Thursday, August 25, 2005

Willie Wirehand Seeks Revenge: The Shocking Truth

He tried to kill me.

No, this isn't paranoia. Everyone who's read Gravity's Rainbow knows that electrification grids are part of a vast system of control and that anyone who sees the real truth about this is in mortal danger.

Okay, maybe it is paranoia, but as Delmore Schwartz pointed out, "even paraniods have real enemies."

Enemies like Mr. Willie Wirehand.

This story took place sometime after I had begun to doubt Willie's benevolence, glimpsing the malice beneath his genial mask . . .

My brothers and I lived with our maternal grandparents in a sandstone house that our grandpa had built in the 1930s, before electrification. Wiring, therefore, had to be added later. But they failed to wire the basement.

Our home's basement long remained a pre-modern space inaccessible by night. But as we five boys grew bigger, we required more sleeping room, so my grandma rigged up an extension cord stuck through a crack in the floor. This allowed us to plug in one light bulb.

This bulb dangled from our basement's low ceiling and enabled us to find our beds at night. But that wasn't enough for us boys. Our grandparents had one of those old pre-WWII radios the size of a stove. It had a big speaker in front and a phonograph turntable on top. None of this worked anymore. The only sign that electricity still coursed through its system was a tiny red light that glowed in the darkness like an evil eye.

We moved it to our basement where it could glow in that blackest night.

There was one problem. To see the red light, we had to uplug the bulb before plugging in the radio. In between, we were plunged into profound darkness.

Well, I was always the crazy one, so I volunteered to plug the radio in despite a darkness so deep that I could see neither the plug nor the extension cord even though I held both in my hands.

My first attempt failed.

Although I managed to maneuver the plug's prongs into the extension's outlet, a spark of electricity briefly illuminated the night, and I dropped the two cords in alarm without completing the connection. But we didn't hear them fall to the ground, and I realized that they were linked and hanging somewhere in the darkness before me.

I went groping for them and closed my right hand directly on the bare prongs. A wave of power surged through my body, I saw more light than I had ever seen, and I screamed. Another wave and light. I screamed again. A third time. I screamed and collapsed, breaking the circuit.

Too weak to move, I lay face-down on the dirt floor of our basement and thought that I was dying. My brothers thought that I was already dead.

But I didn't die. Slowly, strength enough returned for me to pull myself up onto a nearby bed, where I lay for some time before recovering enough to stand. Even then, my brothers had to help me outside . . .

At the time, I considered my brush with death a careless, stupid accident. Years later, though, the thought struck me. That was a plug. And what is Willie Wirehand? That's right: a plug. Look at his legs -- they're . . . prongs! Prongs on a plug!

What sort of a plug?

A plug for electrical co-operatives set up by the United States government to bring rural areas still outside of their control into a vast electrification grid. Willie Wirehand is the genial corporate symbol of all that.

A corporate symbol, yes, but also a signifier become signified with a vengeance.

I'd begun to see the truth behind Willie's smiling mask. That's why he tried to kill me.

6 Comments:

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Alistair! said...

Aahhh! Sorry but I laughed. My brother did a similar dumb thing, but as an adult! He decided to put in a new bulb socket in the bathroom but started doing it as evening fell ( this was in winter in England and evening falls fast). I told him to wait until the next day, but he insisted on doing it with the mains still live. I was watching TV when there was a yell, a crash and the rest of the house went dark as the main fuse tripped. Luckily he didn't hurt much but his pride, but he listened to me the next time.

 
At 8:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ask your brother what he thinks of Willie Wirehand. There may be more to this 'accident' than you imagine.

 
At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well i dont know what to think.
I guess first i must say i love Willie, hes on my arm as a tatoo.

I am a lineman and Willie is with me all the time, he doesnt scare me.
Maybe you should some help, see a doctor or two.
If you still have these feelings email me


johnnylineman

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Johnny Lineman, thanks for reading my blog entry on the electrifying Willie Wirehand. If you check some of the blog entries around this one, you'll find more WW stories.

I'm not serious, of course. Mr. Wirehand is great, and while I can't say that I love him, I do like the character a lot -- he goes all the way back to my Ozark childhood experiences in the late 50s / early 60s, to REA Day, to snow cones in hot summers, to all of that.

Hope that you enjoyed reading what was humorously meant.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops the two prongs are never hot unless they are plugged into a live outlett, so maybe you just dreamed that you were in contact with live power

 
At 3:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, that's an interesting point, one that I'd never thought about, despite all these years.

The light didn't come on because the prongs weren't completely plugged into the extension cord that was hanging from the ceiling, but I did get shocked, nearly electrocuted, so I must have competed the circuit somehow even though the radio light did not.

I wonder how that happened.

Aside, of course, from the devious machinations of one Willie Wirehand...

Jeffery Hodges

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