Making Billy Smile

In the poem I posted called, He’s Aggravatin’, I talked mainly about how my middle brother, Billy, would taunt and tease our youngest brother, Ken. Mom was always telling Billy to stop aggravating his little brother, and Ken was forever yelling, “Mom! He’s aggravatin’!” Well, I must confess, I got in on the fun once in awhile, myself. Mostly, I would get my kicks by making Billy smile. Let me explain…

Billy was the cutest, sweetest but, at the same time, the most devious little cuss you’d ever meet. He was short, a wee bit pudgy—in an adorable way—had freckles and fair skin. I contend he got the fair skin from our red-headed mama.

One of the unfortunate things that seemed a result of the fair skin, was persistently chapped lips; Billy was always, it seemed, fighting dry, cracked lips. And yours truly—much to my chagrin, as I look back upon it—attacked where little brother was most vulnerable. I would on occasion, you see, do whatever I could think of to make him smile. Was I mean, or what?

We’d be sitting in the living room, and I’d simply look over at Billy and smile. He would immediately know what I was trying to do, and with no emotion in his face, lips hardly moving, he’d say, “Don’t.”

To which I would put a look of shocked surprise on my face and reply, “What?”

I could see the twitch at the corners of his mouth, and knew success was inevitable. Billy would try to tighten his lips in a grim line, and look away from me. He, too, knew he could not win this battle.

I’d say something along the lines of, “Billy. Billy. What’s wrong? Are your lips chapped, Billy? Is that why you can’t smile, Billy?”

Keeping his eyes diverted, fighting fiercely not to smile—sometimes he’d even try to hold them still with his hand—he’d say, “Stop it!”

I’d jump from my chair, drop to my hands and knees in front of him, and, while he tried to turn his head so he couldn’t see me, I’d say something like, “Booga booga booga.” He’d smile, then writhe in pain as his poor chapped lips cracked and burned. … … …

I have to tell you, folks…. It was funny when I was a kid…. But telling it now, breaks my heart…. Some of you know why. For those who don’t, forgive me, but I’ll have to explain later.


  1. Susan said

    Are you ever going to stop beating yourself up? Love you, Charlie.

  2. Sherry said

    You know, Billy smiled because it WAS funny . . . even with chapped lips.

  3. dale said

    I can tell u a cpl gooderen ones bout him and me !!!!

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