Short Story #151: You Know Willie by Theodore R. Cogswell

Title:  You Know Willie

Author:  Theodore R. Cogswell


Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great TalesWhen Willie McCracken shoots an African American for running a successful garage that was undercutting McCracken's success, he is put on trial.  Though a formal trial must happen, he is assured that it is all a dog and pony show and he will be found innocent by a jury of his peers.  The two major witnesses are Willie's wife who swears for his alibi and the other was the African American's only living relative, the oldest person in the town and supposed witch.  She claimed to witness McCracken killing but is largely ignored.  After the trial, Willie and his friends of the KKK are celebrating and he explains that he's been scared because the witch woman has been standing outside his window for nearly a week and he knows she's up to something.  He retires to his bed, where his wife is and decides to have sex with her.  As his wife awakens to his advances, she yells and repels him.  He looks at his skin in the dark of night and realizes it's not the same.  He's turned black.  He tries to explain that he's Willie but his wife won't believe him.  He flees into the night as his friends get ropes and guns to go lynch him.  


Another tale of just-desserts.  The racial dynamic is fascinating because having Willie become black while having intercourse with his wife, he immediately embodies what has often been considered the essential threat to white male angst over race.  That is racial purity and the angst over African American males mixing with white women is an obsession for much racial tension.  In becoming what he fears most, he simultaneously reveals that this is a sham fear--an obsession of white domination and nothing more.  

Short Story #151 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/26/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981. 

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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