Friday, October 03, 2014

A New Language (Pt. 1)

I read yesterday in the paper that an image of a human footprint was taken by Curiosity on Mars. I went online and saw that it was the top story on several news sites. A human footprint, on Mars: How weird is that? Of course it wasn't an actual human footprint. The dust over there  -- over there, like it's just a short car ride away -- had simply moved around in such a way that it looked like one, but it was still pretty cool to see. It wasn't like one of those magic eye deals where if you unfocus your eyes you might see a dodgy outline of a lion's head or coconut tree -- it was a perfect facsimile of a human footprint. Of course, some religious factions are claiming this signals the return of Christ. It doesn't. At least I don't think it does. It's just a really cool coincidence. Life is full of them. Well, maybe "full" isn't the best word to use, and certainly an image from Mars that looks like a perfectly shaped human foot is an extreme example, but these things sometimes happen.

Yesterday was an unremarkable day for me. Wait...Some things happened. I went to the park and almost stepped on a frog the size of a quarter. Later, I was waiting for a bus and a dragonfly flew right into my forehead. I thought those things were pretty interesting, although I understand why most people wouldn't. But that was just yesterday, which is a poor example of the weird things that I've experienced in my lifetime, and not representative whatsoever of a coincidence. I mean, if I had just watched a documentary on frogs before going to the park and almost stepping on one, that would have been a coincidence, albeit a small one. Likewise, if I had recently finished a water-color painting of a dragonfly and soon after had one hit me in the head, that would be a coincidence, and a pretty funny one, or least I think so.

But yesterday, as I've said, was unremarkable. I woke up early, showered, got dressed, had some toast, and went through the rhythm of day-to-day life. Nothing was special, but I found some interest in the dullness. I noticed an amusing advertisement on the subway that I hadn't seen before; The counter girl at my favorite sandwich shop was sick, so Dante, a friendly guy with huge sideburns and a uni-brow, took my order instead; the weather forecast predicted clouds but no rain, but around 5 PM it started pouring. I bought a tiny, overpriced umbrella from a street vendor and made my way home. I fell asleep on the sofa after the 10 o'clock news, still dressed in my work attire.

I probably sound like the most boring person in the world. I might be -- and maybe not just the world, but the entire universe. I'm the kind of guy who gets excited because I just bought an oven mitt that looks like Spider-Man's costume. I watch telenovelas on Univision, and I don't understand Spanish. I put my socks on inside out for good luck. I own three goldfish: Fish1, Fish2, and Steve. I can't get too attached to Fish1 and Fish2 because they keep dying, and I keep replacing them with new goldfish, which I also name, respectively, Fish1 and Fish2. I've never had to replace Steve, however, perhaps because he keeps eating Fishes 1 and 2.

That established, I have witnessed some very remarkable occurrences and coincidences in my life, occurrences (and coincidences) that might make the Curiosity rover's image of a human footprint on Mars pale in comparison.

I'll begin with the story of how I inadvertently saved the lives of three fishermen when I was ten years old.


"Butt Cheese to Dinglewad...Come in Dinglewad...I repeat...Dinglewad, this is Butt Cheese...Do you copy?"

My brother was sound asleep. He was eleven, and I was ten. We were at my grandparents' house in Nova Scotia, and I was testing the Radio Shack walkie talkies we'd gotten as Christmas gifts the year prior. They were terrible, made of cheap plastic and unable to receive a frequency, on Earth or any other planet, but I wanted to know if he would sneak downstairs with me to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. Because my grandparents had a satellite dish with movie channels. This was a big deal to me, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 was coming on at 3:35 AM! C'mon, bro!

I couldn't stir him for the mission, the pussy. I decided to go solo. At the time, watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 seemed like the most important thing in my life. Kids are stupid that way. Still, I tucked the walkie talkie into the front right pocket of my pajama bottoms. Maybe he'd wake up and reorganize his priorities.

I sneaked downstairs, turned on the TV, sat in my grandfather's recliner, and watched the piece of shit that is A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. Halfway through the movie, someone came downstairs to use the toilet. It might have been my grandfather, or it might have been my dad. I was scared stiff, thinking I was going to be put in the electric chair for watching an R-rated movie late at night, but whomever it was took a long piss and sauntered back upstairs to bed, and my presence went unnoticed, a reoccurring theme in my life.

After the movie was over, I turned off the television and drowsily started to make my way upstairs, but the the walkie talkie in my pajamas sounded, all static and feedback. It had to be Jeremy, my brother.

"Jem, shut up," I whisper-shouted. "If I get busted for this, I'm telling Mom that you filched money out of her purse for baseball cards."

"It's not Jem, bye, it's Teddy," a voice answered. "You're the only bloody frequency we can get. We hit a big squall and need the CCG. This is Ronnie's frequency. Where is he?"

"Um, I'll wake him up."

I dropped the walkie talkie and ran upstairs to wake up my dad, who in turn woke up his dad. I might have peed in my pants a little, but because this is my story, let's pretend I didn't. Please?

The Canadian Coast Guard rescued the three men from the Bacchus III fishing vessel, its captain and his two sons, Simon and Jonas, who were thrown overboard in the storm. A front-page story in the Shelburne County Coast Guard shows their father, Teddy, with his sons. They are all smiling brightly, their white teeth as huge as the stones that built the pyramids. They looked happy to be alive.

I wasn't reprimanded for watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. Nor did I ever see that walkie talkie again. If it ever existed. Did I save lives of the men on that ship? I think I did. But I'm not proud of that supposition.

A year later, another coincidence taught me that I'm not a god or something, that my actions are just as likely to condemn a person to death as to save him.

This next story is about lightning. 

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