Where Waldo Was: A Booper and Bryan Misadventure Featuring Mike Pence
It was shortly after Christmas in the year ‘20. Booper and I were in the office we shared at the Ordinary Times Investigative Bureau, Building Three, Third Floor. I was sitting at my desk admiring the very thoughtful Christmas gift I’d been given by Will Truman, a beautiful pistol, a Chekhov 1911. Booper was lounging in his gift, a hammock he’d managed with great difficulty to sling across the office and then, with even greater difficulty—looking like a particularly ungainly giraffe being taken by surprise by a net—mounted.
Nice of him to give you a gun, Booper said. What d’you suppose he imagined you doing with it?
Given that you are likely to cause yourself grievous bodily injury getting in and out of that hammock, I said, I imagine he pictured me putting you out of your misery.
Would you be a lad and do that for me should the circumstance arise? he asked.
Of course! I said.
The intercom buzzed. It was my confidential secretary, Ms. Trollop.
Mr. O’Nolan, she said. The Wally Watchers are here to see you.
The who now?
The Who are not currently touring, Mr. O’Nolan , due to the pandemic.
Not those who, I said, the who that are here.
These who? The Wally Watchers.
Still beyond fuddled, I told her to send them in.
All my life, Booper McCarthy, I thought you were the one person I could speak to and the more questions I’d ask the less informed I’d be, and yet here we are, I said.
Here we are, he confirmed sagely.
In the Wally Watchers came, and what a strange set they were into the bargain. They all wore blue jeans; some had round Windsor-style glasses. All had at least one garment—a hat, a scarf or a shirt—in red and white hoops. They could only crowd halfway into the room—what with Booper’s hammock stretched across—so they piled in and stood awkwardly up against it while Booper gazed up at them, smiling benevolently like an expectant child.
Are you in some sort of show? I asked, trying not to come across as condescending.
No, one of them said eventually, having wordlessly consulted his fellows.
Are you some sort of traveling troupe or band?
Not exactly, another one said.
Well, what are you?
We’re the Wally Watchers! a third volunteered enthusiastically.
That isn’t very helpful. What is it that you Wally Watchers do?
We watch Wally! they said.
I put my face in my hands.
Now, Bryan, Booper said. Even I could see that coming.
I took a deep breath.
And who is this Wally that you watch?
Well, said one. Wally, or Waldo, is a world traveler and time travel enthusiast!
Do you tell me so, in point of fact?
We watch him all the time, wherever he goes! said another. Waldo is known for his distinctive mode of dress.
The entire group of Watchers showed off their outfits.
So I see. And how can the crack investigative team of Booper and I be of assistance?
We’ve lost him! He’s disappeared! We haven’t seen him for days! they all seemed to shout at once.
No updates to his social media!
No activity on his credit cards!
We found no evidence in our weekly sift of his garbage!
We need to know: Where’s Waldo?
I think if I were this Waldo, I might want to disappear myself, I muttered.
No, no .This is very unlike him, they said. The only clue we’ve found are these.
They proffered a pair of glasses—reaching awkwardly across the gently swinging form of Booper McCarthy—in the very style the Watchers themselves wore.
Please, Mr. O’Nolan, they pleaded.
Alright, fine. I’ll find him. But if the man just wants to be left alone in peace, alone in peace he shall be left.
They nodded enthusiastically.
Now, where did you find these spectacles?
In a shoe store, one said. On top of one of those . . . things.
You know, she said. Those doo-hickeys.
No, no, said another. It’s more of a gizmo.
You know, said a third, those metal dealies you use to measure your feet in a shoe store.
Ah, a Brannock Device! I said triumphantly.
A what? said Booper with such force he nearly threw himself out of the hammock.
A Brannock Device, you great clod! The device you use to measure our show size. And now I know just where to start. Do you still have that all terrain food truck, Booper? I suspect we’re going to need it.
Well, Andrew Donaldson took my keys, but I’m fairly certain he gave them to Ms. Trollop.
In half an hour I had successfully extricated Booper from the hammock—managing to do so harming neither Booper nor the hammock—and we were gassed up and on our way to Liverpool, New York: Home of the Brannock Device.
