August 2004

Storytime in the land of Oz…

(Part 1)

Wally was a dwarf.

For those of you not familiar, this is the definition of a dwarf:

Dwarf
n, pl Dwarfs : OE. dwergh, dwerf, dwarf, AS. dweorg, dweorh; akin to D. dwerg, MHG. twerc, G. zwerg, Icel. dvergr, Sw. & Dan. dverg; of unknown origin.
1. A diminutive human being.

adjective
1. A reference to anything much below the usual or average size; as, dwarf tree; dwarf honeysuckle.

Also, for those of you not familiar, there are actually roughly 200 different types of dwarfism, ranging from what some people would call entertaining to some very serious and painful varieties. Sure, everybody thought that Mini Me was cute and all, but the fact of the matter is that it can be a very serious medical condition that can result in all sorts of complications, most often an early death.

And a good deal of people affected by dwarfism do not like to be called midgets. Just thought I would straighten that out before we get started.

So yeah, Wally was a dwarf.

He was born that way, as dwarves are.

Now his parents, Rick and Cynthia, were more than a little surprised to find that their son was a dwarf. Not only is dwarfism a relatively rare condition, but there was a more significant factor that lead to their shock.

You see, both Rick and Cynthia stood well over 7 feet tall. Rick actually topped eight feet with a little bit of change left over for a trip to the candy store on Sunday. Both Rick and Cynthia had the genetic condition known as gigantism.

So there’s a little irony there as you can see.

To make matters worse, Rick and Cynthia’s following two children also had gigantism. This inevitably caused problems on all sorts of levels. Beyond the obvious that "big brother" was a term that Wally’s siblings only used in the most mocking of contexts, there was no room for hand me downs when it came to clothing and such.

Pun intended.

While Rick worked as an engineer and Cynthia ran a consulting firm, during the summer months, the family toured with one of the larger circuses on the continent as "The Worlds Largest Family" as a sideshow act as an affordable way to show the kids in the family the continent. Needless to say, Wally was excluded from the show, as he would have only discredited that claim. Yet another thing for his siblings to hold over him.

This is nothing to say of the ridicule that Wally endured throughout his public school career. Not only did the other children (who couldn’t help but be cruel, because if adults are constantly cruel to those that are in any way different, how can we expect anything different from our children) torment Wally for his diminutive stature, but the fact that his immediate family towered over him only gave them more ammunition.

(What’s wrong with Wally?)

I won’t get into details here for two simple reasons. First of all, I think we all know exactly how cruel children can be when so inclined. Second of all, this part of our little epic is more or less back story so you can better understand how it was that Wally came to be crouching on a fire truck with a giant inflatable bunny 40 feet above him surrounded by a fully armed swat team while dressed in drag.

See, you read that and thought, "what the hell?"

Thus the back-story, give me some time here and it will all make sense.

Really.

A Fateful Encounter (there always has to be one…)

On Wally’s 14th birthday, he met a man who would change the rest of his life. Due to a currently pending criminal investigation that man’s name cannot be told at this time, so we shall simply call him "The Man".

Dramatic, eh?

Wally met the man walking down an otherwise perfectly normal street on an otherwise perfectly normal day. Wally was handing out leaflets for the circus his family toured with during the summer months and being terrible bored about it. The Man saw him there, and for reasons that will likely remain known only to him, he decided to talk to Wally for a bit. After talking for a bit, The Man made Wally an offer that Wally couldn’t have possibly said no to.

Here is what the man said:

"Wally, you seem like you are terribly unhappy in your life. What would you say if I told you that I could take you away from all of this, and rather than having to spend your life in fear, you could spend your life having people fear you? I know this sounds strange, but I look for people like you, people who for whatever reason the rest of the world thinks are so odd that they are constantly being looked at. I’ll tell you why, but you have to promise to keep it a secret."

Wally’s response?

"Listen asshole, I may look like a kid, but I watch the news, and I know enough to know what to do when a creepy stranger says things like that to me, so if you don’t leave me alone, I swear to God I’ll start screaming blue murder, and I guarantee you that the cops will be here in no time."

