Willy Privette learns how to fly

By: By Leon Smith - Contributing columnist

Willy Privette was limping toward the jail, the only place he could sit down at a table to eat, and the only place he could lie down to sleep in peace, if he could stand being cooped up that long. Willy was a real man; his story is true, even though I have changed the names, told it from his point of view, and have interpreted only an event or two.

“If you think it’s a jungle in town,” Willy said, “you ain’t lived in the woods, where you get your shoes stole, and have to walk barefooted over rocks and sticks and pine cones, and asphalt as hot as a frying pan and concrete that files the skin off your toes.”

“But I’m headed to the jail to get me a pair of shoes. Officers throw inmate flip flops away, but ‘Merica knows where they put ‘em, and he’ll give me a pair.”

“When I’m in my cell, every time I sober up, he wants to buy me a meal, but food don’t matter too much when you got a bottle of hooch, so I just find one and drink my supper. But he knows I don’t mean no harm. I’m just a drunk who lives in the woods, who looks sober most of the time, but if they was to breathalyze me, I’d probably blow a .50. Naw, not that much. But I can hold my booze. That’s one thing I can do.”

“That officer is a big old guy, and tall like Captain ‘Merica, so that’s what I call him. He’s had his hard times too. Like when his wife got a case of the red comb and started stepping with his best officer buddy. When the news got out, his bosses got scared that ‘Merica’ would shoot both of ‘em.”

“So they sent him to the shrink. The shrink told ‘Merica he could tell him the truth because shrinks have to keep things like that on the QT. But ‘Merica started feeding him lies, and waited to see how long it would take the shrink to squeal. It didn’t take long.”

“Next meeting he tells the shrink, ‘I made every bit of that up, it was all a lie, and I haven’t told a soul but you. Wasn’t 30 minutes before my boss got me on the phone and crawled me for every single thing I told you. Now you better tell ‘em ‘Merica is clear to come back to work.’”

“Shrink said he couldn’t do that. But ‘Merica says ‘I got a records of everything I told you, and everything I got yelled at for— the day and the hour. So if you don’t turn me loose, I’ll turn you in to your board and you’ll be out of business.’ So the shrink cleared him to go back to work.”

“He was back to work , but he’s still hurting real bad, so he gets shower shoes for other folks in trouble. Every time I get sober, he tells me, ‘Willy, you don’ have to be a bum. Quit crawling in the dirt and fly. If you’re smart enough to blow a .28 and still walk straight, you’re smart enough to give up drinking, go to school, and get you your own apartment, and get you a job.’”

“I want to change — when I’m drunk — but when I’m not I just want to get drunk again, but not enough to get the DT’s. When I decided to go straight, I‘d been on a two-week bender, and decided to quit cold turkey. But when the red-eyed men showed up with their shotguns, I flew off toward the jail. They kept shooting buckshot at me.”

“Eight pellets a shot, and every one like fire. I knew it wasn’t real, but they kept laughing and shooting them six-shot twelve-gauges. ‘Bang Bang bang bang bang bang’. ‘Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh.’ I tried to run but I couldn’t get away. I screamed and ‘Merica ran in the cell and grabbed me, and called for the nurse. Said there was blood on the wall.”

“The nurse came, and an EMT. ‘Help me,’ I said. ‘Oh, oh,’ I yelled. ‘They’re shooting me. They’re shooting me.’”

“’Just be calm,’” she said to me. “’Nobody’s going to hurt you.’” “’Yeah. It’s all in your mind,’ said the EMT.” “No,” I screamed. They shot me again, and again. I yelled, they laughed, and shot me some more. ‘Merica started talking to me in my ear, real soft.”

“’I know they’re shooting you, Willy, and I can stop it. I’m an officer of the law; got a badge and a gun. If you let me, I can I tell them to get out of here, or I’ll arrest you in the name of the law. And they’ll have to go.’”

“Tell em; tell em…”

“When ‘Merica talked to them that way, them red-eyes threw down their guns and ran.”

“I quit screaming and banging my head. The nurse and the EMT looked at me and scratched their heads. ‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,’ the nurse said. The EMT said ‘Me neither,’ then he bandaged my head. ‘Merica closed his eyes and shook his head, then he put his arm around me. I went to sleep.”

“After that I sorta adopted ‘Merica as my daddy. So one day I threw down my bottle and said. ‘This is it. I’m gonna’ get me some help, get me a GED and get me a job.’ And I did. And I got my apartment, too. All I need is a pair of shoes.”

Willy smiled as he walked into the jail, then came back out wearing a pair of shower shoes. “Merica is so proud of me. He said it too: “Willy, you flying now.”

“The very next morning,” Willy said, “I got up and headed for work at the warehouse. I was looking at blue sky and whistling so, I never even saw the city bus bearing down on me. When it hit me and I started flying, I thought I’d go down after while, but I went up, up, up so I could see the bus from up in the sky. I knew I was dying, and the shotgun boys were coming to take me where they came from. But they never came, so I just kept flying up. If I fly far enough, I might even get to where my other Daddy lives.”

“When they told ‘Merica’ what happened to me, he teared up, then he said, ‘That Willy Privette sure did fly.’”

By Leon Smith

Contributing columnist