CHAPTER ONE: SHEER DUMB LUCK
…Most of this story will be spilled out from memory. Some parts will be based off hearsay of memories from the people involved, while others will be based off the things printed in newspapers and things said on television from people not involved. Naturally, a little bit will be pure imagination. Who's to tell the difference all these years later, anyways?
Call me Pidgeotto. It's a hideous name, sure, but it could always be worse. It could've been "Gurney," or "Bedpan," or "Hitmonlee," if the universe hadn't then aligned to give me the name Pidgeotto.
Sometimes things in life work out for the best.
There was a game my mother and I would play when taking long car rides together, or sitting around in waiting rooms. The game was called "At This Exact Moment in Time," which is what each person would say before making an otherwise realistic assumption about something that was might just be happening at this exact moment in time somewhere in this world. As such:
"At this exact moment in time, a man is falling down in the shower," one might say.
"At this exact moment in time, a woman is giving birth in the backseat of a taxi cab," says someone else.
"At this exact moment in time, a young boy playing dress up with his older sister is realizing for the first time that he may just in fact be a girl trapped in a boy's body," says another.
And so on and so forth.
The reasons behind why this game of ours may in fact work is of the belief that the number of possible events happening in this world at any singular moment are too infinite for some otherwise common things not to be happening, always, somewhere on the planet, all the time.
Plain and simple.
(There is another version of this game that consists of making assumptions about events occurring at exact moments in time somewhere in the universe. Which rather involves making the most obtuse, insane predictions about impossible things and still discovering them to be almost certainly happening somewhere. Much too vast, much less fun.)
I'd never really cared to ask how this game of ours initially got started, and yet for my entire life I've been constantly thinking about parallel moments in time. Where I might be sitting at breakfast eating Corn Flakes and be struck with the sudden feeling that this had all happened before, or was happening simultaneously: There was another person in the world also exact Corn Flakes at that exact moment. And there'd be other times when I was feeling down about the world, feeling disappointed about my existence, and there it was again: you are not alone, Pidgeotto.
The thought was a beautiful one. And so only a few months ago, I felt the need to get the backstory-to ask my mother about the origin of our game. At the time I was trying to gather all the information I could find over all sorts of origins, namely my own. I wanted the answers to why my existence was possible, let alone if it meant really anything at all. But I had no idea where to begin.
But one day I asked her: Mom, how'd this little game of ours even get started?
And would you believe it? The answer I'd receive was just what I was looking for: a beginning to this story. Since, as it'd turn out, the memory of how this little game of ours first originated could be traced back. Yes, to exactly one day before this whole mess of my existence had begun…
And so I think I'll start here.
* * *
According to my mother, the origin of this game is not at all rooted in statistics, or philosophy, or any other meaningful nonsense. Rather the game was started at random, apropos of a sudden job that needed to be fulfilled. Something to kill the time and fill the swallowing silence of a long and tiresome family roadtrip-something that an otherwise functioning car radio would do.
Somewhere along their thousand mile drive from Tandem, Florida and Parpontogue, New Jersey, the Felix family's car radio coughed out a disgusting sound right before it decided to never work again: UGHHZZZZIPSSHHHH-!
The popular songs it'd been repeatedly spewing out for the last eight hours were all loud and uninspired, but helpful nonetheless. The music was helping to distract the tired family from the reality of the situation. Also serving as distractions were the few interesting things one could watch pass by outside: There were long stretches of telephone line hurtling far ahead into the horizon. There were the occasional onslaughts of billboard advertisements imploring travelers to come check out an upcoming flea market, or gas station, or sex shop. A few billboards alerted travelers of the forthcoming Holy Rapture with big, bold lettering: Where Will You Be? Likewise, there were a dozen or so trees one could watch fade into tiny specs behind them.
These things had all been helpful in distracting the family from having to acknowledge one another. As well, from having to acknowledge where they were driving to, why they driving there, and what they were to do once they arrived.
But then there was silence, and not another shrub for miles.
Before the gloom of their situation could properly settle in-nestling itself between the irksome hum of an overworked engine, and the six clashing elbows of the children packed like sardines in the backseat of his car-Paulo Felix spoke out a comforting assumption:
"Right now, at this exact moment in time…" he said in a somewhat dramatic tone, "somewhere in the world there exists another family who is also racing to a funeral, whose radio also just crapped out on them, and whose father is also now feeling oddly compelled to break the awkward silence."
No one said a word or did anything to acknowledge him.
"Um," he said. "Well, yes, okay then. And at this exact moment in time… there is a homeless man dying in the streets of New York."
Once again, no one said a word in reply. His wife Abigail did, however, attempt to turn herself further away from him.
