Study Guide

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Chapter 6

By Ben Fountain

Chapter 6

Bully of the Heart

  • Hold onto your butts, guys—this is a loooooong chapter.
  • All of the Bravos got two nights and a day to go home during their Victory tour, so Billy went home to Stovall, Texas.
  • We start to get a better idea of where Billy came from.
  • Billy's closest to his snarky sister Kathryn, who has lived at home ever since "the incident" that got Billy strong-armed into the Army.
  • No one seems to even like Billy's dad, Ray, who whirs aggressively around in his motorized wheelchair and watches Fox News obsessively.
  • Ray used to be a successful rock jock radio host, but at some point, he made a hard turn as "yet one more aggrieved white male defending faith and flag from America's heartland" (Bully.10). Think Rush Limbaugh, without the drug habit.
  • Then, just when everyone in the house came to really hate him, Ray had two massive strokes that left him paralyzed and mostly unintelligible.
  • So the whole family has gathered for Billy's brief visit home: Dad (like he has a choice), Mom, sisters Patty and Kathryn, and Patty's toddler son Brian.
  • The family members have made it through some tough times together, particularly post-stroke, when they learned about Ray's alleged teenaged daughter (from a mistress who sued for acknowledgement and child support) and countless extramarital affairs. But the thing they're most ashamed of is the fact that everyone is secretly psyched that Ray—"the famous silver tongue"—is now unable to speak.
  • Shhh….You hear that? No? Exactly. Ahhhh.
  • Denise, Billy's mom, is especially relieved. She's the stereotypical long-suffering wife who finally gets to live a little and couldn't really care less about her disabled, formerly philandering husband.
  • Billy really hates his dad, and he torments him a bit because now he can. But deep down, he's still secretly wishing for his dad's approval.
  • Ray's mistress keeps calling the house, and the kids are all mad at their mom for taking her calls and talking to her. But Denise doesn't want to be rude.
  • Billy finds masturbating in his old room cathartic and soothing, so he does it. A lot.
  • There's a lot of pressure for the one full day Billy has home to be super special. Denise has cooked enough food for an army, and no one wants to discuss anything unpleasant.
  • Billy goes outside to play with his nephew and is surprised to find he is enjoying himself thoroughly.
  • Of course, Billy can't enjoy anything pure like playing with a toddler without thoughts of the war creeping into his head.
  • Patty, Brian's mom, comes out to talk and informs Billy that their mom is :::this::: close to losing the house because of Ray's medical bills and the shame inherent in filing for bankruptcy.
  • Billy, Patty, and Kathryn spend the morning lazily drinking beers and watching Brian play, and Billy is kind of surprised that this is exactly what he wants to do.
  • Various neighbors stop by with casseroles and over-eager gratitude. Why are neighbors always making casseroles?
  • Mr. Whaley, Denise's boss and probably the richest guy in Stovall, stops by, and everyone puts on his or her best behavior—except for Kathryn. She's upset that Billy has to go back to Iraq, and the few beers she's had have made her brave enough to be contentious about it.
  • Kathryn storms off and disappears for a while in a huff.
  • Mr. Whaley offers Billy a position "on his team" at the oil fields when he gets home from the war, and Billy can't think of anything more depressing.
  • When everyone else goes down for a nap or heads to the store, Billy takes a contented nap outside in the yard. Don't they have bugs in Texas?
  • Billy has some messed-up dreams about Shroom.
  • Kathryn wakes Billy up and says that if anything happens to him in Iraq, she'll kill herself.
  • No pressure, Billy.
  • Although Kathryn's bitter and snarky—the damage to her face from the car accident has made her a bit angry—Billy appreciates talking to Kathryn about the war, because at least she puts it all out there in an honest fashion.
  • Kathryn feels trapped in their hometown, held back by everything that's happened since the accident.
  • Kathryn tells Billy the rough estimate that their family owes in medical bills: $400,000. Holy Shmoly, Batman. That's a lot of dough.
  • Kathryn stops Billy from thinking he should try to bail out his parents when she reveals that Ray had bought their half-sister (from Ray's mistress) a brand-new GTO when she turned 16. Yeah, he never did anything like that for them.
  • Kathryn and Billy talk frankly about the war, and Kathryn suggests that Billy just not go back.
  • Kathryn's found a group of lawyers in Austin who help soldiers who want to go AWOL from the war. Seed? Planted.
  • Billy takes a nap.
  • Ray finds a way to take a lovely moment with Brian, Billy, and himself and turn it into "one of the great silent f***-offs of all time." Nice.
  • Dinner's a disaster, to Denise's dismay, but Billy defuses it by denying his disappointment.
  • Alliteration. Boom.
  • Billy sleeps like crud, knowing that a limo will be coming for him at seven in the morning. He's dreading saying goodbye to his family.
  • Everyone barely eats breakfast as they all try not to cry. Pleasant.
  • Denise is the first to crack, weeping in the kitchen.
  • When the car shows up, they all lose it. Well, Billy is choking the tears back, but everyone is just a mess.
  • Saying goodbye sucks.

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