By: William C. Blome
I’ll talk up to a point about Mr. Wentworth, and then I’m going to pull up lame and go no further. It’s not that I have personal stakes of any kind in this race, so to speak, and nothing so wells up within me that I’m emotionally crippled from going beyond a certain place in my communication—no, no crap of that sort—but I am willing to do quite a bit to defend the abstract and vital notion of stubbornness in a narrator.
Okay, that said, many people in Baltimore have always known about Mr. Wentworth, and many of them label him a baby. Of course I can understand it’s hard for folks who directly see and hear him goo-goo-goo-ing as he goes about his daily affairs to disbelieve he is a baby, but apparently, there may be some safety in numbers, because when a newspaper here months ago ran an article about grown men in America with a restrictive and infantile speech pattern a lot like Mr. Wentworth’s, in follow-up local TV coverage, no roving reporter was able to interview a single person who would make a spontaneous connection between the article they had read and Baltimore’s own Mr. Wentworth.
As far as I know, no one has ever challenged or confronted Mr. Wentworth about his toddler-like word stock. To the city’s credit, people have been content to allow the man to pursue his life and profession (he’s a cobbler with a shop on the first floor of his home in the Mondawmin area) without interference from even the obsessively-curious among us. It’s been live-and-let-live up to recently, but things began to change—shit started to hit the fan—when supposedly reliable word said that Mr. Wentworth had put his fetching, underage, and part-time apprentice in a family way. Folks say the sweet girl’s gone balloon-like, that her family’s whiffed her out of town to wait out her pregnancy in seclusion somewhere else, and that shoemaker-baby Styles Wentworth is the man to blame. I can relate that I myself started to witness the traditional, unspoken sympathy toward him morphing into public scorn.
Yet it also seems to me that just over the last week, this scorn has begun to be short-lived, and the flurry of attention paid to Mr. Wentworth and his teenager may now be drifting away. I think the key thing we’ve all learned is that his first name is Styles; to my understanding, none of us ever knew that, and we all found that out when an out-of-town tabloid journalist who did some digging and tracing and discovery wrote early last week that the very young mom-to-be was unemployed, that she was some distance away from home, and angrily sweating out her prenatal days with a distant cousin. She certainly showed neither remorse nor shame, and she got angry at the tabloid reporter and fiercely embraced her ex-employer this way: “My hugger Styles is better by miles than the likes of you, you piece of pooh!” The reporter, unabashed and noticing something verbally askew, promptly voiced a rather obvious follow-up question: “Sweetheart, have you always spoken in rhyming couplets when the fire of anger consumes your heart?” And the forever-to-remain-nameless cobbler’s apprentice shot back in muscular and admirably-stubborn defense: “Well, maybe not since birth, but of course since my guy Wentworth.” So, as I say, to my observation, this heated exchange—this confirmation of obstinacy—seems to be just what was required for news about Styles W., Baltimore’s baby-man, to start bleaching out of public view and silencing away from public comment.