Hello! My name is Willie Willis and I am awful confused.
I don’t know what I Love You means . . . and I don’t know why mommy
would think dead ducks are so terrible one minute and so beautiful the
next . . . and I am really confused about why daddy, who hates alphabet
soup, suddenly thinks its so good. Maybe you can help me figure it out.
You see, Wanda, that’s my baby sitter, writes a letter to her boyfriend
almost every time she sits with me while mommy does what she calls “girl
things,” or when mommy and daddy do what they call “parenting things.”
At the end of the letters she always writes “I LOVE YOU JOE,” She underlines
it and puts a bunch of Xs and Os below the line.” She has such a dreamy
look when she writes it.
Joe is in the Marines, whatever that is . . . they don’t get to see
each other very often. But Wanda says when Joe is back home forever, he
will be a doctor . . . and they will be married and have a family of their
Sometimes I think it is something good . . . other times I just don’t
know. I wrote it on a piece of paper at school and gave it to Mary Ellen
Swank. She just looked kinda dumb when she read it . . . then she showed
it to Miss Primm, our teacher. Miss Primm shook her head like she was disgusted
and I could hear her say: “I guess they start young these days.”
Miss Primm said: “I don’t know what to do with you William . . . maybe
I’d better check with Mr. Bogardus.”
Mr. Bogardus is the principal, he never smiles at anyone . . . I knew
I was in some kind of trouble.
Mr. Bogardus came and talked with Miss Primm in the hall . . . I could
see them looking at the piece of paper. Pretty soon Miss Primm came back
to my desk . . . she told me she would have my mommy come to pick me up
after school that afternoon.
Miss Primm and mommy looked at the note together . . . Mommy told Miss
Primm that she would keep the paper. She told Miss Primm she would take
the matter up with Mr. Willis . . . Mr. Willis is my daddy. His name is
“We will handle it,” mommy told Miss Primm.
After supper that night we all huddled . . . like in football . . .
in the family room . . . mommy and daddy hugged me a lot and told me they
were not mad at me. We looked at the note . . . mommy and daddy said it
was all right for me to love them and God and several other people . .
. but I shouldn’t write that to little girls.
I asked if they would throw Spider in on the deal and they said they
would. I didn’t want to leave Spider out . . . he’s the best dog in the
They asked me if I understood, and I said I did . . . I knew I was in
a pretty tight spot. I had broken a table lamp the day before when I bulldogged
Spider in the living room. But I didn’t understand then . . . I still don’t.
Sometimes I think it is something really good and sometimes I think it
is something bad . . . most of the time I just don’t know what it is all
about . . . but writing it is fun.
Everything went pretty good the rest of the week. The duck-hunting season
opened on Saturday. Daddy went hunting before daylight. He was supposed
to be home by noon to take care of me while mommy went to her monthly bridge
I could see that mommy was getting a little upset when daddy didn’t
get home at noon. She got more upsetter when he wasn’t here at 1:30.
Mommy said she was supposed to be at bridge club at 2 p.m. She fixed
her hair and got all ready to go. But at 1:45 daddy still wasn’t home.
Mommy tried to call Wanda to see if she could sit me for a couple of hours.
But Wanda wasn’t home either.
I told mommy if she would take me with her, I would be “on my best behavior,”
like she always tells me to be. But mommy said: “No! I don’t think that
would work out!”
I guess she remembered the last time she took me and I bloodied Ronald
Mommy called Mrs. Snoddy about 2:15 and told her that she would
not be able to play bridge due to circumsomething beyond her control. She
hung up the phone, then threw it on the floor.
By this time I knew it was not one of the “happy times” mommy and daddy
talk about. I took Spider out in the back yard to play.
It was almost dark when daddy pulled into the driveway and unloaded
his shotgun, boots, hunting coat and other stuff in the enclosed back porch
that mommy and daddy call the mud room.
“Come and see what I got,” daddy said to me. He pulled two big ducks
out of his hunting coat.
Holding the ducks by their feet, daddy went into the kitchen, where
mommy was washing the dishes we had used at lunch.
Daddy held the ducks up high and said to mommy: “Look at these beauties,
honey . . . they’re mallards.”
