Everyone called him Willy, but when his mum heard that she’d yell like a banshee. “That’s not his name!” she’d scream, again and again, even after we’d all disappeared into whatever woodwork was available.
It’s true, his name wasn’t Willy, but why would a normally sensible sane and normal woman call her son Willy-Nilly?
That’s the question all the adults asked of it. They always muttered behind her back when she called him that in front of anyone, imitated the way she said ‘thees’ instead of ‘this’ and ‘hees’ instead of ‘his’. Apparently, she was a furriner but we’d never seen her wear any.
Did anyone have the courage to actually ask the question?
One person. Me.
I walked up to her front door and knocked.
When she answered, I asked if Willy could come out to play.
Her response was as it usually is: she screamed at me “That’s not his name.”
So I asked her what his name was.
She said “Willy-Nilly.”
“Why?” I asked, feeling as if it was missing something.
“Because that’s his father’s name. William Neely Butshiel. And this one is the same, but Junior, and the family tradition is to say the whole name, not the part name.” She turned to go. “There will be no part-name hooligans in this bloodline, thank you very much.”
Now, me being a kid and all, I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I asked a bigger kid. I asked Syd.
“She’s a blue-blood, me dad says, but come on hard days.”
And that’s all that was said. I mean, kids don’t need to know what things mean, surely. We can pick things up in our own way, make our own deductions about what things mean, and why people say them, can’t we?
And we did.
Willy still got called Willy; his mum got called Batshit Bushell; his dad got called bloody hooligan.
That’s how kids understand.
Unless adults think to consider that kids have an active and productive mind, and can imagine all too well what things are for themselves, these things will always happen.
Us kids, we turned Willy into a proper-speaking gent with the sound of our town, and his mum, eventually, stopped yelling at the world when she heard it.
Mind you, she didn’t much come outta her house anymore. Maybe it was the way everyone stared at her, like she didn’t belong, or was strange.
My mum said she’d come from better digs, had a better life before, and she said the strangest thing: “There but for the Grace of God …”
I didn’t understand that bit, but I’d see my mum leaving a flower or two on the front porch for Willy’s mum sometimes, and she’d wave at the door, even if no one ever came out anymore.
Copyright Cage Dunn 2017