Billy and Buddy were the sons of Bob and Betty Baker. Never had two brothers been so different. Billy was alert, industrious, waking early, working late, cutting lawns, serving papers, saving every cent, always a smile, always ready to help. Always up to something! You never saw Buddy before noon. What did he do? People wondered. From the looks of it, he didn’t seem to do much of anything except lay on the deck in the hammock; sometimes reading, sometimes not. The general sentiment in the neighborhood was whatever Buddy was up to it was no good.
It was eight a.m. on the first Sunday in spring when the sounds of sawing were heard coming from the Baker’s sizable suburban yard. What was Billy up to now? That’s what the neighbors always asked! Was it a new deck? But he’d just built one last year and it was a doozy, built to last, solid as a rock.
“Whatcha building Billy?” his next-door neighbor Mr. Green asked from across the fence.
“It’s a secret Mr. Green” said Billy.
“A secret, is it? Where’s Buddy, Billy?” Mr. Green inquired.
“Sleeping, Mr. Green, he went to bed real late.”
”What’s he doing staying up so late Billy?”
“Don’t know, Mr. Green.”
Mrs. Green, who’d brought an iced tea to Mr. Green remarked, “You’re really going at it Billy, what’s the rush?”
“I got a tight schedule, got to get it up today. That’s a nice dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Green.”
“Thank you, Billy. What are you building?”
“It’s a secret,” Mr. Green informed her with a wink.
“Well, we’re having a lawn party today, it starts at noon, all the neighbors will be here. It’d be wonderful if you could get your project done and join us for some snacks,” Mrs. Green said, giving her husband a wink in return.
“I’m sure gonna try, Mrs. Green” said Billy.
The neighbors started showing up at a little before noon; they all looked on in admiration at Billy. He’d finished building a support base and a platform, and there was speculation as to what the thing was. Maybe it was a jungle gym; perhaps a shed? Then the lawn party started and the guests mingled among themselves and let Billy alone to work.
At about 2:45, the back door of the Baker’s house opened and Buddy appeared. He had a notebook in his left hand and a glass of lemonade in his right. He went over to the railing and said, “Billy, what are you doing? You’ve been making noise all day. Don’t you know Sunday is the day of rest?” He took a couple of steps and placed himself in the hammock and started to read. Billy didn’t answer. He went into the garage and came out towing a hoist and attached it to a large piece of timber lying on the ground. After a couple of maneuvers, he turned the crank and the timber was raised into position. Then the sawing and hammering recommenced. A little later, the neighbors at the garden party noticed a strange silence. Billy was finished.
They all went to the fence and looked over. What a surprise! For there it was, as solid and as tall a gallows as one could imagine! It had a trap door, 13 steps and sandbag counterweight. Billy had outdone himself. The neighbors wondered what would happen next. Billy, standing on the upper platform, called down to his brother, “Hey Buddy, what are you reading?”
Buddy, looking intensely at his notebook answered, “I finished my poetry book last night, just reading it over.” Billy, making a gesture towards the Green’s party, said “Why not come up here and read us one?” Buddy looked over and saw the neighbors all nodding encouragement. Buddy, surprised and pleased at this sudden interest in his work, got up out of the hammock and crossed the yard.
“Sure. I’ll read you one.” Buddy went to the steps and climbed up. At the top of the platform, Billy met Buddy, walked him to the center and put the noose around his neck. The neighbors noticed it was a perfect hangman’s slipknot with 13 turns. Billy turned and walked back down the steps.
Billy said, “You ready? Whatcha gonna read for us?”
Buddy replied, “It’s called ‘Love’. It’s the introduction, it sets the stage for everything.”
“Perfect!” Billy said, pulling the trapdoor handle. Buddy fell, his neck broke, he died instantly. His notebook fell to the ground. The neighbors were speechless.
“Hats off to Billy Baker!”
“That’s a heck of a machine!”
Mrs. Green called out, “Come on over for some iced tea!” But Mr. Green was alarmed. “Billy, we need something to light the barbecue and I’m out of tinder. You have any ideas?”
Billy, picking up his brother’s notebook, said, “This’ll do.” And it did. In no time at all Billy got the fire blazing and soon the company was enjoying hot dogs, pork chops, chicken legs and beer.