Tag Archives | short fiction

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 smashed the panes of glass with his fist. 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.

La dolce vita

Dinosaur in shopping cart

It wasn’t always so easy. There used to be an anger in him. An emptiness that nothing could fill … nothing material anyway.

He fell through time and space, and into a kind of dream. And it seemed as though ages passed him by, the stars streaming through the sky as though he watched them in time lapse photography. A billion billion tiny wisps of light circling the sky and flaring out.

And when it all stopped, when the spinning ended, he was filled.

Though the cart was still empty.

Alltop has no idea what the fuck just happened there. Photo by mugley on Flickr.

New Fiction: Empty Space Times Two

old-fashioned typewriter hammers

This piece is probably the most straight-up sentimental thing I’ve ever written, but I’m quite chuffed to join the ranks of the writers who have been published by The Saturday Evening Post. (That includes, you guessed it, my literary hero, Kurt Vonnegut.)

In case you’re wondering, it’s NOT autobiographical, though I did take a typing class in grade nine on the advice of my cousin, Beth. All the effort of learning to type has paid off 1000-fold, though I never had a relationship based on it. 🙂

You can find the story in their contemporary fiction section: Empty Space Times Two. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doug the neurotic invents a corollary on his daily commute

Revenge of the chickenOkay, I’ll admit it. I’m freaking out.

I ate at Wendy’s last night, and then I’m reading the paper today — yeah, like I do everyday on the bus — and so I’m reading the paper, and what do I see? Bird Flu! There was another breakout of bird flu in a freakin’ chicken farm in Canada!

Yeah, I know you can’t catch bird flu from a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, but still. I’m just saying that it’s a sign. It’s just a matter of time. That or the polar bears. Where the hell are they going to go when the last of the polar icecaps melt? The motherfuckers are either going to drown or head south and look for a little protein in Doug form. Spicy Doug Sandwich. Did you know the polar bear is the biggest land predator in the world? Yeah, and they aren’t going to catch bird flu. Not to mention the terrorists. If they don’t get me than for sure some crypto-Nazi is going to rendition me to somewhere where water-boarding is like foreplay.

Holy shit! It says here that some of the people working with the chickens caught Bird Flu. Oh God, I don’t want to catch BIRD FLU.

Why the hell is everyone looking so calm? Look at that dude. He’s just listening to his iPod, pretending that we’re not all about to die from an anthrax attack. It says we will right here on page three.

The bus is awfully slow today. I wonder if that’s because the driver is working with the terrorists, or maybe he has the beginnings of BIRD FLU and it’s slowing him down? All these stories keep saying it’s only a matter of time until the virus leaps from poultry to humans. Just like the terrorists. They’re going to do another big attack.

Wait.

They haven’t, have they? Maybe if the media is really covering a story like this, that reduces the chances of the thing actually happening. What if there is some sort of inverse relationship to disaster and the amount of fear churned up by the media: the more ink and airtime devoted, the less likely there will be a disaster?

Oh shit. What if there was some kind of OTHER relationship, like a corollary to Murphy’s Law? What is that? Anything that can go, will go wrong. No, that’s Microsoft’s motto. Anything that can go wrong, will.

Like, my bus is late. It can be late, so it is late. I’m going to have to run to catch my transfer. Bastards.

What if there’s some kind of corollary to Murphy’s Law? Anything that can go wrong, will, unless the media gives it saturation coverage … in which case, something else will go even more horribly wrong. Not bad. Call it Doug’s Corollary.

Finally, the bus is at my stop. Come on lady, move. I got to run.

Wait! If that is true, what is worse than BIRD FLU?

Dashing now. I’m still fast. Not young enough to fight off BIRD FLU, but still quick.

Oh my God. Ohmygodohmygod, EBOLA is worse than BIRD FLU!

Oh God, I’m going to catch some new strain of EBOLA and bleed out from they eye sockets and shit! It’s going to wipe me out like a —

[bus]

The End

Alltop is a busload of fun. Photo by Mark Lorch. Originally published in 2007, so you can see how it’s the specific fears that change, not the general tone of the media.