Wrong Way Willie - Willie Receives Bad News
by Kojo Din Sekou
As the door opened to the smoke filled room the bell rang, all of the regulars announced his arrival “Wrong Way Wil-lie” was chanted louder than the music coming out of the jut box. A half-hearted grin came across his rough, aged face which appeared to be that of a fifty year old and not a 25 year old. The normal crew ranging from tipsy to someone take my keys did not notice the troubled look in his eyes. Like every Thursday Wrong Way Willie showed up at Pot’s Spot, the local neighborhood tavern but this week he arrived later than normal. It wasn’t because he had to work late at the construction site. His day was cut short when lighten bolted across the sky as thunder followed which only served as a prelude for the heavy rains. Willie quickly packed up and headed for his black cutlass with 3 matching rims and gray patches awaiting a tire and a paint job. For Willie a paint job and a new tire for his ride had become a deferred dream.
From the outside, Willie looked as ordinary as any other patron. He could drink with the best of them, even had a running tab and they all hustled on the pool table. Any given night the “big winner” was a different person. Pot’s Spot served as the local watering hole and a place of refuge for blue collar workers; however, you could always find a handful of white collar/corporate types who still lived in the neighborhood. The white collar/corporate types knew whose spot it was. For the most part everyone got along, cops typically wasn’t called for disputes which was the result of someone’s liquor getting the best of them.
Pot Belly the owner who also served as the bartender ran a tight ship and established what he calls the sleep room. The “sleep room” was equipped with a small tv, a sofa, a mirror, and a bathroom. If someone got a little rowdy Pot Belly would pull out “Ole Louie” (his Louisville Slugger) which he squashed any squabble before hauling the drunk patron to the sleep room. He’d charge them for an order of wings and give them a pot of coffee. Pot Belly was an ex-football player; he stood about 6’2” tall, with huge arms that were still well-defined; however, he’s always had a pot belly (hence the nickname) which grew as his football years came to an end. He actually played one season in the NFL before his career ending knee injury. Pot Belly had a magnetic personality so it’s no wonder he maintained a few friends from the league, which finances Pot Belly’s Youth Football League (PYFL) for youth ranging from 6-18 years old.
Wrong Way Willie arrived tonight drenched in rain; making his way through the smoke-filled, dimly lit room to get a drink speaking to everyone he knew along the way. This gave Pot Belly time to have a shot of Jack ready for him when he got there. Once he reached the bar he grabbed his shot raised it to his lips and snapped his head back. Slamming the glass back to the bar an audible shout came across his right shoulder “that’s one”. Willie looked to his right and saw his buddy Chance. Nodding in recognition of Chance, he slid onto the stool “Pot keep’em coming”. Pot and Chance knew this wasn’t good, something was wrong they just could not figure what. Willie had limited his liquor to one shot per night except on Saturday’s, tonight was Thursday. They also noticed that Sweat Pea had showed up at 9, but left at 9:30 since Willie hadn’t arrived to think of it now, she wore a troubled look as well. Pot and Chance broke their eye lock with each other, when Pot nodded in Willie’s direction indicating that Chance talk to him. Chance put his hand on his friends arm in a compassionate way and Willie turned in his direction. Chance gave Willie an inviting let’s talk look.
“Not tonight”, Willie shouted.
“It’s Thursday ain’t you gotta work tomorrow?” Chance asked.
“Don’t think I’m eva gon’ back dere.”
“What happened, Willie?” probed a now concerned Chance.
Willie slammed his hand to the bar; “Pot my drank!” Pot glanced at Chance, who just shrugged his shoulders.
Pot tried to stall; “Willie you know the rule you must settle your tab, you ova $50.” Willie reached into his left front pocket and pulled out a small knot of cash counting out what he owed. The knot wasn’t a big deal until they noticed all the bills were 20’s, which meant he had well over $500 in his pocket. Willie was the type of guy who would never carry more than 60-80 dollars at one time.
No one said anything; Chance and Pot was hoping Willie would loosen up after another drink or two. Then they wouldn’t have to probe, because Willie would open up like he normally does. After his third drink Willie’s silence was indication of the problem he fell into this time. Willie’s no strange to problems or trouble; that’s how he got then moniker “wrong way”. Once in middle school Willie and two other kids were boosting car stereos chasing fast cash. The alarm went off and the car’s owner ran outside, the trio disbursed and Willie ran right at the car owner with the stereo in his backpack. Also, that same year while playing in Pot Belly’s football league Willie recovered a fumble and began running the wrong way. Everyone shouted, “Wrong way, wrong way”, Willie turned to the crowd and held the ball up as he crossed the goal line. Needless to say they lost the game.
Pot and Chance was still eager to know what was eating away a Willie, even after 3 shots and 4 beers he was still a closed book. The only time he’s been closed like this was when his mother died when he was 14 and he had to go stay with his grandparents. At this rate, they’d never know what’s going on. Willie grabbed a hand full of nuts from the bar and headed through the crowd once more but this time for the bathroom. He passed by RaQuan one of the now corporate types that went to high school with him, now going by Ray.
“Wrong Way, you out so soon?” Ray asked.
“Bathroom run, that’s all”, Willie said shaking his hand.
Ray leaned in and whispered, “I got a job for you, stop by.”
Willie nodded in agreement. Willie did not realize how much worse things were going to get. While sitting in bathroom, he noticed that folded paper he found on the seat of his car that sent him in this down swing. He reached for the paper and it fell out of his pocket on to the cold floor. Ironically, that’s how Willie felt the first time he read it. He began to unfold, once straighten he looks up as a tear rolls down his cheek, Willie reads;
Willie looked up again and thought “that’s it we spent 3 years together and produced the most beautiful little girl. My daughter was hit by a car and she doesn’t tell me. My baby died, and she didn’t tell me. She buried my daughter and she tells me after the fact. Am I not her father?” Willie looks down at the moist paper. His tears of sorrow, turned to tears of pain, and then to tears of anger. Recomposing himself Willie re-folded his letter, fixed his clothes, washed his hands, splashed water on his face, and said to himself “Willie, be smart!” he prepared to leave the bathroom, trying to think happy thoughts.