Fresh Willie: Bedtime stories for your inner child from The Mall of Misfit Families.

Hope is family. Family is hope.
That’s why trains go in circles.

Brother Willie has been writing choo-choo train stories for two years now. The first collection of them publishes today. It’s called “Traindancing: Bedtime stories for your inner child from The Mall of Misfit Families.” You can buy it right now – or give it as a gift – at

Here’s my elevator pitch for the book:

Hope is family. If you’re looking for a conservative art, figure out first what it is you want to conserve. “Traindancing” is my answer. For a buck, you can learn or share some important news: Family is hope.

If you’ve followed my maundering on art over the past four years, this book is a trail-marker on my journey:

I am building #MyKindOfBenedy stories, of course, but I’m also deploying the Willie story as a battering ram on settled forms of narrative art.

Translation: I’m making war on the novel, both for its time-wasting verbosity and for its veiled pornography. The stories I want to write should give you a ninety-minute film’s worth or an eight-hour novel’s worth of redemption in one to ten thousand words – six to sixty minutes to read.

The important word in that paragraph is redemption, but we’ll come back to that another day.

For now, savor the wonder that is the mind of Loco Willie:

Everything I’m seeing is making me, more and more, into a loco engineer – a guy just crazy enough to think he can change things. I started out just smiling and waving. But smiling and waving at everyone won me small friendships with the Regulars – with the mall-walkers and the Blue Bellies and the Yellow Jackets. In time I wore down most of the Grotesques – simply by refusing to see them as being grotesque. The Specials are all mine because almost nobody else wants them, and to the unwitting children I am The Pied Piper of Arrowhead – the second time for keeps.

I see the normal in the Grotesques and the grotesque in the Normals – I see it all, over and over again. I see everything in you that is human – and everything that isn’t. I see everything that is broken in the people I see at the mall, and I see everything that can and cannot be fixed.

I told you I’m shaling for better grown-ups, and despite all these grotesqueries, I’ve met some amazing parents at the mall. But the grown-ups I’m most interested in are busy being babies and toddlers for now. That Grandpa is breaking his grandson. The time to heal that damage is now – and never later.

I came here to learn how to close on two-year-olds. Instead, the two-year-olds closed on me. Do you want to see Loco Willie mocking himself? Here I am: The Catcher in the Rye – the second time as farce. Except I don’t want to catch the children before they become ‘phonies’ – which happens long before the teen years, anyway – I want to catch the toddlers and give them – at a minimum – what they may not be getting anywhere else: A good example.

I can’t say anything at all to an alleged grown-up adult training his kid to be an even-worse creep, but I can and do say whatever I want to children – on the train, in the playground, anywhere – and I know I’m having an impact. The Coin Miners want to take your change and the Candy Vandals yearn to take your candy, but I’m taking your kids – if you’re not a very good father – and I’m hanging on to as many of them as I can.

What’s my agenda? Too much I am Jude the Obscure – the second time redeemed, I can hope. And so I’m telling you now for the third time, but I doubt you’ll ever believe me: I’m shaling for better grown-ups, mainly by cultivating them from infancy.

Mock me if you like. I know I will. But this is loco engineering. This is how it’s done.

Buy this book. It’ll make you smile in the end, I promise. Buy it for your kids, too. Loco Willie might meet your grandkids on the choo-choo train, someday, if you do.

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