Wally was a good man. But really, what did we know.

During our third and final summer on duty, our last summer before college, Matt and I got to know Villa Mae’s newest and most visible tenant. Wally was the complex’s very own meet and greet service, which annoyed some but was appreciated by most.  Every morning he’d find his perch atop the stoop of Building D with his already lukewarm coffee, saluting those 8-5’ers with his famous “get paid” battle cry, and welcoming them home hours later while enjoying a Black & Mild, his favorite evening snack.

Wally didn’t have a job, like the others. But he kept himself busy, and took great pride in his work, assuming the role of our boss.

“Fellazz, the hall light in C is out. Go grab the ladder.”

“Fellazz, that railing outside F is wobblin’ and Ms. Debbie is gonna have herself a fit if it’s not fixed. Grab me my gear.”

“Fellazz, grab those brooms and get these butts outta the walkway. The twins like playin’ through here.”

The guy worked us harder than our real boss did, and when we’d make that point to him, he’d come back with the usual “Wally knows best.”  It became an endearing catch phrase used by everyone around Villa Mae, and Wally took it as a token of respect.  He didn’t have family; at least he never spoke of one, and the rumor mill buzzed about his troubles with a bookie in Detroit.  But whatever his past was, he was oblivious to it.  We liked it that way.

On our last day on the job, Wally met us in the leasing office with a pack of Black & Milds.  Before lighting up, we snapped this picture.

“Fellazz, grab that lighter and don’t sweat. This place is in good hands.  Now go get paid.”

Story by Brian Beirne

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