting. She regularly moaned that it would be a treat to have a nice, calm daughter to help her, instead of six rowdy sons.

Besides she liked to take the babies over to Auntie Madge’s on Saturday afternoon and we weren’t welcome over there after that little incident with the matches and our cousin Rebecca’s hair. Becky pinned the whole episode on us, but she was partly to blame. We were having a nice quiet afternoon figuring out how to start a fire with a piece of glass and some dry leaves. Bossy Becky just had to show off by pulling a package of matches out of her pocket and demonstrating how much easier it was using them. It wasn’t our fault that one of her ringlets dropped too close to the ground. When she ran screaming into the house with the singed curl, our fate was sealed.

None of us could sit down for a week. And Becky had a new haircut. She kind of forgave us when all the girls at school gushed over her ‘new’ look. We had a harder time forgiving her.

As I said we were rushing to school when we heard “ting, ting” behind us. Our chins dropped as we saw Billy pedaling a brand new, shiny, blue, ten-speed bike. He casually took both hands off the handlebars and gave us a one fingered wave. We could hear him laughing as he sped away.

“Did you see that?” Tip said. His big blue eyes shone. He was only seven and had never seen such a beautiful sight.

“Yeah.” Jamie kicked a rock across the road. “I bet that’s the birthday present he was bragging about.”

I didn’t say anything, just watched Billy ride away. It didn’t seem fair that we had to share one bike between four of us (six if you counted the little guys) and he could cruise around on such a beautiful two-wheeler. My face turned red I was so mad. 

Tip’s eyes filled with tears and his lip started to tremble. “How come we didn’t go to his birthday? We like cake.”

Jamie cuffed him across the head with an open hand. “Don’t be stupid. He’d invite the devil before us. Besides, our mom makes way better cake than his.”

Tippy rubbed at his eyes and snuffled. None of us said anything more all the way to school, but we were thinking lots.

On the way home, Billy passed us again. He pedaled furiously getting that bike up the hill. His face was all scrunched up in concentration and his fat butt looked like it was trying to escape from his denim overalls. He didn’t look in our direction because he was working so hard, but we saw him just fine.

Mark whispered, almost too low to hear. “We need to get that bike. He doesn’t even know how the gears work.”

“Yeah, but how?” asked Jamie, kicking another rock. He liked to kick things.

We thought about that for the rest of the evening, hardly noticing what we ate for supper, or that we missed our favorite show on the radio because Dad was home and he got first choice. We’d have to catch up with the Green Lantern next week.

As soon as Mom sent us out to play on Saturday morning, we started discussing the problem of how we would get Billy away from his bike.

“He probably sleeps with it,” Jamie said glumly. There were no rocks handy so he kicked Mark in the ankle instead.

As usual, Mark ignored him. His forehead was wrinkled he was thinking so hard. Tippy was new to the whole concept of thinking, so he didn’t bother doing it. He ran off with some of the little kids next door. I was kind of relieved. He was too young to be involved in what promised to be a complicated job.

Billy rode by us, ringing that stupid bell and grinning like a fool. He was going downhill so the bike swooshed by quickly. We stuck out our tongues at him, but he probably didn’t see. Besides, I felt silly right away. Fourteen was too old to be sticking out tongues. To cover my embarrassment, I swept my fingers through my Elvis pompadour. They came away a bit greasy so I knew I had used the proper amount of brylcreem. Getting exactly the right height with exactly the right shine was an art I was working on.

“We could beat him up and take it away,” Jamie suggested, bringing my attention back to the important matter at hand.

I laughed. “How long do you think it would be before his Dad was banging on our door?”

“It’s going to be pretty hard to keep this a secret isn’t it?” Mark asked. “Do you think he’s going to just hand it over and Mom and Dad won’t notice us riding it?”

His forehead wrinkled even more. We all knew what would happen to us if Mom thought we were stealing. She once whupped us with a belt for taking a penny candy from the general store. Only Jamie had taken the candy, but her motto was if one of them did it, the others just didn’t get caught. So, we all got whipped. And of course, the fire incident was still pretty fresh in her mind. I couldn’t imagine what the consequences would be for taking a bike and shuddered just thinking about it.

“Maybe we should just forget the whole thing,” I said. As the oldest I was pretty sure that I’d get the worst punishment if we were caught.

The others shook their heads vigorously.  “Uh uh. We need that bike. Our old one is falling apart and everybody laughs at us over it. Besides, Billy is an asshole and doesn’t deserve it.”

We decided to give it some more thought. Billy and the bike would wait and meanwhile, we were wasting a beautiful Saturday. Grabbing our fishing poles, we headed for the river. Tippy caught up to us on the corner and skipped along beside me, happy to be with his big brothers.

I woke up Sunday morning thinking about how Billy sped by us on the way down the hill.

