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Billie-Joe’s Adventure


Billie-Joe is sick, very sick, which is why he is often in bed.

First, he was in hospital for an operation, and when he was allowed to go home, Daddy put his bed at the window.

That is nice, as Billie-Joe’s house is in the same street as his school, and many children pass by and wave.

At least, when the curtains are open, because sometimes Billie-Joe is too tired to wave and then he asks Mummy to draw them.

From time-to-time Chris, his schoolmaster, comes for a chat.

He makes all kinds of jokes about things that happened in class and Billie-Joe likes that. In the beginning his school friends would come by, but they no longer visit him. They were a bit nervous and that made them so excited that these visits exhausted Billie-Joe.

That’s why Mummy agreed with them that they would just wave at the window and shout: ‘Hey baldy!’ They are not calling names, it’s just that Billie-Joe hasn’t got any hair left these days and that’s because of the medication he has to take. That’s why he put a cap on his bald head. He has a lot of caps, all different, and they look really cool on him. Sometimes the boys shout: ‘Hey, baldy, hey four-eyes, how are you doing?’ and that’s really funny, as they see Benny at Billie-Joe’s bedside and Benny wears glasses.

Benny is the boy next door and he does not tire Billie-Joe out. He doesn’t talk so much, and he reads to Billie-Joe, from one of the comics he got or they play games together.

Billie-Joe knows that he will not get well again; not everybody knows that or perhaps they don’t want to know, but Billie-Joe has known it for some time.

He doesn’t talk about it, because everyone is so shocked and then they begin to cry, but Billie-Joe doesn’t really think much about it. Actually, he is far too exhausted to do so and he is glad that he no longer feels any pain thanks to the medication. Also, he isn’t really bored, because when he is too tired to do anything, he closes his eyes and looks inside.

In this inner fantasy world, there is so much to experience and it is as if he is playing in an exciting film in which he can fly and talk to animals.

When he is dozing and dreaming, these last few weeks, it happens more and more often that his Mumsy appears at his bedside.

Mumsy is his favourite grandma but she has been dead for some time now and grandpa Herman is all alone.

He has been alone for quite some time as before she died Mumsy lived in an old people’s home because she was confused and sometimes did funny things.

In the end she didn’t even recognise Billie-Joe and it was as if she were no longer there. As if she had closed her eyes and just looked inside, as if she had moved to her fantasy world.

At least, that’s what Billie-Joe felt, but the others must surely have thought that that was still the real Mumsy. But the Mumsy who comes to see him now, that’s the real Mumsy he knew before, he can see that.

She tells him stories about where she lives now and everything she does there.

She says she helps children, so she will probably be a sort of nurse in a children’s hospital, Billie-Joe thinks and goes back to sleep.

Another time Mumsy tells him how nice and warm it is where she lives and that sounds wonderful to Billie-Joe, as he is always so cold.

Even though Mummy makes lovely hot-water bottles or cuddles up closely beside him. That only helps for a little while. The curtains are mostly drawn now as the light is too bright in his eyes, and he prefers Daddy, Mummy or Grandpa Herman to read to him from that wonderful book Narnia, about four children who, through an enchanted wardrobe, end up in another world where the most wonderful things happen. Billie-Joe adores these stories because they are so similar to the adventures he has in his own inner fantasy world.

One day when he wakes up from a short nap, he sees them all standing around his bed looking very sad. Mumsy is there too, but she is not sad, she laughs at him and says: ‘It’s time to go, Billie-Joe’.

Mummy is crying, stroking his head and holding him, but when Mumsy holds out her hand Billie-Joe knows that he wants to go with her to that warm and sunny place she was talking about. He sighs deeply, takes Mumsy’s hand firmly, closes his eyes and when he opens them again, there’s only Mumsy at his bedside.

Daddy and Mummy are no longer there and he cannot see Grandpa either, but it is lovely and warm, the light is very soft to his eyes and satisfied he falls into a deep sleep. He must be very tired as he sleeps a lot and every time he wakes up Mumsy is beside him and strokes his head softly.

Gradually Billie-Joe stays awake longer and longer and starts looking around.

There are more children here, some still sleep a lot, others get out of their beds to play or to walk around. And Billie-Joe becomes curious and wants to know what they are doing and where they are going.

Mumsy says this is a good sign and that she will come and fetch Billie-Joe tomorrow for a little outing. And believe it or not, the next day Mumsy says his hair is growing again so he doesn’t need a cap.

Hand in hand Mumsy and Billie-Joe go for a little walk. When they leave the hospital Billie-Joe cannot believe his eyes: it’s been such a long time he’s been outside and it’s so very green here!

They walk through a big park with a pond with fountains that spray the water so high up that it seems that the water comes back down in lots of tiny waterfalls. And when the sun shines on them he can see many different colours.

Mumsy and Billie-Joe walk under the tall trees, listen to the birds chirping and smell the fragrant flowers.

The first time they take a short walk because Billie-Joe still tires quickly, but every day he feels stronger and they go a little further. The day Billie-Joe doesn’t have to stay in the hospital any longer, he moves to a beautiful white house with other children.

Mumsy doesn’t live there, but from time to time she comes to take Billie-Joe for a walk. They also visited the town where Mumsy lives. They took the train and Billie-Joe didn’t know where to look, it was so marvellous.

There were parks and ponds, broad squares and high gates, but what impressed him most were the gigantic blocks of flats.

