ویلی چاق

مجموعه: کتاب های پیشرفته / کتاب: رنگ های اولیه / درس 5

ویلی چاق

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Chapter 4 Fat Willie

Two days later Randy Culligan’s letter appeared in almost all of the newspapers in America. After that, the Cashmere McLeod scandal was not such a big problem for us.

A few days after Cashmere McLeod’s television show, I was back in my office in Mammoth Falls. I was getting ready to fly to California for a Democratic meeting in Los Angeles and I had a lot to do. My mother and father lived in Los Angeles, and I wanted to have time to visit them.

One of Stanton’s campaign workers opened the door and said, “Henry, there’s a large black gentleman named Mr. McCollister here. He says he wants to talk with you.”

“What does he want?”

“He won’t tell me. But he says he’ll kick down the door if you don’t see him right now.”

When McCollister came in I recognized him immediately. He was Fat Willie. He owned the Governor’s favorite restaurant in Mammoth Falls. I had eaten there many times and I had met Fat Willie’s wife and his pretty teenage daughter. Today, he looked worried.

“What can I do for you, Mr. McCollister?” I asked.

“It’s about my daughter Loretta . . .”

“Yes?”

“She’s going to have a baby and she says Jack Stanton is the father.”

I couldn’t talk to Stanton on the airplane to California because Susan was sitting next to him. He was in a good mood during the flight. He sang songs, told jokes, and cheated at cards while I worried. We had real problems if Jack Stanton was the father of that baby. I didn’t understand why Willie had told me about it. I supposed it was because I was black like him.

My mother and father were waiting when we landed at Santa Monica Airport in Los Angeles. I introduced them to Stanton.

“Your son is the best,” he said.

When we were in the airport building, I followed Stanton into the men’s room.

“Governor,” I said when we were alone.

“They’re great,” said Stanton. “Your parents are just great!” “Governor.”

“What is it?” He could see that I was worried.

“Fat Willie came to my office this morning. His daughter is going to have a baby. She says that you’re the father.” He turned and hit the wall. “I just don’t have any luck, do I?” he said. “Will Fat Willie tell the press?” “I don’t know.”

“I just don’t have any luck.”

The Democratic meeting in Los Angeles did not go well. Most of the people who came seemed more interested in their clothes than in Stanton. Stanton didn’t seem to care. He didn’t shake many hands that night.

We flew from Los Angeles to New Hampshire. It felt cold after California, so cold that it hurt. I went to the hotel and slept. In the late afternoon, Stanton knocked on my door.

“Okay, Henry,” he said. “We’ve got to call Willie. You make sure no one comes in while I’m talking. Where’s Susan?” “Meeting with some people at a hospital.” “Good.” He sat down and picked up the telephone. “Willie?” he said into the phone. “How are things? . . . Look, I know this must be just awful for you. We’re old friends Willie and I’m going to help you . . . No Willie, I am not the father . . . Well, she’s a teenager. You know how teenagers are. I’ll be back in Mammoth Falls next week and we’ll talk then.”

He hung up and stared at the wall.

The last debate in New Hampshire was held just a few days before the New Hampshire primary election. I watched it on television.

Stanton did well until the end when somebody asked, “What do you think the American people want from a President?” One of the other politicians in the debate, Lawrence Harris, looked at Stanton and said, “I think the American people want someone honest. Governor Stanton is intelligent and kind. But is a man who has to fight off scandals the best man the Democrats have? I don’t think he is.”

The New Hampshire primary election was on February 17th.

Lawrence Harris won, but Stanton got a lot of votes. We all flew back to Mammoth Falls feeling very tired.

Early the next morning, Stanton knocked on the door of my apartment. “Wake up, Henry! Wake up! We’re going for a drive to Grace Junction.”

“Why are we going to Grace Junction?”

“My mother lives there. We’ll visit her and we’ll see the countryside. Come on!”

When we got into Stanton’s car, Uncle Charlie was sitting in the back. We drove south for about thirty miles, then turned west onto a smaller road. When we were about ten miles from Grace Junction, Stanton said, “Henry, I want you to visit my mother while I go over to Doctor Hastings’ office for a blood test.” “Why are you getting a blood test?” I asked. “Is it because of Fat Willie’s daughter?”

“Yeah. I want to prove that I’m not the father of her baby.” Stanton drove up to a small house and got out of the car. His mother came out and shouted, “Hooray! Hooray! You did great in New Hampshire.”

“We did okay in New Hampshire, Momma,” said Stanton.

“We didn’t win.”

“You’re going to win the big one,” she said. “My boy is going to be the next President of the United States!” “Momma, I’ve got to go see Doctor Hastings,” said Stanton.

“Uncle Charlie and Henry will stay here with you.” “I’ll come with you, Governor,” said Uncle Charlie. “I have some business with Jerry Conway He lives near Doctor Hastings.”

When Jack and Uncle Charlie were gone, Momma Stanton and I went inside.

“Do you have any pictures of Jack’s father?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. She showed me an old photograph of a young man in a soldier’s uniform.

“What was he like?”

“Oh, he was wonderful. Will Stanton was wonderful. We met during World War Two when I went up to Kansas City to visit Jack’s Uncle Charlie. We fell madly in love and got married the next week. Then he and Charlie went off to the war. Jack was born after his father was killed in the Pacific War at Iwo Jima.” ♦

Half an hour later Stanton returned.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll take you and Momma to lunch at the Florida Restaurant.”

“Where’s Uncle Charlie?” I asked.

“Oh,” laughed Stanton. “He’s still arguing with Jerry Conway.” “Governor” I whispered so that Momma couldn’t hear. “Did you get the blood test?”

“Yes,” he said, “but we won’t have the results for a few weeks.

Don’t worry Henry, I’m not the father of that baby.” I wanted to believe him.

“Listen, Henry,” he said as he put his hand on my shoulder. “I want you and Howard to go and talk to Fat Willie about this tomorrow.”

“Why do I have to go? Why can’t Howard do it alone?” “Because Fat Willie went to you. He didn’t talk to anybody else.

He went to you. Now, I want you and Howard to make him understand that I am not the father. Make him understand that his daughter made a mistake. I want you to frighten him a little.” ♦

The next morning Howard came to my office. Together we walked to his car.

“You drive,” he said.

We found Fat Willie outside his restaurant cleaning some tables and chairs. He smiled when he saw me, but he stopped smiling when he saw Howard.

“Morning,” he said nervously.

“Willie,” I said. “This is Howard Ferguson. He works for Governor Stanton too. Could we sit and talk to you for a minute?” “Sure,” said Willie. “Do you want anything? Coffee?” “No thanks,” I said.

We sat down at one of the tables.

“Mr. McCollister,” said Howard. “Governor Stanton is very worried about what people will say if they think he is the father of your daughter’s baby. The Governor has enemies who might use this story against him. He wants your daughter to think about who the real father is. Your daughter is a teenager, Mr. McCollister. Sometimes teenagers say things that aren’t true.” Fat Willie looked at me. He wanted me to say something, but I didn’t. Instead, I looked down at the table.

“Now,” said Howard. “Has your daughter told any of her friends about this?”

“No,” said Fat Willie. “I told her not to.” “Good. Remember, the Governor is your friend. He is going to help you and your daughter, but you must not say anything to anybody. Do you understand?”

Again Fat Willie looked at me, and again I looked away.

“Thank you for your time,” said Howard.

Howard and I stood up and got in the car. I felt sick.

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