The Best of Billy Coffey: Fighting the Old Man

It’s week five of The Best of Billy Coffey! If you’re new here, in Week 1, I shared a snippet of Billy’s second novel Paper Angels along with a few ways you can enter to win a copy of Paper Angels. As promised, I’m still choosing a winner each week. You may enter as often as you like, and there are several ways to enter:

  • Leave a comment here or on subsequent “Best of Billy Coffey” posts each Monday indicating you would like to be entered into the drawing.
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to this post and/or subsequent posts. (Please be sure to let me know you’re doing so by adding @katdish to the end of your tweet or sharing the Facebook link with me.)
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to the Paper Angels Amazon page letting people know it is available for pre-order.
  • Ditto Barnes & Noble
  • Ditto Books-a-Million
  • Ditto Indie-Bound

Each of the aforementioned actions will constitute one entry into the drawing. If you don’t win this week, each of your entries will go back into the drawing. Winners will be chosen at random and will be announced the following Monday. Enter early, enter often, and check back here each week for new opportunities to win.

Thanks in advance for helping get the word out about Paper Angels. If you’re not big into contests, I still encourage you to head over to Amazon or another online retailer and pre-order a copy. I know once you read it you will recommend it to a friends and family, and word of mouth advertising is the very best kind.

The winner of Week Four is Deborah. Congrats, Deborah! I’ll post next week’s winner next Monday.

For this week’s edition of the Best of Billy Coffey, I decided to include the introduction he provided on his own blog. The last time I checked, the Old Man had not paid Billy a visit in a very long time. I have my own theory as to who this unwanted visitor was and why he no longer haunts Billy’s dreams, but some things I’d just as soon keep to myself. I’m mysterious like that. Here’s Billy:

There is truth and there is Truth, and the big T usually trumps the little one. At least it does in my writing. The tiny details in my life are often sacrificed in favor of the big ideas within them. I like this. If there’s one thing I want to share with people, it’s that every life is filled with holiness; all we have to do in order to see it is slow down and take a deep breath.

Most of my posts have very little to do with me and instead tend to focus upon the people around me, folks who are a lot more interesting than I am. My life and what’s going on with me is not nearly as entertaining as the neighbor down the road or the guy who picks up my trash.

Usually, anyway. But not always. Sometimes something you’ve kept secret needs to be told, because sometimes what haunts you does so because you’re too afraid to talk about it.

For the past nineteen years I’ve known an old man in a bowler hat. He’s never given me his name, never offered. And frankly, asking him is the furthest thing from my mind.

I’ll invite you over to Katdish’s blog to read the story. It’s a good one, and one that’s offered me a good deal of liberation in writing. But since we’re tight, you and I, I’ll also give you a little warning. This isn’t my normal sort of post. There is upbeat, aw-shucks Billy, and there is the Billy who broods. Katdish let me brood today. For that, she has my thanks…

Fighting the Old Man

To me, he is simply known as the Old Man. I don’t know his name, and I don’t think I care to. Old Man is enough.

I’ve known him for nineteen years now, and he knows me. Knows me well. When and where we meet always seems to be his prerogative. He is always dressed the same—dapper pinstriped suit with a red handkerchief, black bowler hat, immaculately shined shoes, and a cane. And I am always wearing the same expression: horror.

The Old Man is my nightmare.

He arrived one night shortly after my near suicide, sitting on a park bench in my dream. He motioned me over to sit down, gently patting the section of wood beside him. I did. He offered me a deal: come with him, and all would be well. Don’t, and…well, he said, “The consequences will be unfortunate.”

I was convinced of that when he turned to face me and a worm fell out of his left eye. It wriggled onto my hand and then in, slowly crawling up my arm and into my chest, boring its way into my heart.

I woke up screaming.

He arrived again two weeks later wanting my answer: stay or go? I stayed. By the time he was finished with me, I wished I had chosen otherwise.

And that’s the way it’s been since. Not every night, sometimes not even every month. But for nineteen years now he has come for me at his whim in his pinstriped suit and bowler hat and cane, each time asking me different variations of the same theme:

Ready to go yet?

I thought at first he was the product of an overactive mind. Or too many Stephen King books. But when I wake up screaming and incoherent and then force myself to stay awake for days because I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep and never wake up, I’m not sure neither my imagination nor Stephen King’s is at fault. I’m not sure at all.

He’s tenacious, the Old Man. Smart. Knows just what to do to hurt me the most and has no qualms about doing it.

I suppose whether he’s a demon or a psychological manifestation of my vast emotional baggage depends upon whether you ascribe to God or Freud. I’ll leave that to you.

Me, I know this: there is an unseen war waged daily around us between light and dark, life and death. The world of the spirit may be hidden from human eyes, but we are all laid naked before it. I once gave this little thought. Denied it, even. But no more. Now I know better.

I’ve always suspected that the devil gets too much credit for the terrors of this world. It’s always easier to blame his wickedness than our own. Make no mistake, though—there is evil beyond this world. Darkness. I’ve seen it.

That’s why there will be nights of endless coffee. Why the upstairs light of my workout room will be on at three in the morning because I’m doing pull ups. Why I can quote movies like Grease 2, films so horrible they are banished to the wee hours.

Because I must stay awake. Because if I close my eyes he may be there. Waiting, smiling, asking if I’m ready to go yet.

My fear? That one day I’ll say yes. That soon I’ll tire of the fighting and the beating and the temptation, and I’ll walk away with him. You become willing to do most anything to find rest, even if it’s rest in shadows.

Ready to go yet?

That’s what he wants to know.

Ready to surrender? To lay down faith and hope? Are you ready to quit wanting to stand and fight, to rid yourself of the notion that you must keep going when you just don’t have to? Are you ready to stop seeking the light and instead enjoy the darkness?

Are you ready to go yet?

So far, that answer has been no. I’m not ready to go. There are people and things in my life worth the fight, worth the beatings.

I stand and fight and keep going not because I want to, but because I must. Because the darkness in my life makes the light in it shine brighter.

So today, I ask you this: Anchor your faith in the deep harbor. Set your eyes on truth. Seek God. Love. Laugh. Believe. And always, always hope.

Because in some ways, the Old Man is after us all.

“My true desire is to relieve others of their pain though I myself may fall into hell.”
–Bassui

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5 Responses to “The Best of Billy Coffey: Fighting the Old Man”

  1. Amy Nabors October 17, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Another great post from Billy. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. James Williams October 17, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Love this post. Please let me win.
    🙂

    • katdish October 17, 2011 at 8:20 am #

      Thanks, James. The selection is completely random, but the more entries, the better the chances. Good luck!

  3. Ed Blonski October 17, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    The Old Man is in each of us – although I suspect that for women, it is an “Old Woman.”

    I know the name of my Old Man. It’s Adam. And here’s how I deal with him:

    I remind myself – or am reminded by those who love me – that I am baptized with water and the Word. And because of that, the Old Adam – by daily contrition and repentance – is drowned and killed with all sins and evil desires. A new man daily emerges and rises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

    Thank you both for yet another reminder that I can win the battles with my Old Man.

  4. Debbie October 17, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    I can’t wait for this book to come out!

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