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GWillie (1984)

GWillie (1984)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1984). GWillie. Unpublished short story.

I wrote this as-yet unpublished story while I was a graduate student at George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Floyd Dennis, my major professor, loved it.






By Dallas Denny


It looked like it was going to rain, but that was okay because GWillie had made sure I wore a raincoat and carried an umbrella. Heavy warm raindrops were starting to fall as I went into the supermarket. GWillie made me take a cart, even though I was tired and didn’t really want to shop, and as I went up the aisles filling the cart with groceries, he made me put a lot of stuff back and get foods I don’t like or that I’ll have to cook. Gwillie always says things like, “Gee, Willie, don’t you think you should get some fresh fruit and vegetables? How about some nice broccoli?” or “Gee, Willie, that’s an awfully large bag of candy. Why don’t you look for a smaller bag?” or “Gee, Willie, that cheese is expensive. Let’s try some of that processed spread instead.” or “Hey, Willie, don’t forget to get a loaf of bread for your lunch sandwiches.”

GWillie is always telling me what to do. I usually do what he says, because he’s awfully smart. He tells me he “makes suggestions.” “I merely point out socially acceptable alternatives to decisions which may not be in your best interest, Willie. I’m like a big brother.” GWillie is like a brother in a way—a nice brother who is always there when I need him. He has saved my life three times. But even though he keeps quiet most of the time, I know he’s there at private moments, in my head. And that makes me hate GWillie, sometimes.

I remember how it was before I got GWillie. I was bad a lot. I hit old Mr. Smith at the sheltered workshop with a broom and broke his arm and went to jail. I wasn’t sorry. Mr. Smith was always yelling at me. He still yells, but GWillie won’t let me hit him. GWillie tells me what to say to Mr. Smith to make him stop yelling. I listen good to GWillie because like I said, he’s very smart. And he’s usually nice. He helps me write things down, like grocery lists, and letters to my mother and to my sister. He tells me how much to pay when I buy something, and makes sure nobody cheats me. “Gee, Willie, didn’t you give him a twenty dollar bill? I think you should remind him. Say something like ‘Mister, I gave you twenty dollars. Don’t you owe me some change?’”

[Gee, Willie, it’s suppertime. Don’t you think you should start cooking something? You really should eat those pork chops before they go bad. You could fix some rice to go with them.].

I got GWillie in the hospital. I went there from the jail, where they took me after I hit old Mr. Smith. The day before I went to the hospital two policemen took me to a courtroom, where a man in robes signed some papers. At the hospital there were a lot of pretty nurses and real nice doctors, and they were all nice to me. A nurse named Betty shaved my head. She let me look in the mirror. I sure looked funny!

When I woke up after the operation, I had GWillie with me. A nice man explained to me that GWillie would be with me always, helping me every day in many ways. He told me GWillie would be just a voice in my head, but that I must always do what he said. Of course, the man didn’t call GWillie GWillie. He called him “an electro-biological implant with a resident decision-making program.” I made the name GWillie up, and GWillie liked it.

\Usually GWillie just talks to me. He’s always trying to teach me things, too. Now I can do things I couldn’t do before I got GWillie, like threading needles and sewing clothes, and cooking on a stove, and writing. GWillie says he is a “prosthetic device” and that he “enhances my inherent humanity.” He claims he is a part of me now, and will always be around to help me. I’m glad, because I like GWillie, most of the time.

Once a month a man comes with a briefcase with a computer in it and checks GWillie. GWillie tells me nothing will ever go wrong with him, but the man checks him anyway. I don’t like the man much, but GWillie tells me to be polite, and once he made me give the man milk and cookies.

[Willie, that dish isn’t clean. You’d better wash it again. And please add some more detergent to the water. The suds are all gone.]

GWillie doesn’t really make me do things, at least most of the time. He just pesters me into doing them. The times he saved my life, though, he did make me do things. My arms and legs moved even though I didn’t want them to. It was scary. Two of the times I was about to get hit by a car.

The other time was a long time ago, when I first got GWillie. It was Saturday night, and I was walking around. I was in a part of town where I never go, but GWillie had said it was all right, that he would remember the way home for me. Then, suddenly, when I turned a corner, the buildings were big and old, with a lot of broken windows, and there was garbage in the streets. There were a lot of men sitting on steps, drinking from brown paper bags. I was walking, walking, and then I saw a really pretty girl standing in a doorway. She smiled at me. I smiled back. She talked to me, and I told her my name was Willie. She was so nice, and so friendly. She said I should come up to her so we could talk. She was awfully pretty. I asked her if she would be my girlfriend, and she said she would, if I would just come up and talk to her. I went into the building. She started up some steps, still smiling. All this while GWillie had been telling me, getting louder and louder, “You’d better hurry home, Willie. It’s almost nine o’clock.” and “Gee, Willie, don’t you think you shouldn’t talk to strangers?” I was trying not to listen to GWillie, but when I went in the building he got really loud and said, “Willie! You’re in trouble! Willie! You must leave immediately! Willie! Call a policeman!”

When I was about halfway up the steps, I saw a man above me. He smiled at me and motioned for me to come on up, but he didn’t look like a friendly man. I still wanted to go on up the stairs, but GWillie, who was screaming in my head, wouldn’t let me. He just froze me up. I couldn’t move a muscle. The girl kept smiling, and I wanted to smile back, but I couldn’t. All of a sudden, the mean-looking man started running down the stairs toward me. He had a knife in his hand.

GWillie ran all the way home. It wasn’t me. It was GWillie. It wasn’t me. I was scared, but not because of the knife. I was afraid of GWillie. I’m still afraid of GWillie. I like him all right, but he scares me. What if he hadn’t let go? What if he made me move all the time and wouldn’t let go? Who would ever know?

I was mad at GWillie for a long, long time. She was real pretty.