Willie Pete may be the most miserable person I ever met. He went out the same way he lived
The Sad Story of Willie Pete
By Philippe McMurdo
Willie Pete just may be the biggest Misery-Guts I ever knew. He was born in a small town by the name of Matakana in the Western Bay of Plenty, about an hour north of Auckland where vineyards and breweries are about the only thing for a person to get into if they're wanting to settle down. He was a man who took pleasure in absolutely nothing, and nothing could change his mind about it.
As a youngin, Willie's mother, Mrs Emmeline Pete, would encourage him to 'go and play outside'Â when he was down or bored (which was often), but he'd just stand there looking and moan out a whiny "noooo." Tickling ended up being out of question to cheer the boy up as well. He'd want to play chase with his old man alright, but as soon as he'd caught him, he'd say to his dad, "I don't like being tickled under my arm. Not my ribs. I hate horsey-bites. Leave my feet alone!" and he'd end up crying. He wanted nothing special on his birthdays, complained when it was rainy or fine out, and he was that fussy with food that no one, not even Mrs Pete ended up wanting to cook for him. Willie hated drawing, running, reading, and pretty much everything else all together.
I'd met Willie when we were kids at school and he was miserable there too. Nothing could please him, and the constant look of frustration he managed to provoke from the teachers' faces told in no uncertain terms how they felt about him.
This said, Willie wasn't a bad kid. He wasn't rude or disobedient, nor was he any trouble to anyone else for that matter - he kept himself to himself mostly, and being young as I was, I sometimes wondered why it was that everyone always seemed so cheesed-off with him. I wondered this until it dawned on me at his funeral. Willie Pete was an absolute Misery-Guts.
Well, it came to pass one day that old Willie Pete did too, and my boss at the mill was good enough to give me the afternoon off to go and pay my respects. It turns out that Willie had been roped into trying some fancy new restaurant that he hadn't liked the sound of. They'd sat at a table he had no preference for, were served by a waiter who apparently rubbed him up the wrong way, ordered a fish dinner he didn't want and eventually choked to death on a small bone.
Three days later we were all sitting in pews singing "The Old Rugged Cross" to the church organ - an instrument that poor Willie couldn't stand the sound of as he repeatedly told me at baptisms and service when we attended together, "- can't stand the sound o' that blasted thing," he'd lean over and whisper to me amidst glares being shot from peoples' grandmothers, aunties and other relations. Come to think of it, he wasn't too keen on that particular hymn either.
After all the initial rambling, and falsely sympathetic funeral type words had been said by the well-dressed fat bloke getting paid, his Uncle Tom got up to give the eulogy. Shivers I thought to myself, he's got his work cut out for him. I'd never met much of Willie's family save for his mum and his dad, Chester Pete, and I was surprised to say the least that he had quite a spread by the looks of things. Cousins, aunties, uncles, and step-whatevers all occupied the four front rows. They all wore the same miserable expression I saw each day on the face of Willie Pete, and a hunch told me it'd been there long before the funeral.
Uncle Tom Pete made his way to the pulpit in the same kind of melancholy shuffle that Willie used to use when getting about. The resemblance was actually striking. The other thing that struck me was the eulogy itself. To this day I've never heard anything like it.
"'Ello everybody - Otis, Ed, Henry, Aunt Mavis, Aunt Gladys, Uncle John, Uncle Tim, Enid, Flora - glad you could all make it out from Matakana. 'ope th' vineyards alrigh'. Thank you pasta-man for your kind words 'bout Willie, an' Jeff from th' funeral home, we 'ppreciate what you've done t'day.
"Well, I sappose that we di'nt really 'spect to be 'ere so soon arfta' th' passing of Aunty Gwen last month from that accident with th' modabike she di'nt wanna be on, but there we are. Sometimes things jus' hit ya like this I guess.
"What kin we say about Willie then? 'E was a hard man to please, our Willie. Always wantin' somethin' bedda then what 'e had in front of 'im 'n' always tryin' out somethin' else to see if that was it. Goin' for gold in 'is own way was, Willie.
"'E di'nt think much of Matakana when 'e was a boy 'n' we all know 'e 'ad a hard time fittin' in at school arfta th' move. "People a' diff'rent 'ere," 'e would sayda me on th' phone, "and I don't really like 'em too much 'sept for a couple of 'em."
"'E podderd 'round jobs for a bit arfta school an' worked first-of-all for Lyall prunin' trees. Tha' wasn' 'is favouri' job in th' world 'cause 'e di'nt like bein' outdoors mos'ly an' that's where most trees tend ta grow, but it gave 'im a start in th' workforce, I guess. But ya had ta 'and it to 'im, for stickin' it out. Yeah, I was proud of 'im for hangin' in there for so long there, I was. 'Bout a month he committed 'imself towit.
"Well, a coupla months later arfta he'd chucked it in, 'e wen' ta work at that orchid packin' all them apples an' fruit an' things inta bags. We all know Willie wasn' that keen on 'is fruit unless it's already in those pre-cut an' packaged bags so 'e came a bit un-stuck there in the end. 'E really showed what 'e was made of, our Willie, b'fore handin' in 'is notice there though, havin' fin'lly found an int'rest in workin' 'round th' fish in th' aquarium down Marine Parade 'ere.
"Fish is where Willie spent th' rest of 'is life 'round an' it suited 'im to a T it did. See I reckon the old fish 'n' Willie had a bidda somethin' in common, they both got interested in things that were somewhere other than where they were at th' current time. An' they both always went for it too ta see what it was. 'E 'ad a good many years workin' 'round those little fish, an' I reckon he could tell every one of 'em apart even if they were th' same size, colour or shape.
"I was sad to 'ear however, that 'is job there 'ad caused an unexpected side effect in th' man though. See in nature, it strikes me that most things t' do with worta end up bein' a kinda blue in colour, an' as much as Willie loved those fish at th' aquarium down Marine Parade 'ere, it seemed t' make 'im come ta hate th' bloody colour altogetha.
"It'd got to th' point where 'e couldn't even stand a fine day for fear of th' blue sky, an' 'e couldn't hardly talk to any customers with blue eyes. I also think prob'ly this is why he di'nt really wan' ta go to that restaurant sellin' fish in th' firs' place - too many painful reminders of the job that was now contributin' to th' degradation of 'is mental 'ealth. I 'eard 'e was brave enough to tackle a piece of fish non-th'-less an' this is what finally knocked 'im off. Bit of a shame really, t' say the least.
"So, thank you everyone for comin' 'ere t'day an' I 'ope we all remember Willie for th' brave man 'e was."
I looked around the room for a while not sure what to make of what I had just heard, and I was amazed to see people nodding in affirmation of the eulogy as if it were a call to return to all things good and true. Uncle Tom stepped down from the pulpit, and looking every bit as miserable as I ever saw Willie, begun shuffling back to his seat across the room to be met by kisses from the aunties and handshakes from the uncles. He paused momentarily to place a hand on Willie Pete's casket and I suddenly noticed the flower covering that had been made for him resting peacefully on top - it was a grand bouquet of blue tinted delphinium, white roses, all accented with a blue satin ribbon. Poor Willie just couldn't catch a break. He was bound to be just as miserable with his pie in the sky as he ever was down here with us, especially with all that blue in his face.