Untitled 1978 (Very) Short Story by Philip K. Dick

This “story,” according to Anne Dick’s biography of Phil, was sent to Daniel Gilbert in September 1978. Gilbert had sent a 7 page manuscript to Phil called “Confessions of a Troublemaker.” Phil praised the story and, in a letter to Gilbert, sent the following piece.

“In the back of the bus an old wino in tattered clothing sat hunched over, holding a wine bottle ill-concealed in a brown paper bag. He seemed to be staring at me — in a listless and depressed sort of way — and I found myself returning his stare. “Don’t you recognize me?” the old wino said suddenly. “No.” I answered, hoping his limited span of attention would wander away from me. But the old wino lurched to his feet, shambled over and seated himself beside me. “I’m Phil Dick,” he said hoarsely. “At the end of my life. Changed, haven’t I?” He chuckled but without mirth.

“This is how a giant of the field winds up?” I said, amazed, distress filling me. “My life was an unending failure,’ Phil said, and I saw now that it was, indeed, Phil Dick: I recognized the eyes, the sorrow-drenched but still proud glare of a person who had known torment but had not bowed to it. “Marriage after marriage down the rathole…money gone…my children and friends deserting me…all my hopes for a family and stability shot.” He took a covert swig from the bottle; it was, I saw, Ripple.

“I may have been a success as a writer,” he continued, “but what does that matter really? Living alone year after year in a rented room, paying off the I.R.S. and my endless child support, waiting vainly for the right girl, the girl who, when she finally showed up, merely laughed at me.” Tears filled his eyes. “Being a giant of science fiction is not all that much,” he rasped. “It’s like Goethe said: the peasant with his hearth and wife and children is happier than the greatest philosopher.”

From behind us a sharp laugh sounded. “I’m doing fine,” a needle-like voice penetrated at the two of us. Turning, I saw that it was Harlan Ellison, wearing a snappy suit, his face dancing with satisfaction. “Tough luck, Phil, but we get what we deserve. There’s a logic to the universe.” “Okay, Harlan,” Phil murmured, clutching his wine bottle. “Lay off.” “You may have wound up in the gutter,” Harlan continued, unabashed, “but I have my big house in Sherman Oaks; I have a library of all my thousands of –”

“I knew you when you were a twerp fan,” Phil broke in. “Back in 1954. I gave you a story for your fanzine.” “And a crummy story it was,” Harlan said with a smirk. Falteringly, Phil murmured, “But you said you liked it.” “I liked the name of the main character,” Harlan corrected. “Waldo. I remember exactly what I said; I said ‘I always admire people named Waldo.’ I threw the story away.”

Slumped over in misery, Phil said nothing. The bus continued on; and, as I scrutinized the gloating, amused face of Harlan Ellison and the unhappy, defeated figure beside me I wondered what it was all about, what it was all for. Which of the two of them did I feel the most pity for? Gloating cruelty and triumph, or wretched despair? It was hard to say.”

Thanks to Patrick Clark for making this and other long-lost PKD Interviews available.

4 thoughts on “Untitled 1978 (Very) Short Story by Philip K. Dick

  1. Hi, hope you don’t mind, I’m doing a translation of this short story but I can’t find the meaning -or translation, for that matter- of the word “apying off” that is used in the second paragraph. I’m not sure if it’s a typo or that I just don’t know the word. Maybe you’ll be so kind to help me with this? We intend to post this translation on our website, remembering Dick’s death anniversary, which is today, and obviously giving you the credit and linking your blog to our post.
    Hoping for your help and response.
    Thanks!

  2. By the way, you’re most welcome to visit our website “La Langosta Se Ha Posteado”: http://lalangostasehaposteado.blogspot.mx/
    It’s a science fiction and fantasy blogzine that started out in 1993 as an electronic fanzine. We used floppy discs that were passed hand to hand, and as technology advanced, so did we. Anyway, all this just to reiterate our invitation to visit our site.
    Thanks again…

  3. See another typo, in 3rd paragraph? The word ‘mearly’, in sentence:

    “waiting vainly for the right girl, the girl who, when she finally showed up, mearly laughed at me.”

    Thank-You! for this very short story of Phil’s.

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