Walter woke early, as he usually does, to get ready for work. It was quiet outside and he had some hope that the mob had gone home for the night. He ran a cold shower in order to wake himself up after a rather sleepless night (plus the stud isn’t exactly equipped with heated water) and by the time he was dressed and eating his breakfast he felt normal again; like it was all a dream (a very exciting one compared to the usual windows that opened out to views of sandstone walls).
As he ate he heard a faint clicking sound. At first he thought it was his jaw but he couldn’t feel it; only hear it. He turned around and saw at the window a large camera with its shutter rapidly opening and closing. “How you going there, Walt?” said the camera, “Get a good sleep then?” A youthful face popped up from behind the camera with a cheeky smile and a wave. Walter waved back uneasily. “Don’t mind me, mate. Enjoy your breakfast.”
Walter turned back to his cereal, though he felt suddenly low on appetite. The clicking was incessant. In fact it was as if it had doubled in rapidity.
“Ease off mate. I was here first!”
“There’s room for both of us, alright. I just want a few shots.”
“Too bad! I got the exclusive so piss off!”
“Exclusive?! Ha! The exclusive window sill interview. Did he promise it to you especially for being the first wanker to show up in the morning?”
“Maybe he did. What’s it to you? You don’t have an interview so piss off!”
The argument continued in tense half whispers as Walter rinsed his plate and walked towards the front door. The sound of the lock clicking snapped the two quarrellers, who were now physically fighting for position, to attention. “He’s leaving!”
“No! I’m dead if I don’t get this shot!”
Nobody seemed to notice as he opened the door to exit the building. Most were asleep at their posts. He made to evade drawing attention to himself by sneaking through unnoticed but had barely taken a step when he heard, “Walter! Walter Look over ‘ere!” He saw the bright faced boy who had apparently run back around the building and was panting a little as he ducked behind his lens and snapped away.
“Walter!” called the second boy from the other side of the building, “Say cheese!”
The antics of the two youths stirred the mob of press to action. A wave of recognition and duty swept over them as they fumbled with cameras and microphones and entangled cords. Walter strode with purpose, wanting to run but fearing the reaction this might draw from the desperate gang. He made it half a block before anyone caught up with him.
“Walter,” said a woman in thirties, short of breath. She made to keep in stride with him while at a slight angle to hold the tape recorder in front of his face. “Uhh...where are you heading to today?” she asked politely.
Walter got the impression she was actually a little stumped as to what she should say. He considered ignoring her for a split second but he had been brought up with manners and responded honestly, “I’m going to work.”
“To work?! But surely yo-”
“-Walter!” shouted a large man with broad shoulders (he had managed to use one of them to send the woman flying). Walter stopped and turned to help her up but was ushered forward by the man. “Forget about her,” he said quickly, nervously eyeing the mob of people running towards them, “Tell me, umm...Where are you heading today?”
“I’m going to work.” Walter stated with a hint of a tone in his voice.
“To work?! But surely you would think, with you new-”
“-Walter!” interrupted a third voice. It belonged to a skinny, rat featured man who had nothing but bone on his shoulders and therefore chose to ambush Walter from the left rather than intrude with force. The broad shouldered man was fighting a natural urge to fight the man and this seemed to tie up his tongue as well. The ratty man smiled and winked at him as if to say “I’ll take it from here, Bill” (assuming his name were Bill). “Walter, tell me: Where are you heading today?”
“I’m going to work.” He answered shortly and quickened his pace.
“To work?! But surely you would think, with your new fame and all that work should be on hold for...for a time.”
“I have a job and I don’t see why I shouldn’t turn up for work.”
“But Walter you- I mean what about the ma-”
“Walter! Walter!” behind them the peloton was finally closing in but Walter was less than a block from the train station. Before he had thought it best not to run but now his instincts told him to go. He broke left and shot down an alleyway that cut short the travel time. The mob was caught off guard and slow to react. He looked back over his shoulder to see them trying to squeeze into the tight alley; the broad shouldered man was instead only trying to squeeze the skinny rat like man who had interrupted him.
Walter turned right onto the street parallel to that on which he had been walking. He ran towards the station unsure how this would serve as any sort of protection – being a public transport system and all – but he didn’t know what else to do. As he reached the end of the street a large van with Channel 8 plastered on the side was parked just in front of the station thoroughfare.
“Well Walter, we did have a nice limousine coming to pick you up but you seemed to have snuck out a little too early for all of us.” A man Walter had never seen before was talking to him as if they were old high school buddies. He was wearing a suit and was flanked by two more suited men. “Brian Smithwaite.” He extended his hand and Walter had an eerie sense of déjà vu.
“I’m going to work,” Walter said, still a little short of breath but with less of his earlier determination – somehow he knew he wasn’t going to slip away this time.
“Walter!” responded Brian ever so genially, “You don’t have to work today. You should be celebrating. This is your moment to shine! C’mon, Let’s head over to the studio and grab some breakfast.” Walter thought better than to resist. He would have to appear before the public eventually – might as well be now.
He sat in the van, squashed between the two mute suits. Before Brian could enter, Walter’s Boss, Mr Heath, came storming over. He had a heated discussion which played out much like an angry dog chasing its tantalising and taunting tail. The dog eventually gave up, screaming with exasperation, “Well who is going to clean the fucking bathrooms?!”
The tail hopped in the van victorious, “Perhaps you could clean them, sir, and maybe you will learn the secret to happiness like your diligent employee.”
The ride in the van was fairly uneventful. Brian repeatedly made efforts to generate a bond of trust and friendship between himself and Walter that would require more years of work than minutes currently accrued.
“Now you are comfortable back there aren’t you Walter? You probably feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place!”
Walter responded politely as usual but found it an effort to be polite now instead of a natural impulse. As he humoured Brian’s terrible humour he found himself running through an inner monologue of what has happened so far and subsequently guessing at how much longer it would go on. He was quickly losing interest in his immediate surroundings and wondering, with a sense of dread, at what he would be surrounded with once he arrived at the studio. Brian’s voice fell into the background and he began hearing Manny Holdsworth’s voice asking him all sorts of questions about why having only one pair of shoes with three holes in it made him so happy; or whether cleaning toilets was a career he chose as a child or what his opinion was on the religion vs science debate; or-
“Walter, we’re here!”
Walter snapped out of his daydream. He slid across the seat, out the door and found himself standing at the foot of a large building. He was awestruck by the heights that it scaled, craning his neck until it felt like it would crack. He thought he could make out the familiar logo of Channel 8 at the helm if he squinted and as he brought his head back level he saw Brian’s beaming face in close up.
Notes to the text