hot and bloodied, he can't win
|Willy: New Orleans, Louisiana
At eleven, life is often confusing and more often there’s little you can do to change that.
“I gotta get out of this stupid city” Willy thought. Hot, thirsty, bloody and sweaty, he trudged along St. Claude toward home. “Life here is so stupid! Jerks every where you go!” Willy was mad and there were tears streaming down his face, mixed with blood from the scrape above his eye he got when he fell against the curb. Jerry (aka Redman) Brown had snuck up behind him and knocked Willy to the ground just over by the Saenger theater on Rampart. Redman laughed so hard he could barely stop himself from peeing his pants; until Willy got up all bloody. Willy was on fire with anger at that point and the laughter made it even worse. Jerry Brown was a natural born Redbone and was always clowning around. He was fat and short. Willy started swinging wildly at Redman but didn’t connect. Jerry was just a blur through the blood and tears in Willy's eyes. His rage boiled over and he knew he was out of control, helpless, stupid. Willy made odd grunting noises as he swung away, trying to muffle his rage, his sobs and his fear all at once. This made Redman laugh even harder, especially since Willy was so scrawny compared to Jerry “Redman” Brown. Willy did finally manage to clip Redman in the ear and tried to kick him but missed. Quickly Willy was openly sobbing, sweating, breathing in giant gasps. Redman was now bent over in uncontrolled laughter, completely helpless but it didn’t matter because Willy couldn’t hurt him. Jerry was twelve, almost thirteen. The two of them “fighting” drew a small crowd of other kids, a lady dressed in very tight mini skirt and a tank top who kept shouting “hit him! Boy!” and a New Orleans cop. All of the kids (except Willy) were laughing now. They all watched and shouted and laughed for what seemed like an eternity as Willy flailed away at the air making noises between sobs, the kind of noises one makes while having a nightmare, not words really, but muffled shouts and screams. Willy just couldn’t make it stop.
The cop stood with the group secretly hoping Willy would catch Redman with a good punch before he had to break it up. Finally realizing the absurdity of the whole thing, he stepped in; “you boys get yo ass home before I beat you both.” He drawled. Much to Willy’s relief, the kids walked away. Redman slowly walked away with the other kids, all of them laughing loudly and pointing back at Willy. The lady with the mini skirt was talking to the policeman and pointing. Willy ran as far as he could before he nearly passed out from the heat and the exhaustion and the humiliation, then walked slowly toward home.
Willy Pardeaux wasn’t much of a fighter at 11 years old and he blamed his mother for it. She was constantly telling him to stay away from those tough kids, “jus walk away if dey come atchya. Don’ you be one a dos thugs, fightin’all da time.” He knew he would be in trouble when he got home, but it wasn’t his fault, which were his first words when he walked into the kitchen and his momma saw him. “It wasn’t my fault momma! Redman pushed me down on the curb! He’s fat and mean, I hate him! I hate this city!”
Norma-Jean Pardeaux walked over to her boy and gently swabbed his forehead with a cold wet towel. She cleaned the blood and tears from his face and looked carefully at the wound. “Its just a scratch Willy, you be OK.” “Now whad I tell ya bout fightin’!” “Get down on yo knees and thank the lauud you OK, and when you done prayin’ you get yo sef cleaned up, you got blood all ovuh!” “Now I gotta wash clothes again!” Willy got down on his knees and prayed out loud: “thank you Jesus that I be OK. Amen” He then got up and walked into the bathroom to get cleaned up. Norma-Jean prayed silently, felt like she might begin to cry but pulled herself together before Willy came out of the bathroom wearing just his underwear. He handed her his bloody clothes and went back to the bedroom he shared with his little brother Luke to put on a clean T-shirt.
Norma-Jean took the clothes along with a few other things and walked over to the laundromat a block down. In her mind she saw her brother’s face as he lay in the street covered in blood. She quickly dismissed the thought. That was so long ago. But the image wouldn’t go away. Norma-Jean’s heart raced and she suddenly felt weak. Still, she walked briskly and with purpose, her head up high. She had put other clothes on top even though they were clean, so no one could see the bloody ones.
Willy laid down in front of the fan in just a T-shirt and his underwear thinking about the unfairness of it all. He knew his daddy would help him talk about it, his daddy would understand. He couldn’t stop thinking about the incident and began playing out scenarios where he would humiliate Redman, beat him so bad he’d have to leave town. The fan blowing on him eventually cooled him off. “Thank you God for our fan, Amen.” He prayed: and fell asleep.
Rene (Patch) Pardeaux arrived at home at 6:00, just as he did every day, kissed his wife hello and gave her a little squeeze, then walked through the living room; where his son was sound asleep on the couch, to the bedroom to change clothes. He came out and sat on the end of the couch with just a pair of shorts on. It was hot, again, still, always. He lit a cigarette and sighed as he took a long drag. It was the smell of the smoke that brought Willy out of his sleep. That smell meant Daddy was home. Willy opened his eyes and looked at his dad on the end of the couch, a little worried about what might happen. Patch looked back at him for a moment; winked, and said “we gonna go fishin’ tomorrow boy” as he patted Willy on the shoulder. Willy smiled for the first time that day. Nothing more was said.