Wally: a novella by Don Peteroy

Release Date: Oct. 9, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9849538-1-3
Paperback, 214 pages

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Synopsis: Charming, manic Wally Tiparoy has done something awful to his wife, Elizabeth, and he’s determined to prevent it from happening again. Knowing that his problem is too big for medication, and complex enough to baffle an entire team of psychoanalysts, Wally takes Elizabeth’s Honda and puts all his faith in a therapeutic road trip from Cincinnati to Inuvik, the northernmost town on the continent. He’s got a score to settle with Santa Claus, a lifetime of traumas to amend, and a marriage in need of repair. Told in letters to his wife, Wally retraces where his marriage went wrong, and recounts his encounters with diner patrons, a prayer hotline counselor, and the inventor of Memory Foam. But Wally has no more control over the momentum of his letters than he does his highway encounters, and ends up unearthing memories of his abusive grandfather, Marvin. What begins as a trip about reflection and redemption, quickly becomes a narrative of rationalization and evasion, as Wally’s mental state deteriorates. It could be that he’s off his meds, or it could be that he’s been hiding something else from Elizabeth, something far worse than his original transgression, something that only the loathsome Marvin would understand, and if Wally doesn’t tell her, he’s wasted a lot of gas.

Praise for Wally

“Unique in form, Don Peteroy’s epistolary confessional road novella is compellingly poised between future and past, acceleration and reflection. Only through departure can Wally (and readers) begin to arrive at the complexities of desire, volition, and responsibility. Wally’s cognitive detours through history, physics, psychology, and religion make his journey all the more rich and engaging.”

~Chris Bachelder, author of Bear vs. Shark, U.S.!, and Abbott Awaits

“Early in Don Peteroy’s Wally, the eponymous hero tells his poor wife, by letter, on the occasion of his fleeing to the Yukon, again, “don’t try to get in touch with me.” Unlucky for her, but lucky for the reader, Wally is himself an expert getting-in-touch-er, a grouchy, funny, anguished, eloquent observer of and reporter on everything that matters in the world, including himself. He’s terrible company as a husband, but the best kind of company as a narrator.”

~Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England and Exley

“An epic emotional journey, Wally is more than a slew of diary entries and letters home. This novel uncovers a man’s psychological transformation as his medications leach from his system, and he travels the distance of nearly two countries. Wally exposes how his dysfunctional and abusive upbringing has left him a shattered man who passes his childhood horrors onto the only person who has ever truly loved and trusted him. A hard-hitting and beautifully written book, Don Peteroy takes readers on a gravely emotional and thought-provoking journey, one that resonates long after Wally reaches his destination.”

~Lavinia Ludlow, for Small Press Reviews

About the Author

Don Peteroy lives with his wife in Cincinnati, Ohio. His short story, “The Circuit Builders,” was awarded first place in Playboy’s 2012 College Fiction Contest, and appears in the October 2012 issue. Other stories of Don’s have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Cream City Review, Permafrost, Eleven Eleven, Chattahoochee Review, Santa Clara Review, Yemassee, and elsewhere. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati. He blogs at
letterstojamesfranco.com. Wally is his first book.

an excerpt from

Dear Elizabeth,

I have with me ten pairs of underwear, three cartons of nicotine gum, the credit cards, Mapquest directions, and four partially crushed boxes of Cheez-Its. It’s six in the morning. In thirty minutes, you’ll read the letter I taped to the shower curtain. You’ll call your boss and say, “I can’t come in today. He’s left for the Yukon Territories. Again.”

This time, don’t try to get in touch with me. My cell phone is off. I’m avoiding email, too. Instead, I plan to communicate with you the old-fashioned way: through hand-written letters. I’ll send the entire bundle once my therapeutic journey is complete. They’ll contain everything you need to know: dates, locations, epiphanies. I realize that this is one-sided and inconsiderate; I’d certainly be a better husband if I updated you in real-time, but the reason why I’ve chosen to withhold contact is simple: I cannot experience a psychic transformation if you’re making me feel guilty about it. I’m dealing with enough remorse already, especially after what’s happened and what I did last night. I want to become a man of dignity and honor, and in order to secure those virtues, I must avoid shame at all costs. One little, pleading email that says, “Wally, where are you? I miss you!” could destroy everything I seek to accomplish.

You’re thinking, “Nice try. Remember what happened when you tried to pull off the same stunt four years ago? You won’t even make it to the Canadian border before you get a flat tire, have a panic attack, and come home apologizing.”

I know I’ll reach my destination because, so far, I don’t feel the sense of entrapment that thwarted my prior attempt to leave Cincinnati. I’ve thought this trip out. I’m clear-headed about what I’m doing. Even though that note I left on the shower seems frantic, my self-evaluation remains objective. Yet, despite how well I’ve maintained a healthy sense of skepticism, I cannot dismiss that there might be some greater, spiritual powers nudging me along. Every event that has transpired since I tiptoed out of our apartment this morning has proven, beyond any doubt, that the city wishes to extract me. I’ll explain.

I had some errands to run before beginning my journey, the first of which involved heading over to the Court Street Theater and getting fired from my job. It would have been easier to just quit, but I’m a forward-thinking person. You and I would probably need a few unemployment checks to hold us over until I found a more agreeable job, unless your sudden success started to pay off.