By ten o’clock Mom had shooed us out the door for Sunday School. Each of us had a dime for the collection plate. Mom watched out the window to make sure we went in the right direction. She would follow later for church, leaving the little guys with Dad for an hour. He was still sleeping, though, so that gave us some time to ourselves. I’d offered many times to miss church so Dad could sleep, but she figured I needed saving more than he needed rest.

We all stopped when Mark announced that he had a fool proof plan. “See that clump of weeds at the bottom of the hill?” We all nodded.

“If we hide in those bushes, nobody can see us, right?” More nodding.

“What if there was a stick or a branch across the road when Billy comes speeding by? He’s going pretty fast by then. He’d probably forget how to use those fancy hand brakes.”

We stood and sauntered casually to where Mark had indicated. The bushes were pretty thick. It was kind of muddy in the ditch, but we didn’t mind a bit of dirt.

“Then what?” I asked Mark. For a ten year old he was pretty smart. Always thinking ahead too.

“Then he’ll fall off the bike and we’ll grab it and run. We can’t take it home so we’ll hide it over by the river. He’ll be so busy brushing himself off and blubbering, he won’t see us.”

“He’ll know it was us” Jamie said. 

“He’ll know, but can he prove it?” Mark smirked proud of the fool-proof plan. “One of us can stay and help him up and everything, so we’ll look like the good guys.”

Tippy stood between me and Jamie. His blue eyes looked up at me with concern. “Will he be hurt?”

I shrugged. “He’ll have a skinned knee. You’ve had worse falling off the swing.  The important thing is we’ll have a new bike. His dad’s rich. He’ll get him another one and as soon as he does, we can bring the old one home and tell Mom and Dad we found it.”

We were so pleased with ourselves that we decided to skip Sunday School and go check out the candy display at the store instead. We figured the pastor would be just as happy not to see us. We’d think of what to tell Mom later.

The next day, Monday, we were out the door early. Mom was busy feeding the baby and only  looked at us suspiciously when we left.

“Here’s a rope.” Mark pulled a length of cord out of his school bag. This’ll work better than a stick.”

“Nope.” I put the brakes on that plan. “He’ll see that for sure. We need a long stick and it has to be strong.”

The boys spread out looking for an appropriate stick. Tip found the perfect one.

I ran my hands down the length of it. “It looks like a spear,” I said.

That gave me a better idea. I signaled to the boys to hide. We hunched down and waited.

Billy came whizzing down that hill right on time. He was spreading out his arms and had a gleeful grin that stretched from ear to freckled ear. Just as he came past us, I threw the stick, aiming for the front wheel.

His grin became a grimace as he flew over the handlebars. He screamed! The bike tumbled after him. We leaped to our feet and watched in horror as Billy and his bike smashed into the big elm. They both landed, twisted and broken. Tippy started to cry, loud sobs that broke through my daze.

“Oh my god! We’ve killed him.” Mark said in awe.

“Run!” I screamed and grabbing Tippy by the arm, I galloped towards home. The other two took off in the opposite direction, towards school. Billy lay in the middle, not moving.

A car screeched to a stop, and I saw Mr. McLaughlin, the school principal, running towards him.

I didn’t know what to do. Tippy was sobbing, Mark and Jamie had deserted. We would go to jail for sure if we were caught. 

“Shut up!” I snarled at my little brother.

“He’s dead, isn’t he?” Tip’s eyes were filling again, but at least he had stopped wailing. He swiped his nose with his sleeve, leaving gobs of snot on it.

“He’s not dead.” My voice shook. “See, Mr. McLaughlin is looking after him. He’s sitting up! Let’s just go to school and forget this ever happened.”


“And that’s what we did.” My Uncle looked around the fire at our rapt faces. “That happened over fifty years ago, but I still remember it clearly.”

“Me too.” said Uncle Mark, nodding.

“Was he dead?” asked one of the grandchildren.

“Naw. He had a broken arm that’s all. Everybody thought he was fooling around and riding too fast down the hill.”

“What happened to the bike?” I asked, trying to reconcile my grey-haired uncles with the mischievous boys they had been.

All five uncles and Dad laughed. “After that nobody had a bike. Billy’s dad said if he couldn’t look after it, he didn’t deserve a new one, and Mom took ours away for missing Sunday School and spending our dimes on candy.”

“Tell us another story.” The children begged.

“Well.” Uncle Mark settled back into his chair. “Did we ever tell you about the time we locked Uncle Tippy in the closet and forgot to let him out?”


November 01, 2022 21:10

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Benny Regalbuto
21:38 Nov 09, 2022

This story is Stephen King-esque in its small town ways. Good stuff.


Joanne Johnson
03:01 Nov 26, 2022

Thanks for the comment, Benny. I have been told I write like Stephen King. If only I wrote best sellers like him.


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