The Very Short Life of Andrew Norton

The child never stood a chance, born in a thunderstorm in the back seat of a mid-sized sedan. He was born with little fanfare other than a police officer and the well-wishes of a few bystanders surrounding the parked car. They were just short of the exit, but it wasn’t as if their destination was located right off the freeway. The hospital was about half a mile farther down the road, with the emergency entrance inexplicably located down its own winding driveway behind the main building.

The first time his father threw a baseball with him in the backyard he spent the following hour afraid to look in the mirror, convinced his nose would be stuck flat like a pig’s. It wasn’t, but when Little League started, even with the machine set to “Slow Pitch,” he curled up in terror and threw the small metal bat toward the dugout his first time at plate during practice. He quit after missing three consecutive pop flies and that night informed his parents that organized sports were not, and would never be, for him. They never pushed the subject, instead suggesting maybe he was meant for the arts.

Elementary school wasn’t much better. He had friends, sure, but not ones who would stick up for him when Paxton Reynolds came around during recess. Paxton was one large third-grader who daily pointed to his next victim whom he then led to what he called The Rumble-Punch Pit. The boy was one of Paxton’s favorites when it came to Rumble-Punch, round and silent during beatings. His stoicism never giving Paxton even a moment’s pause.

After school he would come home to an empty house because both parents worked and neither felt the child needed a babysitter after teaching him how to work the microwave and the home phone as well as turn on the television. The boy would have argued otherwise, but he was afraid of appearing weak at home as well as on the schoolyard. And it wasn’t as if his parents never warned him about the dangers of outlets. They had, more than once in fact. But the power went out one afternoon, and he assumed that something must be stuck inside the outlet the microwave was plugged into. Unfortunately, it was a 240v socket instead of 120v and it killed him immediately after inserting a fork into the two parallel slots. So that was his life.

For the next three days, the local news (Channel 4, unaffiliated) focused on the dangers of electrical sockets, the dangers of unattended children, the dangers of bad parenting, anything that could be tied back to a little boy being in a situation where he could fatally electrocute himself. There was even a segment on the dangers of a one-child household in the twenty-first century. The following year, and for a few years after that, an Andrew Norton Day for Electrical Safety was held at his elementary school. There were workshops set up in the morning, and lectures near lunch time. Made-up games on the playground and basketball courts helped to teach the importance of staying away from outlets. There was even a mascot who shouted safety mantras to the children.

Andrew’s parents were quite young at the time of the boy’s death, merely in their twenties. They gave birth to another child about six months after finishing their year-long court-mandated testimonials around the tri-county school districts. The baby was a girl, Marcy, and while they didn’t turn into parents that hovered over every aspect of her life, they had learned from their mistakes. It was clear they had needed to work on a few things to ensure the survival of their offspring.

After Marcy came a boy named Tucker, and after Tucker came the twins, Bella and Matthew. Andrew’s father received a vasectomy after that; four children proved stressful. These children knew of their brother Andrew. They learned about his desire to pursue the arts and his friend Paxton. But the parents didn’t let the loss of their first child overshadow the lives of their healthy brood of little ones. The latent effects of child-loss manifested, but not in a manner most would commonly view as problematic. Marcy, the only one to move away, grew up to be a pediatrician, Tucker became a kindergarten teacher (later the elementary school principal). Bella and Matthew both went into coaching, collegiate softball and high-school football respectively. Matthew was the winningest coach in school history, and after he retired the library prominently displayed a copper bust of his likeness just past the book-theft detectors.

When the parents retired they were soon after graced with grand-children. Andrew’s mother even lived long enough to see the birth of their first great-grandchild. The patriarch had died a few years earlier at the age of eighty-two, peacefully while watching sports. Eventually, both parents were buried next to Andrew, and Marcy bought-up the surrounding area for herself and her siblings.  A family plot was created and well tended by Matthew and his wife. There wasn’t enough room for the grand children, but by that point, there was no real attachment to the original family occupant. And many of them moved away like their aunt, or in some cases great-aunt, Marcy before them. One member of this third generation, upon turning eighteen, did get a tattoo of an electrical outlet on his right bicep, but that was related to something other than Andrew’s tragic demise. It was a protesting commentary on the harvesting of kinetic energy from the human body to enable the nefarious doings of the government. Or something meaningful like that.