You Want Death? Get A Mouthful

(“Willie the Weirdo”)

Here we have another short story by itself. This one was published in McSweeney’s, which is not a publication I normally buy (because they want to charge $95 for a subscription of four issues, and I cannot do that), but I bought this one on its own specifically for this story — if I weren’t doing this project, I’d have just waited for it to be collected somewhere, as I expect will happen eventually.

To be quite honest, this book is somewhat of a re-tread of “Gramma,” a short story in which an old, bedridden grandmother is a literal witch and apparently transfers her own spirit into her young grandson instead of dying like she’s supposed to. In this case, the young grandson has a death preoccupation to begin with (he likes to watch fireflies die and monitor dead moles to see them get swept into storm drains). And grandpa here is old but not on his deathbed from the jump, so we get to see their relationship. I should really have seen what happens at the end coming because he keeps telling Willie stories that can’t be true — this is set during COVID years, so there’s just no way that gramps was at the battle of Gettysburg. Willie assumes these stories are lies, and I guess that’s why I did too. Until the end, when Willie wants to watch grampa die (because he’s preoccupied with death already) and grandpa… seems to kill off Willie and take over his body. If he’s been doing that trick for a while, maybe he was at Gettysburg.

It’s similar enough to remind you of “Gramma” but not so similar that it’s a complete cop-out. I actually liked this one better — it would make a good Twilight Zone episode or something like that. Assuming we had something like that. It’s very, very, very short — I wouldn’t like to see it stretched into a movie. But it would make a good episode of something.

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