Like many brilliant schemes, it was an idea born of necessity. At
least, that's the story police got when they arrived at the apartment of Willard Grenshaw, college freshman and, from the look of things, resident psychotic. Terrified neighbors had called 911, certain he'd
killed one or more of the eight co-eds whose screams had echoed through the building's hall. No homicides were discovered, but, judging by the crime scene, something very strange was going on.
According to Willard's statement, it all started with a simple cash-flow problem. Since he'd started college, it was what he missed
more than anything. Just a few weeks into his freshman year, he discovered one of life's harsher
realities: that higher education usually meant lower finances. It wasn't fair. In a place where luscious
co-eds were coming out of the woodwork, there was nothing in Willard's pockets but lint. The cost of
his textbooks alone could have funded a mid-sized metropolis, surely a signpost of the four long years of poverty ahead. With no cash, how was he supposed to maintain his desired curriculum:
Babeland 101? No money meant no honeys, so it was time to get a plan.
For Willard, that plan didn't include typical student occupations like flipping burgers,
stocking the school library shelves or mowing endless miles of campus sod. It was a cash cow he wanted, something quick and easy that required little effort and guaranteed high returns. A pipe
dream? More like a pipe scheme, especially after he saw the TV documentary that changed his life and transformed Willard the freshman into Willard the entrepreneur. It was a program about a sperm bank.
It was on the Student Union television, the one that nobody watched and could barely be heard over the blaring video games. Glancing up from his second round of Mortal Kombat, Willard happened to
glimpse the flickering screen....and the film footage of women descending in droves on a local sperm bank. Women of the twenty-first century had choices, the narrator said. One of them was deciding not
only when to have a child, but how. If a match made in heaven wasn't in their future, one made in a petri dish would do just as well. Sperm banks were the wave of the future - a way for women to go
from 'ovulate' to 'procreate' in one simple procedure.
Willard was inspired. The newspapers were full of stories about couples using surrogate
mothers, donor dads, close encounters of the test-tube kind. The cost of these alternative fertilization methods was so astronomical, only the very wealthy could afford them. But what about the rest of
the world's mom wannabes? It was a question that spawned Willard's brilliant idea. He'd start his own sperm bank! An amazing idea, as far as he was concerned, and absolutely fool-proof. It was easy
since he had plenty of his own natural resources, and it something he could do in his spare time. Something he already did most of the time, only now he could funnel the product into big cash earnings.
Promoting his product would be the important part, a business principle he'd learned from his Intro Marketing class. It should be visually appealing, user friendly, and presented in a way that consumers
found inviting. A catchy slogan or product name would help, too - something that stuck in the customer's mind. After much deliberation - and three beers, Willard decided to call his product "Chilly
Willie's". It made sense, especially since the sperm had to maintain a certain low temperature, and it was certainly Willie's he was offering.
To keep the cost of overhead down, discarded yogurt cups were scavenged from the campus cafeterias. One cup per package, he figured, along with a plastic turkey baster and instruction sheet
printed on his own computer. He'd decided to include home delivery in the $29.95 price point, a consumer-friendly courtesy intended to increase his clientele. There was even a company slogan:
"Chilly Willie's: fast, fresh and fertile." Who could resist such homespun service? He was going to make a killing.
The first order of business had been obtaining his inventory. It took longer than Willard expected, in spite of a stack of 'inspirational' magazines and the strong callused hands of a true solo artist. Thirty
yogurt cups later, he was raw, depleted, but determined. With his product stacked in neat rows on the refrigerator shelves, Chilly Willie's was open for business.
After a modest promotional campaign that included flyers posted in fertility clinic bathrooms and a small ad in a regional Lesbian newspaper, orders began to trickle in. By the end of the month, forty
customers had opted to sow Chilly Willie's, and Willard had developed a painful limp. Keeping up his inventory was not the lark he'd expected.
On the plus side, he finally had money in his pocket and a girlfriend on his arm. He'd met her in the campus cafeteria. Rhonda was a lithe brunette, an ecological activist and the kind of vegetarian who
believed an occasional glass of moo juice to wash down her alfalfa sprouts was perfectly acceptable. Spotting Willard on one of his scavenging forays, she approached him with an evangelist's fervor. Any
guy toting twenty cups of dairy products through a crowd of meat-eating jocks had to be a special kind of person. She was intrigued; Willard was enchanted. More than merely cute, the girl was
packaged in such a shapely, consumer-friendly way he couldn't resist. Within a week they were living together.