Evidently, the offer could be refused after all…

The man just smiled, and simply said, "Wally, I’m not interested in anything like that. I’m in town on business, and I’ll tell you what, I’ll see you again before I leave town I’m sure, and when I do, I’ll show you what I am talking about and you can decide if you are at all interested in my offer."

The man threw Wally a smile that couldn’t have been more patronizing and finished with, "Until then, good luck with your flyers."

With that, the man simply walked away, leaving Wally on the street corner with leaflets for a circus he hated being the only thing that he had to hold on to.

The Initial Event

In any story, you have to have an event that really begins the action. There’s a literary term for it, I’m sure, but at the moment it escapes me.

You’ll have to forgive me that.

The event that set Wally on the path that would eventually lead to him standing on a parade float with a giant inflatable bunny 40 feet above him surrounded by a fully armed swat team while dressed in drag was one that would make national headlines.

Wally wasn’t in those headlines, his would come later.

Here…

Wally walked back to the circus, and despite the fact that he had more or less decided to write the man that he had met off as a complete nutter, he was bothered by one thing. During their brief conversation, The Man had what Wally could only describe as an unshakeable calm about him. Even when Wally had threatened to raise all hell and call for the police, The Man didn’t seem to lose a beat. That bothered Wally, but he didn’t know why.

Again, a little background information…

When the circus came to town in the particular town that Wally was in that day, it set up shop in an overly large parking lot outside of the local arena. The midway attractions were set up in the area surrounding the arena, and the main circus events were set up inside the arena. The end result was the creation of a sprawling mini-city that became denser as you reached the epicenter of the festivities.

Normally, there was an area that was left clear for the pedestrian traffic. The midway depended not on ticket sales, but rather the curiosity and ego of the people who came to see the main events and who could be tempted at the prospect of winning stuffed turtles or motorized scooters.

As Wally walked through the ever-deepening sea of cheap asian made toys and stuffed animals that always left one with the feeling of plastic, two things quickly struck him.

First of all, Wally noticed that the fairgrounds were far busier than usual. Second of all, Wally noticed that the pedestrian walkway was considerably wider than usual, and upon closer examination, he noted that at the end of the walkway, rather than the usual milling of people trying to decide if the the $10 price of admission was worth it, there were six black cars, one of which was a limousine.

Up until that point, Wally had only seen limousines in movies and funeral processions, so it caught his attention. As he continued in his approach to the arena, he started to notice that there were a lot of people there who were doing everything that they could to not be noticed, and a lot of them had little clear wires coming out of their ears.

Wally knew what these wires were, because for a time the circus had an evangelist who could tell an audience member what ailed them through the special powers granted to him by the lord and a small ear piece that acted as both a transmitter and a receiver.

Eventually, that evangelist left the circus in the escort of several men who had similar clear wires running from their ears. Something about a 15 year old girl and several hundreds of thousand dollars that had gone missing.

"Evangelists and their money", Wally thought at the time.

So when Wally approached the arena, he knew that this was no ordinary day at the circus, if such a thing could ever exist.

All through his walk through the midway though, Wally felt the stares of those that hadn’t actually seen a dwarf "up close", and with those stares carried the weight of the knowledge that he would never simply be able to fit in.

Those stares always did.

Wally’s first stop was at the box office, where he asked his friend, Derek (although when forced, Wally would admit that Derek was merely an acquaintance who could keep Wally up on the latest gossip of the circus) what exactly was going on.

Again, some background information…

Derek joined the circus as a carnie. That is to say that he had joined and had been one of the people who set up the tents and cleaned up the elephant shit. Derek had joined the circus after a girl in his graduating class had gone on a rampage and shot several people at the after grad party.

After seeing several of the people that he had grown up with reduced to hamburger by shotgun shell, Derek decided that if the world was going to be that crazy, he might as well find the craziest place that he could.

After a time, Derek worked his way up to the box office.

And it was at that box office that Derek explained that the reason for all of the extra traffic at the circus and the men with clear wires coming out of there ears was simply that there was a very special man in the audience that evening.

As Derek understood it, a man named Cary Marlowe had decided that the circus would be a perfect way to show the voters of that particular district that he cared about the people, and so he came to a nice community event like the circus to show exactly that.

