His name is Bill.
You’d probably walk right past him in the street, like all the other people you walk by.
And after reading his story you’d probably do it all over again, but maybe, just for a second, you’d notice him, before more important matters swept your mind away.
But that’s not likely to happen, as Bill has no time for cities, towns, streets or anywhere people have scratched up the warm earth and covered it in concrete and tar seal. Nor would you if you’d seen a kārearea plummet from the sky and turn a kereru into a cloud of feathers that only the breeze could steal away. No, he would no more give up his world of kokako, crystal clear streams and the freedom of the ngahere then a billionaire would give up his mansion for a jail cell.
But there was a time when he was just like the rest of us, busy, always busy, and not really knowing why. His life was filled with bills and worry, deadlines and unpleasantness, and occasionally, just very occasionally he would try and imagine his life being different, but he couldn’t.
This story is about how it happened. If you like powerful endings and good plots then I wouldn’t bother reading any further, this is just a very simple tale about a man who stopped.
Bill was born in a little place called New Lynn (it’s not so little anymore). He had brothers and sisters, parents who did their best, and when he was older he went to school, that’s what kids do.
Life was reasonably straight forward, a bit like a story until his granddad died. He was 12 years old when it happened, and he didn’t like the story he was in anymore and wanted to be in one where his granddad didn’t die. Kids are silly like that.
Watching his dad and uncles throw the last few clods of earth on his Granddads grave was a big turning point in Bill’s life. As they walked back to the car a sadness came over him that decided to stay.
The best day of his life was when he packed up his schoolbooks for the very last time and walked out of the school gates into a world full of promise. That night as he sat at the family table, his dad winked at him as he passed the mashed potatoes. ‘You’ve got the world at your feet now Bill. Your first day on the job tomorrow, I’m proud of you son.’
Bill felt all grown up and liked the feeling. But it didn’t last long.
The mill was a dirty, noisy place. They put him out in the yard to stack timber to see how he would go. His hands stung, back ached and when the smoko bell went, he felt like crying but ate his sandwiches instead. It was the longest day of his life, and when the knock off siren finally sounded he fled the place, vowing never to come back. But when his dad passed the peas and winked at him that night, Bill changed his mind.
He listened to the older blokes as they chatted in the smoko room and could tell they didn’t like being at the mill either, but like him, they kept coming back, they’d just been doing it for longer. When he stood in line that Friday to pick up his pay packet he worked out why they kept coming back. The brown envelope felt good in your hands.
Eager to forget the week just gone and desperate to not think about the Monday to come, most of the older blokes went to the pub. Bill shot into town and put a down payment on a car he liked. He needed it to get to work, and he felt like a million dollars when he drove out of the car yard.
When he filled it up on Monday, it gave him a bit of a shock. He did the maths as he drove to work and it gave him a sinking feeling. He’d need to stack a few more packets of timber each week so he could meet his car payments, board and fuel.
When the knock off whistle went that night, he stayed on to stack timber. By the time he found a forklift driver and filleted a packet of 6×1’s there wasn’t enough light left to go for a rabbit hunt.
He met the foreman in the carpark.
‘You got insurance for your car?’
‘Not even third party?’
As he drove home that night he decided to get some organised. He’d need to work a bit harder to pay for it.
Billed slammed the car door when he got home. He’d never done that before.