Thomas Wictor

Truth in advertising

Truth in advertising

The person I’m going to make famous offered several promises. He guaranteed personalized attention to me and my project.

And how! He read absolutely everything I wrote. At the time I thought it was because he liked my writing. He may indeed like it. Psychopaths turn their empathy on and off at will. They can genuinely like you, and then they flip their little switch and do what’s necessary to get what they want. If it means destroying you, that’s your problem.

So the person I’m going to make famous may have indeed liked my work. But it was also a manual for how he could strike when I was most vulnerable.I spelled it out for him. Though I knew I was taking a risk in writing Ghosts and Ballyhoo, Chasing the Last Whale, and Hallucinabulia: the Dream Diary of an Unintended Solitarian, I had no idea that avaricious cyborgs would actually study it the way Patton studied Rommel’s writings.

I kept watch at the peephole, waiting for the fiends I knew would appear, but they were locked in with me the whole time. As promised there were lots of little personal touches.

Happy Birthday Tom !
We hope that you have a fabulous birthday !

That’s how she wrote it. Judging by my phone conversations with her, this is how she would’ve said it. Maybe their four-bedroom mansion has nitrous-oxide tubes that the army of personalizing little beavers can suck on when the nature of their work—vivisection—gets to them.

Here’s part of the letter I wrote to the person I’m going to make famous after I found out he’s a complete fraud.

Again, there’s nothing personal in this. Just refund my money. I’m not angry at you. What you did to me doesn’t compare to what others have done, as you well know.

Do the right thing. I know there’s a tiny shred of decency in you. When we spoke there were odd moments of silence when you didn’t have a response. That’s because you were ashamed. We all do things for which we’re ashamed. It takes great courage and character to admit to committing evil acts. My father was ashamed. I forgave him so that he could die in peace. Forgiving him didn’t do a thing to ease my own pain. I did it for his sake.

There are very few people who entirely lack morals. What happens is that people like you rationalize your misdeeds step by step. You then find yourself trapped by what you’ve done, and you figure you’ve passed the fail-safe point, the point of no return, so you have to fight against being held accountable. You think that if you admit to one misdeed, your whole house of cards will come crashing down. Dad felt the same way, and his life ended in terror and agony over what he’d done. It was all so unnecessary.

The hospice bed awaits us all, [name redacted for now]. I’m not afraid. I’m betting you are, though.

You can redeem yourself a little by refunding me.

No response, of course. Like Dad, he’s rationalized away all his crimes. But it was true. There were times on the phone when he’d be at a complete loss for words and would abruptly change the subject. In retrospect that was him flipping his little switch.

Must have money, beautiful money! MUST NOT LIKE HIM! HE HAS ONLY HIMSELF TO BLAME!

Yes, I deserved everything I got because I believed him, hired him, and thought he was legitimate. These are crimes against humanity for which I ought to be hanged. Or, as they said in the nineteenth century, “crapped.” Seriously.

“Crap ‘em high, boys!”

You know what’s so hard about clarity? I can tell how people are going to die, exactly the way Peter Boyle could in the brilliant X-Files episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” The person I’m going to make famous and his drunk wife are headed for perdition. You can’t mercilessly defraud people and get away with it forever. Someday it catches up to you.

Why, I believe that day was January 8, 2014, actually!

The person I’m going to make famous says he loves his work, and it shows in his dedication. Truth in advertising. Let me offer up my testimonial right here and now.

Please don’t look elsewhere…I am working full time on your account and your success is ahead of us.

—Thomas Wictor, Ghosts and Ballyhoo

Whoops. I didn’t say that. He said in response to me sending Scott Thunes’s Google-fu, which proved conclusively that I’d bought Hogzilla in a poke. I wonder if the expected answer to his plea was, “Oh. Okay. Carry on, then.”

Finally, the person I’m going to make famous says he will be a mentor, a counselor, and hopefully a friend.

A mentor, absolutely. I’ve learned at the feet of the master. The past seven months have made me capable of doing things I never thought possible. Fairly soon my new-found talents will be on full display.

And he was a counselor, because I found myself telling him everything that I swore I’d never reveal. Dave, the Best Therapist in the World, was another man who persuaded me to lower my guard. Dave’s intentions were a little different, though. I wrote about Dave on page 144-145 of Ghosts and Ballyhoo, but I didn’t mention this: Dave cut his fee by two-thirds when I told him I couldn’t afford to keep seeing him. Wasn’t that nice?

So not only were Dave’s intentions diametrically opposed to the counselor I’m going to make famous, money wasn’t an issue. Money is an issue with the person I’m going to make famous, but I think causing harm is the main impetus. That’s good, because when people do certain things, you no longer have to worry about their welfare. If, for example, absolute ruin is the result of my forthcoming actions, I won’t even be happy. I’ll be completely indifferent. The reason I’m going to make this person famous is only so that he won’t prey on others.

It’s the weirdest thing: He and his chortling, Vee-mouthed wife read everything I wrote, and they commented on the fact that I put an Australian Web designer out of business for stealing $6000 from me. The Web designer is a single mother who begged and begged and begged me to not do it. I did it anyway, and I felt…nothing. Why? Because she wasn’t sorry.

These people saw what I did, and then they went ahead took me for about $40,000. Like my father they live in the present, never thinking about consequences.

I’m not angry, but holy Christ, the guy I’ve hooked up with is enraged. His voice crackles on the phone. He’s like my hero St. Michael the Archangel. You ought to see what he’s got planned.

Oh, that’s right: You will see.

As for the person I’m going to make famous hopefully becoming a friend?

Sure! Why not? Let’s be pals! Come on down and we’ll have tea. My brothers Tim and Eric really want to meet you. Tim’s put off his trip up north for a while. I haven’t asked, but maybe he’s waiting for Eric.

Anyway, bring the wife. We’ll lay in a supply of nitrous oxide for her. It might come in handy, you know, after.

Oh, and you need to fire that moron who did the ad. It absolutely sucks. That ad isn’t going to sell a single copy of my book. I didn’t tell you at the time because I thought that even a big deal like you could have a brain fart when it comes to aesthetics, but God almighty. Tacky, ugly, and amateurish. No taste at all. Only a posturing parvenu takes this haunting image and fills it top to bottom with urine-colored text. Tim laughed his ass off at you.