Fiction: Walter


First off, I’d like to say that She is NOT getting the Thinking Blogger award for this post.

Secondly, if you weren’t here yesterday and are wondering who Walter is and how he fits into the grand scheme of things, scroll down and read yesterday’s Thursday Thirteen. That should give you the background you need, but really. You can blame it all on Wylie. I’m not calling this an outtake because… I have no idea what it is yet. Maybe an outtake. Maybe the start of something longer. Tell me if you want more.

And anyone who catches the reference to another TTer and writer wins a cheer.

There was no doubt about it: Walter’s fingers were stiff and sore come morning. In some ways, they didn’t feel like fingers at all, but like claws, or those skinny little bird’s toes, all red and rumply. The sort you stared at as they moved, presaging disaster.

A few of those pills that Dr. Rosen had prescribed worked wonders. Over the years, Walter had learned not to ask what sort of pills Dr. Rosen was giving him. They worked, they got him through, that was all he needed to know. They gave his fingers their life back so that the show could go on.

Walter rolled over in bed and grabbed for his cigarettes and the lighter with the big, arthritis-happy flicker. The show… ahh, the show. The one that they said would tank, not last all these years. The one they said that fifty-year-olds had no business performing.

Tell that to Rat Catcher, Walter thought with a smile. They were as old as he was, had been at it as long as he had, and could still rock the house. Maybe not as long or hard or with as much energy, but they could still rock.

So much for those preconceptions of youth, Walter thought. Better to die before the aging process set in. Better to hang it up before age 40, just because 40 was when you got too old to have long hair and play the guitar for more than ten people at a party held in your living room.

It was funny to hear the young kids who came to play with him or just pay homage. A lot of them still believed those old tales. They’d blurt out something stupid like that, firmly inserting their feet in their mouths, all the while completely oblivious to it.

Walter and Dr. Rosen would have themselves a few good laughs about it later on. Sometimes, Lila would join them for those laughs, but usually, she held back. Lila wasn’t much for laughing at anybody anymore, least of all the young kids with stars in their eyes. She’d learned the hard way how that sort of behavior could backfire on you.

So had he, which is why Lila and Dr. Rosen were the only people he laughed with. Over the years, as his acquaintances had grown, his trusted inner circle had shrunk. People were too fast to sell you out, to crawl over you in their own race for the top.

How many times had he sat down with an eager young kid who wanted to be his next disciple and told that kid that being on the top didn’t matter? That having a steady, loyal audience and a consistent sales level was where it was at.

They’d always point out that in addition to a disciple, Walter himself was always latching on to a new hot guitarist with a huge following. They never got that it was all about marketing, that the idea was to use the hot guitarist to draw in new fans, many of whom stayed once the hot guitarist had cooled and drifted off into obscurity or a spot playing behind true has-beens like Jim Shields and Terry Fantillo.

The only ones who stuck around were the smart ones, the ones who did a stint with Walter and then went on to create their own band. Or to join a band with staying power, like Rises the Night.

He’d seen all sorts of kids over the years. The cocky ones, the quiet ones, the sex-obsessed ones, the junkie ones. He’d learned. And he’d survived.

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