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.

Teaser from The Fridgularity: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Fridgularity is a satire of Internet culture, so that means it’s rife with pop-culture references, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of them. I can’t tell you any more, as that would be a spoiler. But I can show you two of my favourite parts from the iconic Christmas show:

And here’s where The Grinch has his epiphany:

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Alltop is a crooked jerky humor jockey.

Fonts of The Fridgularity

TYPOGRAPHY

One of the ideas that I play with in The Fridgularity is that the entity Zathir — you know, the one that takes over the Internet and promptly locks all humans out of it — is actually a conglomeration of various personalities. And Blake quickly figures out that different fonts have different meanings. Here’s a list of the fonts mentioned in the book, and what they look like:
Fonts of Zathir

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The FridgularityGo get The Fridgularity for $2.99 in ebook formats:

Kindle Edition

Smashwords for Kobo and Nook (Use Coupon Code: YU86X).

Dead trees your thing? You can get the paperback here for $12.99. (Use the coupon code: YGMVFZZY.)

Alltop is a font nerd too.

Blake meets Zathir
[excerpt from The Fridgularity]

 ATM saying 'feed me a lolcat'

Author’s note: here’s another quick hit from The Fridgularity, which is still available for 99¢ in May. Not much needed to introduce this one, except to say that the main character, Blake, has been drinking, and that he’s been experiencing the start of the Big Crash all during his non-Euclidean day.

When last call was done and they kicked Blake out of the bar, the beautiful October day had turned to night and damp. His thin jacket was no match for the pelting rain, and he’d spent all of his money on drinks. Luckily, there was an ATM across the street, so he made his way there and was happy to get out of the downpour for a little while. He approached the bank of cash machines and was momentarily confused by the pixelated static on the screens, when he remembered the network problems.

“Right,” he nodded. He was drunk, but not completely legless, so he immediately regretted spending all his money on alcohol and Dr. Tundra’s desire to revisit the old days. “Shit, that means shank’s mare,” he said, lapsing into his grandparents’ Irish colloquialism for walking. It would be at least thirty minutes on foot.

Blake lived in a nice little bungalow in the same gentrified neighborhood as Pete Sona, though Blake didn’t know that.

He turned and took a couple of steps to the doors leading outside, looking out at the pouring rain. Behind him, one of the screens flickered into a semblance of coherence. Letters appeared, spelling “him.”

Blake did not notice the change. The letters flickered apprehensively and then dissolved into more pixels, returning to spell “man.” Static erupted from the speakers in the cash machines, and Blake jumped.

But he didn’t turn around. The letters moved again, almost as if they were agitated, and spelled “human person.” This time the static had a higher pitch to it, almost as though someone was screaming. Blake turned and saw the letters on the screen: HUMAN PERSON.

“Whoa,” Blake said. “That’s messed up.”

HUMAN PERSON. HUMAN PERSON. HIM. HIM. READ.

“What, me?”

HUMAN PERSON. MAN.

“Yes, I’m a man.”

The screen returned to its pixelated state, and Blake revised his earlier evaluation of his condition. Not legless, but certainly witless. Totally lacking in the cognitive function department. He moved to go out the doors, and the static returned, increased in volume, and the whine behind it was now identifiably the sound of screaming. Blake’s adrenal glands started to wake up and produce their trademark hormone. He turned around to look at the ATM screen, the hair on his neck standing on end, as though he expected to see an ax-wielding maniac there.

Instead, the pixelation stopped, and the screen slowly spelled out B – L – A – K – E.

Seeing his own name panicked him and, combined with the adrenaline now coursing through his vascular system, increased his heart rate, breathing, and unleashed his fight-or-flight instinct. If there had been an ax-wielding maniac there, Blake probably would have charged him, but instead, there was just the eerily glowing letters of his name, spelled out in the Frutiger typeface. He opened the door and ran.

The few dry strands of his hair that were still standing were beaten down by the rain, and Blake wished he had Lyca’s absurd yellow hat. He was still wearing his office clothes — grey slacks, a button down shirt and black Oxfords, which were not really built for terror-induced flight — but he didn’t care. He ran as hard as he could for as long as he could, desperate to outdistance the rain and the possessed cash machine.

Eventually, Blake’s feet got sore, and he slowed to a jog, and then a walk. He was soaked from inside and out, with sweat and the icy cold rain that threatened to turn into freezing rain or perhaps slushy drops of snow. Blake shivered and continued walking, slower now but with determination, towards his street. The burst of running had at least made the walk shorter, and when he got home, he realized that it was all a blur — as though time had stopped, or he’d stepped out of it entirely.

A set of dark, inscrutable eyes watched him as he approached the house. They belonged to a raven, perched underneath some shelter in the maple tree. It croaked at Blake, which made him fumble for his keys and open the door as quickly as he could.

The house was dark, and cold, as he’d yet to turn on the furnace. He peeled off his soaked jacket and shoes. What he needed now was a hot shower.

Or maybe a scotch.

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The FridgularityGo get The Fridgularity for $2.99 in ebook formats:

Kindle Edition

Smashwords for Kobo and Nook (Use Coupon Code: YU86X).

Dead trees your thing? You can get the paperback here for $12.99. (Use the coupon code: YGMVFZZY.)

Alltop has a coupon code for funny! Photo by Tau Zero on Flickr.