“Mallards! Schmallards!” mommy yelled. I think she was crying. She ran
into the bedroom and slammed the door, and I thought I heard the lock on
the door click. It sure didn’t seem like a happy time.
Daddy had a funny look on his face . . . kinda like Spider looked when
he wolfed down half of the peanut butter- jelly sandwich that was supposed
to be part of my lunch, and I made him go to the mud room.
Daddy went to the family room and was watching the evening news on TV.
When the news was over he turned the TV off and picked up the newspaper.
Everything was quiet. I thought about playing ball with Spider, but
it didn’t seem like a good time to be “rowdy,” like mommy and daddy say
I am sometimes. So I just sat there on the floor scratching Spider’s ears
. . . he went to sleep.
A little while later daddy went to the bedroom door and lightly pecked
“Shave and a Haircut . . .Two Bits” real soft like with his knuckles on
Then real low he said: “I’m sorry I was so late and you missed your
bridge club, honey . . . the birds didn’t start coming in until late in
the afternoon . . . got anything to eat? I’m hungry as a barracuda.”
Mommy didn’t say anything. Pretty soon daddy went back to the living
room to read the paper some more.
In a few minutes mommy came out of the bedroom and went to the kitchen
without saying anything. I could hear dishes rattling . . . pretty soon
she went back into the bedroom without saying anything except “soup’s on!”
like she wasn’t talking to anyone.
Daddy and I both went to the kitchen. There on the table was a cup of
leftover alphabet soup for me and a bowl for daddy. That looked great to
me . . . I hadn’t had anything to eat but a couple of cookies since lunch
. . . I wondered about daddy. I knew he didn’t like alphabet soup.
I finished my soup right away and had several crackers. But daddy just
shook his head and said: “I don’t think I can handle this . . . what I
need is something I can hide a molar in.” He left his bowl of soup and
went back to read the paper again.
I was still hungry so I slid over into daddy’s chair and started on
his soup . . . the alphabets were swimming around in the bowl and I got
to thinking if I could practice writing it with the alphabets. I dipped
them out with my spoon and put them on the plate. I couldn’t find a “V,”
but I made one from half of a “W” and it didn’t look bad. Pretty soon I
had “I LOVe YoU” written out on the plate and that made me feel good .
. . I finished the soup and gave Spider a cracker or two.
Daddy was still reading the paper so Spider and me went back to the
family room. We were playing on the floor.
Pretty soon mommy went back in the kitchen . . . I thought she probably
was cleaning off the table and putting the dishes in the dishwasher.
The dishes rattled a little and then things got quiet again. Pretty
soon mommy was standing by daddy’s chair and hugging him.
“You’re so clever, Rod,” mommy said to daddy. “I love you so much .
. . your ducks are beautiful.”
Mommy told daddy that Sylvia Snoddy has a great recipe for roast duck
with wild rice stuffing. She said she would get the recipe and fix daddy’s
ducks for Sunday dinner. Daddy had a dumb look on his face and didn’t say
anything for a while. Then he told mommy again that he was sorry she missed
her bridge club.
“Tell you what,” daddy said to mommy, “I hear the Legion has a great
sirloin dinner special this week . . . why don’t you call Wanda to
take care of Willie and we’ll run down there for a while . . . then maybe
catch a movie, huh?”
Daddy told mommy he would finish putting the dishes in the dishwasher
while she called Wanda and got ready to go.
I followed daddy to the kitchen
Daddy picked up his plate and saw the alphabets I had put there.
He just stood there looking at the alphabets on the plate for a while
. . .then he sorta smiled and punched me in the ribs with his thumb and
said: “Son-of-a-gun . . . Good work, Bud.”
I guess I did something good. He always calls me Bud when I am good.
Mommy and daddy had their coats on . . . they were ready to leave when
Wanda rang the front door bell. They were walking out as Wanda walked in.
Mommy told Wanda that I might need something to eat before bedtime .
. . that I hadn’t had anything but a little cup of soup for supper.
Daddy was standing behind mommy shaking his head no to Wanda.
“Like your soup, Sweet?” mommy said to daddy. “Best bowl of soup I ever
had,” daddy said, as he closed the door.
I didn’t understand that, either. He hadn’t even tasted his soup.