Now, if you’ve ever been to Liverpool, New York in the winter, you know it as a lonely, snow-packed canal stop whose chief contributions to the world—other than the Brannock Device—are Seasonal Affective disorder and small, hypertension-inducing salty potatoes—Jesus, Mary and Joseph does Booper enjoy the salty potatoes—and separated by a lake equal parts Mercury and wastewater from the Mordor of Upstate, Syracuse.
Thankfully, Booper had thought to mount the cow catcher attachment to the front of the food truck. It functioned as a passable plow as we wandered the serotonin-depleted streets.
We searched in vain for a show store in hopes that someone could direct us to the Brannock World Headquarters; the closest thing we could find was a haberdashery by the library called Handford’s.
We plowed ourselves a parking spot and went in.
I was immediately discouraged; the shop was full of hats. But then I saw something that told me that we were in the right place: The woman behind the counter was dressed in bluejeans, a red and white hooped shirt and hat and heavy-rimmed glasses.
Top of the mornin’ to you, ma’am, I said.
Welcome to Handford’s! My name is Wilma. How can I help you?
We’re looking for a man who lost these glasses, I said, handing the spectacles in question to her. He has a group of hangers-on who are concerned for him.
She recognized the glasses instantly.
Waldo! These are Waldo’s!
I turned from the desk to call to Booper, who was browsing straw hats at the front of the store.
Do you hear that, Booper? We’re on the right track, begob!
I turned back to the clerk, who stood scrutinizing the glasses.
Now, Wilma, that’s—
Wilma? she said with a laugh. I’m Wenda!
I’m sorry, what?
Wenda, she said. Wilma’s identical twin sister.
Ah! I turned to Booper again. Twins, to beat the band. How silly of me. Twins! Well, I said, turning back to Wenda, my apologies, Ms. Wenda.
Wenda? No, I’m Wilma! she said.
I jumped to the counter to see where Wenda had gone.
It’s okay, she said. We find ourselves suddenly switched without explanation. We’re not sure if it’s due to a continuity error or a typo.
Do you tell me so? An error of the continuity. How very strange.
It has its benefits. We’re able to draw double pay, appearance fees, royalties, all without ever having to appear at the same time.
Well, I said, if there must be injustice in the world, you’ve at least managed to turn it to your own advantage.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about this, I don’t mind telling you.
Regarding the owner of these spectacles, I said.
Oh, yes! Waldo. I suspect his nemesis, Odlaw, is behind this.
Tell me more about this Odlaw, if you please.
Well, he looks just like Waldo, except his clothes are yellow and black, he wears blue-tinted glasses and has a mustache. His bad deeds are many.
What sort of bad deeds are they? I asked.
I looked quizzically at her.
Look, she said, it’s a picture book. There’s limited exposition.
Fair play, fair play, I said. Is there anything else you can tell me about this nefarious nemesis?
Well, she thought for a moment. He’s always after Waldo’s magical cane. You should consult Wizard Whitebeard, he knows all about this sort of thing.
Being magical, I allowed.
Being magical. Right, she said. He lives in a yurt in Hanford, Iowa.
Did you say Handford? Like this haberdashery?
So there’s Handford’s Haberdashery . . .
And Hanford, Iowa.
Does it? Would you prefer Hanford, Washington? That one’s radioactive.
Iow, it is, then, I said. Thank you for your help, Wil—
Wenda! Booper called. Oh, and Bryan. One more thing before we leave.
Sixteen hours west down Interstates 90 and 80, Booper and I—bedecked in our new straw hats—arrived at Wizard Whitebeard’s yurt in Hanford, Iowa.
Booper, I said as I shut down the engine of his food truck. I confess I am entirely ignorant regarding the, shall we say, etiquette one ought to employ in addressing a yurt and its dweller.
Yurtiquette? Booper said. Leave it to me; I once ate the Mongolian Barbecue.
Once ate the Mongolian Barbecue? Since when does that confer expertise in—
Bryan, I was in Ulaanbaatar, formerly known as Niĭslel Khüree. It has been Mongolia’s principal city for centuries.
The cuisine was delicious.
