Aged seven, David Spencer's mother had decided the boy needed sports. Sports, of course, grow a boy correctly. It was in this climate kicking a ball around with little success, that David Spencer had met Tracy Wilding, aged eight. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tracy Wilding was unfamiliar with David Spencer's exotic world of soccer and pop music and ice cream and cartoons. This is what he had assumed. Assumption, naturally, came from a misinterpretation of the facts.
Tracy Wilding had in fact been goalie for the Toussaint L'Overture Elementary School Under Eight Soccer Team. Her favourite band was a sickeningly sweet, flash-in-the-pan band whose own members still struggle to remember the name of. Her favourite ice cream flavour was vanilla marshmallow ripple, a delicacy only available at a single store in Baton Rouge. That store had a parody of Fred Flintstone painted on the window, something that even she, then aged seven, found hilarious.
David had known none of these things when they first met. Their first meeting had involved him performing the first successful kick of his sporting career. The ball had maintained a straight-line trajectory across the field that Tracy Wilding, aged eight, had decided to ride her bike across. Her face shone red as David hurried over to her, an act that a young Tracy had imagined to be a selfless act of heroism from the young boy, who had clearly scared away whoever had kicked the ball at her.
David, aged seven, was only concerned that she might tell his mother.
That day they rode their bikes to a lonely little patch of water that ran through the outskirts of the town. David's bike had a slightly crooked wheel from the time his uncle, Frank, had decided it would be a convenient object to land on when he had a minor heart attack a year earlier. David had simply been told he was sleepy, and would find out years later, on his twenty first birthday, when his mother was drunk and telling hilarious stories about his life, that his secret hatred of his uncle for falling asleep on his bike was rather poorly founded.
David's father had called the water a creek. His brother, Lawrence, had called it a river. Tracy Wilding, an expert on water and water-based structures, was unimpressed.
“It looks like someone dropped their pants and just-”
David Spencer could never remember how the sentence ended. With each telling of the story, the words she used became larger, more obscene, more related to what he'd just read in a book. For David Spencer, initially aged seven, but getting older as the years passed, this was a turning point story. He told it at parties, at picnics, at the school dance he attended when he was seventeen. He described it as a life defining moment because it was the first time he had heard a simple phrase.
“So? Shut up.”
It formed the backbone of his interactions for the rest of his life. He came to learn that he enjoyed simple phrases. Far from being a simple person, he instead found that their appeal came from the uniqueness of a simple phrase. It became a mission for him to say as much as possible in as few words as possible. While most people around him preferred simple phrases either because they could not handle anything larger, or because they wanted to appear 'cool' and 'aloof', David Spencer first vocalised his choice of wordsmithery aged fifteen.
“It says more.”
Tracy Wilding, aged sixteen, found his choice of words confusing. Missing David's point – that words were interpretable entities, and that by saying less, you opened the meaning up to more – she instead decided that the young man who had come to her rescue eight years previously had become, without a shadow of a doubt -
“You're a jerk, David.”
“So? Shut up.”
'So? Shut up' had become such an integral part of his life that it overshadowed the other events of that day. He acknowledged that it was important for more than one reason, but for David Spencer, 'So? Shut up' was the most important thing. When his mother, worried about his lack of emotion, was greeted with David's first legitimate use of the phrase, she sent him to his first therapist. For David Spencer, the child psychologist seemed unnecessary.
“Okay, David. Why don't you tell me why your mother thinks you should be here, then?”
“She's just being weird.”
Sat on the therapist's chair, David Spencer felt cheated. It wasn't like he'd seen in movies. It was a regular couch. Modern, admittedly. Single colour fabric that felt slightly coarse, but ultimately disappointing.
“About the river.”
David Spencer's life, he believed, had changed at the side of that river.
“What happened at the river?”
“Tracy said some stuff.”
“Is that all?”
David Spencer giggled as a seven year old. He did it often. He found it natural and relaxing.
“We found a dead guy, it was so cool.”
Death had always been weirdly amusing to David Spencer.