The Orville Norval Wardle Story

Many years ago, when first embarking on a career as an artist, my first wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but unfortunately she died in childbirth. For some time my barber had been Orville Olsen, the proprietor of the Center Barber Shop. Though then in his eighties, Orville had a sharp wit and a keen mind. He taught me much about life and I looked forward to my visits to his shop. I wanted to name my son after my good friend, Orville; and out of love and respect for my father, whose name was Norval; and fearing I might have no more off-spring, I named him ORVILLE NORVAL WARDLE.

Orville grew up a happy little guy, but never interacted with people in the normal ways. He didn’t talk much and he liked to make faces and mimic people, even strangers we’d pass on the street. I never thought of his behavior as abnormal, just unique…until his first day of school.

I walked with him to the door of his classroom and watched as his teacher greeted him.

“Hi! My name is Miss Seymour. What is your name?”

“Ordelordelordelordelordel,” he replied. (He always had trouble with his name.)

“Excuse me, I didn’t understand you. Is your name Arnold or Billy or Mikey?”

“Ordelordelordelordel,” he chortled again.

Frustrated, she turned to me, “What is his name?”

“Orville Norval Wardle.”

“With a name like that, how do you expect him to ever get along?” she scolded.

I tried to explain, but she wasn’t interested.

“I don’t think this child is ready for kindergarten.”

After a long session of testing, the school district psychologist diagnosed Orville as being delusional and schizophrenic. I was told Orville would never fit in a normal classroom. So, Orville was enrolled in a special school.

By the age of 13 he enjoyed pulling faces more than ever. The more people he encountered, the larger his repertoire grew. During that period I was doing a lot of figure painting and having difficulty scheduling reliable models. When they didn’t show Orv would sometimes sit for me. Painting him was an exhilarating experience. His faces intrigued me. I would look at his expressions, though appearing silly at first, they seemed to be sharing some subtle truth.

Orville is now a grown man. I don’t know whether or not he’s schizoid, deluded or even crazy. I do know, that while studying his face, with its bulgy eyes, chubby jowls and inexhaustible variety of expressions, I sometimes catch a fleeting glimpse of eternity or another consciousness, separate from this supposed rational world we live in.

I look in the mirror
and what do I see?
Is it Orville Norval Wardle
or is it me?