“His name is Clifton, but we call him Willy.”
And that, my friends, is how I first introduced the new man to my older sister. Why she thought it so amusing, I never understood, but than again, she always tried to act a lot smarter than me.
I mean, the term made perfect sense. Plus he asked me to call him that, and since his last name matched it lyrically, well, there I was.
And so to me, he became Willy Williams.
Dad hired Willy to help us out over the summer. He managed to get a huge contract with the high school to service scores of typewriters belonging to the typing class, along with several other schools from near-by towns, so we were going to need him.
In his early twenties, he acted more like a big clown when dad wasn’t around, so him and me got on pretty well most all of the time.
But right off the bat, he started messing with me and telling tall tales. We each sat at our separate workbenches, stripping down typewriters to ready for cleaning, when I asked him where he lived, and he said over in Lockney.
“You know where that’s at?” And he gave me a quizzical look.
“Yeah,” I said. It was just a little no-amount town not far from here.
“Well, I am famous over there.”
“What for?” He reached for the radio to turn the volume up a little, right as a song ended. He always kept it loud after dad left on his morning service calls, but he motioned toward the song as it trailed off.
“For that song. That’s me that sang it.”
I never liked country music till Willy come around. All he listened to, after dad took off, was KLLL down in Lubbock, so after hearing it awhile it grew on me.
“I never heard that one before.”
“What? You never heard of Hank Williams?”
I couldn’t stand Hank Williams. I listened to him yodel over dad’s car radio for as long as I could remember, and I always hated the nasal sounds he made, but I had never seen the man before either.
“I thought your real name was Clifton.”
Willy shook his head like I was retarded, and he reached for his long screwdriver.
“That’s me alright.” He said, and he gave the screwdriver a twist to pop off a side plate of a Royal, one of the school machines him and me unloaded out of dad’s panel truck an hour ago.
“Can’t use my real name when making records, you know. But the word got out in Lockney somehow.”
I undid the set screws in a platen on my machine and cut him a look of doubt.
He kept a studied eye on the machine, and then looked over at me.
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
I didn’t say anything. He laid the tool down, leaned over and took out his billfold.
“Look, take your bicycle and ride down to Pete’s and ask him for a copy of Honky Tonk Blues.”
He handed me a dollar so I took off flying, glad to get out of the shop.
A half-hour later I handed him a .45 record with the name Hank Williams on both sides, so I believed what he said, even if he wouldn’t sing either one of the songs out loud right then.
“Got to have my band to back me up, don’t you know.”
A milk truck came by every day at eleven, and Willy loved chocolate milk even more than I did. He’d buy a quart, so I would too, but he would always finish his before I was half-done. One day he pitched the empty carton in the trash and looked over at me to where I was chugging away, trying to keep up. When I threw my carton in on top of his, he squinted his eyes.
I burped and nodded.
“Think you could drink another?”
I just shook my head.
“I tell you what.”
He reached for his wallet again, pulled out another dollar, and then handed me a large empty tumbler.
“Go back there and fill this up with water.”
“Go head and you’ll see.”
I returned from the bathroom and set it on his desk. He laid the dollar beside it and looked up at me, all serious.
“If you can drink that glass full of water, I’ll give you this dollar.”
Well, I did it. It took a while, but I managed to choke down the last swallow, and after I did, I reached for the dollar bill. Willy grabbed it, stuck it in his pocket and grinned.
“You drank it empty, so you lose.”