From the outset, Willard saw no need to disclose the nature of his home business. No point in sharing too much information - especially since he didn't know how she'd react. Did women consider it
cheating if he shared himself, even if the other party was far removed? Since he wasn't sure, one month passed, then three, and then enough time to make disclosure impossible.
So while Rhonda made him lentil loaves and poured out shooters of wheat grass juice, he remained mum. Just the thing for vitamin deficiencies, she told him, offering a glass. Exactly what he needed to
boost his energy. It was her tactful way of telling him to get with the program. He'd been more tired than usual lately and had the intimate stamina of roadkill.
What she didn't know was that, thanks to word of mouth and the coming holidays,
the demand for Chilly Willie's was increasing. The Easter season made potential customers
sentimental, it seemed. Why wait for the Easter Bunny to bring the eggs? For $29.95, Chilly Willie's even delivered! Orders came flying in. Even with double wheat grass shots, it was tough to keep up
Which is why Willard found himself in the local police station, being fingerprinted for multiple counts of assault, battery and a host of other charges that he claimed weren't his fault.
It was simply business....and one brief moment when he'd gone berserk. Not hard to do when he came home to find his girlfriend and seven of her closest friends in the midst of an 'organic
spa' party. Instead of the usual facials and manicures, they'd decided to concoct some natural
beauty products with non-toxic ingredients. The goop in their hair was mayonnaise, a homemade
conditioner that guaranteed thick, lustrous locks. Sea salt and vinegar rubbed across elbows and toes
exfoliated dry skin, while fingertips soaked in bowls of lemon juice produced smooth white nails.
Willard figured it was another version of those goofy female rituals men never understand. Since the combined odors of mayo, vinegar and who knew what else was putrid, he decided to sequester himself
in the bedroom, away from this giggling tribe. Shouldering past them toward the refrigerator, he intended to grab a cold beer. His shouts that followed were purely reflex, and only after he saw the
empty yogurt cups - at least thirty of them- upended in the trash. His inventory destroyed? Had Rhonda lost her mind?
"Yogurt facials!" she told him, blinking through the slimy sheen. There was a thick coat of it on her
face....on all their faces. "All those natural amino acids plump up the skin better than collagen!"
Later, Willard would tell police that he didn't remember doing it. That he wasn't sure whether it was those eight shiny faces, or the thought of his inventory gone to.....well, seed, that made him snap. Just
that morning he'd received ten more orders and now what?
It might have been the mayo jar that went first, but nobody could say for sure. Hard to tell when
everything was suddenly airborne - bowls, plates, and a blender that spewed pureed cucumber slop across the walls, through the window and down three flights. The chairs came next, followed by the
kitchen table, overturned with the strength that comes from rage-fueled mania. Drywall crumpled like
paper as Willard tore through the apartment. Slipping and skidding through a shattered vat of oatmeal and honey (a pore-tightening skin moisturizer) the girls struggled to escape. By the time the cops
showed up, the neighbors were terrified, the apartment was trashed, and a spent and sobbing Willard hunched over what remained of the food fight from Hell.
At the police station, the arresting officers were philosophical. People suffered business setbacks all the time, they told Willard. All he needed was a chance to regroup. Some time off, a little bit of focus
and a lot of contemplation would put things in the proper perspective. Chances were good that in three months, he'd be able to recoup his losses. Which, coincidentally, was exactly how long he'd be a
guest of the county correctional department. Limping off to the lock-up, Willard said nothing. He was thinking about those orange jumpsuits, the ones they issued to all the prisoners. He hoped it would
be environmentally correct cotton, something soft and roomy, .... something that wouldn't chafe.
Copyright 2001 by Gina Gallo
Visit Gina's website at www.gallostories.com
Gina's new book, ARMED AND DANGEROUS: MEMOIRS OF A CHICAGO COP
(Forge Books) has just been released.Copyright © 2001 by Gina Gallo - www.gallostories.com
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