By Macon Holt.
Walter looked up from his keyboard with extraordinary frustration. He looked incredulously at the document open in front of him. 70,000 words and he had not noticed. He had given the twenty-something protagonist of his newest work of contemporary prose his own name. This of course he had noticed immediately; in fact looking back it had been intentional. “Let the mainstream press pour over this, to try and find the truth of my salad days and let the intellectuals hunt in the gray space between fiction and the world outside”, he had thought. Walter hated the word “fact”, even in his private thoughts, in his work it was a word often used ad-nauseum by antagonists and the absurdly caricatured victims of his memory turned text. A scholarly collection was soon to be released entitled Walter D—— and Facts: Politics, Prose and Truth Content. Walter had been sent copy and replied with his blessings though the volume remained wrapped in publishing house cellophane. This name sharing was not a problem after all, authors using their own names for characters in their work is a well established trope of literary fiction. Indeed in this case Walter had even included the first letter of his last name, though replaced it with and elongated hyphen to add distance and ambiguity.
No the problem was that the Novel was set contemporaneously with the moment of its composition, which in public terms would likely mean the date of publishing and only in cloistered academic circles would that be pushed back to the proceeding 4 years. This issue of the moment of artistic creation, an underlying theme in the book itself, would be a topic of intense debate in two years time, particularly at the Temporality and the Pen: Walter D—— and the Present Tense conference to be held at Warwick University. He would not live to see this. While Walter did not think it was beyond the pale that someone in their late-mid-twenties could be called Walter in this day and age, on this particular read through it rang false with the character as he had developed. Today’s Walters, as young men, were fastidious, burdened with either the alienation of upper-class shut-ins or that of the aspirational lower-middle. This character was not a man out of time, an anachronistic relic, dashing the sort of suit no longer worn. Walter didn’t wear a suit of any description, he wore jeans, as did his character on the page. Walter’s jeans fit in such a way that, in the dark, they could well be mistaken for trousers, a style common among the late middle aged in the broadly leftie intellectual circles with which he associated. He had always found formal trousers incredibly inhuman. Whereas, the jeans worn by Walter on the page were snug in some places and would hang loose in others, they were unmistakably the jeans of a young man in any lighting state. Walter suddenly realised he had not spent much time describing what Walter on the page was wearing, other than that a hat was somehow involved. He quickly remedied this, though this tactic brought him no closer to a name.
The timer program on his incredibly slim laptop, which prevented him accessing the Internet while working in the morning, wound down and buzzed. Reflexively he opened his browser and restored previously closed tabs, the problem that had filled his head for the last hour, was now quite far, but by no means the furthest, thing from his mind. He found it difficult to work in the afternoons but the mornings had for most of his life been a breeze. The morning’s fervor, for him, seemed to stem from his lifelong discomfort with sleep and, what he felt, was its eerie proximity to oblivion. Not that this had inspired him to be particularly proactive, he only did enough, mostly through ego maniacal terror, to excuse himself his lethargy. With the Internet back this particular session of writing had come to a close.
After Lunch, and dinner with friends, in which they all recounted the tales of their most recent divorces and/or inadvisable trysts, Walter returned to his desk, a little worse for ware. He could see his large bed, through the office door, across the lounge, on the higher split level, at the top of a spiral staircase. He was filled with dread at the coming abyss. Opening the document Walter used a search and replace function to rid the text of Walter D—— and, in his place: R. D.. Yes, perfectly innocuous, with a hint of mystique. At the close of the novel however, he did place one iteration of Walter D——, because, for some reason, he did feel like he should be there at the end.