In order for me to be eligible for compensation benefits, the terms of my dismissal would have to fulfill Ohio’s “approvable job separation” criterion. I’ll admit, I only scanned the precepts in our employee manual, but I’m certain that unless I committed an act of theft, violence, or sexual harassment, I’d meet the requirements. The hard part would be convincing Kyle to fire me. You know how he is: Kyle rarely gives into people’s demands without putting up a fight. He’s a black-belt in the Socratic Method, both fearless and shrewd from all his years doing improvisational acting and debating liberals at town hall meetings. Although he’d threatened to fire me many times over the last two years, this would be different. My removal was on my terms, and therefore, he’d do everything in his power to keep me employed. He’d drill me with his rhetorical expertise. I’m not that keen; I’d contradict myself and expose my motives. So, I devised a strategy, one that would give Kyle no choice but to terminate me. I’d simply avoid direct confrontation. All I’d have to do is leave a note on his desk. He usually doesn’t come to work until the early afternoon, and I’d be long gone, hopefully in Indiana by that time.

Last night, I spent an hour writing the note to Kyle. You were sitting right next to me, knitting a sweater for your mother’s birthday. You were having a hard time maneuvering the needle, what with the food poisoning you’d experienced earlier that evening.You were trying to conceal your discomfort. Our discomfort. You didn’t seem at all curious about what I was doing. You probably thought that I was making a grocery list.Initially, I’d composed a detailed explanation of why I should be fired. I even lied, said that I may or may not have charged senior citizens full admission, and pocketed the difference. My words were deliberately ambiguous. I’d written, “What with my bipolar disorder, I can’t tell whether I committed these crimes in my imagination or not. Sometimes, when I’d get home from work, I’d find a few dollars in my pocket. Maybe that was change from Starbucks? I simply can’t remember.”

After you went to bed, I reconsidered what I’d written. Even though I’d used dubious wording, the letter’s content could still be construed as incriminating evidence. I tried writing it again, several times, and finally whittled the note down to its essentials. The finished message said:

Kyle, You’ve been a wonderful boss. I regret to inform you that I won’t be coming to work for an indefinite amount of time, which could be anywhere between a week and a year. It would be in your best interest to fire me for this violation. I wish you luck in finding my replacement.
Sincerely, Wally Tiparoy

When I arrived downtown it was a little after 5:30AM and still dark. I parked a few blocks from the theater because the Sanitation Department was spraying chemicals all over Court Street. According to the local AM radio station, a truck carrying a forty-foot-long tank of unprocessed milk had overturned. Court Street was ankle-deep in thick, curdling slime. The yellow river ran through downtown, and emptied into the Riverfront Stadium parking lot.

The stench was nauseating, so putrid that after one breath, I felt like my stomach was full of warm mayonnaise. My nasal passages constricted in protest. Stray cats lined the curb, a meowing, goo-slurping ripple of fur and fleas. A few brave ones wet their paws. When they discovered that their lactose paradise was shallow enough to traverse safely, they jumped in and rolled joyfully in the muck. The policemen, standing behind flashing barricades, suppressed their laughter, while the Sanitation Department dispersed a mist of toxic absorbents from pickup trucks. Early morning joggers used their cell phones to take videos and pictures of the spill.

I rushed past newsmen in oxygen masks. Some were milling about, sipping coffee from Styrofoam cups while waiting for more pertinent news, like related deaths and car accidents. Other reporters deliberately lied as the cameras rolled: “Could this cause an E. Coli epidemic in Cincinnati? The EPA has yet to issue a statement, but stay tuned for tips on how to survive this potentially catastrophic event.”

I unlocked the theater’s front door. One of the framed advertisements in the lobby—for our upcoming performance of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard—was slanted. I repositioned it, moved the velvet ropes aside, and walked toward the administrative offices. Light spilled from beneath Kyle’s door. I assumed that he’d accidentally left the lights on, so I pressed my key into the lock and turned the knob. When I opened the door, he jerked back and the wheels of his seat scraped across the tile floor.

“Wally!” he shouted. “What are you doing here?”

Damn it, I thought. Something must be wrong. Maybe we were being audited again? The IRS had come down on us last year, after I’d forgotten to renew our 501c3 tax exemption forms.

I thought to just drop the note on his desk and run, but a cluster of images on Kyle’s computer monitor momentarily distracted me. Splayed across the screen, in flashing gold letters, were the words Cast Fetish Tube. A video showed a man performing two absurd tasks at once: he was rubbing his naked groin against a woman’s leg cast, while sucking on another impaired woman’s metal neck brace. My mouth opened, but I emitted no sound. Kyle had always seemed so prudent, so sexually conservative, the kind of guy who sprayed down the bed sheets with Febreze before and after sex. Yet, I’d always sensed that there was something off about him. I could never put my finger on it, but now, the truth was exposed. You and I both know that it’s always those types—the morally pompous Midwesterners who bemoan sexual liberation—who tell their wives that they’re going to a church fundraiser and end up doing two-man acrobatics in a stall along some interstate, their pockets bulging with twenty-five cent condoms they’d purchased from the dispenser on the wall.

But cast fetishes? I had a hard time coming up with an impromptu Freudian analysis of this one. I bet you find Kyle’s cast fetish shocking too, unless you’ve known all along that he’s a pervert, and you’ve chosen not to mention it, which I’d find curious because you tell me everything about everyone’s business. Such deceitfulness on your part would make me wonder what else you’ve concealed about Kyle. I’ve been wary about you and Kyle since you met him seven years ago, but I’ve always chalked it up to my deeply-rooted trust issues.

When Kyle saw me gape at the screen, he said, “It’s not what you think.”

A band of sweat formed beneath his hairline. His cheeks turned scarlet. He stuttered, “You see, I’m working on an original play about a bizarre group of incidents. Historical incidents. Very bizarre.” He rolled up his sleeves. “It involves, among many other things, a series of rapes in a hospital in Milan during World War One.”There was a copy of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms on his desk. Four, thick lines of cocaine were arranged on the book’s cover…