Before I could stop him, he was standing, arms wide, calling to the yurt:
O, yurt! And sweller within, I summon thee in friendship!
Out from the yurt came a tall man in a red robe and a pointy blue hat. A ponderous long beard had he and a red scarf lay upon it.
Behold, he said, adopting the same stance as Booper. I am Wizard Whitebeard and I am he who dwells within this yurt. Greetings!
Greetings! Booper replied.
Wizard Whitebeard eyed the side of Booper’s truck.
You come bearing victuals, I see! I will have a dozen of you Painful Anus Wings and a side order of Potato Toddlers.
Booper and I fumbled, at a loss for words.
Oh, he said. With chipotle mustard and a lemonade.
Sir, Mr. Wizard Whitebeard, I began—
No need for formality, friend, he said. You may simply call me Wizard Whitebeard.
Wizard Whitebeard. Yes. Unfortunately, this food truck is no longer a going concern and has been reduced to a mere conveyance—he looked crestfallen—We have come to you in search of a man you know.
How disappointing. I’ve not had Potato Toddlers for many years.
No more disappointed than we are, let me assure you, I said. We are here, shall I say—
On a quest! interjected Booper.
On a quest to find Waldo.
Wally is missing? asked Wizard Whitebeard, aghast.
Yes. Question: Why is he sometimes Wally and other times Waldo?
Localization, he said. In some regions he’s Wally; in others, Waldo.
Fascinating! said Booper, in awe.
Indeed. In France, he’s Charlie. In Israel, he’s Efi and in Turkey he’s Gezgin Veli.
Must create a difficult passport situation, I said. Inconvenient for a world traveler and time travel enthusiast.
That’s where his magic walking stick comes in handy.
Is this the same magic walking stick that Wilma and, or Wenda told us about? The one that Odlaw has tried to steal?
The very same.
Wenda and, or Wilma suggested that Odlaw might be behind Waldo’s disappearance.
Yes, Wizard Whitebeard said. Odlaw’s bad deeds are many.
So we’ve heard. Might you know where Waldo may have gone?
Yes, he said. I sent him on a quest of self-discovery. To New York City, in September of 1922.
Drat, I said. This is the end of the line, then. The truck can do much, but certainly not travel through time.
I can help you with that, but it is not without peril. I will send you to find him. If you can find Waldo or his walking stick, you will be transported back here. What is today?
January the fourth.
January the fourth. But, if you cannot, you will be stranded in the past for the rest of your lives.
It’s a deal! Booper said, before I could express my misgivings.
Gentlemen, he said. Into the truck.
Booper dragged me inside as Wizard Whitebeard began his incantation:
Art deco design
I transport this food truck
Back in time!
There was a swirl of color and a great crashing noise as Booper and I were thrown bodily to the floor of the cooking compartment. We stood, brushed ourselves off and straightened our straw hats.
A time traveling food truck, I muttered. Ludicrous, just ludicrous. It strains credulity more than those books you made me read to you about the time traveling librarian.
Someone knocked on the outside of the truck. It sounded like there was a great commotion going on out there.
Now look here, I said, opening the service window. Mr. Wizard—
But the man who gazed up at me was not Wizard Whitebeard, but a youngish man in a suit with a broad smile and a straw hat the spit of ours. What’s more, we were parked on a city street!
Why, you are open! the man said. Well, ain’t that the cat’s meow. How many clams for an order of Potato Toddlers, Jackson?
I’m sorry, I said. But we’re not currently open for business.
Applesauce, I’m starving!
From across the broad avenue, a gang of street toughs pointed at us and yelled.
The man pleaded to be let into the truck.
Can ya help a brother out, Jackson? They got a couple of big sixes and if we don’t get a wiggle on there’s going to be trouble.
We pulled him in and sped off.
What the hell is going on? I demanded.
There’s a riot going on is what, Jackson. Anyone seen wearin’ a straw hat after Felt Hat Day is liable to get bumped off, if those bluenosed Mrs. Grundys from Mulberry Bend are around.
Felt Hat Day?
You hoid right. September the fifteenth. The last day it’s socially acceptable for a fella to wear a straw hat.
And there’s a riot going on to enforce this rule?
