Why’s Wally?

why's wally

“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.”

― Albert Camus, The Stranger

The shirt lay on his bed. It mocked him. It compelled him to wear it, but he didn’t want to. He hated the shirt.

That and the stupid hat.

What if he didn’t put them on? That was always an option, surely? He had some other clothes, didn’t he? He went to his closet and was mildly horrified to see that it was stuffed with striped shirts, red and white bobble hats, and an assortment of jeans. How had his life come to this? He made his way to the back of the closet, and could find nothing but red and white stripes. Red and white. The jeans were all blue, the same style. Not even brand name.

Wally looked out at the bedroom, morning sunshine angling in through the venetian blinds.

The light reminded him of Algeria, dry as the pages of a book. Wally had just finished reading The Stranger and it haunted him. He’d been to Algeria, of course. He’d been everywhere.

Wally had met Camus, too, during his time-travelling days. In fact, Wally had met the French writer while Camus was authoring his other famous book, The Myth of Sisyphus.

He remembered the conversation they’d had over cheap wine in a crowded Parisian bistro: “For me, chér Charlie, the only serious philosophical question is this: is life worth living? The world is irrational, and yet … yet, we yearn for happiness and the rational. Why? It is absurd. There is no sense to it. This is the heart of my thinking, Charlie. The absurd is born of our human need for reason and the unreasonable silence of the world.”

“But don’t you feel as though you are being watched?” he’d asked, not bothering to correct Camus about his name. It didn’t matter where he went, everyone seemed to use the local version of Wally. In America he was “Waldo”, in German “Walter”, in France “Charlie”. Better not to make waves, to blend in. His instinct was to hide in plain sight, so he rolled with it, always.

“Watched?”

“Yes. Don’t you feel like you are constantly being watched?”

“God?” Camus had said, a look of amusement on his face.

“God? What? No. People. That people are looking for you?”

“You mean the Nazis?”

“They could be Nazis, but not just the Nazis. I don’t know,” Wally had said “They are looking for me, though, I’m not making that up. It’s like they’re searching for me.”

Camus had thought about that for a moment, and smiled warmly. He had grasped Wally’s right bicep, squeezing it like an old friend: “Madness has a kind of freedom in it, though you are in a prison, nonetheless. It is another duality.”

And then the crowd had started to thin, and it was time for Wally to go. When he was not absolutely alone, he couldn’t be comfortable unless there was a crowd. He only felt safe surrounded by hundreds, or thousands. It was probably why he never worked things out with Wilma. Or her identical twin, Wenda, for that matter. Wally blushed as he remembered the three of them together, that one night. But three, as it turned out, wasn’t a big enough crowd for it to work.

Was Camus right? Was it possible there was nobody watching him? If that was so, then there would be a kind of freedom he’d never felt. He wouldn’t have to be so circumspect. He wouldn’t have to spend all his time trying to blend in with the crowd. That could get challenging, he’d found, especially in more exotic locales, times, realities… Wally wondered what Camus would have made of his stint in a dimension known as Clown Town. The place had been nightmarish. Apocalyptic. Everyone was a clown, and everything was shaped like a clown. Camus would probably have enjoyed the delicious absurdity of the place and time. It was one of the worst scenes Wally had ever found himself in, but if he had been wearing something other than his stripped shirt and bobble hat, those clowns would have ended up juggling with his skull. He knew it.

So the shirt had saved him on occasion, but it was, as Camus hinted, a prison. Like Meursault, the main character in The Stranger, Wally faced the rest of his life behind bars. Though unlike Meursault, his life could be very long.

Wally realized that he was still standing in his closet, naked except for his underwear and socks. Red and white striped boxers and knee-highs, of course. His dresser was filled with them.

He walked to the window, and opened the blinds. Outside he could see his yard. It was spring again, though he couldn’t really tell you how long it had been spring. The trees were in bloom, and bright blue forget-me-nots dotted the lush green grass. He could see Woof’s tail wagging strongly enough to shake his whole backend, his front obscured by a bush. The dog had probably found a rabbit or some other creature, helpless, trying to hide.

Wally looked at the shirt and all his other clothes on the bed. When he put them on, and picked up the walking stick, he would be whisked away, as he always was. He looked out at the yard, dappled in the May sunshine, and realized that he’d never been in it. He’d never felt the grass between his toes.

He took off his socks. Slipped out of his boxers, and tried to open the window. It was frozen shut. He grabbed his walking stick and smashed the panes of glass. He climbed through, cutting himself in the process. Red stripes of blood wound down his pasty white legs, but Wally didn’t care.

The grass felt wonderful.

The End

Enjoy this? There’s more like it in my longer works.


Alltop was always more of a Tintin reader. Originally published by the Jersey Devil Press, Jan. 2014.

A mid-life satori

Beauty is relative by True_Bavarian
Beauty is relative, a photo by True_Bavarian on Flickr.

At a certain point in your life, you realize that you are who you are.

That isn’t to say that your life won’t change. Of course it will change. So will your personality, but not in big ways. If you’re an introvert, you’re not going to suddenly feel energized by hanging out with a room full of happy strangers who want nothing better than to engage you in mindless chitchat. And vice versa.

You may be able to change some of your habits, if you’ve got the willpower. Of course, if you don’t have willpower to begin with, you probably won’t be able to do too much about those habits, unless they’re going to kill you. That can replace willpower.

This is the stage at your life when you can be happy with who you are, if you accept it. But that’s the hard part of this process. You have to give up on some idealized version of yourself, and accept the being you are at the moment. You have to stop living in some perfect future, and hang out in the present.

But you can always get a new haircut.

Check out some hair-raising fiction on my books page.

Alltop‘s barber is a bonobo. Originally published October, 2011.

Clown Apocalypse: The Clownnui

Clown with ennui

Many of the survivors of the Clown Apocalypse report that during their illness they felt a deep, soul-numbing ennui (though this was subsumed by their overwhelming urge to do slapstick and other business.) The sense of existential tedium they experienced, even while they were riding tiny tricycles while several other BV sufferers were perched on their backs, was quite common.

This effect is one of the most astonishing parts of the Clown Apocalypse. How could one be bored while juggling chainsaws? Such was the insidious nature of the Bozo Virus, as reported by Jeremy Heidegger, one of the survivors of the pandemic:

“So there I was, balanced on top of a unicycle, juggling a live chainsaw, a clown horn, and two dachshunds. My belly was empty and I was actually dying of thirst. The only reason I survived was because my wife had found a seltzer bottle somewhere, and spent the first week of the outbreak spritzing me in the face with it, thus giving me a chance to rehydrate. I was conscious of my actions, though I could not control them. I was terrified, but at the same time, I was struck by the hilarious futility of life. Its basic meaninglessness. The chainsaw ran out of gas, moments before I dropped it on my foot, and this struck me not as lucky, or charmed, but as tedious. Life itself was a series of boring events that I felt alienated from.

“Yet I just kept laughing.”

#

Read the other parts of the Clown Apocalypse here.

Looking for a less disturbing chuckle? How about buying one of my novels?


Alltop is always laughing too. Clown photo by KTLindsay on Flickr.