“Walter. Ed Hames. Pleasure to meet you. Look I’m a lawyer - not like some hot shot big leagues lawyer – but I get a decent living. But in my job you gotta lie. You gotta. And I wanted to know if it’s wrong. I mean like I feel bad about it sometimes and- Idunno...Do you lie?”
“No, I don’t think so. But I never really need to lie. Do you need to lie?”
“Like I said I’m not a hot shot lawyer, but I mean...I gotta make a living for my family, don’t I?”
“That’s true. Well do you hurt people with your lies. Do you feel guilty?”
“I-” Ed Hames sighed audibly through the telephone, “I mean...yeah I do, I do.” There was a short pause during which it seemed obvious that Ed was contemplating his existence on a deep scale. “OK thanks buddy.”
“Thank you, Mr Hames. Walter, we have a ‘Bruno’ on the line. No last name here. Go ahead Bruno.” Tony Holdsworth couldn’t help but smile. Well he could help enough not to look like a douche on TV but he couldn’t help his inner smile. This was great television. Whoever this Walter Wallace was and whether or not the silly machine worked, people were engaged by the whole scenario and Tony was perched overlooking TV history.
“Yeah so what I wanna ask you is this: Walter Wallace. You ever had sex pal?” The studio audience laughed and Walter smiled, blushing a little. “And don’t you lie to me, I heard what you said to that other poor bastard so you can’t lie.”
Walter looked a little childish as he spoke, “Yeah I have.” A few hoots and a wolf whistle came from the audience.
“It was pretty good.” Tony could tell Walter was nervous but he wasn’t lying. Sex makes everybody giddy to talk about and guessing by Walter’s social life he hadn’t had much sex and had talked about it even less.
“Hahah you cheeky bastard. So what’d you do, have a lady or just go fuck a hooker Bruno Style.” The audience, who felt like they were sharing an inside joke over the fun back and forth dialogue, laughed and whispered excitedly but live F-bombs were a piece of cake. Tony hammed it up, freezing on the spot and then mopping his brow while giving exaggerated nervous glances backstage. By now it would have been censored on the slight delay and all he had to do now was cut the call while they were ahead.
“Alright Bruno, I have to say I wouldn’t mind hearing more of what you feel are the important questions for happiness but we’ll have to leave it at that for now.”
“No harm; no foul, Tony. Least I know them celebrate monks ain’t got all the secrets.”
“Remember folks, we are live in the studio with Walter Wallace and right now we are taking calls as well as SMS and on you can post questions on the Channel 8 website that you want to know about Toyota’s Happiest. Here’s one live from the web: “Walter are you a vegetarian or is it true that eating what was once a living being makes people happy because they know a life has been brutally slain, murdered and- well it does go on for a little bit longer but are you a vegetarian or, dare I say, vegan?”
“No.” Tony expected some justification to follow but that seemed to be it.
“Well that is fair enough. Let’s go back to the studio audience. Miss, you have a question?”
A pretty girl in her mid twenties stood up and bit her lip as if second guessing her question, looking nervously sideways before directly engaging Walter’s gaze, “Umm, I just thought - cos Bruno got me curious - but how umm...big is your...” The audience broke out in laughter and the girl shrugged her shoulders defensively, “What? It’s an important question?” She looked back at Walter with that flirtacious intensity – Tony’s mind sped off into a three second fantasy of all the things he would do to that girl, a final image of her sticking her tongue out to catch the gizz as it dripped off the tip of her nose.
“Uhh...” Walter looked around for support. The audience had fallen to a hush to hear his response and Tony realised he had fantasised for too long to interrupt. Walter had to answer, just when the show seemed like it couldn’t get any better. Walter looked back at the girl. She smiled encouragingly (cum oozing down her cheek), “I would say...kind of big.”
“Kind of big?!” Tony exclaimed.
Walter blushed so much his bald head looked like an extended lipstick. “I mean kind of...”
“No, I’m sorry Walter I couldn’t help myself. Miss some questions are difficult to answer. Perhaps Mr Wallace can help answer your query in his change room after the show.” The crowd erupted again and the girl sat back down blushing. Tony drilled her for eye contact but she had her sights set on Walter. Lucky bastard is the happiest man alive and his reward will be endless supply of pussy – Talk about the rich get richer.
“I think we’ll take just one more call for now even though we are finding out quite a lot about our new friend. We have a Bill on the line, Bill what would you like to ask?”
There was a short silence; then the man spoke, “Walter Wallace. It is almost like a slap in the face for me to have this opportunity to converse with you. I...I’m not sure what I expect from this, or what anyone expects from you but I thought best to try extract something just in case.”
“What you got to say Big Bill?”
“Thank you Tony.” The man said in with some aging ruins of patience. “If I am to believe the machine then you are the happiest of us all Walter. I envy you, because I believe the machine run in reverse would reveal one William Unston.” He paused. “So tell me Walter: Why do you find yourself the happiest the man alive while I find myself wondering whether alive is a state of being which humans deserve; deciding day to day whether I shall continue searching for the answer? Tell me Walter, for you must have the answer or none must and therefore it can only be concluded negative and I shall rest in peace.”
There was an extended silence. Tony was frozen. Who the fuck is this guy? Who let this Buzzkill Bill on the line? Who the fuck is screening the calls? At no point did he open his mouth to talk. The great Tony Holdsworth was speechless. A poisonous gas had oozed through the studio and only Walter could save them.
“I’m not sure I understand the question.” Walter stated honestly.
The man on the line gave a single pitying tsk. “You’re philosophy is predictable. Yes the question is vague - perhaps because our language is not up to par with its profound nature - but this abyss sucks away at me and you and everyone and you simply try ignore its existence. Face the reality Walter; try to understand it like I do and then run the cursed machine again and I dare you to show your face again.”
Walter’s face showed bewilderment. He appeared too out of his depths to be offended – like a ten year old child feeling no shame at losing a race with an Olympic sprinter, only confusion at being mocked by the opponent. “I really don’t understand. I have no philosophy. I feel no abyss. The only existence I feel is...mine, I guess. And I can see other people exist. I don’t know how it feels for anyone else. Apparently worse than me but...that means existence has value but-”
“Yes, Walter, you feel it now don’t you. You begin to understand the sickness in humans. It exists like a vomit spilling into the abyss we now share. I dare say that it shines brightest in me for I find myself at my happiest level in years to have opened your eyes to its horrors. I know I am right and have been right to assume that we as people are wrong. Goodbye Walter Wallace, you have serviced me well; I will do the deed I have put off for so many years and I encourage the masses to open their eyes up and do the same. I am, always have been, and never will be again: William Unston.”
A loud shot was heard before the line cut off. A ringing resonated through the studio like a self sustaining echo. Everybody had a look of horror on their faces; including Walter Wallace. Tony gazed around at a loss for words or action. Did that just happen? What we all think happened, did it just actually happen?! He saw a girl with a head set on rushing over slashing at her neck with her hand violently. Fuck it did happen! She is going to do it as well! Maybe she wants me to- Tony snapped out of it, understanding the girl in a wave of rationality he shot his glance at the camera. “We are going to cut to commercial ladies and gentlemen.” The red light went off and the TV folk rushed around to discuss what had happened. The audience spoke in an urgent crescendo of whispers. Walter Wallace sat frozen to his chair, barely moving but for the occasional blink of his eyelashes.
Notes to the Text