Gallot knew things. Ask him and he’ll confirm it.
“Gallot,” you’ll say, “I hear you know things.”
“What do you know?” he’ll likely reply.
Gallot was a simple man, in my opinion. He wore this weird coat that had too many pockets and only one sleeve. I think he found it in a charity shop. He told me once he traded his shoes for a pair of shoes. He never elaborated. The shoes he was wearing had holes in them.
The last time I saw him he was telling me about his job. I couldn’t believe he had a job. Turns out he’s a professional fool. He doesn’t get paid and he has no business card. What he does have is a deep frown line and a pet cat that looks a lot like a dog. If you were to ask me I would say it was a cocker spaniel. He would tell you it was a long haired Persian called Steve. Gallot was a weird dude.
I introduced him to a book called The Accidental Scoundrel when I saw him last. He likes books. He probably won’t read it but he has an amazing library. That’s all he has really. He lives near the woods, right by the motorway there, near the services but hidden back in the trees. If you go down near the services, the one just before junction 3 on the motorway, and head about 30 yards into the woods you’ll find it. It’s amazing no one else has. He built his shack himself with pallets and discarded televisions. It’s a vast property. He has a good ten by ten metre room that is just shelves of books. The things he comes out with, man, I’m convinced he’s a genius.
He’ll try and convince you otherwise.
I met him for the first time about two years ago. He was holding a sign on the hard shoulder with the words “Ask Me When We Get There” written on it. I had never picked up a hitchhiker before but that was too much intrigue for me.
I was driving a blue mini bus that I use for work. I had no work on that day and enough seats for him, me, and nine other people. He got in and sat right next to me. His dog, that he insisted was a cat, whimpered somewhere in the back.
“Where too?” he said, plugging in his seatbelt.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Where are you going?”
“Same place as you.”
“Then we should go.”
It was lucky I was in the middle of an existential breakdown. I needed this kind of weird in my life.
There was a grinding sound coming from the passenger side wheel. It started the day before. I had just spent thirteen hundred quid replacing the engine so I was pretty pissed off that something new was fucked so soon. Maybe that’s part of the reason for my breakdown. I think mostly I was losing my mind because the house was being refurbished, which I couldn’t really afford, and my cats (actual cats) had started shitting around the house. They knew. Cats know. Cat’s don’t shit in your bath unless something is really wrong. That’s how they communicate. They shit in your bath and piss in your tumble drier. When they’re happy they try and steel your food and hide in boxes.
Gallot turned off the radio and we drove in silence for thirty seven minutes.
“Are we there yet?” said Gallot.
“I don’t know,” I said.
It was probably another two hours before I introduced myself.
Gallot didn’t care. He didn’t reply.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“I already told you.”
“Is your name Andy?”
Gallot thought for a while. I think it was twenty three seconds. I couldn’t reach my phone to time it. I was driving and my phone was in the glove box, which his knees were blocking.
“Why?” he said, after the twenty three or so seconds had elapsed.
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either.”
We were silent for a while.
“What’s your name?” I said again.
“Your names Andy right?”
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know.”
“How long do you think it will take?”
“I’m not sure.”
I turned on the radio. He turned it off again.
“My name’s Gallot.”
I feel like I should have been uneasy around Gallot but he made me feel calm. He wasn’t normal, Gallot, He was like no one I had come across before and I wanted to understand why. I’ve known him a while now but this weird drive was the first time I met him. I keep going back to it in my mind. It was a good trip. It was a weird trip. It all started there. All the weirdness. He’s a good guy, Gallot.
We drove for about three hours in the end. That’s when I needed to stop for petrol. I pulled in to a service station.
“Are we here?” said Gallot.
“I think so. I have no money for petrol.”
“You should stop driving then.”
I did. I parked the mini bus in the forecourt. He called Steve, the dog he believed was a cat, and we walked for a while. We stopped when a clearing in the wooded area, that surrounds most off-motorway services, opened up to reveal an incredible shack.
The thing about Gallot is that he lived according to a philosophy. What that philosophy was is beyond me. He told me that the key to life is to have a philosophy and to stick to it.
We would spend a long time figuring out this idea of life but neither of us came to any useful conclusion. I think he was a prophet without logic. He was a thinker absent of thought. He said the best thing about life was that it happens without you.
I lived with him for a year.
You know, he had this room in his shack that only had a table in it. We used to stand around it and just stare at each other. I wish I could explain what we got out of this but I can’t. It meant something though. It really meant something.
It really did.
I think Gallot is dead now. He might not be. But I think he is. I went back to find him once but couldn’t. If I ever find that shack again I’m going to burn it down. If I don’t get stuck there again. With Gallot. And all his weird ideas.
The last thing he ever said to me was about stories. He said they don’t really need anything. So long as there are words nothing else really matters. I think he was wrong.