m a r t i n    o t t

The Walking Man’s Apprentice


He’d already tried step training and half-marathons, competitive Pilates and church league softball, the usual mix on non-blood sport conquests. The Walking Man had entranced him for years, treading endless streets with eyes trained downward on newspapers, magazines and maps of lost civilizations. Once he had caught The Walking Man mulling over Mesopotamian travel routes outside of Trader Joes, navigating by starlight. It was then that he decided to follow.

The Walking Man had no shirt, leathery skin and never once looked at the metal beasts bearing down. The new apprentice kept a step behind on the daily exodus, reading Ulysses and Pynchon upside down. He forgot about his stalled career, movie billboard puns and volunteering at animal rescue shelters to bag overly caring lovers. He did not speak on the circuitous routes alongside the reservoir into Silverlake Hills. Braying coyotes brought each night to an end.

The apprentice earned bronzed skin the color of his shorts, shed twenty pounds and his screams from nightmares of tsunamis carpeting Hollywood. His time on the road seemed endless like the myth of Los Angeles or memories of childhood jaunts to Joshua Tree so that his mother could meet men on vacation. “You cannot catch courage,” were the only words The Walking Man uttered when El Nino winds and palm frond shrapnel forced the apprentice indoors, never to return to his master’s side.

Years later, when he drove his own family past the relentless wanderer, he confessed to his children that he had wandered this path as well. The Walking Man was a drifting continent waiting for when Los Angeles would reform ocean and desert, blue sky and canyon land, tar pit dinosaurs and movie star mausoleums into a place they could all call home.



MARTIN OTT, a former U.S Army interrogator, currently lives in Los Angles with his wife and two children and still finds himself asking a lot of questions. His fiction and poetry have appeared in nearly 100 publications, including Confrontation Magazine, Hotel Amerika, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner and Zyzzyva, and he has optioned several screenplays. He has been nominated for two Pushcart prizes and his manuscript “Children of Interrogation” has been a finalist or semi-finalist in a dozen poetry prizes. www.martinott.org

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