Truth be told, Cary Marlowe had advisors that had told him that if he didn’t get his shit together and try to prove to the everyman that he was "one of them" he and his party didn’t have a hope in hell of winning the upcoming federal election.

So Cary Marlowe came to the circus.

And Derek, friend of Wally’s that he was, gave Wally a ticket for a seat that was directly opposite Cary Marlowe. Derek figured kindheartedly that across the arena would be the closest that Wally would ever come to being near to someone important.

To be sure, Wally didn’t need a ticket, he could have walked in and sat on the sidelines with no challenge whatsoever. But to get a seat, that meant something, so Wally jumped at the offer.

Wally ignored the stares of those around him. On the few occasions that Wally had been so lucky as to get a seat, he had learned that the people with seats nearest him would look at him and assume he was planted by the circus and was to eventually be a part of the show.

Wally was never part of the show. His giant family took care of those duties.

So Wally sat, and he watched the ringleader come out and introduce the clowns and the elephants and the lions.

It was during the acrobats performance that Wally’s life would change forever.

The Family Rastich was halfway through their routine. Amber Rastich was attempting the triple summersault when it happened. Amber’s timing was perfect. She landed the summersault without flaw.

Wally wasn’t watching the acrobats though.

He had seen their act a thousand times in rehersal. Wally’s attention was captured by Cary Marlowe and his entourage.

And because Wally’s rapt attention was focused on Cary Marlowe, Wally saw what most of the people at the circus missed.

As soon as Amber Rastich grasped the hands of her older brother Raul (whose last name was also Rastich, oddly enough), Wally watched Cary Marlowes head simply disintegrate.

What struck Wally was that there was no sound whatsoever.

Cary Marlowe’s head simply went away. No fanfare, no herald, it simply went away.

Needless to say, once people had a chance to take notice of what had happened, pandemonium ensued.

There was an immediate stampede for the exits. Quite ridiculous really, when you think of it.

When you see footage of the Kennedy assassination, you can see the people on the parade line hitting the ground and seeking cover. There’s an unmentioned arrogance in that particular side of human nature. Someone of drastic stature is gunned down and Joe Public immediately thinks that he is next.

Funny really, when you think about it.

Wally was no different. He ran for the outside like a little girl.

The response time of the federal government, while tragic when it comes to matters of the average human being, is remarkably fast when it comes to the assassination of a single potential head of state.

Within minutes, the area around the arena was cordoned off.

And so it was that Wally found himself milling around with the rest of the people who had attended the evenings show, waiting to be interviewed by either police officers or men in black suits with clear wires coming out of their ears.

And it was while waiting that Wally met The Man for the second time of his life.

To be sure, when the man first began to approach him, Wally didn’t have the vaguest idea who The Man actually was.

All Wally saw was a clown on stilts walking up to him.

Even after the clown said, "I was certain that I would see you again", Wally didn’t have a clue.

Only after the clown subtly pulled back the left pant leg surrounding his stilt did Wally start to realize who he was talking to.

Because only when the pant leg was pulled back did Wally see the high powered rifle nicely fitted with what Wally assumed was a silencer that was strapped to it.

In hindsight, Wally would say that the man knew full well how terrified and excited Wally was by all of the drama. On some days, in hindsight, Wally would convince himself that The Man knew exactly what to say to Wally to turn his adrenaline-fueled panic to interest.

But if you asked him, Wally could never remember exactly what was said.

Wally could remember standing in front of a cold-blooded murderer. Wally could remember the murderer telling him that the only reason that he would be able to get away from his crime was that he was so out of place on his stilts and in his clown suit that he would be given a first look, and maybe even a second, but never the look that would hold him in place long enough for him to be caught. Wally would remember the murderer telling him that he had spent a lifetime being so obvious that he would never be paid the attention that was needed to connect him to his crimes.

Wally would remember The Man telling him how he wanted to make Wally his succesor.

And more importantly, on those nights when Wally would spend hours staring into the mirror wondering what might have happened if he had made the other choice, Wally would remember how much he wanted to believe that an outcast could fade into the background so that he might be able to do what no one else could.

The Man had done everything that he could to seduce Wally, with promises of everything that Wally had ever wanted.

Wally had to think for a very long time before he could give his answer.

End of part 1