"Er…" Paulo muttered aloud, somewhat at a loss. But he wasn't the type of man to lose hope, and he quickly began searching his brain from some otherwise realistic assumption to make about the world-perhaps something about another family who also didn't feel the need to acknowledge their father's efforts…
Suddenly he was struck with a realization. Yes, that he was in truth quite upset that his car radio had just up and died on him for no apparent reason at all! Not that he would've felt better about the situation if some reason for its death had made itself apparent, like a burst of sparks from the wires. But that disgusting sound… UGHHZZZZIPSSHHHH-! served as no real indication for its true underlying cause. Not that he knew anything about cars, anyways… Oh but now he was struck with a fear. Yes, that he would have to imitate that sound to some auto-mechanic later on! For surely the mechanic would ask him what it sounded like. He'd need to know to make a preliminary diagnosis. And yet it wouldn't help at all! For he'd eventually give in and try his best to imitate the disgusting sound, the mechanic was just shrug, and he'd be left feeling conned out of his masculinity for truly not knowing the first thing about cars. At least not like a real man should…
The prospects of this humiliation would be enough for Paulo to never get his radio fixed.
His thoughts were running haywire, which is why he didn't think twice of the context before mumbling, "I don't understand why bad things always have to happen to me…" beneath his breath.
This elicited a response. Abigail swung her head from looking out the window to then stare wildly at her husband.
"My God, are you kidding?" she snapped, irked at her husband's lack of empathy. "You do know my sister's dead, right?"
"Er…" he muttered again.
"Well that's just great, Paul," she said. "Thank you for reminding me of how extremely uncomfortable this thing is going to be."
Paulo began smiling lamely to himself. He was content to have finally gotten someone to talk to him.
"For all of us, Abs. It's going to be uncomfortable for all of us." He smiled as he let his eyes meet his wife's. Then he looked back down at the idle radio. Then he frowned.
"Well, isn't it at least somewhat comforting to know you're not entirely alone?" he said.
"What do you mean? Not alone in what? Because I'm pretty sure none of you had any reason to have known Victoria, God forbid. But she was still my little sister-my only sibling and I despised her! And I mean, she hadn't even spoken to any of our family in over six years and now, what? I'm supposed to just make myself get teary-eyed in front of a bunch of strangers while I pretend to grieve and muster up some nonsense about 'sisterly love' that I don't at all feel? God!-" She broke herself off, now feeling rather put-off by her own lack of empathy.
Abigail Felix was a typical human being, and a typical mother. She didn't particular enjoy showing this callous side to her, let alone admitting that it even existed. Especially not in front of her kids.
Since she was a young girl she'd always felt that her calling in life was to become a mother, and nothing less than the best. For this reason she had forfeited nearly all other dreams of becoming a dancer or mathematician, and had rather resolved to always keep health and morals to pass on to her babies. To her kids she believed she had a permanent role to fulfill: to be for them an exemplar of a great human being-compassionate, honest, always keeping it together. Despite the harsh reality that inside her head she was constantly crumbling to bits.
Indeed, this was quite human of her and, in truth, these few and far between moments of hearing or witnessing their mother slightly lose her composure served as only pleasant reminders that she was, in fact, a human being. Frail just like the rest. And though Abigail would never believe it, in some strange sense these weak moments of hers only added to her creditability as a role model. Which is why it would've been so nice for her kids to hear what she was about to say next before breaking herself off. It was this:
God! Couldn't she have at least had the courtesy to kill herself on some less busy week?
Paulo reached out to grab his wife's hand, and stroked his thumb along her palm as if reading her a hopeful future.
"Oh, honey. I didn't mean to imply that anyone else knows what you're feeling. I mean, I sure don't know it…" He stopped to consider what he was about to say next. "But what I actually meant when I said that, er… well. Isn't it at least a little comforting to know that someone else's radio might've also just broken?"
There came a sudden cackle of childish laughter from the backseat.
"Jesus, Paul, I don't give a damn about that!" she said before breaking off once again to reclaim her composure. For a second the thought of the Holy Rapture unconsciously passed through her mind.
"Ugh. I'm sorry, I think I feel sick. This whole thing feels like some heavy, melodramatic dream. And you know what's really weighing in on my mind? It's this idea that I'll just have to talk at Victoria's funeral. Sure, I know I don't actually 'have to.' Nobody's forcing me. But if I don't, who else will? Dad's dead, Mom's too sick to the leave the home-oh God, do you think she might've gotten married? Or even had a kid? No, no. I imagine she would've at least wrote a letter to mom or something… Paul, are you even listening to me?"
He was, in truth, not listening to her. His mind was still pretty occupied by his dead radio.
"No. Yes! Of course I am," he insisted, wildly stroking Abigail's palm. "Look. I'm sorry that me and the kids couldn't have grown to hate your sister as much as you do. I really, truly am. But hey, there's no real pressure! If you don't want to speak at the funeral, then don't speak at the funeral, especially if you have nothing good to say. Heck, I can't imagine there won't be at least one person there with some nice things to say about Victoria."
(Spoiler: There was, indeed, at least one person with some nice things to say about Victoria Tross, but unfortunately he wouldn't be at her funeral due to his lacking awareness that she was dead. His name was Gary Cozy, and I imagine I'll have plenty more to say about him later on.)
"Well I don't get why we all had to drive a thousand miles for your bitchy, dead sister's funeral if you don't even like her, and none of us have even met her," came a sour voice from the back. "And it's hot as balls back here!"
The voice belonged to none other than Camilla Felix, my then fifteen-year old mother. Lovely.
