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Billy The Bum

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Soon after we moved in, everybody in Mango Street said that Billy was mad, and so they left him alone. But, I wasn't so sure that he was mad. I can think of many people much madder than Billy ever was. He didn't look mad. He was a man of medium height, thin; he wasn't bad looking either. (Direct Characterization) He never stared at you the way you expected a mad man to; and when you spoke to him, you were sure of getting a very reasonable reply. He was king of the street (Metaphor), or so he thought. But he did have some curious habits. At large in the city, Billy never worked. But he was never idle. He was hypnotized by the word, particularly the written word, and he would spend a whole day writing a single word. (Indirect Characterization) One day I met Billy at the corner of Mango Street. "Where you going?" Billy asked. "I'm going to school," I replied. And Billy, looking at me solemnly, said in a mocking tone, "So you go to school, eh?" I said automatically, "Yes, I go to school." Billy said, as though speaking to himself, "So the little girl is going to school." Then he forgot me, and took out a long stick of chalk from his pocket and began writing on the pavement. He drew a very big S in outline and then filled it in, and then the C and the H and the O. But then he started making several O's each smaller than the last, until he was writing in cursive, O after flowing O. (Imagery) When I came home for lunch, he had gone all the way to the next street and he was still writing O's, rubbing off mistakes with a rag. By the afternoon, he had gone around the block and was practically back in Mango Street. I went home, changed from my school-clothes into my home-clothes and went out into the street. He was now halfway up Mango Street. He said, "So the little girl went to school today?" I said "Yes." He stood up and straightened his back. Then he squatted again, drew the outline of a massive L, and filled it in slowly and lovingly. (Imagery) When it was finished, he stood up and walked away, not saying another word. This was one of Billy's more curious habits. For example, if you saw Billy and you told him you were going to play, he would write PL and then concentrate on the A's until he saw you again. Then he would finish with the Y. We never could figure out where he got all that chalk from, though.

The only friend Billy had was a little mongrel dog, white with black spots on the ears. (Imagery) The dog was like Billy in a way, too. It was a curious dog, and if some other dog tried to get either friendly or aggressive, Billy's dog gave it a brief look and simply walked away, without looking back as if it were an arrogant, stuck-up noble and the other dogs were commoners. (Personification) Billy loved his dog, and the dog loved Billy. They were made for each other. I don't know what it was that caused Billy to completely lose it. Perhaps the death of his dog had something to do with it. It was run over by a car. I was there the day it was hit and it gave just one short squeak, and then it was silent. (Imagery) Billy wandered about for days, looking dazed and confused like he was lost in the jungle. (Simile) He no longer wrote words on the pavement; no longer spoke to me or any of the other children in the street. He began talking to himself, clasping his hands and shaking like it was freezing outside. (Simile)

After Billy lost his only friend in the world, I thought it would only be right to make him the first bum to live in my attic when I got my own house. I waited quite a while after his dog's death, to allow him to regain some of his composure. After I saw him talking to some other kids on the street again, I assumed all was well and Billy was back to his old self again. I approached him cautiously, but finally worked up the nerve to say, "Hi Billy." He responded, "Who are you and how do you know my name?" I said shocked, "It's me, don't you remember?" Billy replied, "No I don't, but I've seen you around



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