Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Unauthorized Autobiography of Cornelius Scott, Installment One (1)

This story isn’t anything new, or even terribly original, but it certainly is twisted, and that twistedness lends it, if nothing else, credibility…maybe even originality, after all. I should first clear up a misconception you’re certain to have: by twisted, I don’t mean in the manner of a pirate’s dagger—you know, the type with the metal handle that appears to have been woven from hell-forged gold—or even in the manner of some mad scientist’s mind. No, the twisted I mean is the type you would see on the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer, the one that is “2TWISTED!”. It’s the combining and intertwining of two previously existing, and apparently tasty, flavors to create a new one. That’s the sort of twisted that this story is. I’m not saying that I stole this story from someone. In fact, this story is very much mine. But the way I tell it will make you think at times you’ve heard it before, as I can’t help but say things that PK said in The Power of One, or that Asher Lev might have said, or that Anthony should have said in Bottle Rocket. In fact, this whole introduction sounds a bit too much like Holden Caulfield.

I suppose that a real introduction is in order, one in which I introduce myself, since I really am the story. My name is Cornelius Scott. I was born on February 18, 1981, exactly nine months after the eruption of Mount St. Helens. I’m sure you want to know why that is of any significance, since there were certainly numerous other babies born around that time, and some on the very day of its eruption. Well, it seems that I was conceived the day that St. Helens erupted, thus continuing a familial trend. My mother was born in St. Helens, the town, on August 7, 1959. I was conceived in Roseburg, Oregon, on May 18, 1980. Roseburg exploded on August 7, 1959, and St. Helens blew up on May 18, 1980. My mother and I are forever tied to explosions, especially ones that produce tremendous damage and tragedy, and we’re tied to them together.

The second explosion of my life came just before I turned two. Being a curious toddler, I was doing what curious toddlers do: roaming around the house searching for something new to put in my mouth. My father was at work, and my mother was in the kitchen working on dinner. I was free to eat anything I could find, so I did. After trying an assortment of treats, including yellow play-dough, which does not taste like buttered popcorn, I finally settled on the perfect bit of nourishment. My parents have always claimed that I was smart even as a child, so it must have been the knowledge that charcoal contains vitamins and minerals of all sorts that led me to eat the ashes in the fireplace.

I ate to my heart’s content the remnants of a fire that my parents had snuggled by the previous night, or perhaps the night before. Finally, having thoroughly gorged myself on this feast of squalor, I wandered into the kitchen to see what my mother was cooking for dinner. She was having quite a time mixing, cutting, marinating, and in all manner of other ways preparing what would become our dinner, so she didn’t notice at first the black drool coming down my face. It took quite some time before she turned to see me with my face covered in soot. Of course, she didn’t know that it was soot. She had no idea what my face was covered in. Always giving me the benefit of the doubt, she finally decided that I had come across some of my father’s grape gum, and that this produced the black drool now ruining my face. This answer was quite enough for her, and so she let me play a bit longer until my father got home and could help her clean me up.

Dad got home only a few minutes later, heard mom’s story about the grape gum, laughed with her, and then set out to get me cleaned up and ready for dinner. His amusement stopped, however, when he felt the gritty truth of my pre-dinner meal while wiping my face off. In a panic, my parents rushed me to the hospital, having finally noticed the tracks I had left from the fireplace to the kitchen. As it turned out, there really were quite a few nutrients in the remains I had eaten, much to my two-year-old delight. With the knowledge that I had built up my immune system in order to fight off poisons of other kinds, we drove home.

The steady scream of sirens and the steady stream of fire engines didn’t seem peculiar until we were only several blocks from home. By that time we could see the smoke billowing above the neighborhood and the flames grasping for any chunk of fuel they could get. A house in our neighborhood was burning. A house quite close to our own was on fire. As it turned out, our own house was not only burning and on fire, but had exploded. It seems that there was something wrong with our gas line. We had never had any trouble with it before, but something about the change in weather, or its age, or just happenstance, had led the line to break in some way. Mom had forgotten to turn the stove off when we left for the hospital. This meant that the gas continued to flow, but at a rate that was quite dangerous. In addition, it didn’t only flow into the heating element in the stove, but off into other parts of the house. When it had finally seeped back into the kitchen, it only took the pilot light in the stove to send the whole house up.

So at the age of almost two we moved out of our house—our charcoal house—and into a new one with gas lines that were properly maintained. This is how my mother and I unknowingly conspired to produce not only another explosion, but a reason to be in the right place when the wrong time came, just as she had been in St. Helens instead of Roseburg, and I was started in Roseburg instead of St. Helens.

1 comment:

Krispin Mayfield said...

I really enjoyed it. The introduction sounded like a sort of jester prancing from stone to stone across rough raging white water. You made it to the other side, and without skipping a step- and not stepping on one too many. Unlike Shakespeare, I'm not sure you (or many others) are yet good enough to tell 'too much' and still hold your audience. Well, I'd keep reading anyway. But I have to, I'm your friend.

I really, really need to read much more literature. I'm working on it- after this I'm going upstairs to take a chunk out of my current book. Anyway, so with the very little reading experience, it has reminded me of Blue Like Jazz- the beginning with childhood, and telling particular interesting parts of your early years. Then again, you kept your own voice well so that even with the same sort of goal and such, the person telling the story was definitely original. Besides, a point is a point- it's still different information.

I liked the incendary theme. Great to have you back online, I'm really looking foward to reading more, especially of this Cornelius fellow.