You got it, bub.
Is there anywhere that’s safe?
Sure, I know a speakeasy ‘round the corner.
Once ensconced in the bar, we showed our new friend—his name is O’Reilly—Waldo’s glasses.
Sorry. I don’t recognize these cheaters, he said. But there’s this hard-boiled private dick comes ‘round this place. Name of McGillicuddy. Lemme see if he’s in.
I like the sound of this McGillicuddy, Booper said.
Do yo unow?
I’m confident in a man named McGillicuddy, he said. You can tell a lot from a man’s name. McGillicuddy.
Do you tell me so, Booper McCarthy?
I do. McGillicuddy. Besides, he is a hard-boiled private dick after all.
And what, pray tell, is a hard-boiled private dick?
Bryan, he said with a smile that filled his enormous, square head. I have no idea.
Just then O’Reilly returned, apologetic.
I’m sorry, he said. I found him, but he’s spifflicated.
No, not that.
I don’t follow.
I’m at a loss.
Doesn’t ring a bell.
Drawing a blank, sorry.
Fried to the hat?
Booper and I just stared in utter confusion.
Drunk. He’s drunk.
We know that one! we cried.
Well, he may have sobered up by now, he said. Still, I ain’t makin’ any promises.
McGillicuddy was drunk indeed. His straw hat was perched askance on the back of his crown. His hair was tousled and his eyes were glassy. His suit was disheveled. He stank of gin.
Wha’d’ya want? he growled, seeming to challenge the entire room.
We described Waldo and showed him the glasses.
Yeah, I seen ‘im. He was tied up in the struggle-buggy of a hayburner driven by some egg wearing black and yellow. Left this behind.
He dropped an intricately carved ivory-colored walking stick onto the table.
Booper and I exchanged a wide-eyed glance.
Is that scrimshaw? I ventured.
May I take a closer look?
I reached out for the walking stick.
The moment I touched the thing there was a swirl of color and a bang and we found ourselves back in the food truck.
Booper burst out into the January Iowa sunlight.
It worked! he declared, pulling Wizard Whitebeard into a hug. It worked! We found it!
It worked? Well, I’ll be damned.
I brought out the carved walking stick.
It’s scrimshaw, I think, which means there’s only one man to consult. America’s foremost amateur expert on scrimshaw art: Vice President Michael Pence.
Two days later we were at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
As Michael’s unofficial biographer, I not only have access to the super-secret parking garage, but I am also able to carry firearms like the Chekhov 1911 Will had given me a week prior in the halls of Congress. Still, once we made it to the Capitol proper, we found people everywhere. Several times we thought we spotted Waldo when, in fact, we’d just spotted the stars and stripes in flag or garment form.
There were people milling about. In some places they were shouting or cheering. I’d never seen so unruly a mob in the Capitol.
We made our way to the underground Command Center.
The room was very tense and noisy. There were staffers running around and loosely controlled chaos to beat the band. We ran up to Michael.
Michael, I said, I’m so glad we’ve found you. We need a consultation. To make a long story short—I can see that you’re busy—missing person. Consulted a wizard. Need you to identify some scrimshaw.
A wizard, you say? Michael said, grabbing my arm. He didn’t, perhaps, resemble a shaman, did he?
Oh, no, I said. He was a wizard, pointy hat and long beard and all.
Ah, I see, said he. I’m sorry. I have much on my mind.
Of course, of course, Michael. I understand. Feast of the Epiphany, today. Always leaves one contemplating the higher things. Gifts of the Holy Ghost and such. Beautiful Mass at the Basilica this morning.
Sadly my mind is taken up with worldly, but gravely consequential concerns, Bryan.
An aide interrupted:
He refuses to answer on any line, sir.
Thank you, Ms, Harpootlian. Connie? he called to another aide. I’ll put the finishing touches on that letter in just a moment.
Now, Michael, I said. I’ll ask for the intercession of St. Sebastian that the Most High grant you strength and perseverance, that you may withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
He was tied to a tree and shot with arrows, this Sebastian, Booper said.
That strikes home, Booper. These days it seems being tied to a tree and pierced by arrows is my vocation.