Now you may think there’s nothing special abouts flats? Then you haven’t seen these! They have such gorgeous colours; they seem to be made of mother-of-pearl and they glitter in the sun. Billie-Joe saw storeys in a warm orange colour and the storeys above were all a soft yellow and higher up they were green, and blue and some were purple.

These flats are real skyscrapers, they are so high that the upper storeys actually disappear in the white clouds.

All over on the outside there are round glass tubes, supersonic lifts which take you up and down in a jiffy.

Mumsy knows many people in the flat and sometimes she takes Billie-Joe to see them.

In this way Billie-Joe grows up to be a young man who likes exploring on his own and gets more and more curious. Sometimes he goes to see people in the orange flats because they make such good tea and it always smells of freshly baked cookies.

He also likes to go to the blue flats, because the people there like to tell exciting stories.

Or he visits the green flats where they play music all together and you can sing in different choirs, or he goes to the purple flats where they make such beautifully coloured paintings.

But most of all he loves to take the supersonic lift to the upper storeys of the flat where you can walk on the white blanket of clouds.

The people who live here all wear long white robes and they like Billie-Joe to come for a chat. One day Billie-Joe tells one of his cloud friends that he hasn’t seen Mumsy for such a long time. And that lately he has been thinking a lot, not only of his former friend next door Benny but also of master Chris of the primary school. And that he wonders why all the flats have different colours and why the people who live there are so different from each other and why the blanket of clouds doesn’t have a roof and…. So many more questions.

The friend in the white robe smiles, holds out his hand and says, just like Mumsy long ago: ‘It’s time to go, Billie-Joe’.

Billie-Joe takes his hand and his friend leads him to white stairs that reach so high that you cannot see the end.

Together they climb up and end up in a round room with white walls.

These walls seem to be made of clouds. On these cloud walls are pictures and paintings.

Billie-Joe goes to a picture of Mumsy with a small child on her lap; she does look different but he knows it’s Mumsy.

In a picture next to it he sees master Chris; master Chris plays the guitar. Looking round he sees a picture of a man shading his eyes and looking out over a clear blue sea.

There is also a big poster of a splendid white horse with silver-coloured manes galloping at full speed across a purple heath.

And then Billie-Joe sees that in this white tower there is a slide. You can slide very far: it so long that you cannot see where it ends. Billie-Joe is all in for an adventure; he sits down on the slide, pushes off and whizzes down at full speed.

Oh my… that’s fast! Billie-Joe expects to reach the ground at any moment, but that’s not happening.

No, he is still sliding but slower and slower until he reaches a kind of swimming pool. It’s not really a swimming pool, it’s more like a sea with lovely clear, warm water.

Just as he is wondering where he might be, he sees a big fish swimming towards him. The fish is silvery and has a fin on its back and nods kindly to Billie-Joe as if inviting him to come along with him.

Billie-Joe doesn’t hesitate for a moment, grabs the fin on the back of the fish and that’s a good thing as they rush off through the water like a shot. After a couple of rounds the fish dives into the deep where the sea gets darker and darker. The water even becomes so cloudy that he cannot see anything and with a great sigh Billie-Joe closes his eyes.

He must have fallen asleep, because when he opens his eyes again, he sees greenish water and gets the impression he is in a mini swimming pool. It is nice and warm and very cosy, and Billie-Joe feels really good here. He regularly takes a nap to the rhythm of a kind of big drum and when he is awake, he sucks his thumb. He often hears people talking and laughing, but sometime the sound of music too.

It seems the safe little swimming pool gets smaller and smaller and in the end Billie-Joe gets so cramped that he wants out. 

Then he feels something heavy pushing and pulling on him and that’s very unpleasant. But every time he gets such a push he sees a kind of passage through which light is shining and he knows that’s where he has to go. It’s hard work to get there and it takes a lot of effort. And when the passage gets so close that his head fits through it, Billie-Joe starts screaming. Because everything around him is suddenly so cold and stings his body horridly. The harsh light hurts his eyes and the loud noises are very painful to his ears.

He keeps his eyes tightly shut and starts screaming as loudly as he can. Then he finds he is lying on something really soft; he recognises the rhythm of the drum he also heard in the swimming pool and he stops crying and falls asleep.

First he sleeps a lot, but when he is awake and looks around, he sees Mumsy taking care of him, and that feels so familiar. She looks very different now, but Billie-Joe knows that she really is Mumsy. She sings for him and sometimes master Chris is there too and plays his guitar.

They talk in a slightly different way than they used to, because now they say Mummy and Daddy and they call Billie-Joe ‘our Danny’.

That’s alright with Billie-Joe and he lets them do their thing.

To be honest he often forgets that he used to be called Billie-Joe and that Mummy was actually Mumsy. And master Chris is a really nice daddy who romps with him.

Danny grows up to be a healthy and very curious toddler who wants to know everything.

Only when Mummy brings him to bed, Danny sometimes remembers what it was like a long time ago. And then he asks: ‘Mummy, do you remember you used to be my granny?’

Or he asks: ‘Mummy, do you remember I used to be so tired all the time and that Benny came to read to me?’

No, Mummy does not remember at all, but she gives him a big wink and says Danny will surely become a very well-known storyteller.

That’s what Danny thinks too and he falls asleep contentedly for a trip to dreamland.

And when you close your eyes and take a good look inside your fantasy world you can see him whizzing along in that supersonic lift.

Look, there he goes. He whizzes past colourful blocks of flats all the way up to the clouds and even further to have a chat with his white cloud friends.

Because Danny is looking for a little brother!

And not just any little brother, no… Danny wants a little brother with glasses…

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