I. 50 years ago…
We are all connected. In some way, in some manner, your very actions may affect me and mine may affect you. Even though we will never meet who is to say that my choice to cross the street and take a walk won’t in some way make a mark on your normal, daily routine? For example, who would have guessed that a decision made by a young high school teenager 50 years ago would determine a young man’s destiny today? No one would have guessed it but it did happen. This is the story of Henry and Cooper and how their lives became intertwined even though they never met and had no familial connection.
Henry Buttlefeld closed the bathroom stall and leaned against it. Water dripped from his hair and his shirt was soaking wet. A natural result from having his head forcibly shoved in the toilet moments earlier. But this wasn’t his first time in this predicament so he waited for two things. First, he needed to get his asthma under control and he dug out his inhaler from his backpack. Second, he waited for the bell to ring and class to begin so that he could slip out of the school building unnoticed if possible.
The bell rang and he slowly stepped out of the stall. He pumped the paper towel dispenser vigorously and used several towels to dab his shirt. Several more were used to dry his hair as much as possible. It was winter outside and the walk home was going to be brutally cold with his wet clothes and hair. After a few moments, he quickly and quietly walked to his locker and grabbed his coat. He looked at his books and stuffed his heavy science textbook into his bag because he was already failing and needed to make up some homework. After he slammed his locker shut he made his way out of the building expertly avoiding anyone still lingering in the halls.
How he hated this building and those people inside.
The cold air kicked in his asthma again and by the time he arrived at home he was light headed. But he made it home, not bad for someone who failed PE class every year, and jumped in the shower to warm up and take the chill off. The last thing he wanted was to be sick again. Not that he would mind the excuse to stay home but he was sure getting tired of explaining it to his dad. His dad always accused him of faking his illnesses and thought Henry was just lazy.
No one, of course, was home. His dad would be at work until late which was fine with Henry. The less they saw each other the better. His mom was probably off volunteering at some society social function. Which meant he had the house to himself. For many years Henry preferred it that way anyway.
At first, he turned the television on but the images on the scene did not distract him from reliving his latest bullying attack. After several minutes he turned the television off and sat on the couch.
Something had to be done. Here he sat in the biggest house in town and yet no one at school paid him any respect. His dad didn’t respect him. In fact, he long ago sensed his dad was ashamed of him. Sickly, awkward, weak. That was the assessment he could see reflected back from his dad’s eyes. Henry’s flaws were on the inside. How can you fix the flaws inside of you?
He looked down at his science book he had lugged home. Years later when he reflected on this precise soul-defining moment, he never could pinpoint exactly where the inspiration came from, but he knew the answer he was looking for was in this book. Maybe not that particular high school science book but in science in general.
Science would fix his inside flaws. Science would make him a better person. Science would make his dad respect him. Science would mean his head would not be swirled around in toilet bowls. At that precise moment in time he couldn’t explain it but he knew science was going to be his savior.
Right then and there he dedicated his life to that pursuit. He just received his life’s mission call. His flaws would be fixed. His dad would be proud. Henry was going to learn everything he could about science of his body and then he would manipulate it.
His decision that day would not only affect his life but also a life that wasn’t born yet. While Henry had his epiphany, Jo Baldwin, later known as Cooper’s dad, was playing with a GI Joe out in his backyard and Elizabeth Layton, Cooper’s mom, was taking a nap in a crib. Neither one would ever know or meet Henry Buttlefeld.