"Whatcha know about balls, Camilla?" said Gaspar, her brother.
"Yeah, whatcha know about balls, Camilla?" echoed Cecil, the other.
Gaspar and Cecil were twin brothers. The closest thing to clones outside of an incubator. The two were so alike in both appearance and disposition that sometimes when looking at them both at one time, you would be struck with the sensation that you were not actually peering at two individual entities, but were rather going momentarily cross-eyed. The feeling was that at any second your vision would stabilize and one twin would pop right back into the other to show only one person. At this exact moment of our story, and for nearly every moment for the past eight hours, Camilla was not having too much trouble discerning the presence of her two brothers. She was squished smack dab in the middle of them. Though, still giving off some unworldly impression that they were only one singular person, sitting between them felt almost as if being trapped in the sweltering belly of a large, immature beast.
"Trust me. I know more about balls than you two ever will!" Camilla said as she stabbed her elbows into her brother's chest. "I can't breathe, mom, I'm dying back here!"
(Sidenote: My mother, Camilla, who has relayed this memory to be twenty-eight years later for the sake of this story, has made a request of me. She has asked for me to make my readers fully aware that she was not always "this bratty of a child," but was only then feeling awfully double-crossed by her own mother, Abigail, for forcing her to come along on this horrid trip. Moreover, she was also then feeling "sickly overheated" with "low-ish blood sugar and a gaining bladder." Both the car's rear windows were broken, and her parents refused to roll down theirs. It was midsummer and she was wearing sweatpants. Her brothers smelled collectively like old corn chips in a gymnasium. At this moment in time, Camilla was on the verge of a full-blown psychological meltdown. Which is typical of any teenager who's ever been in the car with their family for more than two hours.)
It seems to take away some of my own creditability by taking my own mother's side, but I must add: There truly was no real point for her to have come along on that trip to Parpontogue.
Having just turned fifteen-years old, my Mom claims she really was perfectly capable of watching after herself and the house for those three days her family would be gone. Sure, she wasn't responsible enough to also watch after her two brothers, but so much the better. She'd finally have some time alone.
As for the other family members, Abigail had to make the trip since she had to retrieve Victoria's body and fly with it back to Tandem so that she could be buried in the same dirt as the rest of the Tross family.
Paulo also had to go since he had to be there in order to keep Abigail company while she attended her despised sister's funeral. Then he had to drop her off near the airport with one of the kids so that they could then keep his wife company on the plain. Then he had to drive back the thousand miles back home with the other two kids less than twenty-four hours later.
The boys had to go since Camilla had to go.
The whole thing seemed like a mess, and really made no sense to me at all.
(Mind you, this little roadtrip would come to change the future course of history.) So yes, Pidgeotto felt urged to ask his mother a few questions.
"But why couldn't you all have just taken a plane ride there and back?" I asked her.
"Because my father had a lifelong fear of airplanes," she answered. "Not actually a fear of flying on them, but just the shapes and sounds of them. He used to refer to them as 'oversized, predator swans.' They gave him the creeps, it was nearly too much for him to drop her off near the airport."
"Okay… so then why couldn't Paulo have stayed at home with you and the twins while Abigail went by herself to Parpontogue?"
"Because my mother had a fear that something horrible might happen to my father if she wasn't with him for too long-oh, but not for any reasons even halfway practical, like him breaking a bone or getting pneumonia." She said, leaning in close before continuing on. "If truth be told, I think she feared that if my father was left alone for too long, he might just do something fun without her. Like try out a new restaurant or have an affair."
It still made so no sense to me.
"But… so then… I still don't get why you couldn't have just stayed at home while the rest of them went away?" I asked.
"Oh, this one's the best yet! Okay. It's because, despite the fact that I was fifteen-years old and had not even once stepped out of bounds to do anything truly juvenile or wrong, my mother really believed that if I was left to my own vices for even those three measly days, surely I would've invited over 'Nathan the neighbor boy' while they were gone. And through my own lacking judgment, I'd just let him get me pregnant-the fucking irony!"
Indeed, my readers: the irony. For Camilla would get pregnant within those three measly days. Though not by her own lacking judgment, nor by any sort of neighbor boy, not even by the grubby gas station toilet she'd used somewhere halfway in Maryland.
Camilla would get pregnant during that horrid trip by nothing more than a series of unbelievably ill fated, impossible coincidences happening all together, all at once.
Some things in life work out for the best.
Nine months later, Camilla Felix would be quoted as to say this:
"Truth is, bud: I'm really not too impressed with all this. I'm not mad, and I'm not impressed. I guess the whole matter boils down to sheer dumb luck."
Indeed. And at that exact moment in time, media outlets all across the globe would all be printing the same unbelievable story-countless news heads and television programs in a diversity of languages, all reporting on the occasion:
IS DELIVERANCE NEAR? FIFTEEN-YEAR OLD, HISPANIC AMERICAN GIVES BIRTH TO FIRST EVER SCIENTIFICALLY CONFIRMED VIRGIN BORN BABY
(And would you believe it, my readers? It's me, Pidgeotto, your humble storyteller!)