But he lived! Booper said. Thus the strength and perseverance and such.
Did he now? Michael Pence said. That warms my heart, Booper. I can identify with this Sebastian of yours. Bryan, you’ve the gift of gab. What’s the word for being trussed up to a tree and peppered with arrows for sport? Is there a word for that?
I’ve got one! Booper said. Bullshit.
Connie, he called. I’ve found the right word for my sentiments in that letter: Bullshit.
The command center went quiet.
You heard me, Michael said, smiling at Booper and me. Bullshit. Send the letter. Now, Bryan, let’s see this scrimshaw you were telling me about.
We showed it to him.
Remarkable work! he said. Late eighteenth, early nineteenth century. Exquisite! Downeast, Maine or my name’s not Michael Atticus Pence! If you’d know more, consult the good folks on Islesboro, Maine at the Alice L. Pendleton Museum.
Thank you, Michael!
You’re most welcome. And Bryan, thank you for telling me about this Sebastian fellow. He will be my North Star in these trying times.
Booper and I winced.
What is it?
You should know, Michael, that after recovering from the arrows he harangued the Emperor Diocletian—speaking truth to power, if you will—and was cudgeled to death for it.
Michael was gobsmacked.
The next day we were in Belfast, Maine searching for information. After circling for over an hour I’d had enough.
Booper, I said. Pull over here; I need a coffee.
Fine, said he. I’ll see what I can learn from this information kiosk.
When I returned, Booper was interrogating the kiosk attendant regarding what she knew about Napoleonic Wars era regional scrimshaw art. The poor young lady was cowering, tearful trying to get Booper to accept tourism pamphlets.
Needless to say, he was uninterested in puffin tours.
Booper, you mad idjit, leave her alone! I shouted, but then I noticed something strange emerging from behind the kiosk.
It was a small dog with a red and white hooped sweater and hat and spectacle-shaped lines around his eyes. He was pulling a pair of bluejeans with his teeth.
Booper! I called. Look what I’ve found!
He rushed over.
I grabbed the bluejeans and tried to wrestle them from the dog.
Aww, what’s your name, boy? I crooned.
Woof! The dog said.
Who’s a good boy? I said, trying to calm him.
Woof! Said the dog again.
Who’s a sweet puppy?
The dog sat back on his haunches, letting the pants fall loose from his mouth.
Look, pal, he said. You asked my name and I answered you. I’m Woof.
Egads! cried Booper. A talking dog!
Booper, I said, folding my arms. In the last week you traveled to the 1920s, met a wizard and inspired Mike Pence to curse and this is where you refuse to suspend disbelief?
Fair enough, said he. Where’s your master, boy?
Don’t patronize me, hombre, Woof said. He’s been kidnapped by Odlaw. I’ve tracked him this far and I suspect we should investigate the wharf.
Given that this was the closest thing to a solid lead we’d had throughout this entire investigation, we agreed.
We spotted that nefarious scofflaw trying to get into a skiff with an outboard motor., but Booper was too quick for him and held him fast.
Where’s Waldo? I demanded.
I’ll never talk, fed! Odlaw shouted defiantly.
I pulled the Chekhov 1911 from my waistband and leveled it at his heart.
Where’s Waldo? I asked again.
Waldo, he muttered, despondent.
Exactly. Where’s Waldo? Don’t make me ask you again.
I told you. He’s north of here. Up the river. In Waldo.
Yes, Odlaw said. In the Town of Waldo, in Waldo County, Maine.
Oh, I said. Well. I suppose I should have seen that coming. Take us to him.
He took us by boat up the Passagassawakeag into Waldo, Waldo, Maine and docked at a quiet jetty just as the dusk was closing in.
He opened the door to a little cabin and there was Waldo, hog-tied with his sweater and naked as the day he was born but for his red and white striped hat.
As Booper, Woof and I entered the cabin to untie him, Odlaw cackled and ran for the boat. I pointed my gun at him and pulled the trigger. Out came a nine-inch plastic shaft from which unfurled a pennant that said, “Bang.”
Waldo was unharmed.
Sometime, I should regale you with the tale of Mike Pence’s first colonoscopy.