Daniel Lawrencium Scoville, that is. In junior high, he and Paul and I were the three musketeers. I was "Epicurious J.," Paul was "Smendrick T.," and Dan was simply "Lawrencium" (Lawrencium is the 103rd atomic element; like Paul, Dan's father is a physicist.) The three of us were inseparable and, during the eighth grade, Dan developed a wicked crush on our very own Drury.
When that eighth school year drew to a close, we were scattered to the winds. Dan's family moved to Washington D.C. and a few months later Paul's family moved to Columbus, Ohio. In order to stay in touch we began shipping cassette tapes through the mail. I would record one side and send it to Dan. He would record the other and send it to Paul. Paul would then record over my side and complete the triangle by shipping the tape back to me. This lasted for maybe a year until Dan began delaying his third leg of the triangle. Paul and I started a separate weekly back and forth taping pattern which has endured to this day.
So Paul and I remained close over the years even as we bounced around the country, but Dan drifted away. We had a reunion in Columbus a year after we split up, and I was able to visit him briefly in Washington D.C. some time after that. There was an occassional letter or postcard as we entered college and then: silence.
Ten years passed. I had finished my Masters Degree and was still living in Salt Lake. One summer weekend I drove up to Idaho Falls to visit my parents. As fate would have it, Lawrencium was passing through town that very same weekend and called my parent's home to say hello, and so we invited him over and he stayed the night.
He and his girlfriend. The two of them were travelling across country in a broken-down car staging police benefit concerts and sleeping in a tent. They were madly in love and on their way to California in search of fame and fortune.
This was not at all what I had expected. Dan was, according to various tests, officially a genius, and in junior high was already well on his way to becoming a concert pianist. He went to one of the top music schools and, last I heard, was becoming a composer. After ten years the last place I expected to find him was in a tube tent by the side of the road.
But upon reflection it made perfect sense. Like me and Paul and the Dickens character Pip, he bore the burden of great expectations. The problem with being a boy genius is that the expectations of your future success are so high that any success you achieve is, well, expected. And anything less than the expected triumph, even achievements that would bring standing ovations if performed by an "ordinary" person, are, for the boy genius, a failure.
Perhaps Dan had discovered that the best way of coping with these expectations is to violate them. Bide your time. Wait until everyone stops waiting for you to succeed. Then, when the coast is clear, start your upward climb along some unexpected path.
Dan disappeared the next morning in a generally westerly direction. I got a Christmas card and then: nothing.
A few more years passed. I moved up to a cabin in the Montana Rockies to look after my late grandmother's ranch. I began to do the same things she used to do, like leaving on the TV during the day. I had learned why she did it; when living in solitude the sound of human voices is very sweet, even the drivel of soap operas and game shows.
So one morning I flipped on the TV (which only received one channel) and encountered a game show called, I believe, "Sale of the Century." I was about to flip it off again, but stopped when I noticed that one of the contestants looked strangely familiar. Sure enough, it was my old friend Lawrencium. I watched in amazement as he won five thousand dollars worth of lawn tractors, sofa beds, and Mexican vacations. And that, I presumed, was the last I would ever see of Daniel Lawrencium Scoville.
Imagine my surprise, then, when Scoville popped up on America Online. A friend of his was demonstrating the service and asked him for names to search for. Common names drew too many responses, so his friend asked for an unusual name. Dan supplied the name of his first crush: "Drury," and up popped a veterinarian in Sacramento. He sent her a cautious e-mail note, and Drury forwarded it to me.
Dan's online now, and I've had several phone conversations with him. He's now in L.A., a paralegal by day, an Andrew Lloyd Weber wannabe by night. He married his girlfriend, had two children with her, and then got divorced. But, in typical California style, they still live and work together, and just bought a house. For a few years Dan was the second banana in a local rock group and then left to write and produce his own rock opera - he sent me a tape of the first act and it's pretty good.
This coming weekend Dan and Paul and Drury and I are all getting together for a reunion, our first in twenty years. I'll keep you posted...